One of Atlanta’s most popular attractions, the Georgia Aquarium is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with new shows and attractions along with some special events this summer. If you haven’t been in a while, it is time to go back to see what is new. I was invited to visit and preview the new attractions and wanted to share my Georgia Aquarium Tips and What is New for Summer 2016. While I was provided tickets to the aquarium at no cost, please know all opinions stated are my own.
As a native Atlantan, I often get asked by friends visiting “what is a must do” and the Aquarium is ALWAYS on my list. In our landlocked city, it is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere housing 10’s of thousands of animals in over 10 million gallons of water. Its big, but not an overwhelming place to visit and truly delights all ages. Even if you have been before, its worth a revisit as there are some great new attractions and looking at the ocean in the middle of the city never gets old. Take a camera as you will get some gorgeous photos.
TIP: Make sure you camera is fully charged and take backup charging device for all the photos and videos you will want to take. I always take more pictures than I think I will. The Southwest Lounge on the 2nd floor does contain a charging station should you need it.
The Georgia Aquarium located in Downtown Atlanta adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park is shaped like a large ship. You can purchase your tickets at the front gate, though you will save if you pre-purchase your tickets ahead of time. When you enter the building you will be in a central atrium surrounded by the following exhibits on the First Floor:
- Sea Lions and show NEW for 2016 at SunTrust Pier 225
- Southern Company River Scout
- Georgia Pacific Cold Water Quest
- Ocean Voyager Built by The Home Depot
- Tropical Diver
- Cafe Aquaria
Upstairs you will find:
- AT&T Dolphin Celebration NEW Show for 2016!
- Cold Water Quest – yes it has an upstairs too!
- Aquanaut Adventure
- 4D Funbelieveable Theater NEW Renovations Now Playing “Happy Feet”
- Southwest Lounge and Recharging Station
To make the most of my time and avoid crowds, my strategy of visiting the aquarium has always been take in the shows first, then take your time in the walk through large exhibits. The shows have limited times so plan on knowing before you go the schedules found on the Georgia Aquarium website so you don’t miss a show you want to see. As it gets later in the day and evening, the crowds will lessen.
TIP: If you can arrive later in the day and stay through closing note as closing time approaches the crowds REALLY thin out. Keep in mind, Georgia Aquarium offers discounted admission for you late arrivers, you can save up to 30% off admission, details are later in this post.
On my summer preview visit, I arrived around 11:10am on a Saturday and parked at the Georgia Aquarium Parking Lot (costs $10 per vehicle) conveniently located next to the building. The aquarium is located a short walk to Atlanta’s Marta Rapid Transit trains if you don’t want to drive. At the ticket window we were advised to go straight to the Sea Lion show which started at 11:45 – great advice as seats at the Sea Lion show are general admission on first come basis.
TIP: Line Up for Shows 30-45 minutes early for the best seats as seats are first come basis.
NEW for Summer 2016:
Sea Lion Presentation “Under The Boardwalk” at SunTrust Pier 225:
Pier 225 is the aquarium’s newest gallery featuring California natives, the sea lion. Under The Boardwalk show is included with your admission and transports you to the West Coast where you hear and see how these beautiful sea mammals learn and work with their trainers. The show features 2 young sea lions whose rescue stories really bring home the need for safer waters and food supply for our sea life. The theater is a small setting seating around 500 in a U shape. There are seats marked limited viewing however, the trainers do an EXCELLENT job of moving the sea lions around the stage and water so that all get a view. If you get in late and this is the only seat left, you will still be able to see – there are monitors for when you view is obstructed. The show featured trainers at either end of the stage sometimes two on stage, sometimes only one but they do move about the stage – so if you are in limited viewing you will get to see the show both live and on the monitors for the few times you might miss being able to see around a building support. Very fun and educational presentation for all ages, not to be missed! “Sea lions are so cute.” my daughter after the show.
AT&T Dolphin Celebration:
Included with admission the all new Dolphin Celebration showcases the behaviors, the strength, grace, athleticism and beauty of these magnificent mammals. Every one around us was smiling throughout the entire show. The trainers discuss and demonstrate their relationship throughout the presentation. More than just a show, though it is very entertaining, we learn about the dolphins and issues they face in the sea. The theater is large with ample viewing from each seat and is first come first choice, no assigned seats. The first 10 rows are designated the Wet Zone and you are constantly warned pre-show you will get soaked. Being brave we sat in the 4th row and got wet, though not soaked like a family we saw in the 2nd row. Never fear wet zone patrons, warning is given “this is the part of the show you will get wet”, so relax and enjoy the celebration. We arrived 40 minutes early, among the first in line and ended up sitting in the center. There is one entrance and exit facing the stage on your right, so for quicker exit, you will want to sit over there. This was my daughter’s favorite part of our visit. FYI this is very different from the more theatrical Dolphin Tales show it replaced, I like this one much better.
