Saturday, May 10, 2014

Georgia Aquarium

The harsh fact is that most cities around the world (and especially ones in the United States) are pretty generic. There are only a few that have unique features to separate them from the countless other cities you'd find anywhere.

For example, New Orleans is very distinctive with its architecture, history and cuisine. New York is obviously famous for its energy, nightlife and famous landmarks.

But when you get to cities like Dallas, Denver and Atlanta, you start to wonder if there's some amazing secret local culture that you're just missing out on because you're a tourist. Then you come to realize that their local gems (a great breakfast joint, a children's museum, a hip new mixologist bar, a beautiful park) are all pretty standard from city to city. It becomes readily apparent when you look at the postcards they sell at the airport shops, and there's nothing really that noteworthy on any of them aside from a nondescript skyline.

So while I originally put Atlanta on this list, I will say that it does have one redeeming feature - the Georgia Aquarium! Now, I'm definitely not a rookie when it comes to Aquariums. I've been to my fare share including, ones in Chicago, Houston and even Bangkok. And despite those others being pretty standard, the Georgia Aquarium is hands down the best one of them all!

For $35.95/adult, tickets here are definitely not cheap. Thankfully, I'm still 2.5 years old and didn't have to pay $29.95 for a children's ticket. But if there were ever an aquarium worth that steep price, this one would be it.

Why is it so great you ask?

Reason #1
It's HUGE. Not just the physical footprint of the facility, which is pretty large. But the exhibits are all massive. When it opened in 2005, it had the title of the World's Largest Aquarium.

You're not looking at a small glass tank embedded in a wall made to look like a rock cave. You're just looking at a massive glass wall, as if you were looking at a cross section of the Great Barrier Reef. And it's not just huge because I'm a 39" toddler. Adults would also find it incredibly massive as well.

Reason #2
There are TONS of fish. I've been to the zoo several times and whenever you look at the sea lion exhibit or the walrus exhibit, it's a massive tank with 2 or 3 animals who like to hide in the dark corners at the far end of the tank, so you can barely see them at all.

The Georgia Aquarium must have read my mind, because all their exhibits are FILLED with fish. The Georgia Aquarium contains between 100,000 and 120,000 fish and other sea creatures, representing more than five hundred species.

It's hard to believe that so many fish could co-exist in a single (albeit massive) tank. There was never a time you'd look at an empty space. Every view had a ton of colorful fish that captivated my wide (for an Asian girl) eyes.

Reason #3
They have amazing fish that you simply don't get to see at other aquariums. Every aquarium has sting rays, clown fish, a sea turtle and a few small reef sharks.

But the Georgia Aquarium's notable specimens include four young whale sharks, four beluga whales, eleven bottlenose dolphins, and four manta rays. I mean, seriously, when's the last time you saw a real life Whale Shark?

Reason #4
Great glass tunnels. I've seen these glass tunnels before in Bangkok and other aquariums, but because of Reasons #1, #2 and #3 above, these glass tunnels were a lot better than most. While I didn't get to see this particular sawfish in the tunnel, I did see it swimming around in another tank, so I can verify it exists.

There were also several "tunnels" aside from the main one. There was a smaller on in the River section where you could see beneath the freshwater bottom feeder. Not a remarkable exhibit in and of itself, but just wanted to highlight the fact that the Aquarium went to such lengths for what would otherwise be a "basic" exhibit.

Reason #5
The live Dolphin Show was pretty wonderful. I will say that there are parts of the show that I found scary (dark, thunder sounds, fake lightning). In fact, there were times during the 20 minute show where I got scared and asked my father to take me outside, but he kept my focus on the dolphins.

Overall the show was pretty good. My father didn't really care for the plot of the show, but the dolphin tricks were amazing for my 2.5 year old tastes. And oh, by the way, I love dolphins now.

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