The Tennessee Aquarium - an all-ages show that's actually fun
Last year for our anniversary, The Husband and I went to Disneyworld, one of the items on my bucket list. We had a lot of fun, it was so cool to see people of all ages enjoying Disney but at the same time, it was a really expensive form of birth control. Shrieking children, cranky toddler forced to be awake because dad has a weird obsession with Star Wars - Disneyworld is NOT for kids of every age. Personally it's an 8-years and up type of deal.
The Tennessee Aquarium, however, is a stroller-friendly, baby/toddler/child friendly experience that adults can enjoy because and since it doesn't take all day in the hot sun, your child will not freak out therefore, you won't either. Enjoy yourself as you learn more about Tennessee's natural surroundings, conservation efforts and, oh, lookit! FISHIES!
A little bit about Chattanooga - just two-and-a-half hours away by car, the city of Chattanooga has undergone an overhaul over the past couple of years with the redevelopment of its riverfront. It's a wonderful, pedestrian-friendly area within walking distance of the longest pedestrian bridge in the country, great condos, hotels and, the Tennessee Aquarium. This glass-roofed, two-building facility is home to tons of fish, mammals, insects and reptiles.
$50 gets you two-and-a-half to about three hours (depending on how long you linger and how fascinated you might be) of time and this doesn't include the other activities they offer. You can buy Backstage Passes to participate in special, behind-the-scenes activities like watching the keepers feed otters, meeting animals that aren't yet part of the exhibits and more. Or, take a ride a two-hour riverboat cruise, a guided tour of the river where the guide points out wildlife and tells you more about the river's history. We opted for an easy day just at the aquarium and after sleeping in and a leisurely lunch, we started our experience at the Ocean Journey building and got up close to sting rays, penguins, alligators (oh my!) and other aquatic and land animals.
There are scheduled feedings through the day where people can watch divers hand-feed meat to bull nosed and sandbar sharks in the ocean journey tank. I became unnecessarily squeaky when, at the River Journey side, two keepers showed how to properly train and care for a giant American rabbit. To get an even closer look, you can buy Backstage Passes for some behind-the-scenes tours of the aquarium where you can even feed their two otters!
It doesn't matter which side you start or end your tour on, each building is fascinating to be in with its various exhibits and habitats. Whoever designed the aquarium was extremely thoughtful in planning - each building is built around a giant tank that houses an entire system of fish so you see them in as natural a habitat as a glass tank can provide. The Ocean Journey tank has sharks, rays, puffer fish and other sea life big and small that live with a coral reef and rocks. You start at the top and as you make your way down and around the tank, you can peek through to see the creatures swimming around first from above the water's surface, then lower and lower until finally you're at sand level look up at their bellies and at the bottom dwellers.
As you walk down, each level has more rooms and exhibits with audio and visual aids telling you more about the species, its environment and how we, as humans can help conserve and save the animals from becoming extinct and it's like this with both the river and ocean journeys. Fun AND educational! But you don't have to tell your kids that.
The River Journey was as interesting as the ocean side mostly because pretty much all of the fish and animals come from the Tennessee River and its lakes. Lots of trout, catfish and bass plus frogs, turtles and more. I turned into the kid from Jerry Maguire with my "did you know frog spawn and toad spawn are different and it's easy to tell the difference?" and "An arapaima can grow up to two meters long!" as we walked around. My husband puts up with some weird stuff.
Favorites of the day were seeing a shark up close (through thick, thick glass though), the jellyfish exhibit, the butterfly enclosure and did I mention that all that separated me and a shark was GLASS? I'm still grinning.
We stayed in Chattanooga for two nights but you can really do this in a day what with the short drive and all. But if you choose to do the backstage pass or take a guided tour down the Tennessee River on the River Gorge Explorer, give yourself a bit more time.
You can purchase tickets online or in person at the aquarium. The site also has useful information on where you stay and other attractions in Chattanooga.
The content and opinions expressed on Her à la Mode are not necessarily those of Southcomm or its affiliates and publications. Tabitha is a social media strategist helping local businesses in Nashville build relationships with their customers. She also has a personal blog, Life à la Mode where she shares recipes, restaurant reviews and her random musings.
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