Santa Claus will be popping up often in the coming weeks\u00a0at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, including scuba diving with the sharks and appearing on the giant IMAX\u00ae\u00a0Theater screen in \u201cThe Polar Express,\u201d as part of the Connecticut family attraction\u2019s bonus holiday offerings. A visit to the Aquarium is always a gift to yourself, your family and your friends, thanks to the sharks, seals, river otters, jellyfish, sea turtles and other marine animals, as well as the amazing daily IMAX\u00a0documentaries playing on the six-story screen (Connecticut\u2019s largest). But this holiday season offers a few extra special presents for kids and families to enjoy: \u2022 \u00a0SHARK-DIVING SANTA Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 28 and\u00a029, and most Thursdays, Saturdays and\u00a0Sundays in December. (No dives Dec. 24.) Santa Claus will join The Maritime Aquarium\u2019s dive team in December to help demonstrate that sharks aren\u2019t the blood-thirsty killers of myth. Several times each week through the holiday season (workload permitting), Santa will strap on his custom scuba outfit and enter the Aquarium\u2019s 110,000-gallon \u201cOcean Beyond the Sound\u201d exhibit, which is home to 7-foot sharks. He\u2019ll swim up to the exhibit window and pose with children, so bring your camera for a unique photo opp. \u201cShark-Diving Santa\u201d is all part of a regular program at the Aquarium where guests can see and talk with volunteer divers swimming in the exhibit. Purpose of the dives is to correct common misperceptions about sharks, as the divers demonstrate how sharks do not see humans as prey. Santa is expected to participate in each dive beginning Nov. 28 and\u00a029, and then in December on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. \u00a0Times are 12:15 and\u00a02:15 p.m. \u00a0Check the Aquarium\u2019s website \u2013 www.maritimeaquarium.org (under \u201cFun & Learning,\u201d then \u201cSpecial Events\u201d) \u2013 to confirm the dates when Santa can pull himself away from the North Pole and exchange his snow boots for swim fins. All the dives are free with Aquarium admission. \u2022 \u00a0IMAX MOVIE \u201cTHE POLAR EXPRESS\u201d Nov. 27 - Jan. 3. \u00a0See www.maritimeaquarium.org\u00a0for show times. Bring the kids on a giant-screen thrill ride to the North Pole \u2013 and believe again \u2013 beginning Nov. 27 when the holiday film \u201cThe Polar Express\u201d returns for a limited engagement to The Maritime Aquarium\u2019s IMAX Theater. The animated film, featuring Tom Hanks as the voice of five characters, plays on the Aquarium\u2019s six-story screen Nov. 27 through Dec. 20 at 4 & 7:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays and at 4 p.m. Sundays. \u00a0(No 7:30 p.m. show on Fri., Dec. 4.) From Dec. 26-Jan. 3, \u201cThe Polar Express\u201d will show at 4 & 7:30 p.m. daily. \u201cSeeing \u2018The Polar Express\u2019 in our IMAX Theater is a tradition for a lot of families, because the film\u2019s spirit and message connects with everyone; whether you\u2019re 5 or 85,\u201d said Chris Loynd, the Aquarium\u2019s marketing director. Based on the 1986 Caldecott Award-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg, \u201cThe Polar Express\u201d follows a young boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus but gets taken on a magical Christmas Eve trip to the North Pole. Because \u201cThe Polar Express\u201d is an hour and 40 minutes long, tickets for all afternoon and evening shows are specially priced at: $11.50 for adults; $10.50 for youths (ages 13-17) & seniors (65+); and $9.50 for children 3-12. \u00a0Maritime Aquarium members save $1. Special weekday shows at 9 or 10 a.m. are available for preschools and elementary schools. \u2022 \u00a0\u201c \u2018POLAR EXPRESS\u2019 PAJAMA PARTIES\u201d Saturdays, Dec. 19 and Sun., Dec. 20, each from 9 a.m. to noon The weekend before Christmas, make a special family holiday-season memory with tasty treats and a giant-screen thrill ride to the North Pole during The Maritime Aquarium\u2019s \u201c\u2018Polar Express\u2019 Pajama Parties.\u201d \u201cNo fussing; just relaxed family fun,\u201d said Loynd. \u201cCome in your jammies, have some delicious morning treats, explore some special activities, and then sit back and enjoy \u2018The Polar Express.\u2019\u201d The \u00a0\u201c\u2018Polar Express\u2019 Pajama Parties\u201d on Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20 begin at 9 a.m. with a gourmet hot chocolate bar courtesy of South Norwalk\u2019s\u00a0renowned Chocopologie Cafe & Bistro. Guests can top their hot chocolate with whipped cream and a selection of exotic toppings provided by The Village Market in Wilton. Plus, choose from a delicious spread of holiday cookies by J&L Bakery in Norwalk. \u201cPajama Party\u201d partiers also can pose for photos with the Aquarium\u2019s train conductor and visit with Aquarium educators whose hands-on displays will explore strategies that animals use to keep\u00a0warm in winter \u2013 all before the feature-length movie starts at 10 a.m. Tickets for a \u201c\u2018Polar Express\u2019 Pajama Party\u201d are $17 for adults and $15 for kids 3-12 ($15 and $13 for\u00a0Aquarium members). Each show is limited to 310 seats, so advance purchase is strongly recommended. Buy online at www.maritimeaquarium.org\u00a0or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206. \u2022 14th\u00a0ANNUAL \u201cFESTIVAL OF LIGHTHOUSES CONTEST\u201d Daily Nov. 21 through Jan. 18. Enjoy this bonus display of imaginative handcrafted lighthouses \u2013 and then vote for your favorite \u2013 in the Aquarium\u2019s 14th annual \u201cFestival of Lighthouses Contest.