Travel / United States

In which I FINALLY visit the Georgia Aquarium

Even after the buzz of the initial opening has died down (the Aquarium opened in 2005), the Georgia Aquarium is still a not-to-miss site in Atlanta. With enough sights, sounds and flashy colors to satisfy even the pickiest guest the Aquarium can entertain just about anyone in your group—for some, it might be difficult to get them to leave.

We visited on a Friday afternoon at 12 p.m. and found the place lively. I can only imagine what a weekend in the summertime looks like. Note: if you buy a ticket online, you must pick a time to enter. However, if you’re running a bit late, the folks at the ticket window are very understanding and allow a one-hour window for you to enter, making the experience much less stressful.

The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world with 10 million gallons of fresh and marine water and more aquatic life than found in any other aquarium. The giant facility is comprised of five different exhibitions, several opportunities to interact with the animals and the “Dolphin Tales” show (an additional fee above the regular admission).

While I thought that the “Tropical Diver” exhibit was going to be my favorite, I truly enjoyed the “Ocean Voyager“ (read, shark) exhibit the most. The sheer size of the two whale sharks tracing circles around the tank was impressing: the fact that there was a diver in the tank just made me jealous. I had read about the opportunity to dive with the sharks online—the $349 price tag changed my mind about that particular adventure. But, now, after seeing it? I SO want to do it.

In addition to the whale sharks, there are now four manta rays, stingrays, eagle rays, jacks, grouper and several different types of sharks. The exhibit is enormous in and of itself: 4,574 square feet of viewing windows (large enough that little kids can run amok and you can still get a great view), a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel, 185 tons of acrylic windows and the second largest viewing window in the world at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide and 2 feet thick. Yep, this one was my favorite.

The rest of the exhibits were also worth seeing for various reasons: “Coldwater Quest” allows visitors the chance to crawl through a tunnel to see the penguins up close and personal (the tunnel is crawl-able for adults but watch your head if you’re more than 5’5’’ and want to pop up in the viewing pods. My 6’2’’ cousin bonked his head when he saw me standing up straight); “Georgia Explorer” has lots of hands-on exhibits and a slide for the kids; “River Scout” has albino alligators, otters and a river that flows over your head.

It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours—more if you have them. Prices start at $24.95 for adults/ $18.95 for children 3-12 for the general admission tickets. Bonus:  Georgia residents receive free admission to the Georgia Aquarium on your birthday. You must have valid ID and use the ticket on your birthday, but it’s a great option.

Jellies. Not Jellyfish. Because they're not fish.

One of the viewing tanks in the Ocean Voyager Exhibit

The Tropical Diver exhibit was like diving...except I didn't have to worry about the bends.

Penguins! They look stuffed, but they're real.

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