Monday, June 7, 2010

Going Under

Magnet # 262: Georgia Aquarium Turtle

Material:  Clay

Purchased By:  Me

Given that June is National Zoo and Aquarium Month, it's the perfect opportunity to publish a series of posts I've been wanting to tackle for awhile. Last year, I visited three aquariums over the span of two months - October and November - and I've been wanting to post a review of my findings at each establishment. So for today and the next two days, I'll sharing my experiences at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Baltimore's National Aquarium, and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. All three are some of the most impressive and highly recommended aquariums in the United States and even the world, and I hope what I saw during my visit to each one will be helpful in deciding whether or not to visit them yourself. So let's dive in, already! 

I've mentioned on here before that I saw the Georgia Aquarium on October 10 with my friend Lindsay and I've noted my displeasure that we were charged full admission without being warned that several of the best exhibits were not on display. But overall, we still had a good time there. It's the world's largest aquarium and opened in 2005. I didn't really notice that it's pretty much one-story until I started going to aquariums that led visitors up multiple stories. But it's divided into five different galleries, each with its own theme. The largest is Ocean Journey and it has some of the aquarium's most impressive features, including its largest tank which holds 6.3 million gallons of water. It's home to the aquarium's two whale sharks, the largest of all fish species, and this is the only aquarium outside of Asia that has these giants - in fact, the Georgia Aquarium takes special efforts to get animals that are rarely exhibited in the United States. They've offered all sorts of ways to view the enormous tank, including a viewing theatre and a 100 foot long tunnel that is underneath the tank. There, visitors of all ages can stand on the moving walkway and gape up at the whale sharks and the many other creatures in the exhibit, including manta rays. I must admit, neither of the other aquariums I visited last year had a tank this large, or this impressive. And I also thought it was the most kid-friendly of the three aquariums, although it narrowly edged out the Tennessee Aquarium in that regard. Its Georgia Explorer exhibit is very hands-on, and encourages visitors to touch creatures such as stingrays, shrimp, and horseshoe crabs. But what really sets it apart is a full-scale replica of a ship that children can climb into and the whale slide they can come down. It's a little like a playland at a restaurant. Really, there are quite a few fun places in this aquarium - both for kids and adults.

Would I go back to the Georgia Aquarium someday? I'm not sure - apparently, the penguin exhibit has returned and it would be nice to see it, as it was closed when we were there last time. I may wait until the new dolphin exhibit is finished and the beluga whales are back in their tank. But I'm not crazy about the idea of paying twice to see what I should have seen the first time. And I don't think I'd go on the weekend again - both I and a friend of mine haven't been thrilled with the huge crowds there on Saturdays - one person even physically moved me. Still, the Georgia Aquarium is a pretty neat place, and it's worth seeing at least once - but perhaps waiting until all the exhibits are reopened is a good idea.

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