I love visiting places inspired by books and reading books inspired by places. That’s why I was so excited to learn that the popular children’s book series, Curious George, has a book heavily inspired by the Mystic Aquarium. I visited Mystic as a child and was heading back to the area over the summer, so I thought it would be cool to see how the two matched up. So here he is, Curious George at the (Mystic) Aquarium.
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I was worried about how this would work, exactly. Looking back, I have no idea why.
For the first time since starting this website, I was going to travel specifically because of a book.
The book? Curious George at the Aquarium.
The place? Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut.
The reason? The illustrator was inspired by THIS aquarium for THIS book.
I spent a few hours looking at Curious George contemplating the idea of being inspired by something. That’s when the worry set in.
The aquarium George visits… it could be any aquarium, couldn’t it? And to what extent did the illustrator get the inspiration? Was it just the animals? Was it more? And while I knew we’d have a nice day visiting, I also knew I wanted to write about this awesome connection between book and place because this website. So I bookmarked some spots that I wanted to attempt to compare to the original, and headed to Mystic.
Curious George’s Bayshore Aquarium vs. Mystic AquariumComparing Curious George at the Aquarium to the inspiration aquarium. #familytravel Click To Tweet
Immediately on entering Mystic Aquarium I saw the similarities. Check for yourself.
***Spoiler alert*** Curious George hears some noise and gets curious. He skips the line, jumps the wall, and begins his encounter with the Beluga whales. In real life, even the most curious of kids would have a difficult time jumping the wall. So, go ahead and go through the main entrance. The whales are one of the first exhibits to the right, so they’re hard to miss.
Sea lions and seals
The big question on everyone’s minds as they reach the sea lion and seal sections of the aquarium is this: What exactly is the difference between a sea lion and a seal? Since each exhibit has a few staff available and they’re extremely approachable, I asked them. After they explained it to me, they took to the microphone to tell everyone watching. They also explained more about these animals’ lives in the wild and at Mystic Aquarium.
So what is the difference? Sea lionshave larger flippers, are able to walk on land, and have small flaps of ears. Seals have smaller front flippers, are better suited, and aren’t as social. To read more, check out this post from the National Ocean Service.
Here’s where the Curious George book makes a more obvious turn to being inspired by the aquarium instead of just being a copy of the aquarium. Curious George calls what he sees sea lions. I get the feeling what’s drawn is a seal. But, I’m still no expert. And, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get such a good picture of the sea lions or seals in with the rocks. In person it’s easy to see, but in my camera I feel like they blend in with the rocks. So, instead of a direct comparison – mine is a picture of a sea lion relaxing.
And the Penguins
Finally, in my comparison of Curious George at the Aquarium and the inspiration aquarium, Mystic, I bring you the Penguin Exhibit.
There’s something about penguins. My kids love them. They were a big attraction for the crowd, too. Curious George loved them so much, he joined in the fun. The only way people will be able to stand with the penguins in real life is if they’re trained and employed by the aquarium.
Mystic Aquarium Facts
By this point, my son was carrying the book everywhere. He was using it as his map. His personal guidebook. We’d stop somewhere new and he’d find something comparable in the book.
For this post, now, I want to focus on the aquarium. If you have a book, grab it. Use your book to find similarities and differences, or just read on.
Mystic Aquarium’s Mission
I’m very careful about visiting zoos and aquariums. I’m not an animal activist, but I also don’t want to support an institution that does harm to animals. There are some people who visit animal habitats indiscriminately. I always suggest people do some research in advance. There are some people who will never visit a zoo or aquarium. And, likely, they’re not reading this post.
Mystic Aquarium is accredited by both the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammals Parks and Aquariums. AZA members “meet the highest standards in animal care and provide a fun, safe, and educational family experience. In addition, they dedicate millions of dollars to support scientific research, conservation, and education programs.” AMMPA is “dedicated to the highest standards of care for marine mammals and to their conservation in the wild through public education, scientific study, and wildlife presentations.” Both organizations have strict requirements to join, which means only a small portion of organizations in the United States are part of them.
Mystic Aquarium’s mission is:
to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research.
This is evident in both their exhibits and in interactions with the staff. For example, the penguin exhibit that I mentioned includes this informative piece about conservation, education, and research.
