Recently Kidding Around Greenville contributor Erica McCall and her family visited the Georgia Aquarium, media pass were provided. Here is the recap on their trip to this hot spot that is a only short road trip from Greenville!
Last summer my hubby, toddler, and I went to visit the Georgia Aquarium. The initial plan was to leave Simpsonville early enough to be at the aquarium before it opened. We planned to tour the aquarium on our own and enjoy toddler time before heading to the dolphin show. The weather, however, had different plans.
We ran into a terrible storm on the way which slowed us down by about 45 minutes. (I was terrified… seriously. We couldn’t see the road.) Then, once near the aquarium, we had to find parking, which ended up being about blocks away. We hustled through the rain towards the aquarium where we found almost no lines. For the first time, the rain had helped us out a smidge.
That travel delay detail is important only because it meant that we missed out on one of the things we had planned. We’d intended to do the toddler time, but since we arrived closer to 10 am than 9, we decided the AT&T Dolphin Celebration was way more important. Ok…so maybe I decided. I can’t help that I love dolphins.
Our experience at the Georgia Aquarium
The website said to allow for several hours to complete the aquarium visit, but we had an almost-two-year-old with us and we still did the entire thing in about an hour. The extras are where you’d need to build in time, and of course some kids might take longer looking at the exhibits than other kids.
The experience began with the traditional commemorative photo. Be sure to pay attention when your photo is taken. Ours was snapped so fast we almost didn’t get a chance to smile.
After the photo, we headed into the GIANT atrium. There are tons of sounds coming at you due to the fact that all the different halls and room lead you back to this area. You’ll see entrances to different sections, which are pretty self-explanatory without a map. Restrooms, as you’ll probably need ASAP, are to the right just after the help desk area.
Once we decided to skip the toddler experience (which was slated to take almost an hour and a half), we went through all the different animal exhibits, working our way counterclockwise around the building, planning to end up at the Dolphin Celebration entrance. Our son was more excited about the moving sidewalk that runs inside the underwater tunnel than he was about looking at all the fish, not gonna lie. BUT- once we pointed them out for the forty-billionth time, he tuned in a bit more. I loved seeing all the fish and rays swim over and around us! Hubby was most impressed with the whale sharks. They were gi-huge-ic, as my high school English teacher used to say.
Just after the underwater tunnel, we found a little place to meet Deepo, the aquarium’s mascot. There was a small theatre with a show going where a staff member “talked” with Deepo and the kids. It was a very cute, well executed production that had kids and adults laughing. It also made for a great place to set down the increasingly heavy child you’ve been holding.
Once we left Deepo, we continued on with our tour, visiting saltwater, freshwater, tropical, and arctic animals. It was seriously amazing to see the different animals, but I was even more impressed with the WAY they were all displayed. So many tanks were overhead, so Baby J, riding on Daddy’s shoulders, could reach up to touch the glass. He thought that was awesome!
After we finished seeing everything, we were able to get a picture with a guy dressed up as a seahorse. He did an excellent job of not pushing J to do more than he wanted and even made him smile when he used his trumpet to “kiss” me. I was really pleased with how great he was with Baby J.
The dolphin show was set to start at 11:30 am. When we got to the show entrance around 11 we were told it was full to capacity. While we were eventually let in, it might be a good idea to arrive early to ensure your spot. Also, the seating area is large so you will want to get a good seat. Be aware that there are splash zones and dry zones.
So now it’s time for the bad news. There’s no photography of any kind during the dolphin show. Yep. None. The reasoning is sound- the dolphins and actors have a strictly choreographed show that included a lot of light and sound elements that would have been disrupted by a flash or the screen of a phone. Just because it was logical doesn’t mean I liked it any better.
Anyway, the AT&T Dolphin Celebration is a MUST if you go. It was totally cheesy music and costume and acting, but the dolphins were a lot of fun and ALL the kids I could see were totally into it. They require singing from the audience and man was it cool to see everyone doing their part! I would HIGHLY recommend going to this if you can. As far as the seats, we were at the top of the lower section, dead in the middle. PERFECT seats. Also, worth noting, the seats were NOT in the splash zone. PERFECT.
Once that was over, though, Baby J decided he’d had enough of this not eating lunch yet business and so we ended up skipping out on the tour. The host said she understood and that he probably wouldn’t have really liked it because it was more of a “how the show is produced” sort of thing than a “see the animals” as much tour. She said the experiences where you pet the animals are way better for the super young and the tour was better for kids who are a little older and might like touching the costumes and meeting actors.
*NOTE: When leaving the dolphin show, take the door to the right of the tank. That’s the direct exit. The left side doors just take you to a hall that wraps around behind the seating room and then to the right side of the room.
Once we left, there was a dolphin specific shopping area in front of a viewing window where the kids could stand and see the dolphins underwater. I say kids, but I totally used mine as an excuse to get right up to the window. He thought the floor was cool. I was glued to the dolphins.
We weren’t willing to stand in line for the food there because the line was around the center area once the show let out. It did smell pretty yummy, though! The eating area was in the center of the big atrium and it had plenty of tables and chairs.
While I made my way to the souvenir shop, hubby went to go get our picture developed. The pictures were super cute and he even got a little frame himself for one of the small shots. (So thoughtful, that one.) Our photo package and frame totaled about $35.
All in all, I’d say you can expect to spend at least $200 for a family of three. J was free and I had a media pass, but the extras can add up if you’re not careful. Was it worth it? I’d say yes, but not as an every month type of outing. I’ll probably wait a couple of years before we go again because he’ll be a priced ticket next time because of his age and his attention span is just not quite $50-ticket-cost long yet. (Tickets range from $29.95 – $35.95)
*Editor note: If you’re a local or you plan to go more than a few times in a year a Membership definitely makes a LOT of sense!
If you are looking for a fun date experience, I’d say this would be great for that, too. Families make up most of who you’ll see there, but if you take a vacation to Atlanta, a date trip over to the aquarium would be a great way to be sure you get to see and enjoy all it has to offer.
Tips for visiting the Georgia Aquarium
1. Call ahead to confirm showtimes for things you really want to see.
2. Purchasing online saves you a few bucks, but not everything can be purchased ahead of time.
3. Send someone to get you seats at the dolphin show early.
4. Smile when you see a camera.
5. The hands-on animal experiences are better for the younger kids than the behind the scenes tour.
6. Don’t go out of the doors in the gift shop until you’re absolutely sure you won’t need back in. (Potty, anyone?)
7. The staff all said that the toddler time was a lot of fun, if your schedule allows for it. (Or if the weather will cooperate with your time of arrival.)
8. Most importantly—-Dolphins are awesome. They just are. Ok, maybe that’s just my opinion.
Plan your own visit!
Daily hours vary, so be sure to check the calendar.
Buy tickets here.
What was your family’s favorite part of the Georgia Aquarium?