A trip to the Georgia Aquarium has been on our to-do list since we moved to Atlanta a couple of years ago. It’s the #1 aquarium in the United States (#2 in the world) and since it’s essentially in our backyard we both knew we were going to have to visit. Plus, acting like a tourist in our own city is one of my favorite ways to spend time. It’s especially awesome when you live in such a major city with so much always going on.
Last weekend we had our Saturday free (amazingly) so I reached out the Georgia Aquarium PR department and they agreed to provide media admission to my husband and I in exchange for sharing our trip with you, my dear readers. If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook you’ve likely already seen some of the photos and videos (we took a lot of them) but let me recap the whole adventure.
We actually decided to take MARTA to the aquarium rather than drive and try to fight traffic downtown. We live just north of the city but a MARTA ride was only about 20 minutes whereas driving would have easily taken us an hour or longer. From the Peachtree Center MARTA station getting to the Georgia Aquarium is as simple as turning right on Peachtree St. then turning left on Baker St. It’s a straight shot to their entrance and it’s less than a 10-minute walk. We grabbed a coffee from the Peachtree St. Starbucks to warm up (since it was about 38 degrees outside). My husband Periscoped the walk and gave the viewers a glimpse of downtown Atlanta. That was kind of fun (and my first scope!) and my husband was photobombed by a super nice random guy as he set up his Periscope of downtown Atlanta, haha.
Entering the Georgia Aquarium
We grabbed our media tickets from Will Call and went through the security line so the guard could inspect our bags.
I’m going to take a second right here and let you know I was really disappointed in the security at the aquarium. The whole day was so much fun but, being completely honest, that was my one big negative. The guard barely peeked inside of my bag (opting instead to simply ask me if I had any weapons) and he didn’t check my husband at all (even though he had on a fully zipped winter coat). I was surprised by how lax they seemed at that checkpoint.
But, moving on… They take your picture outside of the aquarium for a cool photo op you can buy later on and then you enter in to the main lobby.
Insider Tip #1 – Buy your tickets ahead of time if possible or use CityPASS and save a ton of money on multiple Atlanta attractions (learn more about how CityPASS can save you money here). The line for entrance was very long and we didn’t arrive for our visit until 4pm.
Tropical Diver Exhibit
We hit up the Tropical Diver exhibit first because it seemed to have the fewest number of people crowding around it. By fewest I mean it was still packed to the gills (pun intended) but we opted to begin there anyway.
Friends, it was so cool! It is definitely the most relaxing and tranquil of all of the exhibits so, for us, it was a great way to ease in to the aquarium experience. The exhibits included garden eels, glassy sweepers, seahorses, jawfish, jellyfish and one of the most amazing living coral exhibits I’ve ever seen. I shared a video of the jellyfish on Instagram (which you can watch here). It was mesmerizing.
River Scout Exhibit
After touring the Tropical Diver we moved over to the River Scout exhibit. I was excited for this exhibit because the Georgia Aquarium website touts it as having “a wide diversity of animals found in the rivers of Africa, South America, Asia and right here in Georgia.” It was incredible but I wasn’t able to take the pictures or the video that I hoped because it was insanely crowded.
I know it was more crowded than normal because the staff was even talking about how they had to call in additional people to work. There were a lot of events and cheer / dance competitions going on in the city during those same few days and I’m betting that had a lot to do with the increase in visitors.
The River Scout exhibit had albino alligators (so cool! although I’ve seen hundreds of alligators before since I lived in Florida for so many years) and there was an area full of fierce piranha which was pretty wild. My favorite though? The Asian small-clawed otter. I wasn’t able to get a great picture of him but I did my best considering the crowd. The kids visiting the aquarium seemed to really love the otters too so I didn’t try to get too close. Kids come first, you know?
Dolphin Tales Show
A couple of times a day the Georgia Aquarium puts on a fun dolphin tales show but we decided to skip it. The line was long and, because we lived in Florida, we’ve seen dozens of dolphin shows before. We opted to let other visitors, who have not seen dolphins as frequently as we have, take the seats and see the show. I know it’s a big highlight of the aquarium and if you haven’t seen dolphins perform before I would recommend staying for the show.
Insider Tip #2 – Get in line for the dolphin show seating at least one hour before the show is supposed to begin in order to guarantee you get a seat. This exhibit fills up fast! They were announcing that it was near capacity about 30 minutes before it was even supposed to start.
