If you’re looking for a family-friendly thing to do in Gulfport, start at the Mississippi Aquarium.
One of the newest Gulf Coast attractions, the aquarium is all about education, conservation, and community.
As you walk through the exhibits, an interesting story about the relationships and connections between all the aquatic resources in the area unfolds. The Delta, Mississippi River, Gulf of Mexico, and the wetlands and marshes of the bayous all play a fundamental role in keeping the Gulf’s economy and ecological system healthy.
While learning how important the underwater world is, you get to experience the enchanting critters from the sea firsthand.
Click here to read what attractions are near Mississippi Aquarium – Things to See & Do on a Mississippi Gulf Coast Road Trip.
A Morning at the Mississippi Aquarium
To get a feel for the state’s natural resources, you have to get acquainted with the outdoors. With that understanding, an unusual feature of the aquarium – similar to a zoo – is the outdoor exhibits.
Outside, the first displays have you looking into the eyes of lounging American crocodiles and then watching playful otters slip and slide. Talk about complete opposites!
Next, you wander through an open aviary with 23 different bird species including the brightly colored scarlet ibis and the red billed hornbill.
If you have any questions, a friendly staff member walks around waiting to fill you in on all the interesting details regarding the local and exotic feathery fellas.
At the River Fishes exhibit, you’ll spot some familiar fins like the alligator gar, channel catfish, and largemouth bass swimming around.
Mississippi Aquarium Dolphins
The aquarium houses more than 200 species of animals and 50 native plant species in 12 different habitats.
Our favorite outdoor habitat is the bottlenose dolphins, where the youngins love people and are so playful! It’s neat to be able to see them under and above the water frolicking in the tank. They all seem very curious as bystanders observe on the other side of the glass.
For an additional fee, you can get up close with the adorable animals. The Dolphin Encounter includes an informative session with a trainer and interactions with the dolphins in a small group setting. We did not personally experience the encounter but saw it as an option on our visit.
Entering the Aquatic Wonders building, starting on the third floor, we have an exciting time at the Invertebrate, Shark and Ray tank. The touch encounter allows visitors to lightly graze the fascinating and exotic animals.
Taking a step back, we realize we are standing at the opening of the main saltwater habitat that fills the space all the way to the first floor.
As you spiral below to the second floor, you walk beside a massive cylinder “swirl tank” with roughly 10,000 sardines. The sheer size of the tank becomes apparent as you make your way down.
I get dizzy watching the fish endlessly swirl around – totally understanding the reference now!
Soon afterward, you’ll reach the midlevel tunnel cut right through the main tank. With 360-degree views, you can see the touch tanks above and the grottoes and galleries below with all the fish soaring around and below you.
The tunnel allows you to witness sharks, rays, sheepshead, and grouper, gliding through the water without a care in the world.
A beloved character of the tank is the adorable sea turtle named Banner. The injured big guy from Florida has a buoyant behind after being hit by a boat propeller. While he can mostly be seen bouncing around on top, every once in a while he dips below the surface for a swim.
Heading down to the first floor affords another glimpse of the swirl tank before bringing visitors to the main gallery. The dark room is illuminated only by the glowing blue coming from a movie screen-sized window. It’s like aquarium therapy, a quiet soothing environment.
The panoramic views offer the perfect place to bid a final adieu to our new underwater friends.
Being a new facility, the aquarium isn’t as expansive as some of the ones we’ve frequented over the years, but it is an engaging, educational and unique experience that we enjoyed very much. The top-down concept at the aquarium is perfectly poised to create an unforgettable aquatic adventure.
Full Disclosure: We were provided tickets from Coastal Mississippi, but all thoughts and opinions shared are my own.
Know Before You Go
What Hotels are Near Mississippi Aquarium?
The Courtyard by Marriott is right down the street from the aquarium on the waterfront across from the beach and has an outdoor pool.
The above link is an affiliate link, if you book through it we will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.
When is the Mississippi Aquarium Open?
Mississippi Aquarium is open 365 days a year from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily.
The last ticket is sold for entry 1 hour prior to closing. Face masks are currently required when visiting the aquarium.
The daily schedule is subject to change so check the website for details.
How much are Mississippi Aquarium Tickets?
Make sure to check out the new mobile-exclusive Coastal Mississippi Attractions Pass that grants access to 10 local attractions. You can purchase 1 – 3 day passes or an annual coastal pass if you are from the surrounding area.
- $29.95 for Adults aged 12 – 64.
- $24.95 Children aged 3 – 12
Does the Aquarium offer discounts?
- Children aged 2 and under receive free admission.
- 10% off regular admission for active or retired U.S. military personnel and military family members with valid IDs.
- $26.95 admission for seniors – anyone over the age of 65.
Insider Tips – Things to Know
- To take full advantage of your visit, make sure to plan around the Daily Schedule:
- 10:30 AM – Close Encounters of the Aquatic Kind
- 11:15 AM – Aviary Feed & Chat
- 11:30 AM – Meet a Biologist
- 12:30 PM – Narrated Dolphin Training Session
- 1:30 PM – Croc Talk
- 3:00 PM – Rulers of the Sky
- 3:30 PM – Close Encounters of the Aquatic Kind
- 4:00 PM Narrated Dolphin Training Session
- Paid parking is available onsite but if you are willing to walk a short distance, you can find free parking near the facility.
- Outside food and beverages are not allowed on the property. The Pelican Pointe Cafe offers salads, nachos, burgers, sandwiches, and a children’s menu. It is located between the Aviary and River sections.
Where is the Mississippi Aquarium located?
The aquarium is located in downtown Gulfport across the street from the Gulf of Mexico and Jones Park. Get driving directions to Mississippi Aquarium:
2100 E. Beach Boulevard
Gulfport, Mississippi 39501
Have you been to the Gulf Coast? What other attractions do you recommend?
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