Here are our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions.
Ticketing and Visit Planning Questions
Are reservations required? Can I buy tickets on-site?
You are strongly encouraged to make advanced reservations via our website or the phone by calling (617) 973-5200. Walk-up visitors will be able to use a QR code to purchase tickets on their phone at a station near the Simons Theatre. The Box Office will also be open for walk-up visitors who can’t use the QR station, need assistance, or want to use cash. Certain ticket types, such as EBT/WIC cards, can also only be accommodated at the Box Office, and we are committed to making the Aquarium accessible to all. That said, availability for walk-up purchases is not guaranteed. If you arrive without pre-booking and your desired time or full day is sold out, we will offer you the opportunity to purchase a ticket for another available time or day.
How far in advance can you purchase/reserve your timed ticket?
You can purchase tickets for up to 180 days in advance of your visit.
When is the last entry time of the day?
The last entry time will be for one hour before closing, or 4:40 p.m.
Will you accept cash?
We strongly encourage you to pay in advance online or over the phone. However, cash transactions can be made at the Box Office.
Will you accept Aquarium gift cards?
Yes, however Aquarium gift cards cannot be accepted over the phone or online, so they must be presented at the Box Office.
What if I am late for my assigned time slot?
The building capacity for each time slot is limited. We ask that all guests make every effort to arrive on time. We cannot guarantee immediate entry to guests who are late for their time slot. We strongly encourage you to arrive 5 minutes prior to your assigned time slot.
Will members of a group who arrive later than others be allowed immediate entry upon arrival?
Capacity within time slots is limited. We ask that all guests make every effort to arrive on time. We cannot guarantee immediate entry, even if other members of your party are inside the Aquarium. We strongly encourage you to arrive 5 minutes prior to your assigned time slot.
Will my corporate and/or family membership be extended due to the recent closure?
Members impacted by the temporary closure can opt-in by August 31 to extend their membership for three months. We are using an opt-in procedure since many members have expressed that they would like to support us during this time and have indicated they are not interested in having additional time added to their membership. If you are interested in opting in, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and member ID. We are still working on creating opportunities for you to use unredeemed Simons Theatre passes when the theatre reopens.
Corporate Members whose tickets expired on 6/30/2020 will automatically have their tickets and benefits extended through 10/9/2020. You can call in with your ticket ID number to reserve dates/times, and you will receive electronic tickets in return. Corporate Members with ID entry will be able to call and provide their work email to receive the number of free tickets their ID allots for, and they can purchase additional tickets at that time. If necessary, we may limit the number of ID entries for a given date/time slot. Corporate Members will receive electronic tickets to their work email, and they will be asked to bring their work IDs, but this will be enforced differently than it has in the past. Staff will check the work ID as long as it is in the Member’s possession and they are able to do so safely. Corporate Members who renewed after we closed our doors will receive a series of codes that will be distributed as the company sees fit. Each code is good for one ticket, and they can call in with the code and make a date/time reservation to receive electronic tickets.
Once I enter, is my time limited or restricted?
Your time in the Aquarium is not limited or restricted, and you are allowed to take as long you would like to enjoy the Aquarium. However, re-entry is not allowed at this time.
Can I leave and come back in?
In order to safely operate within capacity restrictions imposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there will be no re-entry allowed at this time.
How many people are allowed into the Aquarium at one time?
We are admitting 66 people every 20 minutes. We are assuming an 80-minute stay, so there may be up to 240 visitors in the building at any one time. These limits are subject to change at any time.
Will I have to wait in line?
We are doing everything we can to streamline entry, but you may have to wait briefly while we scan your ticket. Please arrive 5 minutes before your scheduled time to make entry as easy as possible.
Am I required to wear a face mask?
Yes, all visitors over the age of 5 are required to wear a face covering. We strongly encourage children 2-5 to wear one, but consistent with Governor Baker’s executive order, we leave this to the discretion of caregivers. We will have a limited number of masks available for visitors who forget to bring one or who lose their mask during their visit. We are also asking visitors to wear face coverings while they are on the plaza and in the Marine Mammal Center.