\u201d Your votes will determine the winners of this fun holiday display, which has 22 large model lighthouses competing for the top prize of $1,500. This year\u2019s lighthouses were built by local artists looking for a challenge, by hobbyists with a vision and by students fulfilling a school assignment. Some lighthouses are modeled after actual lighthouses; others are wildly whimsical. \u201cThe quality of the lighthouses goes up each year, as the contestants are forced to up their game each year,\u201d said Thomas Frankie, the Aquarium\u2019s exhibits director. \u201cThis in turn makes the contest better, but it also becomes harder and harder to vote for one favorite.\u201d Contestants this year are from both near (Norwalk, Darien, Stamford and Bridgeport) and far (Monroe, West Haven and Shelton in Connecticut, and Cortlandt Manor, Katonah, White Plains, Yonkers, New Rochelle and Hartsdale in New York). The lighthouse exhibit is free with Aquarium admission. \u2022 \u00a0CLOSER TO OUR COMMUNITY: \u00a0\u201cFULL TUMMIES, HAPPY TUMMIES\u201d Food drive Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6 Help those in need in our local community Dec. 5 and 6 during a special weekend of discounted admission to The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. During the Aquarium\u2019s \u201cFull Tummies, Happy Tummies Weekend,\u201d anyone bringing a non-perishable food item will receive discounted Aquarium admission. Adults receive $5 off admission of $19.95. Children save $3 off the regular price of $12.95. You can bring more than one food item per person, but the discount does not multiply. The discounts are part of the Aquarium\u2019s Closer to Our Community initiative, which engages the Aquarium (and its visitors) in ways that benefit the local community. All of the food donated during \u201cFull Tummies, Happy Tummies Weekend\u201d will go to Person-to-Person of Norwalk, a community-supported agency that provides emergency assistance for basic needs, and support for individuals and families as they move towards stability. Person-to-Person\u2019s vision is communities of financially stable hunger-free homes, with educational opportunities for all. Get more details about the organization at www.p2phelps.org\/norwalk. \u2022 \u00a0\u201cSEA\u201d SANTA Sunday, Dec. 6; \u00a0Saturday, Dec. 12 and Sunday, Dec. 13. The Maritime Aquarium is pleased to offer three opportunities for children to meet with Santa Claus in December. Santa will welcome youngsters and accept wish lists from a Neptune-themed throne between 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 6, 12 and 13. \u00a0Please note that, each day, Santa will take breaks from the meet-and-greets to become \u201cShark-Diving Santa,\u201d joining the Aquarium scuba team in the \u201cOcean Beyond the Sound\u201d exhibit at 12:15 & 2:15 p.m. Bring your camera to snap a keepsake memory. The Santa visits are free with Maritime Aquarium admission. \u2022 \u00a0\u201cELF\u201d SHOWING ON THE GIANT MOVIE SCREEN Friday, Dec. 4 from 7 to 10 p.m. The biggest elf at the North Pole gets the biggest laughs on Friday, Dec. 4 when The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk presents the Will Farrell holiday comedy \u201cElf\u201d in a special one-night-only screening. This fun evening geared especially for high-school students begins at 7 p.m. in the movie-theater lobby with a variety of fun activities, including contests and a special photo opp. (Ugly holiday sweaters are encouraged.) \u201cElf\u201d will play at 8 p.m. \u00a0(Please note that the film is being shown in the Aquarium\u2019s IMAX\u00ae\u00a0Theater but not in the trade-marked IMAX format.) Growing into a holiday cult classic, the 2003 film stars Will Farrell as Buddy, a human raised among elves at Santa\u2019s North Pole headquarters. Slapstick and chaos ensues when naive Buddy travels to New York City to find his birth father. \u201cElf\u201d is presented by students participating in TeMPEST, an after-school program at The Maritime Aquarium for high school students from Norwalk that provides unique supplemental STEM education while also preparing the teens for college and careers. TeMPEST stands for Teen Maritime Program Emphasizing Science & Technology. \u201cElf\u201d is 97 minutes long and is rated PG for mild rude humor and language. Tickets for \u201cElf\u201d at The Maritime Aquarium are $12. \u2022 \u00a0HOLIDAY CONCERTS Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 13 Joyous holiday sounds meet Long Island Sound in special live performances in December at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. Saturday, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m. \u00a0\u2013 \u00a0Students of the Talent Education Suzuki School (TESS) in Norwalk.