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New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium to Open at American Dream on May 4

New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium to Open at American Dream on May 4

The East Rutherford, NJ aquarium is the first SEA LIFE location in the northeast.

SEA LIFE, the world’s largest network of aquariums, touched down in East Rutherford, NJ—at American Dream to be exact. The 25,000-square-foot New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium has been dubbed City Under the Sea, in a nod to the bustling New York City that lies just across the Hudson River. The aquarium is constantly monitoring the situation with regards to COVID-19 and officially announced its grand opening for May 4.

“It offers a new wave of underwater adventures,” said Julie Estrada, head of public relations of North America for Merlin Entertainments, which owns and operates SEA LIFE as well as many other location-based family entertainment experiences. “What's amazing about [New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium] is, it's really designed to be a child's first experience with an aquarium. It's the first time they're seeing these creatures up close and personal and learning about them.”

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Exhibits at New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium

New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium will feature more than 3,000 different creatures in more than 10 exhibits inspired by New York City’s most memorable moments and experiences, including:

Rush Hour of the Oceans

Step on the platform to hear the noises and see the views of sea life during rush hour (much friendlier and cooler than the commute on the subway!). Motion sensors will trigger recordings of fun facts—in local accents—about what you are seeing, such as schools of fish and yellow eels (a nod to taxis).


“One of the unique things about all of the SEA LIFE aquariums is, they focus on the freshwater that's near each location,” Estrada said. So here, you’ll see the different animals you’d find in nearby lakes and rivers—giving kids the opportunity to learn about and understand the ecosystem of their area.

Tiny Giants Rockpool

Visitors will have the chance to touch some sea life (starfish, urchins, and sea anemones) in Tiny Giants Rockpool, which showcases the “athletes of the ocean—the ones that have to survive with their strength and stamina,” Estrada says. (Do you get the reference to NYC in this area? Hint: Think football.)

Jelly 54

In a nod to Studio 54, this area will feature the ocean’s natural dancers: jellyfish. Here, innovative lighting effects will showcase the natural translucent colors of the jellyfish. Plus, music will be playing, so go ahead and dance along!

jelly 54 exhibit at new jersey sea life aquarium
A rendering of what Jelly 54 at New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium will look like

Urban Jungle

Gather your courage and walk through the red-bellied piranha tank (“the Wall Street wolves of the river,” Estrada joked), and come face to face with some of the most fearsome freshwater creatures.   

Sharks Fish Avenue

“You can’t go to a city under the sea without wanting to window shop,” Estrada noted. “Bonus: You don’t have to spend money there!” The showpiece is a sunken treasure ship, made into the Fifth Avenue department store, that features a beauty salon of cleaner shrimp that will actually clean your nails if you put your hand in the tank.

Reef at Night

Some say the city looks best at lit up at night, and the same can be said about some sea life. There are so many sea creatures that look cool in a dark setting, and this is where you can see them—including jeweled coral and the creatures that live around it. This exhibit also aims to help visitors understand and gain a respect for the coral reef through interactive games. 

Ocean View

In this ode to Times Square, you’ll walk through a tunnel and be totally surrounded by sea life. Look above and you’ll see the underbellies of sharks and sting rays. Look around you, and you’ll see how tropical fish interact, live, and work together.   

In addition to the exhibits, New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium plans to offer behind-the-scenes tours, talks and feeds, birthday parties, a gift shop, and a soft-play area for kids.

New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium will be located at American Dream in East Rutherford, NJ. City residents can easily get there via NJ Transit bus or train to American Dream/Meadowlands, or by the NY Waterway ferry (from West 39th Street to Port Imperial) and shuttle (from Port Imperial to American Dream. Admission is $26 for adults, $21 for children, and annual passes start at $69.95. Tickets are slated to go on sale Dec. 2 (perfect as a stocking stuffer!).

For more information, visit

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Main image: A rendering of the Reef at Night exhibit at New Jersey SEA LIFE Aquarium
All photo courtesy Merlin Entertainments


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Katelin Walling

Author: Katelin Walling is the former editorial director for NYMetroParents. She has been writing about parenting, health, finance, education, fun things to do in NYC and the surrounding area, and more for nearly 10 years. She also has 20+ years of child care experience and was a babysitter in NYC for 8 years. Katelin graduated from the University of Maine in 2011 and attended the NYU Summer Publishing Institute during the summer of 2011. To unplug in her free time, she can often be found reading, knitting (or general crafting), or whipping up a vegan treat—all with a cup of coffee nearby. See More

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