Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One Last Wave

Magnet # 264:  Tennessee Aquarium Sea Otters, Complex

Material:  Laminated Cardboard

Purchased By:  Me

The final aquarium I visited last year was the Tennessee Aquarium in Downtown Chattanooga.  I toured it on the way back from the Great Smoky Mountains with my folks on November 13, and we were all very impressed.  This particular aquarium is divided into two separate buildings at a scenic spot overlooking the Tennessee River.  Its first building, River Journey, opened in 1992 and is the largest freshwater aquarium worldwide.  And in 2005, they added a second building - Ocean Journey.  This is one aquarium that is constantly upgrading and giving its visitors exciting new additions, like a penguin exhibit that opened in 2007.  So it's worth seeing more than once to appreciate all of the hard work and improvements that have gone into it.

The Tennessee Aquarium might not be as large or as highly regarded as the other two aquariums I had visited previously, but it ended up becoming my favorite of the three.  I was very impressed by the wide selection of creatures to be found there, and how many varieties of animals they have.  They have displays of all sorts of different turtles, seahorses, and frogs that seem to go on and on, and their collection of jellyfish is as impressive as that of the National Aquarium, but while the one in Baltimore is temporary, Chattanooga's is permanent.  And like the National Aquarium, both buildings at the Tennessee Aquarium take their visitors high up on multiple stories - just not as many - and one ends in a recreation of a tropical rainforest.  It also has a butterfly habitat, the only one of any of the three aquariums.  In fact, one butterfly landed on the bottom of my leg and I didn't even notice it until a guide pointed it out to me on my way out - how neat!  I also really appreciated the amount of design that went into this particular aquarium.  Many aquariums just provide one view of their animals, but in Chattanooga, visitors can often wrap around the animals, appreciating them from a different vantage point entirely.  For example, the sea otters were first viewable to us at a location below where we stood, so that we could look down at them as they played.  But later, we saw them through a glass that looked into their tank, and were pretty much on eye level with them as they swam around.  It was very impressive.  All in all, I had a great time at the Tennessee Aquarium and could easily see myself going back sometime in the future when more exhibits have been introduced.

And what was the one part of the Tennessee Aquarium that I didn't like as much as the two aquariums I had just visited?  Funny enough, it was the gift shop.  They just didn't have as neat a collection of magnets as the Georgia Aquarium or the National Aquarium.  Those two both had my very favorites, Clay Critters, as well as some very interesting ones from other magnet companies.  The ones at the Tennessee Aquarium just weren't as neat or three-dimensional.  But I really like the design on this one, plus it is nice to see an image of the aquarium itself.  So my suggestion to the Tennessee Aquarium?  Keep up the great work with their exhibits and variety of animals, just add a few more exciting selections in their gift shop, like magnets of the animals themselves.  But this is a great place to visit and if you're in the area, it's worth seeing in person.

Well, that wraps it up for my three-part aquarium review.  So far, these are the only aquariums I've seen, but I'm up for checking out more in the future.  It's kind of funny that the only times I've been to these sites have been in two months in 2009, one right after the other.  I hope my findings at each one are helpful in deciding whether to see them yourself, particularly for National Zoo and Aquarium Month.  If you have an aquarium nearby, even if it's not one of these, you should consider stopping by.  Given that the weather is getting warm once again, being in an air-conditioned, covered aquarium might be a great break from the heat.  And if you've never been to an aquarium, you are definitely missing out.  These are great places to take in sea life you might never be able to see elsewhere.  So get your feet wet, and find out what all the fuss is about!

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