Georgia Aquarium with a Toddler

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For my daughter’s 2nd birthday, our family and my in-laws went to the Georgia Aquarium. We chose to go on January 2nd which made me a little nervous. The Peach Bowl. New Year’s weekend. Tourists. I expected the crowds to be at full force. In reality, I may have been overanxious.

We bought our tickets and parking passes in advance from the Georgia Aquarium website both for fear of massive crowds and to take advantage of early bird discounts. But, at 9:00 on a Saturday morning, there were only a few people there and we walked right in (after a bag check and obligatory photo). It was a great feeling to have the aquarium almost to ourselves, and it gave my daughter a chance to get acquainted with her surroundings. However, that feeling was short lived. As it got closer to lunch-time, the exhibits got quite crowded and the central lobby looked like this…

Georgia Aquarium
The crowded central lobby of Georgia Aquarium. (Photo by Heath Washburn/

I wouldn’t recommend a stroller unless you think you absolutely need it. Some of the exhibits have bottlenecks, some have stairs and no strollers are allowed in the dolphin amphitheater. Also, you’re not doing an excessive amount of walking. A lot of your time is spent standing and watching the marine environments. My daughter walked more than half the time, then we took turns carrying her for the rest of the time. In contrast, from my recent experience, bringing a stroller is a good idea at Zoo Atlanta. They have more open space for stroller traffic and visitors must cover longer distances.

There are some cool child-sized tunnels and tiny viewing areas. In particular, there are some cool penguin-viewing bubbles that require some crawling on your hands and knees. But, just a warning, be sure to do some yoga or lots of stretching before your visit because your toddler will surely want you to crawl through the tunnels with them. It sure made me feel old to groan as I escaped the tunnels!

In retrospect, we should have spent more time in the Discovery zone. It’s a little off the beaten path – upstairs above the gift shop. Even though the slightly hokey interactive exhibits weren’t a highlight for the adults, it might have been my daughter’s favorite part of the whole Georgia Aquarium. She liked touching everything – especially anything with moving parts – and of course crossing the rope bridge was a hit. But, we went to that part of the aquarium last, and thus we didn’t have a ton of time or energy remaining.

Georgia Aquarium
Various exhibits at Georgia Aquarium. (Photos by Heath Washburn/

The ocean aquarium is easily the most impressive exhibit. Tons of marine wildlife ranging from huge whale sharks to schools of tiny colorful fish. Amusingly, my daughter was entranced by some vibrant fish and a unique rock sculpture in the corner. She mostly ignored the other 3 million gallons of water.

While it’s a bit too dramatic for my taste, Dolphin Tales is a fun show. Although, I have conflicting thoughts on when to arrive for it. If you get there early, your family can get prime seating and maximize your enjoyment of the show. Unfortunately, most toddlers aren’t interested in sitting still for 20 minutes waiting for the show to start. If you’re brave, there are usually plenty of last-minute seats available in the “splash zone.”

Getting to the aquarium early in the morning was great and highly recommended. Not only were the crowds lighter to begin with – steadily increasing through the day – but we were also able to get through all the exhibits before the time came for my daughter’s midday nap. Have fun!


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