Friday, August 11, 2006

The Georgia Aquarium: Our Experience

Yesterday, I took the boys to Atlanta to visit the new Georgia Aquarium.

Let me just say, first of all, that if you ever get the chance to go, take it. It is really an amazing place with many animals that you would usually never see in your lifetime. And if you can find a kid to bring, even better. My kids' enthusiasm made the trip worth it. But I am getting ahead of myself.

To get the kids geared up to go, we went to the G.A.'s website where there were pictures and a description of the types of things we would see there. The boys picked out a few different animals that they were specifically looking forward to seeing. The two whale sharks, Alice and Trixie, were tops on that list; starfish, swordfish, hammerhead sharks, and sting rays were some of the others. Then I purchased our tickets online and printed them at home. I highly recommend doing this because we just walked right in the front doors instead of having to wait up to an hour in line to get tickets.

I loved that they have their own parking deck ($10). I didn't have to find a spot in downtown Atlanta and walk several blocks to get there. The building's layout was genius! It had an extremely large central "hall" from which you could access all 5 of the exhibits, the cafe, and the gift shop. You just picked where you wanted to go, and when you were done, came back into the hall to decide where to next. You could easily go back to a favorite exhibit without having to go against the flow of traffic. Plus, if one place was crowded you could go to the next. And best of all, I loved being able to pick the order. That way, we got to see all of the kids' favorites first when they were still happy and really excited. It is so kid-friendly! They have an indoor obstacle course and huge whale slide which was a great place to let the kids run around free for a while before going back to the exhibits. The cafe serves a big variety of food so everyone can find something they like. Of course, the prices will make you choke... The gift shop was very bright and cheerful with lots of great souvenirs. I bought a Christmas tree ornament, Baker got a set of 11 toy underwater animals, Noah got a stuffed Great White Shark (named Sharky-Patricia) and Jacob got a stuffed Whale Shark (Alice).

So anyway, when we first got there, the boys were jumping up and down, they were so excited. Every little fish had them pointing and screaming, "Look, mom, a FISH!" It was great. We went to the Ocean Voyager exhibit first to see the whale sharks. You go through this 100-foot tunnel with glass on all sides and first you notice the thousands of bright fish, but then we saw the enormous whale sharks swim right over us! Baker and Noah were in awe. They jumped up and down, pointed, looked up with their mouths open, and had such light in their eyes! It was priceless. That reaction is why God made nature so beautiful, I think. I can't imagine He ever gets tired of seeing His children be amazed at His creation. Then a hammerhead shark swam up right beside us, then a saw-nosed fish... these were very BIG moments for us, so exciting! Then a school of sting rays, which Noah calls "sting-razors," went over. The wows just didn't end in that amazing tunnel. When we got out of the tunnel, we went around to the other side of that exhibit where there was an enormous wall of glass and we got to get a bigger view of the tank and all the life inside it. That Ocean exhibit is worth all the money and time it takes to go to the G.A.

After that, we went in the Coral Reef exhibit, which was beautiful. The displays were more like art than real-life. It was amazing. Then we went to lunch, then the Georgia Explorer exhibit, which has the play-place and lots of different "touch-tanks." Noah touched a shrimp, a starfish, and a baby HAMMERHEAD SHARK! He was so proud that he got to do that! Baker and I touched the sting rays, which I thought felt so good! Maybe now I won't be so afraid of them when I'm swimming in the ocean... Then we did the Cold water exhibit, and there I found my favorite: Beluga Whales! There were five of them in one huge tank, but one in particular was being very social. It seemed to be looking at us and smiling, and nodding its head, and doing tricks, even posing for us! It was everyone's favorite animal. We saw sea lions, and penguins, and an octopus, too.

By this time we had been there 3 hours, and the little ones were getting cranky. So we made our way to the the exit. It was a very fun place that we won't soon forget, and I can't wait to scrapbook all of the pictures!

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