Georgia Aquarium Review: Awe Inspiring Day Trip to the Largest Aquarium in the US!

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Have you experienced the overwhelming wonder of the Atlanta Georgia Aquarium? It is truly awe-inspiring, being the largest aquarium in the US! We were able to visit with the Georgia Aquarium Residence Pass, however, you can visit any time by purchasing a day pass. Find everything you need, including Georgia Aquarium reviews, photos, and even parking and hotel information, so you can make your trip an epic adventure.

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia

Where to Stay Near the Georgia Aquarium

Planning an overnight trip? Use the map below to find the perfect lodging near the Georgia Aquarium.
Through an affiliate relationship with Stay22, Kidding Around earns when booking through the map and links in this section.

During a previous visit, we stayed at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel, which we recommended because of the hotel’s great location and comfort. Another great option is Home 2 Suites Midtown. The CNN Tower, World of Coca-Cola, Centennial Park, the Peachtree Center and a new Ferris wheel attraction are all located within easy walking distance of both of these hotels.

Watch! Our Visit to the Biggest Aquarium in the US!

Our Day Trip to Georgia Aquarium

For our day trip to the Georgia Aquarium, we brought along our five-year-old and two-year-old, because we knew this would be a fantastic memory for them. We purchased our tickets ahead of time with our residence pass, but you can purchase tickets in advance for cheaper than same day tickets through the online portal! Ticket prices for pre-booked dates start at $39.99, but ticket prices fluctuate depending on the day you want to attend, if it’s a holiday or weekend, or if they anticipate large crowds, so keep that in mind!

We also made reservations for the dolphin show and the sea lion show on the same day as our visit. If you are looking to do these two free shows or any backstage events, make sure to pencil those in when figuring out how long you want to stay at the aquarium!

What is at the Georgia Aquarium?

Being the largest aquarium in the US means there is A LOT to explore. You’ll want to carve out at least two to three hours of your day to experience everything, but you could honestly spend longer here. When you arrive at the aquarium, you first will be asked to take a photo by staff that you can later purchase as a souvenir. Then, you’ll immediately follow a quarridore that is lined with a wall of glowing jellyfish! My kids were just ecstatic to see them glowing purple, bouncing around the elongated tank. It was the perfect start to our visit. Finally, you’ll have your tickets scanned at the entrance of the large atrium. 

Entrance of the Georgia Aquaruim: Jellyfish wall.

Galleries and Exhibits: Georgia Aquarium

Now, the hard part is usually figuring out what you want to see first! There are 8 major galleries at the Georgia Aquarium, and each is sectioned by theme. So, what animals can you see at the Georgia Aquarium? Over 500 species and over 1 million animals to explore! They have sharks, penguins, beluga whales, dolphins, and even massive whale sharks. It’s not just another aquarium. It’s like stepping into another world. And if you think that sounds melodramatic, consider some of these stats:

  • With more than 600,000 square feet and 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the United States.
  • The Ocean Voyager exhibit is the largest indoor fish habitat in the United States. It measures 284 feet long by 126 feet wide by 30 feet deep. It contains 6.3 million gallons of water.
  • The viewing window into the whale shark exhibit measures 60 feet long by 27 feet high.
Hammerhead shark swimming by at the Predators of the Deep exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia

When we arrived in the huge atrium, we decided to work our way clockwise through the galleries so we wouldn’t miss anything. We started at SHARKS! Predators of the Deep, which was my daughter’s absolute favorite. There were tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, silvertip sharks, and a sand tiger shark that swam around the 1.2 million gallon tank and through the circling false pilchard fishes. We even saw a hammerhead shark going into the circling and trying to catch one, which we were told was because of electromagnetic signals being released from one of the false pilchards that was older or sick.

Before our scheduled show at Dolphin Coast, We worked our way through the several exhibits on the bottom floor, which took us a little over an hour. You’ll want extended time at the Ocean Voyager Built by Home Depot exhibit. Here, you can ride down a conveyor belt under a 100-foot tunnel. This part is exciting, but make sure little feet stay off the edges of the belt so they do not fall. You can choose to walk beside it as well, which is nice if you want to stop and take a closer look at the rays and fish swimming overhead.

The epic part of Ocean Voyager is the large seating area you’ll find toward the end of the gallery. You can lounge on the stairs under the glow of the huge aquarium, watching the whale sharks swim by. This is a great place to park it for a little bit after a long day of walking around. We sat here for almost 20 minutes listening to the presenter give us facts about what is inside the tank, while also playing a game of who could spot Gulper.

Here is a full list of the exhibits and key features at the Georgia Aquarium, so you can decide where to start!

  • Aquanaut Adventure– Newer exhibit with alligators, lizards, eels, and a Discovery Zone touch pool
  • Cold Water Quest – Home to beluga whales, sea otters, African penguins, Pacific octopus, and more.
  • Dolphin Coast – Dolphins (including the theatre), spoonbill, spiny lobster, and scarlet ibis.
  • Ocean Voyager– The largest exhibit, offers whale sharks, rays, sharks, tons of fish, and a place to relax.
  • Predators of the Deep– A variety of sharks with large glass walls to observe from different angles.
  • Southern Company River Scout– Only freshwater gallery at the Aquarium
  • Tropical Diver– Coral reef exhibit and gorgeous marine life display.
  • Truist Peer 225– Arcade, animatronics, and the sea lion show!

Live Shows

Georgia Aquarium Dolphin Show and Sea Lion Presentation

One wonderful thing about the aquarium is that you can get up close and personal with many of the animals, all included in your admission ticket! We had such a fun time at the dolphin and sea lion shows, which are free and run at various times throughout the day.

