Atlanta may be land locked, but because it’s home to the world’s largest aquarium, your Jaques and Jane Cousteaus can dive deep on some serious aquatic exploration. But don’t let its size (or crowds) scare you. Its convenient and ample parking makes for minimal schlepping, and its series of well-designed exhibits makes viewing easy from nearly any height—including for those who are stroller-bound. Keep reading for our top tips on making the most out of your next trip to the Georgia Aquarium.
Photo: Terren in Virginia via Flickr
Go: Because it’s located in a trifecta of downtown attractions (the Children’s Museum, the World of Coke, and Olympic Centennial Park are its neighbors), it’s always hopping in the neighborhood. Better times to plan a Georgia Aquarium trip are in the middle of the week (Monday – Thursday), and you’ll miss most of the field trip crowds if you go in the sweet spot between lunch and dinner. If a morning visit is a must, then try to arrive early and prioritize what you’re planning to see.
Getting there: Since this is Atlanta and we all drive everywhere, the architects of the aquarium planned ahead and built a large, easy to navigate parking deck just a breezeway walk away from the main entrance. It’s a covered walkway, and in the summer it has fans to help move you along—all while a recording of Deepo, one of the aquarium’s ambassador fish, pumps you up with information about the aquarium. The lot charges $10 to park, but you can purchase parking in advance here and pay only $9 (it also guarantees you have a spot if you’re planning a trip during a busy holiday weekend, for example). The deck is located at 357 Luckie St., NW, Atlanta, Ga 30313.
What to see: Depending on the crowds, you can really start with any exhibit and make your way through a satisfying day full of wow factor. However, if you are limited on time or just like a game plan, then we suggest diving in to the Ocean Voyager gallery first. You’ll score serious excitement points when the kids realize they can stand on a moving track through an underwater tunnel—all while checking out the manta rays, whale sharks, giant grouper, sharks, and stingrays. If they need some more time to marvel, the giant gallery that comes before you exit the exhibit has stadium bench seating, plus plenty or room for roaming in front of the enormous plexiglass window. Afterwards, hit one of the other equally amazing exhibits, but save Tropical Diver for when the wow starts to wane. You’ll bring them back to life under the relaxing waves crashing above you in a coral reef, and the bright light will help get any kiddo over the hump and back into the mood for exploring.
What to skip: Unfortunately, for those uninterested in taking a giant stuffed fish home with you, there is no avoiding the gift shop. You have to walk through it in order to view the exhibits, so plan your souvenir-negotiating strategies accordingly.
Feeding Frenzy: There is no outside food, beverage or gum permitted inside the Aquarium, but inside you’ll find a food court, Café Aquaria, as well as a new Seaside Delights counter, which features coffee and espresso beverages, frozen yogurt, salads, wraps, cookies and more. You can check out the menu before you go here. If you prefer to pack a lunch, you can enjoy a picnic outside in Pemberton Place before you go into the Aquarium of after your morning visit ends.
Double Secret Bonus Tip: Daily Behind the Seas Tours offer the opportunity to visit the topside decks of Ocean Voyager and Tropical Diver, and occur every half hour from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and every hour from 4-7 p.m. The tour is 45 minutes long, costs $13.50 for members, $15 for nonmembers, and all ages are welcomed on this tour. But leave your high heels, food, drinks and strollers behind, because they’re not permitted. Sign up here or when you arrive.
Not-So-Secret Bonus Tip: The Aquarium’s proximity to the Centennial Park playground, CNN Center, College Football Hall of Fame, the Children’s Museum, the World of Coke, and the ferris wheel means that you can make (more than) a day of your trip downtown. Plan to arrive early, and consider a City Pass if you’re contemplating a run at multiple attractions.
Bathrooms: You will find family–friendly bathrooms on every level, and if you’re looking for a private location within the Aquarium to change or nurse your baby, you may use the first-aid station (as well as the restrooms). There is a full baby changing area located in the ladies restroom in Café Aquaria, and a private nursing/pumping room available for mothers on the second-floor rotunda in front of Oceans Ballroom (above Cafe Aquaria).
Stroller parking: The aquarium is fully wheelchair and stroller accessible, and if you decide to ditch your wheels once you get inside, you’ll find a stroller corral in the center of the main atrium. Strollers are not permitted in the 4D Theater or the Dolphin theater.
Cost: Children ages 2 and under get in free, and ticket prices vary by what time of day you plan to visit (after 4 p.m. is the least expensive), and by how far in advance you purchase them. Looking to take the littles for less? Georgia Aquarium’s Me and Mommy ticket offer is $44.95 plus tax, and you’ll receive an adult General Admission ticket and up to 4 children’s General Admission tickets (ages 5 and under). Purchasing tickets online in advance is encouraged.
What are some of your favorite Georgia Aquarium tips and tricks for parents-in-the-know? Tell us in the comments section below!