If I have a medical condition that precludes me from wearing a mask, can I still visit? Do I need to provide proof?
Visitors with medical conditions that preclude them from wearing a mask are allowed to visit the Aquarium. We will not ask you to provide proof of your condition, but we will work with you to make sure we can keep the visit safe for you and others.
Does my special-needs child or family member need a mask?
The Aquarium is committed to being accessible to everyone. If a visitor is unable to wear a mask due to a sensory need, we ask that they or a family member wear a sensory lanyard and/or sensory bag, available from the Information Desk, so that staff and other visitors know that they cannot wear a mask.
Will sensory bags continue to be available upon request? How are you cleaning these bags?
Sensory bags and all items in the bag will be cleaned with antibacterial wipes between every use. You will also be offered disinfecting wipes, so you can choose to re-sanitize the bag before using it.
Will there be exclusive hours for vulnerable populations?
Unfortunately, exclusive hours for vulnerable populations will not be available at this time.
Will parking validation be available? What if I forget to validate my parking before exiting?
Parking validation for the Harbor Garage is for members only. The member parking validation is available at the Information Desk or at the Box Office. To obtain validation for other garages with which we have parking validation programs (see: https://www.neaq.org/visit/parking for more information), please visit the Information Desk. If you forget to validate your parking, you will be allowed to re-enter the Aquarium only for this purpose. You will follow the same path used to enter the gift shop.
Can I get a refund if my visit doesn’t feel safe to me?
If your visit does not feel safe, please visit the Information Desk. Our staff will offer you the option to convert your visit into a donation, make a reservation for another time, or receive a refund.
If I only want to visit the gift shop, do I need a timed-entry ticket?
No. You can walk up and enter just to visit the gift shop.
If my phone’s battery dies, where can I go to “get” my reserved ticket?
If you are unable to access the tickets on your phone for any reason, you can go to a ticket booth window for a printed ticket. You can also call Central Reservations at (617) 973-5206, and they can to re-send the email with the ticket to someone else in your party who has a functioning phone/email. Both cashiers and reservationists can re-send barcoded tickets to a new email, so that everything remains contactless.
If I am a library pass holder, do I need to purchase my ticket in advance?
We strongly encourage you to reserve a timed ticket over the phone in advance, to ensure that you can enter at the time you wish to. Your discount will still apply. If you walk up without a reservation and there is no space at that time, you can book a ticket for another time/day, and you will be allowed to use your discount.
Will the signage or dialogue around the virus be troubling or unsettling for young children?
The Aquarium is a family-friendly institution. All of our signage is written to be factual and consistent with our brand.
Will the bathrooms be open?
Yes, the first-floor main bathrooms will be open with limited capacities and an increased cleaning schedule. The hand dryers will be replaced with paper towels. Changing tables are available in both bathrooms. The family restrooms on the 2nd level will not be open.
Will food be available?
The Aquarium’s main Café will be closed initially. There will be some snack items available for purchase in the Gift Shop. Socially distant seating will be available under the Reef tent and at the picnic tables outside.
Can we bring our own food?
You can bring your own food and eat at the picnic tables outside. For the safety of our animals, you cannot eat in the Aquarium exhibit areas.
May I drink out of the water fountains or use the bottle refill stations?
For your safety, water fountains and bottle refill stations are not currently available. Canned water is available for purchase in the gift shop and in the vending machines located on the plaza. You may drink water while in the Aquarium’s exhibit areas, but no other beverages are allowed.
How will elevator access and capacity be monitored?
If a visitor with mobility issues or a stroller wants to access the top of the Giant Ocean Tank, or if a visitor needs to exit the one-way path quickly, the elevator will be available. Individuals with mobility issues will have priority for elevator use, and we strongly encourage others to leave their strollers at home or in their car so that they can follow the one-way path without needing to use the elevator. Signs will indicate that elevator use is limited to one party (person or group visiting together) at a time.
