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Best Things to Do at the Georgia Aquarium – Downtown Atlanta Attractions

Visiting the Georgia Aquarium? Here’s everything you need to know.

I shook my leg in anticipation. While others asked questions about the African Penguins my eyes stayed fix on the door handle. A few more questions are asked that I can barely focus on when suddenly the door flies open. The moment was here! I see a blur of white and black and there he was, the penguin we were meeting face to face.

Best Things to Do at the Georgia Aquarium / Georgia Aquarium Tips / Downtown Atlanta Attractions // Local Adventurer

Thank you, Georgia Aquarium, for hosting our visit. As always, all opinions are our own. This post may contain affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on sales of the products that are linked at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure for more info. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Local Adventurer possible.

Last Updated: November 24, 2023

Best THings to Do at the Georgia Aquarium

I still remember when the announcement was made that Atlanta, my hometown, was getting an aquarium, and not just any aquarium, but one of the largest ones in the world! I always loved going to aquariums as a kid and am still fascinated with the crazy creatures that live under the sea.

The Georgia Aquarium has the most aquatic life compared to any other aquarium. They live in over 10 million gallons of water. No matter what you’re interested in, you’re bound to find something that fascinates you.

Since it’s one of Atlanta’s biggest attractions, when friends come into town, we usually end up here and the Coke Museum next door. A couple weeks ago, we went with Amy.

Self Guided Exhibits

There are four main self-guided portions of the Aquarium, and this is the order of our favorites.

1. Ocean Voyager

This is my favorite part of the aquarium. You can watch the Whale Sharks glide through the water from the large viewing window, long tunnel, and plenty of other windows. You really get a feel for what life is like underwater. There are also other sharks, manta rays, and tons of other sea creatures.

See More: Diving in the Georgia Aquarium with Whale Sharks

2. Tropical Diver

This is Esther’s favorite section of the aquarium since she’s obsessed with jellyfish. See one of the largest living reef exhibits in the world, beautiful and mesmerizing jellyfish, and extremely diverse and colorful fish in this area.

See More: Swimming with Stingless Jellyfish

3. Cold Water Quest

Here you will see Beluga whales, sea otters, African penguins and more from the cold oceans.

4. River Scout

Rivers teem with aquatic life. See how diverse they can be and why some of them are called river monsters! Here you will see Asian small-clawed otters, American (some albino) alligators, black spot piranhas, and more.

Shows & Interactive Experiences

There are also a few shows and interactive experiencesat specific times of the day. Photography and Videography are not allowed at these.

Pier 225 (Sea Lions Under the Boardwalk)

Head over to this fun sea lion presentation! The show changes throughout the year but it’s always fun to see what they can do. Make a reservation here.

Best Things to Do at the Georgia Aquarium / Georgia Aquarium Tips / Downtown Atlanta Attractions // Local Adventurer
photo: Georgia Aquarium

Dolphin Tales

See these amazing bottlenose dolphins in action as they fly through the air and interact with their trainers. It’s a fun show for all ages, and it’s a lot more educational than other dolphin shows we’ve seen. There’s a splash zone in the first few rows, and it’s not just a sprinkle. Get tickets here.

Best Things to Do at the Georgia Aquarium / Georgia Aquarium Tips / Downtown Atlanta Attractions // Local Adventurer
photo: Georgia Aquarium

Aquanaut Adventure

This is an interactive and educational journey for kids on the upper floor. There are seven different adventures and It’s only open it’s only open during the afternoons so be sure to check for current hours.

Animal Interactions & Encounters + More

Lastly, there are programs, animal interactions/encounters, and additional ways to enhance your time at the aquarium. All of these have additional fees to the general admission. We’ve done a few already and can’t wait to check out the rest!

Journey with Gentle Giants ($259.99 – 335.99)

If you love the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium, you can snorkel or dive to get even closer to these guys. Check out our experience here.

