MUST-DO RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

 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.

Belugas

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

Dolphins

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.

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

You do! Made out of 100% cotton, the 6-panel cap offers a light feel, while the adjustable strap ensures a solid and comfortable fit. Just the thing to wear on your next RV Lifestyle adventure.

Penguins

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.

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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.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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