There are aquariums and then there are AQUARIUMS! Georgia Aquarium falls into the latter category, deserving both the SHOUT and the exclamation point.
Featuring more animals than any other aquarium, the 60+ exhibits collectively contain more than eight million gallons of water, earning the facility the title of world’s largest. Built on a long vacant parcel of land in a neglected end of downtown Atlanta, since its opening in 2005 the facility has been visited by more than six million people and has become the single most important catalyst in the revitalization of downtown Atlanta.
For a complete experience, spend the entire day at the aquarium and explore the mysteries of the aquatic realm through its five separate galleries:
- Georgia Explorer: The highlight of this gallery are its touch pools full of horseshoe crabs, sea stars, stingrays and shrimp. Other habitats feature habitats feature loggerhead sea turtles and right whales.
- Cold Water Quest: Australian weedy sea dragons, giant Pacific octopus, garibaldi damselfish, African penguins, and Japanese spider crabs all hang out in this gallery, but the real stars of the show are the beluga whales, which often swim right up to the glass to check out guests face to face.
- Ocean Voyager: There are two ways to experience this gallery: stand in front of the second largest viewing window in the world (23′ tall by 61′ wide by 2′ thick) or walk through the 100-foot long underwater acrylic tunnel. The tank contains more than six million gallons of saltwater and was designed especially to house whale sharks, the world’s largest species of fish.
- River Scout: Featuring everything from otters to piranhas to American alligators, this gallery recreates riverine environments around the world, including a river that flows overhead!
- Coral Kingdom: A particular favorite with visitors, the centerpiece of this gallery is a living reef, complete with a crashing overhead wave and thousands of colorful reef fish that dart and flash among the live coral heads. In a second tank, luminescent orange jellyfish float by in slow motion, dragging their long tentacles behind as they perform their mesmerizing dance.
In addition, through a combination of digital projection, high definition film, and unique special effects, the aquarium’s theater allows visitors to experience the underwater world from the point of view of the animals in “Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow.”
Georgia Aquarium is open Sunday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is $26 for adults, $19.50 for children ages 3-12, and $21.50 for seniors (65+).One-hour behind the scenes tours are also available for $50 per person. After the world’s best aquarium experience, downtown Atlanta offers numerous other activities and attractions, and accommodations in and around the city center are plentiful.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels