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Did I buy an aquarium?

‘With more than 10 million gallons of water in more than 60 habitats, Georgia Aquarium possesses the largest and most technologically advanced pump and filtration system in an aquarium,’ states

Canoe Kids
By Melissa Lowrie
Photos by Melissa Lowrie

  Melissa Lowrie

Atlanta traffic? Or a longer drive to Chattanooga? Either way, bring cash and plenty of it.

The Georgia Aquarium draws more than 2 million visitors annually; the Tennessee Aquarium draws around a million visitors annually. Both are large, impressive tourist destinations attracting swarms of people to see schools of fish.

At various stages in my children’s lives (strollers to tweens) we’ve visited both the Tennessee and Georgia Aquariums. Both destinations are entertaining for children of all ages. Who wouldn’t love seeing a sea otter frolic or enjoy touching a slippery stingray? In my humble opinion, Tennessee wins every time.

I won’t bore you with a list of comparisons, but maybe it’s the size of downtown, or the layout, or the butterflies? Whatever. The fact is, the drive to Chattanooga warrants an overnight. If you decide a weekender is what you need—downtown Chattanooga is a good option with kids. (FYI: an adult ticket to the Tennessee Aquarium is $26.95; an adult ticket to the Georgia Aquarium is $35.95.)

Cool penguins, massive stingrays, must-see jellyfish, plus the opportunity to touch a live stingray. This doesn't come around evey day.

If you’re looking for a fishy day trip, Atlanta will do just fine.

  The Georgia Aquarium is a tourist destination. There are as many out-of-state tags in the lot as there are locals.

The massive Georgia Aquarium is easy to find from the interstate, it’s on Baker Street across from Centennial Olympic Park. Unfortunately, parking is a hassle. Yes, there is a parking deck, but that isn’t a plus. Oh, and it’s another $10 to park on top of the aquarium passes.

There is an early bird ticket special, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The few dollars you’ll save per ticket does not grant a private viewing of the shark tank and valet parking. Nope ... in fact, it gets you in line with the other early birds. The truth is, this is a busy place so expect crowds.

Aside from the above, the Georgia Aquarium is increasingly popular. The sharks and beluga whales are fantastic, as are the penguins. The jellyfish are particularly beautiful in a squishy-no-backbone sort of way.

The layout of the building is a wagon wheel with the spokes as different habitats. River Scout, Cold Water Quest, Georgia Explorer, Tropical Diver and Ocean Voyager are all as different aesthetically as the fish that live there. A map is a good thing if you are hunting a specific fish - otherwise, you’ll always end up back in the center of the wheel and can check out the habitats as you meander.

Tickets can be purchased on or upon arrival. The tab for two kids and one adult was a hefty $104.52. We probably spent a couple of hours there ... worth it? Not really. That said, if you have a kid that’s on fire for fish, by all means, go. Otherwise, money is better spent at Legoland Discovery Center or dinner and a movie.

CKaquarium   CKaquarium
'Starfish are cool,' so says the tween.   A diver feeds the fish.

Even better, check out the story on the cover of this month’s A&E section. Festivals abound in October in Georgia, and that’s always a good bet for fall weekend fun. Enjoy the cooler weather with your Canoe Kids. Wherever you end up, have a great time.

The obligatory gift shop. Just try to pass through without hearing: ‘Can I have this?’

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