Justin and I realized that we have not taken a family outing in a while and looked for family friendly destinations in Georgia. Having three children can certainly get expensive so we wanted something that was an easy drive for our three-year-old but still entertaining to our preteens.
We looked to Atlanta since it is around two hours away and has many entertainment options. We settled on taking them to the Georgia Aquarium. Ryder, our three-year-old has never been and our other two have been a few times before.
The Georgia Aquarium is a non-profit, accredited aquarium that houses over 10 million gallons of water and focuses on aquatic research and conservation. You can learn more about their efforts on their website.
Justin and I have been to the aquarium by ourselves before but this was the first time taking all three children. We learned quite a bit from our little adventure.
If you’re like me the first thing you want to know is how much you’re looking at spending on this whole thing. Prepare to spend A LOT. My heart hurt when I figured out so much we spent on the entire trip. I’ll explain my opinion about it later in the post.
Tickets and Day of the Week
Buy your tickets online. The ticket kiosk and booths are insane when we arrived. Granted, it was a Saturday so you would expect it to be crowded but wow. I was so happy I purchased the tickets ahead of time on their website. We could move right through the line and straight into security without waiting in another line to buy tickets. This was a lifesaver with a three-year-old that does not wait in lines very well.
You have a few choices on their website as far as ticket pricing goes. You can purchase the “Early Bird” which saves you a few dollars if you go before 11 a.m., the “General Admission” which is regular price and allows you flexibility to enter between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and then they have the “Imagination Night” for those coming after 4 p.m. which are the cheapest tickets they offer.
I didn’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to get ready so we went with the flexible option. I purchased two adult and three kid tickets. Ryder is considered old enough for a child ticket.
The website also gives you the option to purchase your pass ($15) to park in the “official” aquarium parking deck. I wanted to be efficient so I went ahead and purchased it.
Ticket Total: $189.00 (stings just a little)
The car ride to the aquarium was very uneventful (read: thankful). We managed to get through without any traffic jams until we got into downtown Atlanta. There was construction happening right in front of the aquarium’s main entrance. The atmosphere was
friendly as people cut off other people trying to figure out where in the heck they were going. Siri was her usual accurate self and navigated us all the way around the block to the parking deck when all we had to do is turn right about three miles back. It was glorious.
We entered the parking deck and began having serious doubts that the top of our truck was not going to clear the extremely low ceiling. I said a quick prayer every time we passed a beam overhead because I knew we were not going to make it. We eventually did and parked five stories up. The elevator down to the entrance of the aquarium was as long as a Disney World line so we opted to take the stairs.
We were corralled like cows through the lines of those who had and those who had not (read: tickets or need to get tickets). Luckily, we were the good cows with tickets and were escorted through the security line and then they scanned our tickets.
The actual aquarium is impressive when you walk in. The sections are joined by a main lobby area and labeled with big signage. We went straight into the area with the huge fish tanks and enjoyed how much the kids loved to watch the animals. Each section was beautiful. You can tell how much they love animals and their passion for conservation and education.
The massive wall where you can view the most aquatic life is breathtaking. There is a huge variety of animals swimming around in the tank. In case you didn’t know…this is where baby shark and grandpa shark live (according to Ryder).
Here is where the amazing feeling ended…lunch was crazy expensive! Our bill came out to $68.51 for two cheeseburgers, chicken tenders, a jumbo hotdog, and drinks. Ryder was too excited to eat so he grazed on our plates. I can tell you the food was definitely not worth $68. All of it was cold and the portions were not very big. I understand it’s a tourist attraction but wow.
But wait! There’s good news about our lunch! They do keep in mind the parents with the restless children! They serve a small selection of beer and wine. Granted…you’re going to pay for the luxury but it is what it is. My lovely husband informed me there was gin and tonic AFTER I had passed the drink stand and was explaining to Ryder why we had to actually stop and eat lunch and not go straight to the penguins. I had to
calmly explain that the penguins were eating their lunch too and we couldn’t go see them yet. Apparently, I’m a horrible liar and he didn’t believe that for one second. Justin’s 16oz IPA was a whopping $7. Parental sanity comes at a high price these days.
Total: $68.61 (ouchhhhhhh)
The penguins FINALLY finished lunch and off we went. Justin was tasked with crawling through the itty bitty tunnel with the children to have an up close and personal (as personal as you can get with several feet of plexiglass) with the penguins. I gave him the Hunger Games salute as Ryder began freaking out towards the middle of the tunnel and wanted to get out. I was the supportive wife on the outside looking in by telling him to push him through to the end. He’ll love it once he gets there. Bless my husband’s heart. Turns out he did and it was worth the experience. Ryder still talks about seeing the penguins in their “living room.”
Since the children were extremely well behaved during the trip we allowed them to pick one time from the gift shop with a spending limit. The two big kids picked out stuffed animals that will get lost into the abyss known as their rooms and the little one picked out a sea life play set. I have not seen the poor stuffed animals but the play set creatures have a permanent home in my bathtub. So magical.
Souvenir Total: $66.00 (Hey, aquarium people…you need to check your heart)
TRIP TOTAL: $323.61
Was it worth it?
The facility is absolutely amazing and seeing animals you never would otherwise was a great experience for our kids. I would recommend going on a Sunday for lower crowd sizes. Our three-year-old liked all the exhibits but was ready to move onto the next one after a few minutes. I think our older ones had a good time but we had to tell them no to a few other things that cost extra money (virtual reality ride was a big one). In my opinion, it will be a while before we visit again. I think other attractions would be worth the money we spent on the aquarium.
Overall, it was great to get out with our kids and we made some great memories.