Will there be an area for me to nurse my baby?
Nursing is allowed wherever you feel comfortable. The First Aid/Lactation Room is also available for visitors who would like privacy – please see the Information Desk to access this area. This room is included as part of the Aquarium’s enhanced cleaning procedures.
Do you have wheelchairs available?
We have a limited number of wheelchairs available to borrow. Wheelchairs are thoroughly cleaned before and after each use.
Is the entire Aquarium still wheelchair accessible?
Yes, the Aquarium is still entirely wheelchair accessible. To access the top of the Giant Ocean Tank, any person in a wheelchair will need to use the elevator. Elevator access is being prioritized for individuals in wheelchairs or with other medical needs that make stairs difficult. Please note that you may need to briefly go against the one-way flow when using the elevator to access the top of the Giant Ocean Tank. Visitor Experience staff members are located in this area to assist you.
Do you have strollers available to borrow or rent?
We do not have strollers available to borrow or rent. While strollers are welcome in the Aquarium, we strongly recommend that you leave your stroller at home or in your car. To access the top of the Giant Ocean Tank, any person with a stroller will need to use the elevator. Elevator access is being prioritized for individuals in wheelchairs or with other medical needs that make stairs difficult. Please note that you may need to briefly go against the one-way flow when using the elevator to access the top of the Giant Ocean Tank. Visitor Experience staff members are located in this area to assist you.
Will I be able to check my stroller?
Unfortunately, the stroller check area will not be open at this time.
Will the lockers be available?
Lockers will not be available for use at this time.
Are all of your exhibits open?
The Science of Sharks exhibit and the Edge of the Sea touch tank are closed to visitors right now. The Shark and Ray touch tank will be open for viewing only (no touching). All the other exhibits will be open. There will be no presentations at this time, but visitors will still be able to ask questions of our knowledgeable educators and watch Animal Care staff care for our animals in the exhibits.
Why are the touch tanks closed?
Out of an abundance of caution and to maintain proper social distancing, we have closed the touch tanks for the time being. There has been no evidence to indicate that COVID-19 is transmitted by salt water, and no detailed studies yet regarding the survival of COVID-19 in salt water, but based on data for other viruses, the warm, disinfected salt water that we use at New England Aquarium is not a likely source of the virus.
Is the Simons Theatre open?
The Simons Theatre will reopen Saturday, August 1. Please see the below FAQs for more information.
Will you be having presentations?
In order to prevent crowding, we will not be offering our regular schedule of talks and presentations. You will be able to converse with our knowledgeable educators during your visit and see Animal Care staff caring for our animals on-exhibit. If you are interested in a more in-depth virtual experience, please visit At Home Events and Activities, Virtual Encounters, or contact Central Reservations at (617) 973-5206.
In light of the switch to a number of single-use items (e.g. paper towels vs. hand dryers), how is the Aquarium upholding live blue values?
As a global conservation organization, the protection of human lives is at the core of our values. While we are doing everything we can to eliminate single-use items and to minimize waste, we will take every effort necessary to protect our staff and visitors until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Simons Theatre FAQs
Are reservations required for the Simons Theatre? Can I buy tickets on-site?
You are strongly encouraged to make advanced reservations via our website. The Box Office on the plaza will also be open for walk-up visitors who need assistance or want to use cash. Please note that only visitors with tickets will be allowed to enter the Simons Theatre building itself.
What movies are currently showing?
Backyard Wilderness will surprise and entertain viewers with the unexpected wonders of nature that lie right in our own backyards. The film displays the stunning array of unique wildlife that live around a suburban home over the course of a seasonal year, revealing the backyard’s inhabitants in rare and breathtaking intimacy. We follow Katie, a young girl, who gradually discovers the intricate secrets that nature has hidden so close to her front door. The joy she finds reminds us that Wi-Fi is not the only connection that matters—you can uncover extraordinary things just by stepping outside.
