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Explore under the sea
0107Aquarium2
A small tank filled with seahorses takes on the qualities of a painting with its neon green seaweed and blue background - photo by Kristen Morales

Georgia Aquarium
Where: 225 Baker St. NW, Atlanta

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

How much: $19.50-$26 general admission; children younger than 3 free

More info: 404-581-4000

ATLANTA — Before you dive into the Georgia Aquarium, know this: There are a lot of creatures here.

And we’re not just talking about the aquatic kind. If you plan to hit the world’s largest fish tank during a weekend, plan to spend the day jostling alongside literally thousands of others coming to see the whale sharks, manta rays and sawfish.

But all that jostling is worth it, especially if you’re going with kids.

Throughout the aquarium, kids are constantly pointing at the fish overhead or plunging their hands into chilly water to touch a friendly string ray. There are tunnels for kids to see fish floating down an indoor river, and there is a giant acrylic wall that makes the exhibit of ocean fish look like a movie.

It’s easy to get caught up with the hustle and bustle of a weekend crowd, moving from one exhibit to the next. Thankfully, the kids help you slow down.

In the first two years the Georgia Aquarium was open, more than 6.3 million visitors came to check out the fish. The cornerstone of the exhibits are four whale sharks — females Alice and Trixie and males Yushan and Taroko — who are the only whale sharks found outside of Asia. The same football field-sized tank that houses the whale sharks is also home to ocean fish such as manta rays, giant groupers and giant hammerhead sharks, too.

These fish swim overhead while you make your way through an acrylic tunnel, letting you stand in awe on the moving walkway while you pass under the water. The tunnel is a marvel in engineering itself, but it’s a great way to feel like you’re inside the ocean, floating along among the creatures.

Other exhibits include a collection of tropical fish — think Nemo and curly seahorses — plus a rivers exhibit that lets you get close to piranhas and other fish of the Amazon, cold-water creatures like otters and penguins and creatures that live in Georgia’s waters, such as horseshoe crabs, shrimp.

But don’t let the crowds (or the price tag) intimidate you. You can almost imagine yourself floating along a river of people by the time you’re wrapping things up, moving from one tank of exotic fish to the next.

And before you leave, take the time to head back through the oceans exhibit, stopping for the short presentation at the “movie screen” looking into the whale shark habitat. It’s a nice place to sit, reflect on the trip and take on the oohs and aahs from the kids around you. And some of the adults, too.

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