Located in the heart of a land-locked city, lies a window to an undersea world. In addition to shows, events, conservation efforts, and other incredible animals to see, the Georgia Aquarium houses the world’s largest fish tank, which is home to more than 100,000 sea creatures. If you happen to be in Atlanta, I’d recommend a visit to the Georgia Aquarium, but before you go, there are a few things to keep in mind.
What to Know Before Visiting the Georgia Aquarium
I should start by saying that standing before that massive tank is awe-inspiring, and see the wonder on my toddler’s face as he watched the whale sharks swim by makes it worth every penny. But, since I want you to be prepared and have a fabulous experience, I’ll give it to you straight.
First, I was hit with sticker shock. Having spent a lot of time in various aquariums around my home state of Florida, I’m used to general admission tickets costing between $20 and $25 (with SeaWorld costing the most at $69, if you consider it an aquarium). To get into the Georgia Aquarium, you’ll have to shell out $40 per person (children under 3 are free, kids between 3 and 12 are $31, and seniors are $36). If you think you may be going more than once in the next year, you might as well get an unlimited pass for only $6 more. Be prepared to pay $10 for parking, too. I’d highly recommend checking out their website for deals in advance. You can get your tickets up to 20% off, in some cases, just by purchasing online. Georgia residents get in free on their birthdays and active military members receive discounts on “Military Mondays.”
If you are visiting other attractions in the city, I highly recommend the Atlanta CityPASS. With the CityPASS, you will have 43% off admission prices at the top 5 attractions in Atlanta, including the Georgia Aquarium.
Secondly, you’ll need to check the website or call ahead to verify the aquarium’s hours as they vary daily.
Once inside, you have to see the beluga whales (that is, once you’ve seen that amazing fish tank). The Georgia Aquarium has a long, controversial relationship with these whales, which has been well documented in the media. In 2015, their beloved 21-year-old beluga whale, Maris, died suddenly without any sign of illness. (They can live to be 50.)
She was one of the first belugas at the aquarium and lived there for ten years. Atlanta was abuzz with each of her two pregnancies, though neither of her calves survived.
The Georgia Aquarium feels very strongly about the conservation work they are doing to increase the population of these whales, but global public backlash regarding keeping whales and dolphins in captivity has caused them to scale back their work. The aquarium still has two beluga whales, so you should probably see them while you still have the chance.
The Georgia Aquarium is said to have a fantastic dolphin show, but I wouldn’t know because we missed our window to see it! Check the calendar online to be sure that you don’t miss your opportunity. Seating is on a first-come, first served basis, and they recommend you get in line 30 minutes before the show starts.
If you have little ones, perhaps you can send an adult in your party to hold a spot in line for you. There is also a 4D theater, a behind-the-scenes tour (that will cost you an extra $15), and a sea lion presentation.
When it’s time for lunch, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. While Café Aquaria offers the foods you’d expect, Oceans Food Market offers soups, salads, comfort foods, veggies and too many desserts to mention! At $10 for adults and $6 for kids, this is the one area they do not overcharge you.
Make sure to do the penguin tunnel where you and your kid can pop up on the penguin exhibit! This is one of my favorite pictures from our day there!
The Georgia Aquarium offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like swimming with whale sharks and manta rays, but they also provide the opportunity to see otters, penguins, and innumerable fish we don’t come in contact with every day. If you remind yourself of all of the research and conservation they are doing, the ticket price isn’t so bad.