Boston MFA - Plan Your Visit

Top Exhibits in the Boston Museum of Science

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, usually called Boston MFA, boasts a spectacular new Arts of the Americas Wing, iconic objects such as Paul Revere's silver bowls, a stellar collection of Egyptian mummies,

When:  Saturday, November 20, 10am - 9:45pm - Opening day for the general public
Where: Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Fenway, Boston
Closest T station: Green Line E/Museum
For more information: 617-369-3204; website
Admission:  Free on the 20th; $20 normally (includes free entrance for return visit within 10 days)

After 5 long years of construction, the MFA's new Art of the America's wing containing 53 new galleries and 5,000+ pieces of art opens to the general public. 

Treasures start with the Pre-Columbian era on the bottom floor, where you'll see wonderful things from early Mesoamerican cultures - Mayan burial urns, masks, sculptures, and domestic utensils.  A gallery full of ship models evokes the arrival of Europeans and Africans.  You'll see John Singleton Copley's famous painting of Paul Revere holding a teapot - and you'll also see Revere's famous Sons of Liberty Bowl. 

You'll instantly recogize other paintings such as Copley's Watson and the Shark and John Singer Sargent's The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, flanked by the huge Japanese vases featured in the painting, along with the 4 daughters.  Other works of art, such as quilts by African Americans featuring West African motifs, may be new to you but are equally memorable.

Even if you don't come on Saturday when admission is free, regular price tickets at $20 are a great deal because they include a second visit free of charge within 10 days.  You'll definitely want to visit the Art of the Americas wing more than once!

View of the inside of the New England Aqarium
4 floors high, the Giant Ocean Tank is one of the Aquarium's biggest attractions

Although many other American cities now have aquariums, ours is still one of the very best. 

Once you get your tickets and step inside, you'll become immersed in a variety of marine habitats where you can observe, close-up, a wide range of ocean creatures. 

Outside, you'll find playful seals.  And if this isn't enough, you can join one of the New England Aquarium's popular Boston whale watching cruises.

 

Photo gallery - New England Aquarium

Photo of starfish at New England Aquarium in Boston

Photo of starfish at New England Aquarium in Boston Photo of penguin habitat at New England Aquarium in Boston Photo of a group of fish with sea plants at New England Aquarium in Boston Photo of penguins feeding at New England Aquarium in Boston A Swimming sea Turtle at New england Aquarium in Boston
Entrance to New England Aquarium in Boston Staff member feeding penguins at Boston Aquarium Divers during a a show at New England Aquarium A Sea Urchin and a sea anemone at the New England Aquarium The top view of the Giant Ocean Tank where some demonstrations are held

 

What you'll want to see at the New England Aquarium

You can't miss the centerpiece - the Giant Ocean Tank right in the middle of the Aquarium.  It soars 4 floors high, and contains 200,000 gallons of seawater heated to a warm tropical temperature.  Inside, you'll see an enormous coral reef inhabited by Caribbean fish of every variety and color imaginable.

My kids always zoom right over to examine the fish inside the tank as soon as we enter the Aquarium. 

However, a better strategy is to go all the way up to the top of the ramp that winds around the tank and then walk down looking through each of the 67 windows, slowly exploring each different habitat layer. 

You'll see stingrays, sand tiger sharks, moray eels, colorful tropical reef fish, and sea turtles, all swimming freely.  Over 675 fish and animals live inside the tank.  Be sure to look for Myrtle, a green sea turtle who has lived in the tank since 1969 - over 40 year!  If you return 40 years from now, she may still be there.

 

New England Aquarium discounts

All of these popular Boston discount cards include the New England Aquarium:

GoBoston Card
51 ways to save up to 55%
On attractions, tours, cruises
CityPASS
5 top attractions in 9 days
47% savings
GoBoston discount card at www.boston-discovery-guide.com CityPASS Boston discount card at www.boston-discovery-guide.com

How long should you plan to spend at the New England Aquarium? Probably anywhere between 2-3 hours and all day.

Although the Giant Ocean Tank can easily keep you occupied for an hour or more, it's actually just the beginning of the fascinating exhibits that you'll see here.

Other favorites include sea dragons, a hands-in tidal pool with hermit crabs, an Amazon rainforest, a Pacific reef community, and more.  In the Gulf of Maine exhibit, for example, you'll see all of the different types of habitats that make up this body of water, which includes Boston Harbor. 

Each habitat includes all of the creatures that live there, such as lobsters, fish, and even giant sea stars. 

 

Don't forget the penguins!!!

Once you're down on the first floor again, you'll want to spend lots of time with the playful penguins.  More that 70 of these adorable birds frolic in their watery playground. 

Watch them for awhile, and you'll begin to recognize individual penguins.  Each one has its own personality.

 

What can you see outside the Aquarium?

When you first go into the Aquarium, your eyes will take a moment to adjust to the dim lights that help you focus on the life inside the tanks and also feel a bit underwater yourself.

Walk outside and you'll blink for a few moments - but the adjustment is well worth the effort in order to see the seals.

Two families of harbor seals live in their outdoor tank year-round.  You may be shuddering at the thought of being outside during the cold New England winter, but this is the seals' natural habitat and they actually enjoy.

