We arrived at the Aquarium around 10:30am CST (11:30am at the Aquarium). In case you missed the last post, we went during Spring Break. You would assume that the powers that be at the Aquarium would have scheduled workers appropriately being that it was indeed Spring Break, but alas, they did not. We quickly realized as we stood OUTSIDE in the SNOW (in APRIL) that we should have bought tickets online. We seriously waited at least 30 minutes in line because they had TW0 people selling tickets. We bought the combo tickets for the Aquarium and the Imax movie "Under the Sea". You will also need to remember that you have to pay for parking at the aquarium.
The Chattanooga Aquarium consists of two buildings. The first, original building features animals from the river. The second, newer building features animals from the ocean. We hit the ocean building first. We were so excited to get in out of the cold! You immediately take an escalator to the top of the building where you have a stunning view of the Tennessee River. You go into a humid room that starts off featuring stingrays and then the Macaws. From there, we saw a HUGE area where you could pet the stingrays and the sharks. The kids (and adults) LOVED this. We spent a good thirty minutes here feeling the animals. In my opinion, the stingrays felt like pickled okra. Luke thought the sharks felt like hot dogs. It was also at this point that we ran into my old boss and his family. After spending a few minutes with them, it was back to chasing down the stingrays. I was so worried about touching one that I forgot to pull up my sleeve. Yes, so I spent the next few hours walking around with a sweater wet up to elbow. Lovely.
Our next stop was the Butterfly Room which is really cool. The kids ran around like crazy checking out the butterflies. Papa Eddie discovered the hatchery that showed the butterflies at various stages of them hatching.
The rest of the building featured awesome displays of penquins (those suckers can dive!), sharks, and one of the coolest tanks I have ever seen.
We were getting hungry for lunch so we headed across the street to Genghis Grill. If you plan to spend the day at the Aquarium, you should note that although there is on site food, it is pricey and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance including TGI Fridays, Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, and Genghis Grill. We had a yummy lunch and then it was time to tour the second building.
In this building, you start in the basement and then go up to the top and work your way back down. This is also the building where they take your picture when you walk in that you are able to buy at the end for the bargain price of $21.95 (I'm being sarcastic) Everyone loved the exhibits on turtles, seahorses, blue catfish, etc. Yes, this green thing is a fish:
After being in this building for an hour, it was time to leave to catch our Imax movie. The theatre is up a block from the aquarium so you can definitely walk.
The theatre is very clean and has a neat little gift shop. I got some Dippin Dots and Anna got a slush puppy complete with souvenir cup. They offer popcorn, fountain drinks, etc but since we had literally just eaten an hour before, no one else wanted anything.
The movie is 3D so the kids loved the glasses. We got there about 30 minutes before the show so we were one of the first to enter the theatre. We were able to get seats right smack in the middle about halfway up. The theatre got pretty full so you will definitely want to get there early if you are with a larger group and want to try to sit together. The movie was great, but I could see it being very scary for a child younger than 5. At several points in the movie, a fish will eat it's prey which is sort of gross and definitely loud and frightening for the younger crowd. I think the movie lasted about 40 minutes. Of course, as you exit you have to go through the gift shop so if you get there late, no fear, you will have plenty of time to browse after the movie.
We headed back to the river building and finished our self guided tour. Everyone had a great time and as you can tell, we captured some great pictures. I love my kids facial expressions, especially later in the day once they were truly sick of taking pics.
I bet you can guess that you exit this building by going through the gift shop huh? We got souvenirs for Anna and Isaac here, but Luke kept talking about a red wolf (yes, a red wolf) he had seen at the Imax gift shop. We headed back over there where we found the red wolf and a book for Mary Elizabeth. I'm pretty sure we're the only family who goes to an aquarium and buys a stuffed animal of a red wolf. (side note: the red wolf has not left his side in 48 hours)
Our day at the aquarium was officially over and it was time to head to the hotel. We ended up eating at a yummy restaurant 3 blocks from the Aquarium that night. It was called Sticky Fingers and definitely a great place to eat in downtown Chattanooga if you like ribs!
Off to the next post about our hotel...