When we began planning our 3 1/2 day trip to Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium was at the very top of our “must see” list. After visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium (as recently as last summer) and the Shedd Aquarium (although it’s been a few years), we just had to see the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere.
Plus also, I’m a Pisces.
Although we were visiting on what we expected to be an off-peak day, a Thursday in the middle of February, we chose to purchase our tickets in advance. This landed us both a 20% discount over “walk-up” pricing and allowed us to enter as soon as the doors opened rather than wait in a long ticket queue. Through May of this year, the same 20% discount is being offered online which means that tickets are $26.36 + tax for children and $31.16 + tax for adults. You can also save on admission through the Imagination Nights experience which offers full admission tickets at a nearly 40% discount from 4pm to 8pm. If I could do it all over again, I’d do this option because four hours is more than enough time to experience the entire aquarium. Plus, we’d be able to pack more sight-seeing into a day while stretching our budget even further.
The aquarium is divided up into several galleries:
- Tropical Diver. A plethora of tropical fish, coral, sea horses, jelly fish, and maybe a diver or two
- Ocean Voyager. The largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world with whale sharks, manta rays, sea turtles, and a moving walkway that pulls you through a viewing tunnel
- Cold Water Quest. Home to penguins and sea otters. (Unfortunately, the beluga whale exhibit was closed and the sea lion exhibit doesn’t open until the end of March 2016)
- River Scout. Home to river fish and other river-dwelling creatures from around the world
- Dolphin Tales. A half-hour program showcasing how the trainers interact with and care for the dolphins in the aquarium.
- Aquanaut Adventure. Lots of hand-on, interactive experiences for kids
Some of My Favorite Things:
- Dolphin Tales. Based upon some of the reviews we read while planning our trip, it appears that past “shows” featured the dolphins as trained actors. Our experience was quite different, instead demonstrating how the trainers work with and care for the dolphins. At the end of the presentation, trainers were very accessible and willing to answer any questions visitors had about the animals.
- Sea Otters. All of us were captivated by the sea otters, especially Gracie who appeared to suck her paw as she napped. Visitors are able to view the “behind the scenes” area where keepers prepare meals for the otters, and Gracie kept popping her head up while a keeper prepared her lunch.
- Touch Pools. Allowing visitors to gently touch starfish, anemones, and other creatures, there are touch pools in several of the galleries. The staff did an outstanding job managing children of different ages, interest levels and energy at the touch pools while ensuring the animals were handled appropriately.
A Bit Disappointing:
- Overall, I expected more. I know that the Georgia Aquarium is bigger than the Monterey Bay and Shedd Aquariums, but bigger isn’t necessarily better. While the Georgia Aquarium might have bigger tanks and bigger creatures in captivity, it felt like there was more to experience overall at the other two aquariums.
- Several exhibits were closed — like the beluga whales and 4D theater — and the new sea lion exhibit wasn’t opened just yet. I was sad to later learn why the beluga whale exhibit was closed.
- The glass was scratched and scraped in almost exhibit. While this is probably not noticed by many visitors, and I do realize this is a minor issue overall, I noticed it in every photograph I took.
What about you? Have you visited the Georgia Aquarium? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
A few tips for your visit:
- Definitely purchase your tickets in advance, and don’t overlook the Imagination Nights option. Not only will you likely pay less, but you’ll also avoid the ticket line and be able to enter the aquarium right away.
- Don’t sit in the first ten rows of the dolphin theater. Not only is it hard to see the show from below “sea level” but also there’s a good chance you might get wet!
- As recommended for any city you visit, do the math before purchasing an Atlanta City Pass. They always look like a great deal on the surface, but if you’re not interested in or don’t have the time to visit everything included on your pass, you may be spending more than you need to via this option.
Don’t just take my word for it, here’s what a few other bloggers had to say about the Georgia Aquarium.