A Visit to the Georgia Aquarium

It is still very hot here in Atlanta, so we are in the mode of indoor activities.  When we moved back to Georgia, one of my first purchases was the Land & Sea Membership package.  The family pass allows us to visit the Georgia Aquarium or Atlanta Zoo whenever we desire!  If you are not a member, you can purchase tickets online and select a time window in which to enter the aquarium.  I advise adhering to the selected entrance time as it is typically enforced due to the sheer volume of daily visitors.  If you are a member, you can enter anytime without a reservation.  On this particular day we visited, it was very crowded.  We could maneuver a double stroller and two walking toddlers – so it still made for a fun time!

The Georgia Aquarium is one of the top attractions in Atlanta and my personal favorite.  I became a visitor of the aquarium since it first opened in 2005 (I did want to be a marine biologist growing up!!).  It remained the largest aquarium in the world for about 5 years after opening.  The top exhibits are the whale sharks, beluga whales, manta rays, and most recently, the bottlenose dolphins.

Georgia Aquarium Exhibits

There are 7 exhibits – Ocean Voyager, Tropical Diver, River Scout, Cold Water Quest, Pier 225, Dolphin Coast, and Aquanaut Adventure.

Ocean Voyager is the most notable exhibit.  This is the underwater tunnel where you can hop on the moving sidewalk and observe the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System which houses the whale sharks.  This does remain the largest indoor aquarium exhibit in the world.  If you have strollers or do not have a desire for the moving sidewalk, there is plenty of walking space through the tunnel.  The tunnel is always our first stop and where we end up spending the most time.  The bigs and littles are simply fascinated watching the wild like swim by.  Occasionally, there are divers in the tank who will wave and interact with the littles ones too – that is fun twist too!  Once you go through the tunnel, there is a huge window in which you can further observe the exhibit.

Tropical Diver is my favorite exhibit.  This is where you can find coral reefs, sea horses, eels, jellyfish, and several other tropical fish found in the Pacific area.  There is also a large viewing window which mimics the tides of the ocean at the end.  In the viewing area, there are stations set up with touch screen monitors.  You can select different species and learn more about them.  The girls really enjoyed “reading” and attempting to spot the corresponding fish in the tank.

River Scout is the freshwater exhibit mainly showcasing North American species.  In this exhibit, the water line is almost eyelevel for most of the tanks so you can see above and below the surface.  This is another highlight for the girls.  I think they really like the ability to go back and forth between the land and water animals at their height.

Cold Water Quest is home to beluga whales, sea otters, penguins, and other polar animals.  We spent the most time with the penguins and beluga whales at the bigs request.  I would say this the second favorite exhibit for the kids behind Ocean Voyager.  The penguins also have the above and below waterline concept.  The bigs LOVED watching the penguins dive in, swim around, and pop back up on land.  The beluga whales were also really active so the girls enjoyed watching them swim around.

Pier 225 is where you can find the California sea lions.  There are trainers that host presentations to educate about the species and show off some of their tricks and personalities.

Dolphin Coast is a newer exhibit that resides up the escalators.  I must admit, we go to see the dolphins swim in the tank (which is still cool!), but with all the little ones, it is hard for us to catch a show!  Next time we go, I will plan our visit around one of the shows.

Aquanaut Adventure is a hand on attraction at the aquarium including a couple touch pools.  There is an interactive scavenger hunt.  There are more fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals to be seen through the eyes of children.

The Georgia Aquarium offers SO many other programs such as “Behind the Seas Tours,” animal encounters, swim & dive expeditions, and even sleepovers!  There are special events held such as toddler time, yoga, wine tastings, and so much more.  Each time we visit as a family, I aim for 4 exhibits plus lunch (about 2.5 hours total since we are still working through multiple nap times with the littles).  There is a cafeteria on site that makes meals easy.  I will note you can bring in small snacks and drinks for little ones to keep them occupied through the tours.

There is lots of fun for adults too!!  I would plan for about 4 hours to see all of the attractions and exhibits.  One of my favorite things is when the aquarium does special events like a date night around Valentine’s Day.  There are mini bars set up around the aquarium and tapas were served.  This was such a fun event to visit without the kids!  They have multiple adult nights throughout the year.  One year, my husband’s company rented the aquarium for their company holiday party and it was a BLAST!!  You can see here… I was the ONLY one in the Ocean Voyager tunnel – what a fun and neat experience.

Whether you are toting along your double stroller, wearing babies, and chasing toddlers or enjoying a parents’ night out, the Georgia Aquarium is sure to impress everyone in your crew!

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