Our little two-year-old, Bean, has been really getting into ocean life lately. Especially due to movies like Finding Dory and certain songs you may have heard (doo doo doo doo doo doo.) So an aquarium seemed like a natural fit. Luckily, we live within range of one of the biggest ones in the world, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, GA. Here we are with our tips and must-see attractions for a toddler at the Georgia Aquarium.
(Thank you to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Georgia Aquarium for their hospitality. They also provided tickets for our family, so we can share our experience and provide tips for our readers to have the best possible experience. Although they did provide free tickets, all opinions are our own.)
Must-See Attractions for a Toddler at the Georgia Aquarium
It is no secret that toddlers can easily get overwhelmed and cranky especially in an unfamiliar environment like an aquarium. I am going to share some must-see attractions for a toddler, so you can get the most out of the Georgia Aquarium before your little one starts getting overwhelmed or cranky.
Download the App
Before you arrive, make sure you download the app to check the daily schedule. The app will provide you with a list of times for each scheduled event like otter feedings, dive shows, and the dolphin show. This will help you plan your day and be prepared for what time you need to be where. This is also where you will be able to purchase tickets. Check for the 10% discount on the souvenir cup in the app, too. Verify with the employees though when the café closes on the day you visit. They closed much earlier than expected on the day of our visit which was disappointing.
Walking into that beautiful main room in the Georgia Aquarium can immediately be overwhelming for a toddler. Head straight over to your right to the Tropical Diver to ease them into everything. This area provides your little one with lots of colorful fish and little aquariums to start them off with. We made the mistake of going straight to a huge aquarium with the beluga whales and it was a little much for little Bean to take in to start off with. The Tropical Diver area will gradually lead them up to a large aquarium with lots of colorful fish including ones they might recognize (like Dory.)
Plan to get to the dolphin show a little early to get a good seat. Don’t sit in the first 10 rows unless you want to get wet. You WILL get wet. We took a chance and got second row seats on the right side and didn’t get too wet but the ones in the middle and left section got soaked. Just expect to get wet if you are in the first ten rows. Little Bean was amazed by the dolphins and totally flipped for them. (See what I did there?) It lasted under 30 minutes which was a long enough to get enjoyment from the show without little ones getting antsy. Bean kept chanting “Dol-tin, dol-tin, dol-tin” after the show ended.
Cold Water Quest
The Cold Water Quest is a popular one for littles for one main reason. Penguins! The penguin area is very large and well-stocked with penguins, so your toddler is likely to get some up-close penguin time. There is a crawl through area where you can pop your head up into the penguin habitat. I do not recommend this for a toddler, though. It’s pretty enclosed. But Bean did get a kick out of seeing Bear and Bug pop their heads up inside the penguin area, so feel free to conscript your older kids to this duty.
Please note, the start of this area is the Beluga whale tank so you might not want to start off with this one. But you can either skip past this and see it later when he/she is more comfortable, or else just hug your little one on one of the benches that are a ways back from the tank, like I did.
This is the grand finale of the entire aquarium. It’s a tank wall the size of a movie theater screen, with stadium style (floor) seating and epic music playing the whole time. This is the only place outside of Asia. where you can see whale sharks (besides the ocean.) This room is a must-see for any visitor to the aquarium, but you want to save the best for last with a little one, because everything about it will be overwhelming, if they aren’t already used to it. You enter through a long tunnel that is part of the tank, so you will see sharks, rays, all sorts of fish, and occasionally even a whale shark swim right overhead.
Then you get to what we like to call the Ocean Room. I could easily spend an hour just sitting in here, watching the tank. It’s amazing, and a one-of-a-kind experience. Just make sure your toddler is ready before you head in here. Bean sure was. Every time a whale shark would swim past he would repeat “more shark” until it came back. He also loved the rays and smaller sharks. The sea turtle was feeling shy that day, though.
Lastly, you know your child best. If he loves turtles, you need to head to the River Scout exhibit. There are alligators upstairs, too, as well as some tree frogs. The otters are in Cold Water Quest. Sea Lions are ground floor at Suntrust Pier 225, and they have a show, as well. The Atlanta Aquarium app does a pretty good job of letting you know when everything takes place, so you can better schedule your day.
Enjoy your day and soak of every memory of their time at the aquarium.