Their Aquarium home contains 42,000 gallons of sea water and is deep enough for them to dive down to cool spots during the summer.  Just like the Atlantic coast, their tank includes plenty of rocks where they can nap or sunbathe.

 

Other attractions at the New England Aquarium

Feedings, trainings, presentations

Check the daily schedule when you arrive at the Aquarium to find out about special events, such as penguin feedings, divers feeding animals in the Giant Ocean Tank, harbor seal training sessions, and talks and presentations by Aquarium biologists and trainers.

Simons IMAX Theatre

You'll also find the Simons IMAX Theatre here, one of 2 IMAX theaters in Boston.

Not surprisingly, this one specializes in marine-oriented shows. The surround-screen will make you feel like you're actually underwater.

New England Aquarium Whale Watch trips

If the marine life in the Aquarium has whetted your appetite for even more close encounters with the ocean, consider going on one of the New England Aquarium Whale Watch trips.

Tickets and discounts for New England Aquarium

Aquarium admission (2011): Adults $21.95, Children (3-11) $13.95, Seniors 60+ $19.95

Use one of these Boston discount cards to get significant savings:

GoBoston Card
51 ways to save up to 55%
On attractions, tours, cruises
CityPASS
5 top attractions in 9 days
47% savings
GoBoston discount card at www.boston-discovery-guide.com CityPASS Boston discount card at www.boston-discovery-guide.com

The GoBoston card and Go Select Boston pass will also give you savings on whale watching trips.

New England Aquarium hotels and packages

Hotels with New England Aquarium packages

Lots of Boston hotels offer include Aquarium tickets as part of special packages to save you money.  Here's an assortment of excellent values to check out. Most of these top hotels are within a 10-minute walk of the Aquarium.

  • Hilton Boston Financial District - Family Fun Package gives you 2 adult and 2 children's tickets to the New England Aquarium (or Children's Museum), in-room movie and popcorn, breakfast buffet, kids backpacks, and late checkout.  Rates/Reviews
  • Back Bay Hotel - Family Getaway Package includes 2 adult and 2 children's tickets to the New England Aquarium AND the Museum of Science, plus breakfast for 2 at the in-hotel Stanhope Grille, where children under 12 eat free.  Rates/Reviews
  • Langham Hotel - Langham Kids Package includes 2 adult and 2 children's tickets to the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, or the Children's Museum, and complementary breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children in the hotel's Cafe Fleuri.   Rates/Reviews
  • Omni Parker House Hotel - Wet-n-Wild Aquarium Package offers New England Aquarium, IMAX tickets, and breakfast buffet in Parker's Restaurant for each registered guest, plus Omni kids backpacks for each child with you, and milk and cookies for each child on your first night.  Rates/Reviews

Boston Insider Tip:  Keep in mind - New England Aquarium children's tickets are for ages 3-11 - so if you are traveling with teens, confirm directly with the hotel to make sure you'll be covered by these packages.

Nearby hotels:
Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel near New England AquariumBoston Marriott Long Wharf

Waterfront hotel directly across from Aquarium - about a 1-minute walk. Also close to Faneuil Marketplace, TD Garden (home to the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins), and all the fabulous North End restaurants. If you're traveling with children, you'll enjoy the playground at adjacent Christopher Columbus Park. Rates/Reviews

 

Room in Marriott Custom House Resort in BostonMarriott's Custom House

This Marriott Vacation Club Resort located in Boston's historic Custom House offers 1-bedroom suites with accommodations for up to 4 people - perfect for families, and just across the Rose Kennedy Greenway from the Aquarium. Harbor views from some rooms. The Custom House's clock tower is a famous Boston landmark. Rates/Reviews

 

Millennium Bostonian Hotel near New England Aquarium in BostonMillennium Bostonian Hotel

Located next to Faneuil Marketplace on the historic Freedom Trail, and close to the Aquarium (about a 5-6 minute walk across the Greenway) and TD Garden. You'll find a lot of luxury touches here, including fireplaces in some rooms. No Aquarium specials - but they do offer some awesome Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox packages. Rates/Reviews

 

Essentials: New England Aquarium

More Boston Insider Tips

  • You can easily spend several hours or even an entire day at the Boston Aquarium.  The Aquarium is a top attraction for many Boston vacations.
  • If you're here for a Boston weekend getaway or even a longer vacation, the Aquarium is the perfect rainy day adventure.
  • Hungry?  You'll find a cafe right in the Aquarium.  Other options are to walk over to nearby Faneuil Hall / Quincy Marketplace or stop by Sel de la Terre's nearby bakery/ carry-out shop (255 State Street) for something French and fabulous. 
  • Not enough time for a longer visit?  Stop by the outdoor seal habitat, just to the left of the Aquarium's entrance.  Watch the seals frolic as long as you like, winter or summer.  Best of all, it's free - although you will have a better view inside the Aquarium.
  • Coming in April 2011:  The largest shark and ray touch tank on the East Coast, where you can have a close encounter along the shallow edges with thee fascinating creatures.
  • One more tip . . . during our last Aquarium visit during March, 2011, a trainer mentioned that the Giant Tank will probably be temporarily closed at some point during the coming year while updates are made. 

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