Great White Shark
Get ready for a shark’s-eye view as you plunge straight into the underwater world of nature’s most renowned predator in Great White Shark. See the science at work behind that fearsome, toothy grin and discover the importance of this spectacular species. The whole family will enjoy an exhilarating experience that demonstrates how great white sharks are perfectly adapted hunters that play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our oceans.
Sea Lions: Life by a Whisker
Between a jagged cliff face and a roaring ocean, lives a colony of Australian sea lions. In an environment equally as harsh as it is beautiful, be immersed in a classic coming-of-age tale guided by one of Australia’s most unique, intelligent, and playful animals. Sea Lions: Life by a Whisker takes you on an intimate journey inside the colony where a life of great intimacy, tenderness, and clumsiness, must often give way to a life of great sacrifice and bravery. Dive into the world of a rare Australian sea lion pup – and meet the people who are trying to save its species.
How long are the movies?
Each movie is ~22 minutes long.
Will I be able to visit the Aquarium, leave to see a movie, and then go back into the Aquarium?
There is no re-entry to the Aquarium at this time. Please book your movie either before your Aquarium experience or after. Our ticketing system will give you a warning if there is a conflict between the times you are trying to book.
What steps is the Simons Theatre taking to operate safely?
In keeping with city and state guidelines, we are limiting the number of moviegoers to 25 people per film (the theater normally seats 378). We are using touchless entry scanning, ensuring 6 feet of physical distance between all groups, and cleaning thoroughly between films. Hand sanitizer will be available at entrances and exits and in the lobby. We have initiated a one-way flow so you can enter at the bottom of the theater and exit at the top. All visitors will be required to wear a mask throughout their film.
Will the concession stand be open?
The concession stand will not be open at this time. No outside food or drinks are allowed in the theater.
Can I spend as long as I want at my favorite exhibit? If yes, then how does that work with the new capacity limits and pathway?
There is not a time limit on how long you can stay at each exhibit. We have designed the unidirectional exhibit path so that should be enough space to safely wait to view an exhibit or pass a party viewing an exhibit without breaking social distancing. However, we do ask that you are considerate of other visitors who may wish to view the exhibit as well.
What if I only want to see the octopus, the Indo-Pacific Coral Reef exhibit, the sea lions, or another specific exhibit today?
Our unidirectional path allows plenty of room for you to bypass any exhibits you do not wish to see. However, you must follow the path to get to all of your favorite exhibits.
If I have a restroom emergency, will I be able to exit the one-way path?
Yes, you may exit the unidirectional flow to go down to the bathrooms by using the elevator or by accessing the Giant Ocean Tank spiral on the second or third floor. You will then need to follow the unidirectional path around again to continue your visit.
Health and Cleaning Questions
Will it be “necessary” to touch shared surfaces (doors) at any point?
We have taken many steps to reduce the necessity to touch any surfaces. Doors will be propped open or staffed, sculptures and interactive installations have been removed, and we are asking visitors not to touch the exhibits. In addition, we have enhanced cleaning efforts throughout the facility.
Will there be additional handwashing stations? Is it possible to wash my hands on the way out?
Handwashing will be available on the plaza and in the first-floor restrooms. There will be hand sanitizer available at an abundance of locations throughout your visit.
What if I have a medical emergency?
First responders are available on-site to respond to any medical emergency. Please contact a staff member or the Information Desk by calling the phone number on signage throughout the facility. First responders will call emergency medical services at their own discretion.
What if a visitor seems to be showing COVID-19 symptoms or asks for a first responder because they are sick?
As with any medical emergency, first responders will be deployed for any visitor who becomes ill or injured. Visitor Experience staff will help manage the scene while the first responders provide care. First responders will have been provided with additional training to handle first-aid emergencies while minimizing risk of exposure to COVID-19. Guests are being asked to self-monitor. If you are displaying any symptoms, we ask you to not enter the building.
