The Atlanta Aquarium, officially known as the Georgia Aquarium, is the world’s largest aquarium with over 8 million gallon of marine and fresh water, and over 100,000 animals from 500 different species. The aquarium was built just north of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park in the downtown area, and was funded mainly by Bernie Marcus, founder of Home Depot.

The Aquarium opened in November of 2005 to the public, and it operates as a non-profit organization. Only 98 days after its first opening, the Aquarium had its one millionth visitor – an incredible feat in such a short period of time!

Some of the most famous animals and exhibits at the Atlanta aquarium are the beluga whales and whale sharks, and the entire aquarium is organized into five different areas according to environment. One of the most famous sections of the museum is the Ocean Voyager tunnel, which is designed to imitate the ecosystem of the Mesoamerican barrier reef, and it is here that the whale sharks are kept – along with the world’s second largest marine life viewing window! The exhibit is literally a tunnel, with the viewing window arching overhead so that visitors can see that marine life from the bottom up, and extending off to each side.

The Tropical Diver exhibit at the aquarium features a living coral reef, with mysterious and exotic species of fish and plant life that visitors would never otherwise have a chance to see – unless they went diving in the Amazon jungle! Another area entitled the Georgia Explorer showcases species a little closer to home, and has an interactive component that allows visitors to touch the tanks and learn about the species.

Touch tanks are a unique feature of the aquarium, where species such as sea anemone or sea stars reside in open-air tanks that visitors are invited to reach into and literally touch the creatures. Heavy supervision of this area ensures the creatures are safe, and sanitization of children’s hands is a must. Still, it is a fantastic way for children and adults to learn the importance of these seemingly vapid creatures!

The River Scout exhibit also allows visitors to the Atlanta Aquarium to view the fish and marine animals from the bottom, which provides a better sense of the natural habitat and function of marine life ecosystem. Finally, the Cold Water Quest exhibit displays fish and animals from the world’s cold regions, including African black-footed penguins and California Sea Lions. This is where most of the aquarium’s mammals are housed, since the mammals are naturally found above the earth’s equatorial regions.

When it was built, the Atlanta Aquarium was constructed to represent a giant ark as it broke through a rolling wave. There are two large buildings with an open area in the middle, where the ship’s hull is shown through the creative use of blue metal and glass. A fantastic testament to the diversity of earth’s sea creatures and marine life, the Atlanta Aquarium is worth a visit on your trip to the city.

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