Home to thousands of animals from over 200 different species, Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere. It’s also one of the most popular, with hundreds of thousands of guests visiting each year to enjoy the incredible sights there are on offer. The aquarium itself has a variety of exhibits, with each one covering a different environment and harboring some very unique animals.
Is The Georgia Aquarium Worth It?
The Georgia Aquarium is worth visiting as it offers some of the very best aquarium experiences in the world. The exhibits are varied and there are many interactive experiences included within a standard ticket.
Even visitors who have never enjoyed traditional zoo attractions before report having an enjoyable time. It is an especially great place to visit with children.
Skip The Line Tickets
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Best Time to Visit | Avoiding the Crowds
When visiting the Georgia Aquarium, picking a good time for your visit is key to your enjoyment of the attraction. For the greatest chance of getting an up-close view of all the aquarium’s animal residents, you’ll want to select a time to avoid the crowds.
The best time to visit Georgia Aquarium is first thing in the morning or during the last couple of hours in the evening. At opening time, you’ll experience minimal crowds and can still enjoy the shows and experiences.
Mornings: If you are looking to have a complete experience, the morning is your best option. The attraction opens at 9 am from Monday to Friday, and 8 am at the weekends. You’ll be able to enjoy a couple of hours of quiet browsing before experiencing some of the interactive shows. If you must visit at the weekend, first thing in the morning is your best option and will help you avoid the crowds. You’ll find it easier to find a parking spot and have a shorter wait in line for tickets.
Late: Another great option is later in the day for the Imagination Nights, which commence after 4 pm daily. You’ll save about $8 per ticket; however, it’s important to keep in mind that you will miss out on some of the interactive animal experiences. The aquarium is open as late as 8 pm some nights, so you’ll enjoy a less crowded and sometimes a very quiet visit. This is an excellent option for adults who are visiting without kids.
Weekdays: As far as days of the week, Monday and Tuesday are usually the quietest for visitors. Weekends are naturally the busiest time to visit and should be avoided if at all possible. On weekdays, the Georgia Aquarium closes at 6 pm, extending to 8 pm at the weekend. Buy your tickets online to skip the line upon arrival. You will just need to arrive within the hour of the time you booked.
How Much Time to Spend at the Georgia Aquarium
To view the entire aquarium, allow for a minimum of three to four hours. This is enough time to give you a chance to see the four main sections, as well as the sea lions and dolphins.
For anyone with children or marine enthusiasts, you can easily spend five to six hours here. In the daytime, there are many shows and interactive displays to keep you busy all day.
How much time you spend here will depend on your touring style, but you’ll want to allocate a good part of your day to the aquarium. Many people arrive expecting to spend three hours here and are still here five hours later. If you want to enjoy seeing the animal displays and 4D show, you can easily spend six hours touring the facility. By choosing a quieter time to visit, you’ll naturally find you have lower wait times and so may have a shorter visit.
- Check the online calendar for opening hours before your arrival, as these regularly change.
- Download the mobile app before your arrival to check showtimes and plan your visit.
- Allow enough time for traffic and parking to arrive at your designated ticket time if you’ve booked in advance online.
- The dolphin and sea lion shows are first-come, first served. Arrive 30-45 minutes before the performance commences.
- Imagination Nights commence at 4 pm daily, where you’ll enjoy reduced admission prices.
- When the shows are on, the exhibits are much quieter for touring during this time.
- If you need to leave for lunch, you can get a stamp to return in the afternoon to continue your visit.
The animals at Georgia Aquarium are housed in 7 exhibits, each designed to give you a different taste of the world’s aquatic life. The best attractions are
- Cold Water Quest
- Dolphin Coast
- Ocean Voyager
- Tropical Diver
- River Scout
Some of the attractions are self-guided, while others feature interactive shows at certain times of day. All of them aim to provide enjoyable experiences, although some are more popular among visitors than others.
1. Sharks – Predators of the Deep
Georgia Aquarium’s newest exhibit opened in October 2020, and is dedicated to displaying the ocean’s apex predators – the sharks. With 1.2 million gallons of water, it’s one of the largest shark exhibits in the world and is home to 7 species in total.
