Are you planning your summer vacation? Or looking more toward a staycation? Have you been to the Georgia Aquarium yet? It is only a 4 hour drive into Atlanta and so worth the drive. The Georgia Aquarium is the “world’s most magical aquarium” with more animals than any other aquarium in more than ten million gallons of water. It features more than sixty exhibits, with features modeled after the greatest zoos and aquariums in the world.

whale sharks feeding vip tour georgia aquarium staycationThe Georgia Aquarium invited my family to visit and try out one of their hotel packages that included one night stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, which was right next door to the aquarium, and Total Tickets to the Georgia Aquarium. We were also treated to a VIP tour. In exchange, I agreed to write an honest review of our visit and hold a giveaway (see below).

We planned to be there on Good Friday and it was packed! I’m not sure if that was normal traffic there or if it was because of the holiday. Right at opening, it took us a while to get through the ticket line and security. I hadn’t anticipated the security check and had to check the little Swiss Army knife on my keychain. Then once we got in, we went right to the information desk to get the tickets to the AT&T Dolphin Tales show – it is included in the Total Tickets and likely to sell out, so we wanted to get our tickets first thing. By then we were late meeting our tour guide, but luckily she hadn’t given up on us yet.

baby penguins atlanta aquarium staycation tennesseeOur tour took us to the top of the Ocean Voyager tank where we watched them feed the whale sharks. That was so amazing to see! Watch the video below. We then went to the Cold Water Quest tank where the beluga whales live. We weren’t able to go into the same room with them, however, because beluga whales are so curious that they would stay at the top to see what we were doing instead of swimming around where the visitors can see them. In that same area, there was a touch pool filled with sea stars – some were soft and squishy and others were hard and bumpy. Then we headed down to the baby penguins. They weren’t quite babies anymore, most of them losing their fluffy feathers and looking much more like a small penguin, but they were so cute! The beaded armbands they wear help to identify their gender, age, and other information.

stingray touch pool aquarium atlanta georgiaWe said our goodbyes to the tour guide and headed right into the Ocean Voyager section of the aquarium. The aquarium is broken up into five sections – Ocean Voyager, Tropical Diver, Georgia Explorer, River Scout, and Coldwater Quest – and the Ocean Voyager is the biggest with 6.3 million gallons of water in it. This is where the four whale sharks live along with four sting rays and lots of other aquatic critters. It is also where you can go through the aquarium by way of a tunnel so the water is all of the way around you. It’s amazing when the sharks and sting rays swim right over your head!

I won’t go into detail about all of the other sections of the aquarium (or else this will be way too long). But I want to point out some more of our favorite areas.

  1. The river otters in the River Scout section were so cute to see. They were playing with each other and showing off for the crowd.
  2. The touch pools in the Georgia Explorer section were great for my hands-on kiddo. Being able to pet a sting ray was one of the highlights of the trip.
  3. I was completely mesmerized by the jellyfish in the Tropical Diver section. They are so beautiful to watch.
  4. And we can’t forget the penguins and beluga whales in the Coldwater Quest area.

georgia aquarium review nashville weekend trip staycationAfter seeing about half of the exhibits, it was time for lunch. The Cafe Aquaria restaurant is a convenient stop, located right inside the aquarium building. The food was really good, but if you’re on a budget, you’ll want to make other plans.

Last but not least, we watched the AT&T Dolphin Tales show in the afternoon. The show was entertaining, the dolphins were great, but it was a little more show than what we expected. There was a story line and several songs intermixed with the dolphin acrobatics. My tween rolled her eyes more than once in this one. We may have been a little tired by then too.

One last thing, the exit door is on the other side of the gift shop. You have to go through the gift shop to leave. Somebody was thinking when they did that! It was fine for us because we intended to buy a souvenir, but plan accordingly.

All in all, it was a fabulous day. The kids had a blast and learned a thing or two along the way. We went back to our room at the Hilton Garden Inn, ordered room service, and watched the view out the window.

atlanta georgia weekend trip from nashville

Ready to plan your visit? Click here for information. The Georgia Aquarium is located at 225 Baker Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA.