Disclosure: The Georgia Aquarium provided me with two free tickets as well as one night hotel accommodations at the Hilton Garden Suite in exchange for my honest review.
Atlanta is one of our favorite family road trip destinations. Just a four-hour drive from Nashville, it’s the perfect distance to get away, without exceeding the “Are we there yet?” limit.
With big city Southern sophisticated dining, shopping, and entertainment experiences for mom and dad, as well as tons of family friendly activities, it’s perfect for a weekend getaway.
The Georgia Aquarium, located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, is one of the world’s largest aquariums and one of our favorite must attractions in the city.
We ended our recent spring break staycation with a surprise trip to Atlanta. My older daughter was out of town, so my 9-year-old Miss A and I hit the road and spent a recent Saturday at the Georgia Aquarium. Part of our day at the aquarium included an amazing behind the scenes tour, offered as an add-on to regular admission for ages 10 and over. As part of this special hour tour, visitors get to visit the top of the Ocean Voyager exhibit to view feedings as well as tour the facilities that keep the aquarium running. Lucky for us we were also able to see new baby penguins as well as the aquarium’s “kitchen” featuring the largest walk-in freezer filled with restaurant quality seafood I’ve ever seen. The residents of the Georgia Aquarium eat very well!
The Georgia Aquarium features five primary exhibitions:
- Cold Water Quest
- River Scout
- Georgia Explorer
- Ocean Voyager
- Tropical Diver
It’s difficult to choose which one is our favorite, but my 9-year-old really gravitated toward Cold Water Quest (she absolutely LOVED the sea otters and wanted to “visit” them twice) and I think the sea otters love their adoring fans as they put on quite a show.
You can easily spend an entire day at the Georgia Aquarium. I’d suggest purchasing your tickets in advance online and arriving when the doors open. Plan to stay most of the day, breaking it up with performances and lunch. Also note that the aquarium sometimes has extended hours, such as during spring break.
There are so many great things to see and explore at Georgia Aquarium. This was our second visit and I’m sharing some of our kid-friendly favorites.
10 Must Dos for Kids at Georgia Aquarium
- Touch a ray at the touch pool located at the entrance of the Georgia Explorer exhibit
- See the amazing acrobatic talent of the performing dolphins in Dolphin Tales
- Watch Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow
- Observe divers feeding the fish
- Book an Animal Encounter experience (the aquarium features three: Dolphin Encounter, See Otter Encounter, and Penguin Encounter)
- Get a sneak peek at the amazing care and feeding that keeps the aquarium creatures healthy and happy by booking a one-hour Behind the Scenes Tour
- Have lunch at the Cafe Aquaria Food Court
- Explore the fun indoor playground in the Georgia Explorer exhibition
- Walk through the incredible clear aquarium tunnel in Ocean Voyager (this exhibit alone contains 6,300,000 gallons water) and get a glimpse at what it’s like to be surrounded by thousands of fish, plus spot the gentle giants, whale sharks and mantas.
- Have a caricature artist sketch your likeness for a unique souvenir. My daughter loved hers!
The Georgia Aquarium also features AT&T Dolphin Tales, an amazing performance featuring live actors, special effects, a musical score, and performing dolphins. It’s kind of a mix between Broadway and the Rockettes, but with sea creatures.
One of the coolest experiences at the aquarium, however, involves what you don’t see. Offering Behind the Scenes Tours for visitors, ages 10 and up, the Georgia Aquarium does a great job of educating the public on marine life. During our Behind the Scenes Tour I was impressed to learn that 25% of the Georgia Aquarium building (which opened in 2005) is earmarked for education. Besides the usual tours and day visits, the aquarium also offers camps, overnight experiences, and other special events highlighting education and awareness.
During our weekend stay we had overnight accommodations at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn which was literally just steps away from the aquarium’s entrance. Although we travel quite a bit, this was actually our first time staying at a Hilton Garden Inn property and we loved it. The outdoor heated pool was my 9-year-old’s favorite amenity, but a close second was the indoor heated pool. I also appreciated the indoor gym and being able to walk on the treadmill while keeping an eye on her in the pool. We both loved dining downstairs at Legal Seafood and my daughter had her first ever Shirley Temple. We will definitely rebook the Hilton Garden Inn the next time we are in Atlanta.
Our fantastic view of the Atlanta skyline from our spacious and comfy room at the Hilton Garden Suite. You can see the SkyView Ferris Wheel in the distance (which was gorgeously lit at night!)
Some of the perqs I loved, besides a spacious room and bathroom, were the Neutrogena brand toiletries and the Keurig coffee maker. The Georgia Aquarium Package offered by the downtown Atlanta Hilton Garden Inn includes two tickets to the aquarium as well as free breakfast, which was also a fantastic buffet. The downtown Atlanta Hilton Garden Inn is also within walking distance to the World of Coca Cola.
Looking for a fun getaway this summer? If you haven’t visited the Georgia Aquarium, it’s perfect for families and kids of all ages. Be sure to visit the official Georgia Aquarium Plan Your Visit guide!
Here’s a fun update Georgia Aquarium would like to share with my Southern readers:
Southern Hospitality Discount- Save $6 on Total Tickets!!
Hey neighbors! Georgia Aquarium is showing our southern hospitality to our neighbors in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida. We invite you to visit us for just $29.95 +tax for an adult Total Ticket this spring, until June 13, 2014. That’s a nearly 17% savings on our regular price ticket.
Just show your valid ID from one of the states listed above at our ticketing window and tell our guest services representative that you want the Southern Hospitality Discount. Not available for purchase online, as you must show your ID to receive this special pricing.