No trip to Chattanooga can be complete without a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium. The Aquarium sits on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. It is home to over 12,000 different animal and insects that range from butterflies to deep sea fish. It opened in 1992 as the centerpiece of the revitalization of the downtown area. The Aquarium sits adjacent to Ross Landing and the local monument to the beginning of the Trail of Tears known as The Passage. The Tennessee Aquarium consists of two main buildings, Ocean Journey and River Journey. The Aquarium also provides multimedia education using the nearby IMAX 3D Theater.
The Ocean Journey exhibit contains a 60,000 square foot building with a variety of touch tanks as well as a separate room that houses many different varieties of butterflies in a temperature and climate controlled sanctuary. After you depart the butterflies, there are two main areas to explore. The Secret Reef has a 618,000-gallon aquarium that depicts The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. The exhibit has three levels that allow everyone to get up close with sea life ranging from tropical fish, sharks to sea turtles.
The second exhibit in the building is the Boneless Beauties and Jellies: Living Art Galleries. The exhibit contains many different varieties of coral, jellyfish, octopus and crabs. Walking throughout the exhibit you are amazed at the incredible variety of Jellyfish that are so close that it feels like you are surrounded by them. As you walk among the jellyfish, you are immersed in a world of art that mimics the beauty of the natural world. The aquarium has an exhibit titled “Living Art” from the Hunter Museum of American Art.
As you complete your exploration of the ocean creatures, cross the food court area and enter the second equally impressive building. The River Journey building is 130,000 square feet and houses a 400,000-gallon aquarium with an exhibit that showcases the journey of a water droplet from an Appalachian stream to the Gulf of Mexico. The major exhibits are The Appalachian Cove Forest, Delta Country, Rivers of the World, The Tennessee River gallery, and the River Giants. The exhibits have a variety of fish and animals from seahorses, alligators, turtles to live birds. Each of these creatures is normally found in the rivers and streams showcased in these exhibits with an emphasis on the Tennessee River basin rivers.
It will be an extraordinary journey exploring the Oceans and Rivers in the Tennessee Aquarium. To adequately take in all of the sights and sounds of the aquarium, plan your visit for a full day and wear a good pair of walking shoes as you will be doing a great deal of exploring on the many floors of these two exciting buildings.