RV Sidetrip: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta

Right off I-75 in downtown Atlanta is the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere with 10 million gallons of fresh and marine water and tens of thousands of animals.

We've heard great things about it for several years now but never had a chance to spend time there until just recently, when we took our 10-year-old grandson Jacob, for a visit. We were blown away by the quality exhibits and size. For RVers, the only downside is parking. The parking deck attached to the aquarium is enclosed and too low to accommodate even Class B RVs. There are a couple of open air street lots within an easy walk that will do just fine for Class B and C units. None can handle Class A RVs.

A moving sidewall tunnels around and under one of the huge tanks

A moving sidewall tunnels around and under one of the huge tanks. Thats a manta ray cruising past.

It's a fairly new aquarium, opening in 2005. It's origins go back to November 2001, when Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus announced his vision of presenting Atlanta with an aquarium that would encourage both education and economic growth. After visiting 56 aquariums in 13 countries with his wife, Billi, he donated $250 million toward what was to become Georgia Aquarium. Corporate contributions totaling an additional $40 million allowed the aquarium to open debt-free.

Tropical fish form a massive wall

Tropical fish form a massive wall

The most notable exhibit is the massive 6.3 million gallon tank containing four whale sharks, taken from Taiwan's annual fishing kill quota, under which they would have been eaten had they not been purchased by the aquarium. Since 2007, a ban on whale shark capture has been in effect, making the Georgia Aquarium the only institution outside of Asia housing the species.

My grandson Jacob has a close encounter with one of the Georgia Aquarium's residents

My grandson Jacob has a close encounter with one of the Georgia Aquarium's residents

The whole aquarium was built around whale shark exhibit, with tunnels, walk-in windows and a huge 30 foot high plexiglass wall allowing for very up-close observation. The whale sharks cruise with giant manta rays, sharks and dozens of other species.

Another exhibit and another tank holds several beluga whales, distinctively white and as long as 11 feet.

Another view of the 6.3 million gallon tank holding the whale sharks

Another view of the 6.3 million gallon tank holding the whale sharks

There's a dolphin show, a 4D movie and lots of educational talks and presentations. Plan on spending at least four hours to take it all in.

Plexiglass portals allow you to pop up in the tanks and exhibits. Thats our 10-year-old grandson, Jacob, and a penguin pal.

Plexiglass portals allow you to pop up in the tanks and exhibits. That's our 10-year-old grandson, Jacob, and a penguin pal.

And plan on spending lots of money. Adult tickets cost $36.95. Seniors are charged $32.95. Kids are $30.05. If you order online you can save $3 a ticket.

Expensive it is. But it's worth it. We'll be back. Several times. It's that impressive. If you've never been there, put it on your bucket list.