Located in the redeveloped neighborhood of South Norwalk, or SoNo as the locals refer to it, the Maritime Aquarium along North Water Street offers visitors the opportunity to learn and observe marine life in the nearby Long Island Sound. The aquarium opened in 1988, and has become one of Connecticut’s top tourist attractions, averaging about 500,000 visitors each year.
Housed in a former iron works factory constructed during the 1860s, the Maritime Aquarium is located right where the Norwalk River empties into the Sound.
The Long Island Sound journey
Visitors can explore more than 30 exhibits that feature 259 species of marine animals. Echoing the course the river takes to the Sound, start along a freshwater river and salt marsh, then continue into gradually deepening habitats as you make your way out to the ocean.
Sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles and other animals can be viewed in their carefully recreated natural habitats, while two touch tanks feature other coastal creatures like stingrays, nurse sharks, crabs, sea stars, and more. There are informative display panels as well as guides and interpreters to help visitors learn more about the diverse aquatic life found in Long Island Sound and its watershed.
The Maritime Aquarium also has its own IMAX Theater, showcasing a movie screen that’s about six stories high and eight stories wide, considered as the largest of its kind in Connecticut.
Opened in 2007, the 310-seat IMAX Theater offers an immersive, awe-inspiring experience. Weekdays show educational and IMAX-enhanced films on various Life Sciences, while regular full-length movies are shown on weekend evenings.
The Maritime Aquarium’s IMAX Theater was recently renovated and upgraded, and audiences now get to enjoy comfy new seats with cupholders, new floor and wall treatments, and a new stage for live presentations, lectures, and special events.
In addition, the Maritime Aquarium provides educational programs and year-round study cruises on its new R/V Spirit of the Sound research vessel, a 64-foot all-aluminum catamaran that’s the only research vessel in North America with hybrid-electric propulsion. Public cruises, school group charters, and private parties can now enjoy a cleaner and greener venue on Long Island Sound.
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