- Add the IMAX to your aquarium visit for $6 per person
- Add Creative Discovery Museum for Kids for $10 per person
- An annual family pass is only $115. Depending on how many kids you have, this could pay for itself in one visit.
Photos: For additional photos of the Tennessee Aquarium, visit Field Trips with Sue on Facebook
The Tennessee Aquarium is located in downtown Chattanooga along the waterfront. It’s a beautiful location, and although the recommended time for visiting on the website is two hours, you could easily stay most of the day – in fact, we did.
The Tennessee Aquarium is housed in five different buildings, so it’s more of a campus than a single destination. Purchase tickets at the ticket center building, then choose between River or Ocean Journey – each are located in different buildings next to each other. Your ticket allows entry to both buildings and you can come and go as you please, so when the kids get hungry, just take a break and head down the street to Lupi’s Pizza and come back after lunch, just remember your ticket. Saturdays are the busiest day at the Aquarium and mornings are more hectic on any day. Come after 4 pm if you want to avoid crowds. We went during spring break and although there were a lot of people, everyone was spread out and there were lots of special programs to keep things moving.
The building you choose to visit first depends on what you want to see. River Journey is focused on habitats along the world’s rivers. It features the newest exhibit put together in conjunction with National Geographic called River Giants. There is also an impressive diversity of turtles – who knew the world had so many different kinds of turtles! This building also houses Ranger Rick’s Backyard Safari, a bright gallery set up for up close and personal animal interactions. Check the schedule for show times so you don’t miss this opportunity. We saw a bird show; volunteer your dollar and you’ll get it back with a fun Aquarium sticker.
Ocean Journey you’ve probably guessed focuses on ocean habitats. They have a wonderful penguin display that includes a chilly example of the water they swim in. It was hard to get my son away from watching the penguins, so he was a natural during our backstage tour of the penguin habitat where we helped observe the Macaroni and Gentoo penguins for research. The Aquarium has several different backstage tours. If you’d rather go it on your own, there is a cell phone tour of select galleries available as well.
I always love finding art displayed in places I don’t expect. Ocean Journey has a gorgeous display of glass inspired by the sea. It was easy to see the inspiration for the art with the ocean creatures swimming next to the artwork.
A short walk from the Journey buildings is an IMAX theatre. This is a separate ticket and can be purchased at a discount with your aquarium tickets or individually. When purchased with the aquarium it’s a flexible ticket, meaning you can go to any showing you’d like, instead of being confined to a specific time, which makes for a more leisurely afternoon in the aquarium galleries. All my boys loved the IMAX movie, which was something I’m usually tempted to skip. I’m glad we didn’t. I can highly recommend Into the Wild. To the Artic is good too, but Into the Wild left me more hopeful, less sad.
River Gorge Explorer
Also included in the campus is the River Gorge Explorer, a two-hour cruise down the Chattanooga riverfront into the scenic Tennessee River Gorge aboard a high-tech boat. We didn’t have time to experience this boat ride, which is an additional fee, but it looks interesting and probably a good overview of the Chattanooga Riverfront in addition to offering a unique view of the Tennessee River Gorge.
I can see why the Tennessee Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in Chattanooga. They offer an amazing value for the ticket price and I love the flexibility within their ticket system. I feel like we only scratched the surface – guess we’ll need a return trip soon.
Although we were provided a complimentary attraction tickets for the purpose of reviewing it (as is common in the travel industry), we only recommend places we would visit.