See More: Diving in the Georgia Aquarium with Whale Sharks

Journey with Gentle Giants - Scuba Dive Georgia Aquarium //

Beluga Interaction Program ($79.99)

Suit up and stand waist-deep in the beluga habitat with the whale trainers. Learn more about the biology of these animals, conservation, training, and more. See details here.

Penguin Encounter ($69.99)

On our latest visit, we did an encounter with an African Penguin (the same ones we saw at Boulder Beach in South Africa)! After learning more about them, the trainers bring a penguin into the room, and everyone lines up to take a photo with him / her. Then they bring a second penguin that’s set down on a 3×3 platform area for them to play, say hello, or whatever he / she wants. Depending on his / her temperament you get a chance to pet him across the back. Check out more of the details here.

Penguin Encounter + Best Things to Do in the Georgia Aquarium / Atlanta Aquarium Tips //

Other Encounters

Sea Otter Encounter ($79.99): Get a behind the scenes look at the sea otter facility, then help prepare a meal for them. You even get to help out with a training session. Plan your encounter here.

Dolphin Encounter ($79.99): Get poolside as you meet and feed a dolphin. Included is a souvenir photo. Learn more here.

Sea Lion Encounter ($79.99): Tour the California sea lion facility and partake in a sea lion training session. Learn more here.

Shark & Ray Interaction ($99.99): Get in the water with sharks and rays and learn more about them. See details here.

Harbor Seal Encounter ($69.99): Go behind the scenes of their Cold Water Quest gallery. Learn more here.

Behind the Seas Tour ($15.99): Ever wonder what the exhibits look like from the other side? Get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes with this tour. You can even book a private VIP tour. Check out the details here.

Sleep Under the Sea (prices vary) – Whether you want to go with friends, family, kids, or adults, the Georgia Aquarium holds sleepovers throughout the year! Check their current calendar to plan your night with the fish.

Essential Tips for the Georgia Aquarium

  • Get your tickets online to save money and skip the ticket purchase line. You do have to pick a specific time and day but can arrive within an hour of that time
  • If you want to avoid crowds, try to go really early or late in the day. Weekdays are way less crowded than weekends.
  • You should give yourself 3-4 hours at the aquarium. That will give you time to see the Dolphin and Sea Lion exhibits along the 4 main sections of the aquarium.
  • Show up to shows early (45 min to an hour before the showing) to get a good seat when it’s busy. Otherwise, you may want to get there 30 minutes before to get a good seat and be ready for the show.
  • If you’ve already seen the shows, go to popular exhibits during the show times since a lot of people will be occupied with the show.
  • Download the app to have all the show times and information easily accessible.
  • The aquarium holds regular events for families, kids, and adults. Check their events page to see what’s coming up.
  • Want to get a glimpse of what you’ll see? Check out their webcams!
  • The official parking deck is $20 per day.
  • If you have a lot with you, you can check in items at the Information Desk for $2 per item.
  • If you’re a member, you get discounts on additional experiences.
  • Get a CITYPass if you plan on going to other attractions. You get 40% off!

Photography Tips

  • You can take photos and videos at the aquarium, but no professional gear (mics, lighting, tripods etc) is allowed without permission.
  • Flash is not allowed at most exhibits since it can distract the animals, please be sure to turn yours off.
  • No photography is allowed during the Dolphin or Sea Lion exhibit.
  • Bring a wide lens since a lot of spaces are tight when it’s crowded.
  • Our setup: Canon 5D Mark III + 35mm Lens.

Where to Stay

Planning Checklist

What’s your favorite thing to see in an aquarium?

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Esther and JacobPin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful article about Atlanta Aquarium.The Aquarium looks it’s home to lot of see animals. Big animals like whales and friendly and cute ones like Dolphins and Penguins and more colorful ones who lives near the corals. And also the Pre historic sea VR show looks awesome. Looks like you guys had a good time there. Thank you for sharing this awesome article with us. Keep travel guys be safe. Cheers.

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