Species: Great hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, sand tiger sharks, and silky sharks are the largest inhabitants, although there are also several smaller shark species, as well as ribbontail rays. The gallery features floor-to-ceiling acrylic viewing windows, providing you with some incredible underwater views. It’s an excellent place to learn about sharks as a whole, including why they are such misunderstood creatures.
Interactive Option: While the gallery is accessible to all visitors, there is the option to purchase additional tickets to experience some of the exhibit’s interactive elements. There is a wading pool where you can walk with rays and zebra sharks swimming around your feet, or – if you’re feeling braver – there is a dive cage in the main tank that can immerse you among the larger animals.
2. Cold Water Quest
The world’s colder oceans have some amazing animals, and Georgia Aquarium’s Cold Water Quest attraction aims to give an insight into this. This is one of the most diverse exhibits in the aquarium, with chances to see species of bird, mammal, fish, and invertebrates. The highlight for many visitors is the beluga whale habitat, which features a huge viewing window where the whales often like to put on an underwater show.
The African penguins bring a further source of entertainment, with their naturalistic environment featuring rocky nesting areas where you can see the penguins both in and out of the water. A series of tunnels complete with viewing windows pass beneath the penguin exhibit, meaning you can explore their habitat up close.
Other creatures to look out for in the Cold Water Quest attraction are southern sea otters and puffins, along with a variety of cold-water fish.
3. Dolphin Coast
The Dolphin Coast is Georgia Aquarium’s second-largest exhibit, housing a large pod of bottlenose dolphins in a 1.8 million gallon tank. The exhibit functions both as a gallery to be viewed at your leisure and as a show which can be experienced in the seated dolphin theatre.
The dolphin shows are fun for all ages and occur on a daily basis, although the times vary. Each one includes a live training demonstration, combined with a wealth of fun facts and information about these charismatic marine mammals. The daily antics of the dolphins can be viewed outside of the presentations by visiting the Dolphin Coast lobby area.
Seating within the dolphin theatre is on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s a good idea to get there early if you want to choose how close to the action you get. Just be aware that there is a definite splash zone, meaning you may not want to sit in the front seats if you’re worried about getting wet.
4. Ocean Voyager
As an exhibit containing over 6 million gallons of water, the Ocean Voyager attraction is the largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world. It is the centerpiece of Georgia Aquarium, featuring an incredible underwater tunnel where you can view the exhibit’s animals on all sides.
Whale Sharks: The tank was originally designed to house whale sharks – the largest species of fish in the ocean. These magnificent animals can reach 18 meters in length and it can be quite an experience to see one swim right over your head. The tunnel can get very busy at peak times, so try to visit early in the day for the best experiences.
There is far more to see in the Ocean Voyager exhibit besides whale sharks. Visually, the environment is stunning – designed to mimic the appearance of a natural barrier reef ecosystem. More than 50 species call the exhibit home, with green sea turtles, goliath groupers, manta rays, and stingrays being just a few of the highlights. With over 4,500 square feet of viewing windows, you’re guaranteed the best opportunities to see as many of these marine marvels as possible.
5. Tropical Diver
The Tropical Diver exhibit is a detailed recreation of the tropical reef systems you might find in the Indo-Pacific Oceans. There are more than 200 species of coral and thousands of tropical fish, making the attraction a colorful treat for the eyes. The gallery is complete with an artificial wave machine, mimicking the crashing waves that help to shape coral reefs in the wild. Some of the most notable species to look out for are the clownfish, the palette surgeonfish, and the big-bellied seahorse.
You might also spot huge moray eels emerging from the reef’s crevices. It can be wonderfully peaceful to watch the fish as they drift through their environment, with some visitors finding they can spend hours at this exhibit alone.
6. River Scout
The River Scout exhibit is Georgia Aquarium’s only attraction that is dedicated to freshwater animals. Here, you can find species that live in rivers and lakes from all over the world, providing a unique insight into the diversity of freshwater environments.
Waterfalls: The exhibit features a range of waterfalls and pools, as well as a simulation of a North American river that meanders overhead. Walking beneath this artistic installation can be an experience in itself.
In the River Scout’s various exhibits, you can find otters, piranhas, and impressively large alligators snapping turtles. There are also several crawl tunnels, helping to give the exhibit a more interactive feel. The main highlight for visitors is the glass-bottom alligator exhibit. This is home to several albino alligators who are completely white in color – an incredibly rare sight.