For more than 30 years, the Tennessee Aquarium has enticed tens of millions of visitors to venture beneath its iconic glass peaks, which rise above the Tennessee River as it flows through downtown Chattanooga. Inside, its galleries host a living collection of 11,000 animals across more than 600 species.
The Aquarium’s largest building, River Journey, follows a drop of water as it winds downhill from the misty heights of an Appalachian Cove Forest through a variety of life-rich habitats on its way to the ocean.
Along the way, guests encounter a steady stream of memorable species, including playful North American River Otters, titanic Arapaima, toothsome American Alligators and the world’s only tweeting Electric Eel.
The newest addition to River Journey, Ridges to Rivers (opening spring 2022) features an astonishing array of colorful fish found in the Southeast’s lush upland streams and creeks. The gallery’s centerpieces include an expansive recreation of an Upper Tennessee stream — complete with rushing waterfall, burbling riffles and gentle pools — and a huge touch exhibit with dinosaur-like Lake Sturgeon.
The River Journey building also boasts the largest collection of turtles in North America. Guests seeking to shell-ebrate these reptiles — or just needing a “cute fix” — can drop by the recently overhauled Turtles of the World gallery. Here, they’ll meet a host of North American and Asian turtles and can lay eyes on dozens of adorably tiny hatchlings (many of them critically endangered) in a working nursery.
Across an open-air plaza, the adventure continues in the saltier climes of Ocean Journey. This building spirals around the massive, 618,000-gallon Secret Reef exhibit. A colossal recreation of the Gulf of Mexico’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Secret Reef is home to a vibrant community of fascinating animals, including Sand Tiger and Sandbar Sharks, Cownose Rays and a huge Green Sea Turtle.
Ocean Journey hosts a wide variety of other amazing species and habitats as well, from bounding Ring-tailed Lemurs and mesmerizing Giant Pacific Octopuses to an energetic colony of Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins and a Butterfly Garden filled with more than 1,000 beautiful, fluttering insects.
Having ventured from the highest peaks to the deepest depths, guests can visit the nearby IMAX 3D Theater to take in a giant-screen adventure. Thanks to its IMAX with Laser projection system, Chattanooga’s largest screen presents wildlife, adventure and feature films with incredible brightness, sharpness, color and sound matched by only a handful of other theaters, worldwide.
Tickets to the Tennessee Aquarium are available for $21.95 for children (ages 3-12) and $34.95 for adults. Combination packages to the Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater are available for $29.95 and $42.95. Special Deeper Dives guided tours offer educator-led, behind-the-scenes access for small groups before normal operating hours. Aquarium admission also may be applied toward the purchase of a membership for a year of unlimited repeat visits and access to special members-only events and discounts.
For more information about the Tennessee Aquarium, a schedule of ongoing special events or to purchase timed-entry tickets in advance, visit www.tnaqua.org.