A day at the Chattanooga Aquarium
What better way to spend Summer Break than exploring the Chattanooga Aquarium in Chattanooga, TN. Chattanooga is located in southeastern Tennessee, so it’s only about an hour and a half hour drive from Murfreesboro.
The short drive from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga put the aquarium at the top of my vacation choices for Madison and Camille because my girls don’t fall asleep as soon as the tires hit the highway, the shorter the car ride, the better for my sanity.
We arrived in Chattanooga around 11:00 am, picked up our tickets from will call which is directly across the from the aquarium and made our way into the Aquarium. The Aquarium is broken into two parts: saltwater and freshwater and you decide which part you would like to explore first.
We started our journey in the freshwater aquarium and according to their website they are the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. My daughter’s Madison and Camille were excited to see the playful river otters, colorful frogs, slow-moving turtles and the freshwater fish included trout, giant catfish and prehistoric looking sturgeon.
Once we entered the aquarium the very first thing we saw were the most beautiful blue Macaws. The hyacinth macaw is the largest member of the parrot family. These macaws are social birds and generally live in pairs or small groups.
They are extremely faithful and share the tasks of raising their young. The hyacinth macaw’s natural lifespan is estimated to be 30 to 50 years or more. Males tend to be much larger than females. This macaw’s beak is the most powerful of all birds and is used to crack hard palm nuts, which is their main diet.
As soon as you pass the Macaws you will see Stingray bay which is the Aquarium’s largest touch station, with more than 100 feet of shoreline which allows guests to touch several different stingray species while staff members share interesting facts about these animals.
We were able to see river otters, turtles, frogs, snakes, alligators and more. You can also see all kinds of freshwater fish including some of the largest catfish I’ve ever seen in my life. Our next stop was the Butterfly Garden which is extremely hands-on and you’ll be surrounded by stunningly beautiful butterflies such as the tawny owl, Atlas moth, and monarch.
My daughters loved being able to be surrounded by butterflies dancing and fluttering all around them while trying to decide which butterfly was more stunning.
The next exhibit we encountered was of the sturgeons. The lake sturgeon is a species that has remained prehistoric looking since swimming alongside the dinosaurs. Sturgeons population has declined over recent years due to pollution and overharvesting.
These prehistoric looking creatures can live for up to 150 years and they do not have typical teeth but instead have wide “crushing plates” in the back of their throats that they use these to crush clams, mussels, and crustaceans. The Tennessee Aquarium is working to reintroduce the lake sturgeon into the Knoxville, Tennessee and the Cumberland River near Nashville.
My daughter and I spent one hour in the Freshwater Aquarium side. I am sure you can spend more time if you wanted. We did miss the bird show, when we were downstairs we had a 45-minute wait, but the show began on our descent down the ramps. I believe it would have been awesome to see the bird show.
The Salt Water, ocean aquarium is there newer one. All I can remember is the fresh water from when I was in high school. Of course that visit was 20 years ago. You keep going up and up several sets of escalators to the top. While you are in the salt water side you can pet String Rays, Shark, Bignose Unicornfish, Coral Catshark, Shovelnose Guitar Fish and more.
While we were touring the ocean we go tot see the divers. They had a dive show. We got to see 2 divers and hear them talk and share. The one diver said he could stay in the water forever. He had a safety diver that can change out his tank. He said it is safe in the tank as well. He shared that they feed the sharks 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They have a dock just above where we were standing.
They also have penguins on display. They soon will have new baby penguins. They are still in their eggs at this time of this post.
The salt water aquarium area to me didn’t seem to have as much, especially compared to the fresh water.
My daughter and I also spent almost an hour in the salt water aquarium side.
I believe they seem to have more than just aquarium animals. They seem to have a bit more than the normal aquariums I have visited. I believe this has been my favorite aquarium that I have visited yet because of the huge variety they have on exhibit. I enjoyed the fresh water side much more than the salt water. That is just my personal opinion. I think the Fresh water aquarium has a much smoother flow and seemed to have more to see. If you have a flare for the fresh water then I highly recommend the Tennessee Aquarium.
Also if you park close by, it cost $9 for 2 hours parking. I got lucky the day I visited, the meter was showing Free Parking. This may not always be the case. I do hear they have parking in other locations in downtown and shuttles that run.
I did see staff regularly and in most of all the areas and exhibits. These staff were very helpful and friendly. One staff even told me the Tennessee Aquarium treats them well. Two staffers shared they get to pick the stations they want when they come in. Plus another shared they get discounts to area stuff for working there. So their staff seem to be happy staff.
Also arrive early, the lines build up fast to get inside!
Tennessee Aquarium also offers education lessons. So if you home school another great place for your educational lessons.
Over all we spent just around 2 hours touring both the fresh and the salt water aquariums at the Tennessee Aquarium.
One other thing you can do in between going to the two different parts of the aquarium is it in the courtyard there is a few restaurants I noticed in the courtyard. In these restaurants have no affiliation with the Tennessee Aquarium either.
You can add on to your standard tickets to include a River Gorge, an IMax 3D film, back stage passes and more.