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The Georgia Aquarium

My wife and I have been wanting to go to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta ever since it opened two years ago. We decided that that was something we wanted to do during our Christmas break this year. As we talked about it, we decided that yesterday would be the perfect day for us to go there since it was a weekday and would be before most schools would be out for Christmas break. We went to their website and bought our tickets in advance.

On our way to the Atlanta area we stopped at one of our favorite places along I-85 in Georgia - the Mayfield dairy visitor center in Braselton, GA - get off at exit 129 and follow the signs. We both enjoyed a favorite - a scoop of turtle tracks ice cream. The folks at Mayfield had decorated their cow outside for the season...

Our plan for visiting the aquarium could not have been better. We sat in the car in the parking structure and ate the lunch we'd brought along since Becka had seen online that the food prices in the aquarium's food court were too high for our tastes. After eating we walked to the building and arrived 20 minutes before the entry time we had signed up for, but no problem. There was no line outside at all and we were able to go in early. There were plenty of people there, but it was by no means crowded at all. Bliss! As I share some photos we took, I apologize for the quality of some - I was trying to do them without flash (sometimes mandatorially and sometimes optionally). But since it took longer for the pictures to take, either my subjects moved or I moved the camera slightly, both of which motions altered the clarity.

Throughout the day I just kept praising God again and again for His creation! It was wonderful to see such a huge display of the infinite creativity of the Lord in the creatures He made to inhabit this planet with us!

The first exhibit we visited was the Ocean Voyager exhibit. What a great way to get started! The observation window in that exhibit is the second largest viewing window in the world at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide and the acrylic window is 2 feet thick! The scene behind the window is amazing with schools of beautiful fish, several kinds of stingrays, enormous goliath grouper and several kinds of sharks, including hammerhead sharks and zebra sharks. The tank itself - the size of an American football field and containing 6.3 million gallons of water - was built to be large enough to house whale sharks, the largest known fish in the world. Below is a picture of one of their whale sharks...

On one of our visits back to that exhibit, we were fortunate to be there at the whale shark's feeding time. The whale shark would be no threat to people since the opening of its throat is the size of a quarter. That kind of shark is a filter feeder, sucking in large amounts of water to filter out the krill and other creatures small enough for it to swallow. There's also a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel through which you can walk and see the inhabitants of that tanks swim all around you and above you.

Each of the other four exhibits was interesting and unique, bringing to our inspection creatures from all over the world. The creatures we saw were extremely varied and fascinating. We saw horseshoe crabs, shrimp, Amazonian tropical fish, sea stars, African black-footed penguins, sea anemones, Australian leafy sea dragons, a giant Pacific octopus, seahorses, Japanese spider crabs, California sea lions, sea otters, and on and on I could go.

I'd like to share with you some of the things we found the most amazing or amusing. We saw some odd little creatures called garden eels. They live in little holes they've dug for themselves in the sand. They are about 16 inches long, but the most we ever saw was about the 6 inches that peeked out when no fish were nearby. Here's the best shot I could get of the garden eels...

Other strange creatures we saw were the jelly fish. The colors and their movements were really cool....

The loggerhead turtles were really fun to watch and kind of made me think of the turtle tracks ice cream at Mayfield's dairy...

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the antics of their five Asian small-clawed river otters. They moved about so quickly that I really had a struggle to get a clear shot of any of them. Here's my best shot...

Another really cool observation window was the one for the beluga whales. (BELUGA! for those of you who remember the "Bulbous Bouffant" thing that was popular a could of years ago.) The aquarium has three belugas - one male and two females (a mother and her daughter.) Here's a picture of the three beluga whales...

We enjoyed watching them for a long time - it was just so soothing! They can swim upside down. Here's a shot of Nico, the male, swimming upside down.

Nico seemed to enjoy swimming near the front of the tank where people were watching. The guides told us that the creatures inside could see us, just as we could see them. Here's a shot I took of my wife Becka watching Nico...

