Georgia Aquarium – Tips to Making the Best of Your Visit and Enjoying It, Too

Have you ever been so excited to visit somewhere, but when you visit it just didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to?  Is there a city or an attraction that you really want to love but just couldn’t for one reason or another?

I really, really want to love the Georgia Aquarium. If there is an aquarium nearby, we visit it.  We love wandering around and looking at all the fish.  There is so much to love about the world’s largest aquarium from the beautiful displays to the hands-on activities.  It is one of the few places to see whale sharks, there is a dolphin show that the kids love and a 4D theater.  We have been to the aquarium several times and I just can’t love-LOVE-it…until now.  Sort of.

The number one reason that I just can’t love the Georgia Aquarium the way I want to is because it has always been ridiculously crowded when we have been.  It is crowded with grown adults who are acting like they don’t see the little children all around them just wanting to catch a glimpse of a fish swimming through the water.  People are pushing and shoving to get past you.  Just when you get to a viewing window, someone jumps in front of you.  I have been to the aquarium during holidays, the middle of the week, early in the morning, and late in the afternoon but it is always packed wall to wall with people.

On this visit, though, we took one of several behind the scenes tours that are offered.  We were able to see the top of the Ocean Voyager exhibit which houses the whale sharks.  We got there just in time for the 10:30am feeding where we watched aquarium staff float on top of the water dropping the whale sharks their mid-morning snack.

We also saw the top of the live coral reef exhibit, the commissary where they prepare the food for the fish, and the veterinary clinic.  We learned how you can look up to see a water wonderland and not this:

There are several options for Behind the Scenes tours for various budgets.

Here are a few of our tips to help you make the best of your visit and enjoy it.

Book a Behind the Scenes tour in advance if it is in the budget.  This will give you a look at some things you might have missed and tours are limited in size.  The Quick Dip tour is only about twenty minutes in length and costs $14+tax per person.

If you haven’t already booked a time, head to Guest Services as soon as you arrive to pick up your show times for the Dolphin Tales Show and the Deepo’s Undersea Wondershow. Both are included in your ticket but times are limited and are first come, first serve.  We got our movie times booked at 12noon and the next available show was 4pm.

Get in line early.  Ticket entry is done on a timed basis.  You will choose your time when you purchase your tickets.  If your entry time is 2pm, do not expect to walk up to the aquarium at 1:59pm and be inside by 2.  We waited in line for almost 30m before we got into the aquarium.

Save money by visiting during off-peak times.  Ticket prices vary and they are lower during the traditionally off-peak periods.

Leave the strollers at home unless absolutely necessary.  Because the aquarium gets crowded, strollers just get in the way.  Consider wearing your little one in a sling or something similar.  There are a number of places where you have to leave the stroller to enter an exhibit.

Leave the guns, knives, matches, lighters, and fishing poles (yes, it really does say fishing poles on the website) at home.  This may seem silly but my husband had to turn in his pocket knife, which he carries everywhere.  You aren’t surrendering it forever; you check it, and get it back later.  When we were picking up the knife at the end of our visit, we saw the box of lighters that had been collected during the day.  There must have been 1000 lighters in the box!

Know that there is a security check.  Purses and bags are all checked before you are allowed to enter the aquarium.

See the Dolphin Tales show and get there early.  I thought the Dolphin Tales show was a little bit Sea World meets Las Vegas and my kids adored it.  They loved the storyline, the dolphins jumping in and out of the water, and the performers swimming with them.

You can not bring food into the aquarium.  There is a small restaurant, but it is pricey.  We needed a snack so we bought a  brownie, a bottle of soda and a bottle of water for 10 dollars.  If you are buying your ticket online, you can purchase one of three meals ahead of time, Cafe Aquaria Combos, for $10 each (at a savings of up to 17% compared to regular pricing).  A sample meal is a hamburger, french fries, whole fruit and a fountain drink.  No substitutions can be made at time of purchase.

You will have to pay to park.  You can also purchase parking ahead of time with your ticket.  We walked from our hotel during the visit but we have parked in a nearby parking garage during past visits.

Have you ever had an activity or city that you wanted to love but something prevented it?  Was there something that made you change your mind (like the Behind the Scenes tour changed my mind about the Georgia Aquarium)?  Share with us in the comments!

*Thank you to the Omni at the CNN Center for providing us with tickets to the Georgia Aquarium.  As always, opinions are mine with no outside influences.

Comments

  1. 1

    I’m right there with you, Jen! I’ve never been a fan of the Georgia Aquarium. Initially, I was turned off by the ticket prices and the fact that you had to purchase additional tickets for the movie and the dolphins. With the new combo ticket, it’s great that everything is now included in one price, but I still feel that price is too high, especially for families. I also agree that it’s impossible to see anything at the exhibits when it’s crowded, which is most of the time. Every exhibit has a small viewing window within a small viewing room, which prohibits visitors from enjoying the aquatic animals as they would prefer. And the food is extremely way overpriced, again a deterrent for families. While I know many who love, Love, LOVE the Georgia Aquarium, I’m afraid I will never be one of them.

  2. 2
    Tawnya G. says:

    You guys have got to try the Tennessee Aquarium! They have things all spread out so that everyone can enjoy. The only crowded slow spot we encountered was at the ticket booth. On their site they also have teacher pages. For my two boys we printed out their grade level activity sheets and had them work on those to get something at the end of our visit at the gift shop. It has the largest fresh water aquarium along with the most amazing butterfly exhibit where the kids and you can feed them and hold them on your finger! Outside of the entrance they have a shallow water stream that runs through that kids can slash and get cool in the summer months and that doesn’t cost a thing. I know this was a post about “your favorite but not so favorite spot” but I couldn’t help but let you guys know about this one so that people know such places do exist 🙂

  3. 3

    We usually go to the GA aquarium every year at spring break. Some tricks I use are:
    Buy tickets online ahead of time (including the dolphin show and parking) then you don’t wait in line. You can be 1/2 through before most folks even get in.
    during spring break (GA’s spring break) they have extended hrs. They usually open an hour early. We take advantage of this and have the aquarium practically to ourselves for the first hour.
    We try to get out of there by lunchtime when it gets really crowded.
    We avoid weekends.
    Hope this helps. My kids prefer this spot to Disney.

  4. 4

    Tawnya – Thanks so much for the comment. Chattanooga is actually on our list of places to get to sometime in the next year or so. We have been to Nashville several times but have yet to visit Chattanooga. I have heard great things about the city!

    Lara-Thanks so much for the comment with all these helpful tips. We must just pick the most crowded times to visit! I really do like the aquarium exhibits. And my kids would agree with yours…they much prefer aquariums to Disney!

  5. 5

    Thank you for the thorough write-up. I appreciate the advice about guns/knives. I have a permit and carry a concealed pistol just about everywhere it’s legally allowed. I didn’t even give that a second thought and would have had to make a return trip to the hotel to drop it off. Good info all around. Thanks.

  6. 6

    Ditto on security advice. The to/from hotel, we are out-of-towners so we walked. We had zero issues or hassle and the area is really clean.

  7. 7

    I bought my tickets for 9 am . There was a wreck in the way making us 2 hours late . Will I still be able to use my tickets ?