Atlanta, GA — It’s not every day you can visit a 10-million  gallon aquarium.  In fact, this is the only place in the world you can do it. The Georgia Aquarium, at the edge of Atlanta’s Olympic Centennial Park, houses tens of thousands of aquatic species, including whale sharks — the largest fish in the word — and the first and only manta rays in a U.S. aquarium. Not to mention a plethora of penguins, sea otters, beluga whales and soon, dolphins.  At 604,000 square feet, it’s an impressive facility.  You view the sea life through huge acrylic windows, which are seventeen times stronger than glass, but most importantly, there’s NO distortion.

The Georgia Aquarium opened 5 years ago, funded primarily by a 250-million dollar donation by the founder of The Home Depot and another $100 million from presenting sponsors. Coca-Cola donated the land, so the nonprofit aquarium opened completely debt-free.

If you’re on a motorcycle trip through the state, it’s a great stop. You also might want to visit the World of Coca-Cola next door, and CNN headquarters–which offers studio tours– is nearby. I came to Atlanta to attend TravelSouth Showcase, a tourism conference, where I met with tourism directors from 11 Southern states to get ideas and assistance for future motorcycle travel articles. Among the activities, attendees were offered a behind-the-scenes aquarium tour, something that can also be arranged (at additional cost) with a public tour. Among the aquarium’s other special programs are a “Swim and Dive” program — called “Journey with Gentle Giants”– where you can swim with the whale sharks, manta rays and fish.

Behind the scenes, we walked through the pump and filtration room,  past the diagnostic and water quality lab, and the veterinary lab, which looks a lot like a hospital’s operating room. We also got a sneak peek at the soon-to-be-opened dolphin attraction, a new wing of the facility with an 1800-seat theater that will offer a dolphin show with lighting, music and special effects, along with live actors and animal trainers.

My favorite  exhibit is called “Ocean Voyager,” where the whale sharks and manta rays live. Walking through its 100-foot long acrylic tunnel you’ll see the  impressive sea creatures swimming over and around you, and then you’ll go into a huge room with a viewing window that’s the largest  in the western hemisphere.

This aquarium really packs a  huge “wow” factor. “No one says learning has to be boring,” Mackenzie Whalen of the aquarium’s public relations staff told us. “We hope people are engaged and inspired here.”

I definitely was!


Georgia Aquarium

225 Baker St. NW

Atlanta, GA 30313

Behind the scenes

Veterinary clinic

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

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  1. Tiffany Karabaich

    March 9, 2011

    It’s nice to see the Aquarium coming along. If the sea otters were out on their new exhibit, the female, Gracie, was an animal I worked with a few years ago. She’s still my favorite!

    • Travelin' Gringo

      March 9, 2011

      Tiffany, the sea otters were the best — they reminded me of my dogs, the way they are so playful!

  2. Lorna - the roamantics

    February 28, 2011

    these photos are OUTRAGEOUS!!! so incredible glen!!! had no idea the atlanta aquarium was the biggest. hope to be making my way through there soon and will have to check it out 🙂
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Eureka! An Off-Beat Dream Leads to a Road Trip There

  3. Wilson Usman

    February 27, 2011

    wow, I’ve always wanted to be under one of these aquariums or I mean inside one of them. Dude you seem to be doing some awesome crazy shit I love this blog. My first time here.

    It’s nice to know that ATL has the biggest aquarium, I would have never thought of that.

  4. Jeremy B

    February 27, 2011

    Wow, never would have thought the biggest aquarium would be in Atlanta – when it’s not even that close to an ocean! 🙂
    Jeremy B recently posted..Budget Travel Intentions says goodbye

  5. Nick Laborde

    February 26, 2011

    I’ve lived in Atlanta for five years and I still haven’t been there yet. I should probably go ahead and slap my self right now 😉
    Nick Laborde recently posted..The undeniable power of travel and why size doesn’t matter

  6. Cathy Sweeney

    February 26, 2011

    That’s really impressive! I’ve been to Shedd Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium which are very cool, too. You got some very nice photos, too!
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday – Swiss Charm

  7. Ayngelina

    February 26, 2011

    Spectacular photos, I can´t choose which one I like best.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Don’t hate me because I’m lazy

  8. Rease

    February 26, 2011

    This place looks fantastic. I love aquariums and this place clearly knows how to make an amazing one.
    Rease recently posted..How to Not Be an Asshole American

  9. Kelly

    February 25, 2011

    Awesome! I love aquariums, and these photos are so cool!

  10. Migrationology

    February 25, 2011

    Wow, that is huge. I love the picture of the tunnel!
    Migrationology recently posted..Tanzanian Cultural Messages on Wall Murals in Dar Es Salaam

  11. Grace

    February 24, 2011

    I heard about their program where you can dive with the marine life. It’s on my to do list =) Great photos!
    Grace recently posted..Finding Wisdom from an Idiot Abroad

  12. Michael Figueiredo

    February 24, 2011

    Terrific article, Glen! I never knew that Atlanta had the biggest aquarium in the world. My best friend moved there a couple years ago and I’m going to visit him this spring. I’ll have to check it out for sure. I was just at Sea World in San Diego this past weekend, but that is more of an amusement park than an aquarium. It’s really amazing to go through one of those underwater tubes to see the fish swimming above.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday- Flamingoes &amp Rainbow

    • Travelin' Gringo

      February 24, 2011

      Thanks Michael, the aquarium is very cool and well worth a visit if you’re in Atlanta!

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