Your insider’s guide to the Georgia Aquarium

Dolphin tricks, sea lion cuteness on display at new Georgia Aquarium shows

Opened in 2005, Georgia Aquarium is a more than 600,000 square foot facility containing some 11 million gallons of fresh and saltwater, making it the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere.

The aquarium aims to “inspire, educate, and entertain” its guests by teaching them about the world’s aquatic biodiversity through hundreds of exhibits and with thousands of animals.

Some quick history: Atlanta businessman Bernard Marcus announced his vision to build an aquarium in 2001. After visiting 56 aquariums in 13 countries, Marcus contributed $250 million, the bulk of the funds, to establish Georgia Aquarium. With an additional $40 million in corporate contributions, the aquarium opened in 2005. It was the largest aquarium in the world until 2012, when Marine Life Park opened in Singapore.

Read on to learn about hours, locations, discounts and ticket prices.

Must “sea” highlights at Georgia Aquarium:

• Sharks! Predators of the Deep, the newest gallery, where guests can come face to face with the most mysterious and misunderstood animals under the sea. More than 1.2 million gallons of water fill this display, which is one of North America’s biggest and most dynamic shark exhibits.

• Aquanaut Adventure: A Discovery Zone, invites sea explorers of all ages to engage in an educational journey of aquatic life through various immersive environments. Recent renovations include new habitats, animas and interactive learning features. Participants will go through different routes to explore fresh water and marine habitats, scientific research, how animals thrive in extreme environments and even catch a glimpse into what it’s like to have a career in aquatic and marine sciences.

• Truist Pier 225, where you can watch sea lions and see them in action during the Under the Boardwalk live show. Trainers interact with the creatures as they inform guests about the dangers they face in the wild along with as well as important environmental factors that affect them. Guests are advised to arrive at least 30 minutes before showtimes, to ensure decent seats.

• Cold Water Quest includes marine animals all the way from Australia. The Southern sea otter exhibit has doubled in size since its inception in 2010. It now offers a sneak peek window that gives guests a look into the behind-the-scenes area for the sea otters. The African penguin exhibit features more than 25 nesting areas integrated into naturalistic rock work and comes equipped with a state-of-the-art lighting system that mimics the natural light cycle from twilight to moonlight.

Whether you’re a penguin lover, a beluga whale fanatic or just someone who enjoys watching the exotic sea creatures swim behind the glass, you’re sure to go home impressed.

The aquarium recommends taking three to four hours to tour the entire property and advises guests to arrive early on weekends, which are the busiest.

How to get in free: The aquarium offers free entrance to Georgia residents on their birthday. So, if you were looking for a creative birthday activity, Georgia Aquarium is definitely a good option. Every Monday in the months of November and December, the aquarium offers free admission to all current and former members of the United States Armed Forces. Their families also receive a 30 percent discount.

Where: The aquarium is situated across the street from the north end of Centennial Olympic Park at 225 Baker Street in Atlanta. Entrances to the aquarium’s parking decks can be found on Luckie Street and Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard.

When to go: Although the aquarium is open 365 days, its hours vary from day to day. Double-check the aquarium’s hours online before you visit, or call (404) 581-4000.

Cost: General admission tickets cost $35.95 for regardless of age or arrival time. Children ages 2 and under are free; no admission tickets are required. Parking costs $17 for the general rate while members pay $11. There’s also a $12 discounted rate for aquarium guests.

Guests can save by purchasing pre-paid passes.

Safety: Georgia Aquarium has implemented several safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. Visit the website to learn more.

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