\u00a0 Founded in 2005 to create a unique music school that is true to the Suzuki philosophy, TESS offers a comprehensive year-round curriculum in a nurturing setting unlike any other instruction in Fairfield County.\u00a0TESS bills itself as the premier center in Fair\ufb01eld County for exceptional musical instruction.\u00a0 Learn more at www.musicattess.com. Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2:30 p.m. \u2013 The Westport Community Band.\u00a0 Founded in 1977, the Band is a non-profit voluntary organization, affiliated with Westport Continuing Education and composed of adult musicians from Fairfield and Westchester counties who share an interest in exploring challenging concert band literature, improving individual technique, and creating music as an ensemble. Learn more at www.westportcommunityband.com. The performances are free with Aquarium admission. \u2022 \u00a0DROP & SHOP for ages 5-7 and 8-10 Saturday, Dec. 12, from 9 a.m.-noon Give your kids a fun morning exploring the cool world of turtles, sharks and more while giving yourself solo time for holiday shopping on Saturday, Dec. 12, through new \u201cDrop & Shop\u201d programs at The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. The Aquarium has a whole morning of hands-on activities and explorations planned for ages 5 to 7 and 8 to 10, both beginning at 9 a.m. Ages 5 to 7 get a special pre-opening tour of the Aquarium, and then explore in-depth the world of turtles \u2013 of both land and sea. Ages 8 to 10 also explore the Aquarium prior to opening to the public, and then take part in activities and experiences focusing on sharks and these ocean predators\u2019 special adaptations. Both age groups top off their visit with a screening of the IMAX movie \u201cHumpback Whales\u201d on the Aquarium\u2019s six-story screen. (The film won Best Film of the Year at the recent Giant Screen Cinema Association 2015 Achievement Awards.) Cost for \u201cDrop & Shop\u201d programs is $50 per child ($45 for Aquarium members). Capacity is limited. Advance reservations are required. Call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206, or go online to www.maritimeaquarium.org. \u2022 \u00a0SEAL-SPOTTING & BIRDING CRUISES Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20 Cruise out aboard The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk\u2019s unique new research vessel Dec. 19 and 20 to seek out some of the seals that spend the winter in Long Island Sound. The Maritime Aquarium\u2019s Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruises seek out the harbor seals and gray seals near the Norwalk islands as the seals \u201chaul out\u201d to rest on rocks exposed at low tide. Aquarium educators will point out these federally protected marine mammals and talk about their natural histories. And they\u2019ll also discuss what happens with the Sound\u2019s marine population during the winter: who stays, who migrates out, and who migrates in (besides the seals). These cruises also give birders unique \u201con-the-water\u201d access to see and photograph visiting winter waterfowl, such as buffleheads, mergansers and long-tailed ducks. Cruises occur aboard the Aquarium\u2019s new R\/V Spirit of the Sound\u2122, the country\u2019s only research vessel with hybrid-electric propulsion. The $2.7 million, 64-foot catamaran runs quietly on the water, and has a climate-controlled cabin. Each 2.5-hour cruise departs at 11 a.m. Tickets for a Seal-Spotting & Birding Cruise are $24.95, or $19.95 for Aquarium members. The cruises offer memorable family fun but please note that all passengers must be at least 42 inches tall.\u00a0Binoculars will be provided. Dress warmly for time outside on deck. Capacity is limited to 22, so advance reservations are strongly recommended. Walk-up tickets will be sold, space permitting. The cruises depart from the dock outside the Aquarium\u2019s IMAX movie theater. For reservations or more details, go to www.maritimeaquarium.org\u00a0or call (203) 852-0700, ext. 2206. And remember that a Maritime Aquarium membership makes a great gift idea, for individuals and families. \u00a0Members receive: free general admission for a year; the members\u2019 newsletter; discounts to IMAX movies, Gift Shop purchases and special events; and lots more. \u00a0Family memberships start at $150. Here are Maritime Aquarium admission prices: Aquarium: \u00a0$19.95 for adults; $17.95 for both youths (13-17) and seniors (65+); and $12.95 for children 3-12. Members and kids 2 & under, free. Discount Combo tickets (Aquarium + 40-minute IMAX documentary):\u00a0 $24.95 for adults; $22.95 for both youths (13-17) and seniors (65+); and $17.95 children for 3-12. IMAX documentary only:\u00a0 $9.50 for adults; $8.50 for youths & seniors; and $7 for kids 3-12. \u00a0Members save $2. \u201cThe Polar Express\u201d on IMAX:\u00a0 $11.50 for adults; $10.50 for seniors; and $9.50 for kids 3-12. \u00a0 Members save $1. For more information about Maritime Aquarium offerings in December, or to reserve tickets or to purchase a membership for yourself or as a gift, call 203-852-0700 or go online to www.maritimeaquarium.org.