Coldwater Quest Exhibit
Friends, there were penguins!!!
From the moment we arrived my husband kept talking about he wanted to see the whale sharks (he, like my friend Allison from The Book Wheel, is a huge shark fan). I, on the other hand, wanted to see the penguins. The Coldwater Quest exhibit included African penguins, Southern sea otters, and beluga whales in addition to other fish and sea creatures.
But friends…the penguins. 🙂 🙂 🙂 They were cute. There is an even a little area where you can stand up with your head inside this clear bubble so your basically rightthere with them. I could have stood there and watched penguins all day long (but we didn’t. My husband wouldn’t let me).
At the end of the Coldwater Quest exhibit there is a small area where you’re able to touch starfish, urchins, and other small sea creatures. Even though I grew up in Florida and have handled tons of sea creatures I had, surprisingly, never touched a live starfish. I’ve held a lot of dried / dead ones but the living ones? Never. Naturally, I had to jump at the chance. I wanted to handle the urchins and other stuff too but I didn’t want to take the space of a kid so I just snuck in at the edge. You can watch the video of that experience here.
Ocean Voyager Exhibit
This exhibit was, as expected, the highlight of the day. We spent at least an hour in this exhibit alone just in awe of the sea life on display.
Insider Tip #3 – Plan ahead and give yourself time to enjoy this exhibit. Break for lunch in food court or take your bathroom breaks before entering this area of the aquarium. You definitely don’t want to feel rushed as you go through here.
This part of the aquarium allows visitors to either walk or ride a conveyor belt / moving sidewalk through the tunnel as fish, rays, and whale sharks swim overhead. It’s just stunning. I was blown away by the size of the whale sharks and was even more amazed when I heard that they can grow even larger in the wild. They are enormous!
It’s such a humbling experience to watch the ocean scene overhead. It truly puts the awesome power and creativity of God in to perspective as you watch these incredible majestic creatures swim about and interact with one another.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. – Psalm 139:9 – 10 Truly, there are no words. It’s something you just have to admire in person.
And, just because I was so awe-struck I took a quick video for you. Go ahead…watch the majesty of the sea.
It was an incredibly amazing day and the Georgia Aquarium is definitely a must-see attraction here in Atlanta. Since visiting last weekend I’ve been on their website pretty regularly scoping out the webcam features of the sea creatures.
If you want to see more videos of the sea life you can head over to GeorgiaAquarium.org and take a look around.
Research and Conservation
Another thing my husband and I were excited about was learning about the research and conservation efforts of the aquarium. My husband used to be a scuba diver and we both spent many years living by the ocean so marine conservation is very important to us. From the Georgia Aquarium website…
In just ten short years, Georgia Aquarium has established itself as a leader in not-for-profit research, education, and conservation. Georgia Aquarium is a premier aquatic science education institution that has attracted over 20 million visitors since its opening, including 950,000 students and educators. As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, we rely on the support of our community to ensure that we can continue our groundbreaking research initiatives, educational programs, and conservation efforts. By supporting Georgia Aquarium, you are allowing us to continue making a positive impact on the health and welfare of aquatic life from around the globe and helping us remain at the forefront of aquatic science worldwide. Your gift can support the Aquarium in a multitude of ways – inspiring wonder for 50,000 Title I school children who would otherwise not have the chance to visit the Aquarium; engaging our community through partnerships that make our incredible resources available to the wider community; or expanding awareness through collaborative conservation and research efforts that have global implications – to name a few. Your support is instrumental to our success and your gift will make a deep, global impact! Donate now to make your tax-deductible gift to Georgia Aquarium.
I encourage you to learn more about their research and conservation efforts here. It was an incredible day and we had a fantastic visit! If you’ve never been to the Georgia Aquarium I highly recommend you add them to your itinerary the next time you’re in the city. I guarantee that you’ll be amazed by what you sea (pun intended). 😉 If you’re going to be in Atlanta visiting the Aquarium I recommend visiting the Atlanta Zoo and the Coca-Cola factory as well. You’ll need at least 2 – 3 days but they are all must-see sites. You can save a ton of money on the attractions if you pick up your tickets ahead of time using CityPASS. Get all the info you need about saving big with CityPASS here.
Thoughts on the Georgia Aquarium? Tweet me @ashleyfromhp and be sure to pin this destination to your travel boards!