My 5-year-old and I opted to sit in the splash seats for both shows, and we were giggling the entire time waiting to get splashed, especially when the dolphins sent a wave of water right at us. But don’t worry, the majority of the seats are out of the splash zone.

During both shows, we learned about how they train the animals and what the animals are like in the wild, and we saw a spectacular showcase of their skills. During the sea lion show, we sat closest to Katie, the oldest sea lion resident and watched her and her trainer show off their dancing skills and tricks. My two-year-old was squealing when each sea lion showed off how loud they could be, it was hilarious!

Both the dolphin show and the sea lion show take about 15-20 minutes each, so make sure your little ones go to the bathroom ahead of time so you do not lose your seats. You will also want to arrive about 10 minutes early to get the best seats, they fill up very quickly!

You will want to make reservations the day of to confirm seats for the Dolphin Coast dolphin show and the sea lion show, though they are free to attend.

Dolphin Coast at the Georgia Aquarium

Quick Facts: Things to Know Before Your Visit

Hours of Operation

The Georgia Aquarium is open year-round, but hours do vary. Visit the aquarium website for specific hours on the day you plan to visit. You are welcome to leave the aquarium after you enter, just make sure you get your arm stamped at the customer service counter before you leave.

Georgia Aquarium Tickets

Ticket Prices

The aquarium uses a timed ticketing system, which means you will be given a time at which you can enter the aquarium. This keeps the facility from becoming overcrowded.

Right now, the Aquarium is offering the Resident Pass to South Carolina residents through May 28, 2024. It means you get unlimited entry (there are some blackout dates, see link) for $64.99 + tax.

Tickets cost more at peak times like weekends and holidays. Be sure to check the website for the date you plan to visit.

General Admission Tickets

When you purchase tickets ahead of time, you get a discount, so remember that! Ticket prices vary by the day you want to attend with the lowest, least busy days having $39.99 admission tickets. You can purchase most Plan Ahead and Save tickets for $39.99, or purchase Anytime General Admission tickets for $64.99. We recommend purchasing ahead of time and looking at their booking calendar to get the best price. You can also purchase an annual membership if you plan to visit more than once.

If you want to do special animal encounters or events, you can purchase tickets to those ahead of time. They do sell out sometimes because of limited ticket availability, so book early. Prices for animal encounters start at $80 per person, and there are age restrictions.

Georgia Aquarium Parking

Parking is available in the attached parking deck and costs $20 per day. The World of Coca-Cola and CNN Tower are within walking distance, so you could plan an entire day of attractions for one parking price. There’s also a nice playground area in Centennial Olympic Park if the kids just need some downtime. 

Coastline Cafe: Cafe at the Aquarium

On the second floor you’ll find the new Coastline Cafe, where you can dine in. Most of the food is American food, like chicken nuggets and burgers. It can be pretty expensive to dine here, so we chose to bring along sandwiches to enjoy during our break outdoors on the grass between World of Coca-Cola and the aquarium.

Wheelchairs, Strollers, and Babies

The entire aquarium is wheelchair and stroller accessible. However, strollers are NOT permitted in the Dolphin Coast theater. There is a “stroller parking” area available for use during the show. 

You’ll find a private nursing pod for mothers available on the second floor.

Sensory bags are also available at Guest Services if you would like them for you or your child.

Restaurants near the Georgia Aquarium

You are able to leave the aquarium and come back, so why not check out some of the best restaurants near the Georgia Aquarium that are within walking distance? The Atlanta Breakfast Club is just down the street, and has some of the best Southern breakfast food around! Have a kid who will only eat pizza? Then Head to Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria. They have delicious pizza, plus vegetarian and vegan options. You will not want to miss out on the crispy chicken and fries from Rocks!

Sea dragons at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia

Tips for visiting the Georgia Aquarium

  1. Bring a stroller or carrier if you have little ones, because there is a lot of walking involved.
  2. Be sure to reserve a dolphin show or sea lion show, it is worth it and great for younger kids.
  3. Pack your lunch and leave it in a cooler in the car to save some money.
  4. If you want to leave and come back to the aquarium, be sure to get your hand stamped.
  5. Don’t forget to use your Georgia Aquarium military discount on their Military Free Days to get free entry and 30% off for your family!
  6. The gift shop has some great stuff, and you have to exit through it, so make sure to budget for a souvenir. Pro gift shop tip: Collect something small from gift shops you visit throughout all your travels like a magnet, postcard, or Christmas Tree ornament. Everyone in your family will know they are on the hunt for the perfect item to add to that collection and you’ll stay far away from the expensive toys, stuffed animals, and apparel.

My Honest Opinion of the Georgia Aquarium: Review

The Georgia Aquarium as a mom of two young kids is so worth it! There is so much to do and see that the trip is absolutely a core memory maker. There are animals at the Georgia Aquarium that you will most likely never see in your lifetime. Plus, the vast amount of scientific research and conservation efforts that is conducted is helping us learn more about these animals to aid in reversing their wild population decline. My kids were in awe, and so was I.

The aquarium staff are friendly and helpful, and we had zero issues throughout the entire day there. It’s a great family vacation idea, because the city of Atlanta has so much to offer. It is worth the 2.5-hour drive from Greenville, SC, and makes the perfect day trip!

Plan your own visit!

Georgia Aquarium
225 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
404.581.4000

What was your family’s favorite part of the Georgia Aquarium?

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About the Author
How does Kidding Around® bring readers high-quality and up-to-date content month after month and season after season? We have a dedicated team of writers and editors who regularly update our fabulous content to keep it current and relevant for our readers. This team combs lists of events, heads out into the community to experience new Upstate offerings, and communicates with local businesses. Many of our updated articles and event lists, like this one, reflect the contributions and hard work of multiple Kidding Around® team members.

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