“Georgia Aquarium provides an entertaining, engaging, and educational experience, inspiring stewardship in conservation, research, and the appreciation for the animal world.”
– Georgia Aquarium Mission
Can you imagine going to the largest aquarium in the world — a place where there are millions of different species? What about a gargantuan aquarium filled with 10 million gallons of water, a building large enough to house 400 employees, over 2,000 volunteers, and in excess of 2 million visitors annually? You won’t have to imagine much longer. You simply need to come to Atlanta, GA.
The Georgia Aquarium, located within walking distance of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, renders an understated exterior but is wildly colorful and explosive inside. You can explore various activities, such as the Dolphin Tales Show, 4D Theater, Behind the Scenes Tour, Sleepovers, Kids Corner, and other Aquarium Programs. The entire structure is the brainchild of Bernie Marcus, a generous philanthropist and co-founder of Home Depot. It was his $250 million gift to Georgia that allowed the aquarium to open in 2003 “debt-free.” Because Atlanta is where he opened Home Depot’s first stores, Marcus wanted to give back to the same community that helped make his businesses successful. Marcus wanted to “promote economic impact for the city and state, bring growth and new jobs and help create a new destination to inspire visitors to stay – and stay longer.”
As with any large undertaking, there have been controversial issues surrounding the aquarium. As recently as last year, the aquarium’s proposal to import 18 beluga whales from Russia was declined. The plan was for three to be housed at the aquarium, while the remainder would be distributed to five other parks. Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected because of the controversy it sparked. There were concerns about the whales’ safety and captivity, and basic concerns that requirements outlined by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which dictate that captures be humane and not endanger wild populations would not be met. Nevertheless, these setbacks have not affected the millions of tourists that enter each day, nor will it stop first-, second-, third-, or fourth-time visitors from wanting to see more of the aquatic world’s attractions. The shows become more interesting and the animals get more attractive with each visit.
The Georgia Aquarium is not only a place to be intrigued and engaged, it also provides educational programs, and veterinary services. It is a massive underwater canvas. Its art moves and hypnotizes every viewer. There is beauty in countless strange and dynamic forms. Creatures, whether tiny or humongous, hairy or bald, bizarre or typical, quick or slow-moving, are all housed here. The Georgia Aquarium is an unforgettable location that houses millions of species from all over the world. Why not treat yourself and visit the world’s largest aquarium?
Neely Terrell is an author and librarian. She currently lives in Doraville, GA.