Travel blog by Chuck Wanager
Georgia Aquarium fun but lacks overall togetherness
Rating explanation: Georgia’s big aquarium, the world’s largest gets four out of a possible five stars because while it is large and accommodating, it seems to lack an overall cohesiveness, something that pulls it all together.
For visitor, there are, though, lots of exhibits and marine creatures to see
Stand here in this special Atlanta place for very long and you will soon be flanked by dozens of others, all of you attracted by a show behind a crystal-clear panel. What has you and the others gawking is not what you might think if you haven’t been to Atlanta before or may have just zipped through once on your way to Florida. The display that has attracted attention is not something from the Civil War or antebellum South or modern football. In landlocked Atlanta, it has to do with the water – lots of water, and big mammals.
The big mammals are beluga whales, which can be seen cruising through the deep water of one of the most popular displays in the aquarium with an entrance shaped like a ship’s bow. This is Beluga and Friends where off-white to grayish whales, some of the smaller ones of the whale family, attract a lot of viewers throughout the year. The aquarium is open year-round. Check the attraction’s Web site at http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/ for dates and times.
Some 11 million visitors have seen the whales and the many exhibits – 60 in all – in the six years it has been open. You get to see marine creatures of all types, sizes and species through tall, clear viewing panels. Georgia Aquarium features more animals than any other aquarium in its more than ten million gallons of water.
As you watch the whales glide and swim, and other creatures, too, you relax and get to really take in the place. Other stops include the 4D Theater – Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow, which is presented by AT&T; behind the scenes tours; Journey of the Gentle Giants – where you can swim or SCUBA dive – and Growing Guppies, a learning time for children .
This year a dolphin show has been added, but not before the aquarium itself was expanded to accommodate the playful mammals. As part of your visit, you get to see dolphins underwater through one of the underwater viewing window. Then there is the dolphin-tales theater and a show focusing on the bond between humans and the marine mammal. In addition to showcasing the beauty and agility of dolphins, the show has elaborate costumes and effects – and people actors, too. It has a musical score specially performed for the show.
Check displays at each exhibit for feeding times. These are updated daily
And there is the part that got me when I was there and did when I experienced it at the aquarium in New Orleans – the walk through a large tank brimming with all sorts of creatures, including sharks. You walk along an enclosed space like a long tube under the sea. This tank was teeming with different multi-colored species, which beckon you to stop and stand and watch as the sharks and other giants and lesser life swim by you. But others are walking the tube and you must keep moving.
Atlanta’s world-class attraction receives high marks for its animal- and visitor-friendly displays and the work it does for the creatures, including the up-to-date animal health facility, the Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health. Covering 10,000 sq. ft., the center was designed by leading veterinarian professionals and conservation organizations. It is, according to aquarium officials, the only teaming of an aquarium and a veterinarian teaching hospital. In addition, the aquarium is involved with global environmental and conservation issues and has dedicated a forth of its gallery space to educating students of all ages who visit the aquarium. The education experience is called the Learning Loop.
Parking is adequate. The official Georgia Aquarium parking deck has more than 1,300 space, and covered and rooftop parking is available. Or you can pay for parking online or at the aquarium ticket booths, member’s entrance or information desk.
Despite the well-earned high marks, the aquarium does not have that special something to warrant my top five-star ranking. It does have an overarching theme of displays representing aquatic environments from around the world, but they seem to be just displays after display rather than ones that are well-thought out displays in and of themselves. The general feeling is that these display are just part of a larger tourist attraction. An example of what I am looking for cane be found at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. There, exhibits, such as the one that includes the gorilla, Tropical Africa, seem like they are part of real habitat – although on a modest scale – for the great apes. They roam what seems like an actual chunk of an African high-land world.