Happy Feet Now Playing at the 4D Funbelievable Theater:
The theater has been renovated and the penguins of Antartica currently featured as the stars of this 4D experience sure to cool you down on the hottest of days. Featuring the Happy Feet movie characters and yes, songs too, this entertaining show provides an important message about taking care of our seas and the impact we have on wildlife. The film is in 3D but with some special effects for your senses you are transformed into the world of the penguins in their quest for food to end a famine. The theater holds 240 and is included with admission, seats are first come basis. While currently playing Happy Feet, the feature film will change throughout the year.
TIP: Before you go, Check the Georgia Aquarium Website for hours and show times so you have a plan and catch the shows you most want to see.
Along with the new shows, you can meander at your own pace the many galleries featuring all sorts of aquatic life, from jellyfish to whale sharks, gators to trout and piranhas, belugas to penguins, and the views are is incredible. There are interactive learning activities for the little ones too especially in the Aquanauts attraction. Our family favorite activities:
- Penguin Encounter in Cold Water Quest
- The Albino Alligators in River Scout
- Observing the playful Sea Otters
- Talking in the coral reef and waves at Tropical Diver
- Entering “big tank” Ocean Voyager Gallery in the tunnel surrounded by the sea
- The HUGE window in the Ocean Voyager Gallery at the end – plan some time to sit and just watch the sea life swim by
On our visit we ate a late lunch at the aquarium’s Cafe Aquaria to avoid the lunchtime crowds. Its always a good idea at any attraction to eat early or late to avoid lines and to be able to easily get a table. If you are a fan of soft drinks, you get unlimited refills of your beverage. Outside food is not permitted inside the aquarium and as a warning could be confiscated at bag check.
TIP: Allow at least 4 Hours to See Everything
We were at the aquarium for 5 hours which included all shows and lunch. We saw every exhibit though we did breeze by a few exhibits faster than I liked, sometimes you just have to go with the flow of your kid! We did miss a few feeding demonstrations.
TIP: SAVE on your Admission in 2016- purchase your tickets ahead, plan an evening visit, Dads save on Father’s Day and More!
- Save 20% off gate admission prices when you purchase online or through call center. For a limited time only, save 20% off our walk up pricing ! Available 7 days a week! Purchase in advance online or call 404.581.4000 to take advantage of this great offer.
- Imagination Nights Save 30% off gate admission Enjoy Georgia Aquarium by night at a special ticket price! Visit the Aquarium after 4pm every day of the week to save over 30% off full priced admission. You’ll enjoy full access to the entire Aquarium, including the opportunity to view AT&T Celebration, all new dolphin presentation. All this for just $26.95 +tax regardless of age! You’ll also receive 10% off your entire purchase at Café Aquaria during Imagination Nights! NOTE: Check the showtimes for AT&T Celebration before you and keep in mind seating is first come basis and is NOT guaranteed with this ticket. Our family LOVES Imagination Nights!
- Father’s Day Deal for Dad Half Price Tickets: Georgia Aquarium wants to treat all Dads with half price admission on Sunday, June 19, 2016.Dad will receive half off his general admission ticket with purchase of one full price admission (adult, child or senior). Cannot be combined with other discounts or offers. Offer redeemable on June 19, 2016 only. Please Note: The promotion is buy one regular priced ticket to receive half-price Father’s Day Ticket. All admissions, including dad’s, may be purchased in advance online. City Pass is considered meeting obligation of purchasing a ticket – booklet should be presented at the window to receive half-price ticket. Unfortunately, there are no rain checks for this offer for guests that are not able to visit on this date. This offer cannot be combined with the Birthday Offer ticket; a regular-priced admission ticket must be purchased to receive the discounted ticket. Refunds will not be issued for tickets previously purchase at the standard rate.
- Purchase a Combo Attraction Ticket including the Aquarium other Atlanta popular attractions including ZooAtlanta, Stone Mountain Park, World of Coca Cola, CNN and more. I am a huge fan and use City Pass when I travel, here is City Pass Atlanta which includes the Aquarium and 4 other attractions. To view fewer options to package with your aquarium ticket, see Aquarium Combo ticket options here.
- Check the Georgia Aquarium Website for all ticket pricing and all offers.
If you are looking for some fun special events this summer consider the following Georgia Aquarium events – click on the link for specific details:
- May 20th and Aug 18th Sips Under the Sea
- May 20th – 23rd Endangered Species Day
- June 8th – 11th World Oceans Day
- June 17th – 19th Oceans and Autos Show
- June 18th Gary Sinise and the Lt Dan Band Concert benefit
- June 19th Fathers Day Special Admission Price for Dads
Whether traveling to Atlanta as your destination, traveling through Atlanta, or an Atlanta area resident, come check out what is new this summer at the Georgia Aquarium. Every visit is different and sure to please all ages.
What is your favorite attraction at Georgia’s Aquarium and what tips do you have for visitors?
Thanks again to the Georgia Aquarium for hosting me. To get all the information including hours, directions, and regarding what is new visit www.georgiaaquarium.org and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
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