Mystic Aquarium is also involved in helping stranded marine animals. They research circumstances and share the importance of such research:
They offer visitors a chance to see their rescue and rehabilitation efforts while showcasing why it’s important:
So Mystic Aquarium isn’t just about the visitors who come to see the animals. They also do a lot of work behind the scenes.
Now, let’s get back to the visitor’s experience.
Mystic Aquarium Education
There are educational opportunities throughout the aquarium. However, one of our favorites was the indoor aquarium. Here we got a closer look at some of the sea’s smallest creatures, and got an underwater view of some of the animals we saw above water.
We loved the jellyfish exhibit. Jellyfish are just fun. Especially when they’re separated by glass and not stinging you in the ocean (which has happened to me). This particular jellyfish exhibit was huge. There were several tanks. Each had different sizes and types of jellyfish. I especially appreciated the informational piece about the different types of jellyfish and the danger of their sting.
My son loved the shark exhibit. He watched a shark getting fed and compared his size to a shark’s size. He attempted to pet a shark – but, he wasn’t too into it.
Mystic Aquarium Stories
Within the exhibits, shows, and even listening to the staff we learned of the many stories of Mystic’s animals. For example, we learned about the rehabilitation efforts that a few of the sea lions have gone through, some of the animal’s favorite toys, and more. From their rehabilitation efforts, to the animal’s preferences, and more. Some of the stories eventually made their way into their own books. One was the story of Charlotte the Turtle, a turtle you can spot (if you’re lucky), inside one of the large tanks.
Charlotte’s story in a
nut turtle shell
Charlotte was found after she was hit by a boat propeller. The damage left her partially paralyzed, and, among other things, gave her a condition known as bubble-butt. It’s unlikely she will be released, but there is still a possibility.
I found Charlotte in her tank, but she was hidden in the back and it was impossible to take a good photo. Instead, here’s some more information about Charlotte.
I like that in addition to housing her, and explaining how she came to the aquarium, they also provide visitors with information on how to protect sea turtles in the future.
More Stories at Mystic Aquarium’s Gift Shop
There are definite benefits to visiting an aquarium like Mystic. One, I believe, is that it helps kids understand the beauty of the animals they aren’t likely to see on their own. And, as shown in the case of Charlotte the Turtle, even trying to see animals in their natural habitats can be dangerous to the animals. My kids left with a greater love of the animals they saw. Best of all? They have a better understanding of how they can personally help keep the environment safe for all animals.
How does Mystic Aquarium help people remember these important lessons? One is their awesome gift shop. Look at this selection of books for kids. And this is only a few of the pictures! Kids, who find their own inspiration at Mystic Aquarium, can follow their interests by picking up books on almost every aspect of marine life.
And if you know me, you know I’m a big fan of getting books based on personal interest!
Look closely and you’ll see Curious George at the Aquarium. There’s also a book about Astro, one of Mystic’s sea lions. And that cute turtle? That’s Charlotte! Kids who want to remember Charlotte’s story can get a book devoted to her!
More information | Curious George, Mystic Aquarium
Ready to make this trip? You can pick up your Curious George book at Amazon.
Tickets for Mystic Aquarium can be purchased online or at the gate. Their website offers plenty of information to help plan the day.
- If you forgot to bring your Curious George book, you can also get it at the gift shop.
- Parking is free!
- There is an outdoor cafe immediately on your left when you enter. They serve small snacks. For those with heartier appetites, just walk directly past that small cafe to get to the larger restaurant with more options.
- There are several exhibits which have an extra fee to participate, information is available on the website. However, you can have a fun and fulfilling day without visiting any of the extras.
A special thank you to Mystic Aquarium for providing tickets to me and my kids for the purpose of writing about the inspiration behind the book Curious George at the Aquarium. All opinions in this post are my own. Also, thank you to Christa from Travel Fearlessly for telling me about Mystic Aquarium being the inspiration for the illustrator.
This post is part of the Everything Kids Link Party. Click the link for more great finds.
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Shelly Rivoli says
What a great idea! This aquarium also looks great–I’ve been to many, but this one is still on the to-do list. Thanks for sharing!
This is cool. Fact: I once created a Homeland filming locations tour of Charlotte, NC. My husband, having been born and raised in Charlotte was not impressed, lol!
It was filmed here? (I’m in Charlotte.) I need to rewatch it and need your tour!
That’s neat how similar the Curious George illustrations are to the actual aquarium! Nice post – thanks for the tour!