Skip to Content

MUST-DO RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

The Georgia Aquarium belongs on your RVing Bucket List. Here’s why…

Right off I-75 in downtown Atlanta is the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. It has 10 million gallons of fresh and marine water and tens of thousands of animals.

We heard great things about it for several years before getting the chance to take our grandson, Jacob, for a visit. We were blown away by the quality exhibits and size.

For RVers, the only downside is parking.

The parking deck attached to the aquarium is enclosed and too low to accommodate even Class B RVs. There are a couple of open-air street lots within an easy walk that will do just fine for Class B and C units. None can handle Class A RVs.

A moving sidewall tunnels around and under one of the huge tanks in the Georgia Aquarium
A moving sidewall tunnels around and under one of the huge tanks. That’s a manta ray cruising past.

Corporate-Funded Origins

It’s a fairly new aquarium, opening in 2005. Its origins go back to November 2001, when Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus announced his vision of presenting Atlanta with an aquarium that would encourage both education and economic growth.

After visiting 56 aquariums in 13 countries with his wife, Billi, he donated $250 million toward what was to become Georgia Aquarium. Corporate contributions totaling an additional $40 million allowed the aquarium to open debt-free.

Tropical fish form a massive living wall
Tropical fish form a massive living wall

Georgia Aquarium Exhibits

The most notable exhibit is the massive 6.3 million gallon tank containing four whale sharks, taken from Taiwan’s annual fishing kill quota. They would have been eaten had they not been purchased by the aquarium.

Since 2007, a ban on whale shark capture has been in effect, making the Georgia Aquarium the only institution outside of Asia housing the species. These local animal ambassadors are now helping educate visitors about how they can help whale sharks and protect sea life.

MUST-DO RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta 1
Another view of the 6.3 million gallon tank holding the whale sharks

The whole aquarium was built around the whale shark exhibit, with tunnels, walk-in windows, and a huge 30 foot high plexiglass wall allowing for very up-close observation. The whale sharks cruise with giant manta rays, sharks and dozens of other species.


Another exhibit and another tank holds several beluga whales, distinctively white and as long as 11 feet.

An interesting fact I learned is that belugas can swim backward, which helps them navigate icy waters. They also have a very diverse diet. They are considered ‘opportunistic eaters,’ meaning they’ll eat pretty much anything that they can find. That sounds like me when I’m hungry late at night!

My grandson Jacob has a close encounter with one of the Georgia Aquarium's residents
My grandson Jacob has a close encounter with one of the Georgia Aquarium’s residents


The aquarium is also home to a family of common bottlenose dolphins. Like most people, I’m a sucker for their playful antics and smiling faces. But they’re not there to entertain; they’re there to educate.

The Dolphin Coast gallery presents fun marine facts, a live training demonstration, and educates visitors on the Aquarium’s efforts to preserve the species. You can pay $5 if you want to skip the lines and get preferred seating.

If you’re looking for a great souvenir, you can take home a painting by these dolphins. That’s right, these dolphins paint. And so do the belugas! You can order dolphin paintings and beluga paintings online.

Mike and Jennifer’s RV Lifestyle hat collection

MUST-DO RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta 2
Who needs a hat?

Who needs a hat? You do! Dad hats aren’t just for dads. This comfy one’s got a low profile with an adjustable strap and curved visor. Just the thing to wear on your next RV Lifestyle adventure.


The penguins are also a favorite among visitors. Our grandson even made a penguin pal that kept waddling by him.

These penguins are African penguins. They are from the rocky coasts of Namibia and South Africa. In the wild, they sometimes swim as far as nine miles off the coast on their hunting exhibitions.

Plexiglass portals allow you to pop up in the tanks and exhibits. Thats our 10-year-old grandson, Jacob, and a penguin pal.
Plexiglass portals allow you to pop up in the tanks and exhibits. That’s our 10-year-old grandson, Jacob, and a penguin pal.

Other Exhibit Galleries

Other popular exhibits and galleries include:

  • California Sea Lions
  • American Alligator
  • Aquanaut Adventure
  • Cold Water Quest
  • Ocean Voyager
  • Sharks! Predators of the Deep®
  • Southern Company River Scout

Georgia Aquarium Hours and Pricing

The Georgia Aquarium is open most days from 9 am to 6 pm. Times can vary so be sure to check the website for your visit date.

There’s a dolphin show, a 4D movie, and lots of educational talks and presentations. Plan on spending at least four hours to take it all in.

And plan on spending lots of money. Adult tickets cost $36.95. Seniors are charged $32.95. Kids are $30.05.

You can order online and select an arrival time for your visit.

Expensive it is. But it’s worth it. We’ll be back. Several times. It’s that impressive. If you’ve never been there, put it on your bucket list.

If you’re headed south to Florida, check out this RV Adventure Guide bundle…

Mike and Jennifer’s Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!

MUST-DO RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta 3

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.

Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That’s why we’ve created three guides, covering Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys. 

Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.

Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content! 

FAQ’s about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers

What is the weather like along Florida’s Gulf Coast?

The weather along Florida’s Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.

The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.

You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.

By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.

Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?

While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.

Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.

Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?

One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities. 

The service works – but it is not free.

Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.

The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.

Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?

Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you’ll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or  Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.

But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?

Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.

There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top