Our advice to anyone who's thinking about going there and has never been before:

1. Forget the 4-D show, unless you've never seen a 3-D show before. It was cute, but it was a cartoon, rather than real sea creatures. There was another "dimension" to the show that made it 4-D, but since the place is already expensive enough, it's not a necessary part of a positive visit to the Atlanta Aquarium.

2. Don't take any child younger than about 7 or 8. We saw a number of children younger than that thoroughly not enjoying themselves. Children under 3 are free, but really don't take much of it in at all and can be downright annoying to those who are trying to enjoy their experiences. (Read: we saw and heard plenty of crabby babies and toddlers, and the only crabs should be those inside the acrylic. 🙂 And children 3 to 8 really don't know enough to fully appreciate what they're seeing, unless your (grand)child is a prodigy, of course....

3. A good starting time for your visit would be at noon or maybe 12:30. That way, you could eat your lunch before going in, yet still have plenty of time to visit all afternoon.

We ended our Atlanta experience by eating dinner at the cafeteria at the Dekalb Farmers Market and shopping for some great produce and specialty items before heading back to Greenville.

picture of Dekalb

What a pleasant day! We'd do it again in a heartbeat! We'd love to hear that this has inspired some of you to go visit it too.

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9 Comments on “The Georgia Aquarium”

  1. #1 Philip Gons
    on Dec 15th, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Brings back some memories. We went 18 months ago and had a really nice time. Pictures from our trip are available here.

    Rob adds:
    Wow! You got some nice pictures, Phil! Are any of those pictures photoshopped??? 😉

    It’s a good thing you two went to Atlanta before moving to Washington state!

  2. #2 John Lacy
    on Dec 15th, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    I’ve only been once and it was exceedingly crowded. I couldn’t really enjoy watching the fish. I really liked the Charleston aquarium much better.

  3. #3 Susan Presley
    on Dec 16th, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Mr. Loach! (Pardon, that’s what I called you in the late ’70’s, it’s what you’ll always be to me.)

    What wonderful pictures! The colors in that jellyfish photo are really astounding. And otters! One can’t go wrong with otters, nosir.

    Also, your Christmas cow on the front page of your blog is teriffic. Merry Moo!

    Susan Presley
    Class of ’81, Inter City High

  4. #4 Heather
    on Dec 17th, 2007 at 7:59 am

    I loved the pictures! It kinda reminded me of when we went snorkeling on our honeymoon in Mexico. One goal of ours is to snorkel at some the best spots in the world. One them being the Great Barrier Reef. Thanks for sharing, it also made we want to visit to escape all of the cold, snowy weather we have! : )

  5. #5 Patty Wagner
    on Dec 17th, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Thanks for sharing your visit to the Atlanta Aquarium with us, Mr. Loach! I was able to visit the Boston Aquarium this summer and throughly enjoyed that as well – now I can’t wait to go to Atlanta. =)

  6. #6 Darryl
    on Dec 18th, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Sounds like the only thing you missed to make the trip complete would be a stop at the Varsity….. good hotdogs and great atmosphere..

  7. #7 Bonnie
    on Dec 21st, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I second the Farmer’s Market! Since it’s an international market, there are so many neat things there.

  8. #8 Ginny Layman
    on Mar 26th, 2009 at 11:15 am

    So where is the Farmer’s Market???

  9. #9 Rob
    on Mar 26th, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    @Ginny – Here’s the info copied and pasted from the direction section of their website:

    Your Dekalb Farmers Market
    3000 E. Ponce De Leon Avenue
    Decatur, GA 30030

    YDFM is located at the intersection of E. Ponce De Leon Avenue and Laredo Drive, 2 miles inside of I-285 off of Exit 40 (E. Ponce De Leon).

    The Decatur E7 Marta Station is also located nearby.

    For more detailed directions or information, please call us at (404)377-6400, Or mapquest our directions at http://www.mapquest.com