With 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, according to the facility’s website.
Located on 225 Baker St. in downtown Atlanta, the aquarium is accessible from Interstate 75, with signs directing you there from the beltway. The aquarium, which can been seen from several blocks away, is sandwiched between the World of Coca-Cola, Centennial Olympic Park and several skyscrapers, including nearby CNN headquarters.
Parking usually can be found within a block or two of the aquarium for $5 to $10 a day. Tickets can be purchased online or at the window. Discounts are available for seniors, military and groups of 24 or more. Security is tight, so expect some delay for screening.
Also expect to see a lot of children at the aquarium. Its colorful exhibits with playful creatures like otters, seals, penguins, Beluga whales and dolphins are a treat for young eyes.
“Ooos,” “aaaahs” and “oh look, Daddy!” are as much a part of the program as the professional guides and audio feeds by each display, a 3-D animation show and Dolphin Tales, a musical performance with humans and dolphins interacting to entertain all ages.
Kids and adults learn about water pollution and other threats to these creatures’ existence in the wild as they watch thousands of sea creatures swimming and playing in giant tanks or pools that replicate their natural habitat. It’s learning the fun way.
During one recent day, some children pressed their little faces against the huge acrylic viewing window, then jumped back when the sea critter on the other side reciprocated by swimming close to the window to get a better view of the little humans.
Exhibits at the aquarium include the Georgia Explorer, an interactive display of horseshoe crabs, starfish, rays and shrimp. Ocean Voyager includes a tunnel in which wide-eyed visitors can walk under the water that surrounds them on three sides while huge manta rays, truck-size whale sharks and giant grouper glide next to or above them.
Voyager also includes the massive display window where parents and children can sit and watch the fish and sea turtles for hours. Similarly, Tropical Diver includes a large window display of smaller, more colorful tropical fish as well as displays of jelly fish, sea anemones and sea horses.
Other displays include River Scout, a display of freshwater river creatures from around the world, and Coldwater Quest, which showcases giant Pacific octopus, Japanese spider crabs and little sea dragons.
To see everything, including the dolphin show, aquarium staff recommend three or four hours at the facility. But don’t worry about what to do when you get hungry; Cafe Aquaria provides a variety of sandwiches, soups, salads and pizza.
According to the aquarium’s website, the facility was completed in 2005, fulfilling the dream of its founder, Bernie Marcus, former chief executive officer for Home Depot. The land the aquarium sits on was donated by the Coca-Cola Company.
The Georgia Aquarium is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. For more information, go to www.georgiaaquarium.org.