From left to right: my sister Coco (kneeling), me, my mom, and Wayne at the Tennessee Aquarium
My husband’s job demands a lot of hours from him, so our time together is limited. When he finally got a day off a while back, he suggested we take a drive two hours south to check out the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. A day trip away with my husband and a trip to an aquarium? I was all over it.
However, I wasn’t expecting much of Chattanooga’s aquarium. I mean, it’s Chattanooga for crying out loud. Their main claim to fame is the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Granted, the aquarium is situated along the Tennessee River, but how good could an inland aquarium be in a place known for railroading?
To my surprise and delight, very. So much so that when my mom and sister came for a visit from Denver in October, I insisted we go back there with them. It may not be the best ever or the biggest (although it is the world’s largest freshwater aquarium), but let me tell you it is packed with heart.
It is comprised of two buildings: the River Journey and the Ocean Journey. The tour begins with the River Journey. This is the larger of the two buildings and where the bulk of the aquarium experience lasts. (If you linger among the exhibits and take your time, you can expect to spend about two to two and a half hours in both buildings. A little longer if you add any of the IMAX presentations to your ticket.)
The River Journey meanders though a variety of ecosystems. There’s everything from otters romping in an (artificial) stream to a plethora of snakes (all in cages) on the path. In the center of the building sits an enormous glassed-in replica of Nickajack Lake. (The Tennessee River flows into it.) You weave back and forth between ecosystems and their related flora and fauna, while seeing all levels of the lake as you gradually wind your way to the bottom.
When you finish with the River Journey, you proceed on to Ocean Journey. Here you can pet stingrays, romp in a butterfly garden, and then marvel at the sharks, manta rays, eels, and barracuda (just to name some of the sea life) that call the 700,000 gallon saltwater tank home. The highlight of this experience comes at the end when you walk under the water in a simulated coral reef looking up at everything swimming around.
Besides the cool coral reef, my favorite parts were the incredible sea horse and sea dragon displays and petting the sturgeon. (When can you ever say you petted a sturgeon? Even funnier, they like it! They’ll swim over to get petted!)
If you ever get the chance to experience this aquarium, I highly recommend it.
Courtney Mroch is a Pets Blogger. Read more of her blogs here.
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