Heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee for a road trip? You may want to check out the Tennessee Aquarium for a visit with the fish, penguins, rain forest creatures and more!
Find a place to stay in Chattanooga, TN. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.
What do you need to know about the Tennessee Aquarium?
Once you reach the aquarium, you will find two buildings. River Journey features freshwater fish and animals, and Ocean Journey features saltwater animals and fish. The ticket office is located outside of these two building, across the plaza.
River Journey has four floors, each full of a wide selection of hands-on exhibits, animals, and of course, aquariums teeming with aquatic wildlife. The tour begins at the top of the building in the Appalachian Cove Forest exhibit to give visitors a sense of the source of the Tennessee River. The River Journey then takes you from exhibit to exhibit as you follow the river water and wildlife to the final destination of the Gulf of Mexico.
Perhaps, the most unique feature is an open hallway system in the middle of the building that allows your children to visualize the river life from top to bottom.
River Journey also includes a Rivers of the World exhibit where you can experience animals and fish from river systems from around the world. Expect to see much more than just fish but also frogs, birds, lizards, and otters. It’s not unusual to even spot a scuba diver cleaning the tanks.
After eating a picnic lunch outside, we entered my personal favorite section of the Tennessee Aquarium, Ocean Journey. Before we even started seeing exhibits, we were amazed by the beautiful view from the top of Ocean Journey’s windowed wall where you could sit in a rocking chair and view the Chattanooga River.
Ocean Journey begins in a miniature Rain Forest with a large Stingray petting tank, exotic birds, and jungle flora.
The tour then took us through a Butterfly Garden, Arctic Exhibit (complete with penguins), and into the depths of the ocean. The tall tanks spanned multiple floors and contained sharks and sea turtles. Near the end of the building, we saw an amazing jellyfish exhibit lit by black lights.
Our children in particular loved the Butterfly Garden. There was even a glass panel where you could watch butterflies hatching from their cocoons.
We took our time going through the exhibits, and I estimate that we spent close to 4 hours touring the Tennessee Aquarium not counting the time we spent eating lunch.
Tips for Visiting the Tennessee Aquarium
Be sure to get a map with a list of the shows so that you can time your tour to see any shows that you are interested in.
If the weather is nice, pack a picnic lunch. Outside the aquarium is a fun river themed area. The day we went was chilly and the water was not running but my understanding is that on a warm day children could play in interactive water area. Our kids enjoyed climbing on the different structures outside.
The Tennessee Aquarium also has a 3D IMAX studio. You can purchase tickets separately or at a discounted price with your aquarium tickets.
A breastfeeding room is located on the bottom floor of River Journey.
Combination tickets are available that allow you to purchase aquarium tickets with other attractions for a discount.
You will find several parking garages near the aquarium with a day max of $9. Chattanooga has a free shuttle service if you don’t want to move your car but want to visit a different part of the city.
The Riverbank playground is located within an easy walk from the Tennessee Aquarium and offers a great view of the river.
Tennessee Aquarium Quick Facts
Website: Tennessee Aquarium
Times: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ticket Cost: $34.95 for adults, $21.95 for children (3-12), and children 2 and under are free
Parking: Several paid lots near the aquarium, with a free shuttle service.