Recently my family had the chance to visit the Georgia Aquarium something we had only done once before several years ago when my oldest, now 6, was too young to appreciate it. This time around, our visit included a behind the scenes tour. I was especially excited about this because we would get to see baby penguins (squee!) and the feeding of the aquarium’s four whale sharks.
We planned our trip over the Easter holiday and arrived in Atlanta on that Friday right around 3PM. This is NOT something I would recommend and frankly, people who are smarter than us would have anticipated the nightmare traffic we experienced. So my first recommendation for people considering this trip is to arrive at a more opportune time unless you really enjoy sitting in “the worst traffic in the South.” Traffic problems aside, the Aquarium is easy to get to (right off several major interstates) and since we were staying at a hotel right next to the Aquarium, once we arrived there were enough restaurants and conveniences that we didn’t need to get in our car again until we were ready to leave.
Behind the Scenes
Thanks to the nice people at the PR department of the GA Aquarium, our visit included the aforementioned “Behind the Scenes” tour which is an extra cost, and can get VERY pricey, but which is admittedly super cool. Had it not been comped, I would have been hard pressed to say it was worth it for our junior explorers (ages 2 and 6) but if you have a mini-Jaques Cousteau or Steve Zissou on your hands this would be an awesome gift to encourage their love of and exploration of all things sea-related.
In addition to the baby penguins (who are apparently not born knowing how to swim – who knew?) our tour also included a view of the rare whale sharks being fed, a glimpse into the massive veterinary/conservation medicine practice that keeps the animals in good health, and we got to stand on a giant scale that compared our combined weights with those of animals on the property (a HUGE hit with my youngsters)!
What to See
Here’s the thing. This is a REALLY large aquarium. In fact, up until very recently it was the largest in the world and since it houses more than 100,000 animals you’ve got to accept that you are unlikely to see everything in one trip. Especially when you are visiting with young children, it’s pointless to even try. So below I’ve listed highlights to make sure to hit in addition to the specific creatures your little ones might be interested in. Depending on the age of your kids, you might want to check out the aquarium’s Animal Guide with them before visiting. This will get everyone excited about what they are about to see and make the trip that much more educational too.
- Ocean Voyager Gallery – home to the only whale sharks outside of Asia in addition to a whole lot of other amazing animals.
- Tropical Diver – See one of the largest living reef exhibits of any aquarium in the world. Living corals and thousands of colorful reef fish are presented in a faithful recreation of a tropical Pacific coral reef.
- Cold Water Quest – penguins and Beluga whales. Need I say more?
What to Do
- Dolphin Tales – My cousin, who lives in Atlanta, described this show as “more Disney than Sea World” and I didn’t quite understand what he meant until I saw it myself. As far as my little ones were concerned, it was a good thing. I imagine the theater stays pretty packed so choose your seats wisely (too close to the front and you WILL get wet) since there is no option to move after the show starts.
- Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow – shows are every 30 minutes and run throughout the day. Kids will love the 4D experience with interactive seats and unique special effects.
From now until June 13, 2014, residents of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida can receive a discount off the regular adult ticket. The Southern Hospitality Discount will save you $6 on Total Tickets!! That makes the adult Total Ticket (Dolphin Tales and Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow included) $29.95 +tax. Just show your valid ID from one of the states listed above at the ticketing window and tell a guest services representative that you want the Southern Hospitality Discount. Not available for purchase online, as you must show your ID to receive this special pricing.
If you absolutely fall in love with the aquarium, you might want to consider an Annual Membership which includes free admission for one year as well as special discounts and invites to member only events.
Where: 225 Baker St. NW, Atlanta (map)
Cost: Adult: $35.95, Child (ages 3-12): $29.95 * Special Southern Hospitality Discount ($6 off) through June 13 with ID
More Info: Plan Your Visit | Facebook | Website
Special Offers for RCM Families
“Me & Mommy” ticket offer: Through April 2, 2015. Your $39.95 adult Total Ticket includes you and up to 4 children’s Total Tickets (ages 5 and under)! The Total Ticket includes admission to the aquarium, AT&T Dolphin Tales show and Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow.
Family Annual Pass Membership: designed just for families and includes annual membership benefits for a family of four for only $239.95.