Will there be on-site health monitoring (e.g. taking guest temperatures)?
We will not be taking visitors’ temperatures. There will be signage present on-site for staff and visitors to indicate that by entering the Aquarium they are certifying that they do not have a fever and/or symptoms of COVID-19, nor have they knowingly been exposed to anyone exposed to or diagnosed positive with COVID-19.
How are you monitoring the health of your staff?
We have implemented various workplace protocols designed to minimize exposure to COVID-19 and promote the safety of our staff working on-site and in the field. We are asking all staff members to abide by CDC recommendations and comply with safer/stay-at-home advisories, including wearing a face covering outside the home, practicing social distancing, and conducting proper handwashing and hygiene routines at home. Before reporting on-site for the first time, NEAq staff are asked to confirm the status of their health. On a daily basis, all staff are asked to monitor for symptoms and to take their temperature prior to reporting to work. No one with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, or with any new or worsening unexplained COVID-like symptoms, will be allowed to access New England Aquarium facilities.
How will I be informed if someone was at the Aquarium at the same time as me and tests positive for COVID-19?
Should this occur, we will inform the Department of Health and follow their specific directives. We will utilize the contact information provided with your ticket purchase to contact you if it becomes necessary.
If I forget or lose my face covering, can I buy one at NEAq?
Fabric face coverings will be available for purchase in the gift shop, but should not be worn immediately, as they need to be washed first.
Disposable masks are available at the Box Office, scanning stations, and Information Desk for any visitors who forget or lose their masks.
If my face covering falls off and lands in an exhibit, or breaks, will I be given a replacement?
Disposable face coverings will be available at the Box Office, scanning stations, and Information Desk for any visitors who lose their face coverings during the course of their visit.
Will hand sanitizer be provided?
There will be hand sanitizer available at an abundance of locations throughout your visit.
What type of air filtration system do you use?
Our air conditioning system blends fresh, outside air with recirculated air that is then heated (or cooled) and passed through pleated filters. We dilute the recirculated air with as much outside air as possible while maintaining the comfort of the people and animals. The filters capture the particles that might contain a virus but do not kill airborne viruses. The fresh outside air dilutes any indoor pollutants.
What is the facility cleaning procedure? How frequently is it cleaned? With what?
Common spaces and high-traffic areas in the main building such as entryways, the lobby, the elevators, and the Café are cleaned and disinfected by cleaning staff on an ongoing basis, at least every two hours when the building is open to visitors.
What happens if someone touches something they aren't supposed to?
All the surfaces they touched will be sanitized.
How long do you expect these changes to remain in place?
We do not know exactly how long these changes will be in place, but we are carefully monitoring state and city guidance and taking all precautions to ensure a safe and fun experience for our staff and visitors.
Can animals get sick with COVID-19? Can they transmit it to humans?
Current expert understanding is that SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. Since COVID-19 first appeared last fall, New England Aquarium and the world zoological community has been closely following the virus and taking precautions to protect our guests, staff, and animals. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2. Based on the limited data available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low. We are still learning about the virus, but it appears that in rare instances, people can spread the virus to certain animals. New England Aquarium will continue to take every precaution to protect our staff and animals.
Has COVID-19 been found in any wild animals?
Our scientists study wild fish, marine mammals, and reptiles. So far, there has been no evidence of COVID-19 in these species.
Could COVID-19 be in the water (if the touch tanks eventually open)?
There has been no evidence to date to indicate that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted by water. There are no detailed studies yet regarding the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in salt water, but based on data for other viruses, the warm, disinfected salt water that we use at New England Aquarium is not a likely source of the virus.
I heard that a tiger had COVID-19—can marine mammals catch it? What are you doing to keep your mammals and other animals safe?
We have been following the state and city guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 from the very beginning (wearing masks, social distancing, and increased cleaning/disinfecting). All of these measures will ensure the safety of our staff, animals, and visitors.