Is the Tennessee Aquarium on your list of fun things to do with kids in Chattanooga?
The aquarium happens to be one of the biggest draws for families when visiting the Chattanooga area.
After spending time here, it’s easy to see why!
In this post, I walk you through both sides of the Tennessee Aquarium so you have a better idea of what types of fish and other animals your family will see there!
I will also give you an idea of how long you should plan to spend at this super fun family attraction!
- Where is the Tennessee Aquarium located?
- The Ocean Journey Animals
- The River Journey Animals
- Tennessee Aquarium FAQ
Where is the Tennessee Aquarium located?
The Tennessee Aquarium is located in a really great spot in downtown Chattanooga! It sits right on the river, so you get beautiful views of the water and bridges.
The aquarium is also conveniently located to many downtown hotels. It is even within walking distance to many restaurants and hot spots!
Parking for the aquarium is super easy. I’m terrible at parallel parking so finding a spot in downtown Chattanooga can easily stress me out!
Luckily there are several parking lots and garages really close to the Tennessee Aquarium!
I like to use the Riverfront Parking Lot because it is a few dollars cheaper than the one directly in front of the TN Aquarium. It is also less than a five minute walk to the ticket counter.
Riverfront Playground is located across the street from this lot and is a really fun play area for kids.
The photo below shows the sidewalk to the aquarium from the parking lot so you can see just how close it is. The tables with umbrellas on the far right are on the patio of The Blue Plate.
This downtown restaurant has both a great location and a well-rounded menu!
I’ve noticed a lot of families let their kids run around and play on the grass while the adults wait on their food to arrive on the patio. So, this spot is really convenient and family friendly!
The TN Aquarium also has a food stand set up near the entrance. Once you walk into the courtyard to the aquarium, you will see a food cart with tables and chairs for visitors to sit and eat.
This food stand sits close to the outdoor water play area outside the aquarium.
During warmer months, the rocky area below has water streaming through it. Kids love to splash and play around in these spaces!
Taking a change of clothes may be a good idea because my little ones undoubtedly get soaked every time!
Tickets for the Tennessee Aquarium can be purchased at the aquarium’s ticket counter or online at the aquarium’s official site.
If you purchase your tickets online, you do not need to enter the ticket counter building. Instead you can go straight to one of the two aquarium buildings to start your tour.
The Tennessee Aquarium sometimes offers discounts on their tickets for certain visitors. For example, children who are two years old and younger are completely free.
They may also offer a military discount or college student discount during specific times of the year. I have also seen ticket discounts on Groupon, so don’t forget to check there before your trip as well!
A great way to receive discounts at the aquarium is to become a member. With a Tennessee Aquarium membership, you can visit as many times as you want for an entire year.
In addition, members receive the discounts in the following areas:
- gift shop
- guest’s ticket
- other area attractions (zoo, museum, Dollywood, and more!)
Visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium do have the option to purchase ticket packages with the aquarium and IMAX. At this time, you cannot buy these packages online.
Instead you must purchase your aquarium and IMAX package at the ticket counter for one of those attractions.
During a typical year, the Tennessee Aquarium hosts many different events. Some of the holidays where you can find extra special aquarium exhibits and activities include Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.
The Ocean Journey Animals
Visitors have two choices of where to start their tour: The River Journey and The Ocean Journey.
When entering the ocean side, signs by the escalators instruct guests to begin the tour on the top floor. Families with strollers or wheelchairs can use the nearby elevators.
Once on the top floor, visitors are greeted with a beautiful view of the Tennessee River. Some of the creatures on this floor include stingrays, lemurs, and butterflies.
Guests can pet and interact with some of the stingrays and other aquatice animals in the Ocean Journey tank. (You will find hand sanitizer and hand washing stations placed next to these petting areas.)
You are also able to view and hold butterflies in the Butterfly Garden. (Strollers must be left outside the garden area before entering.)
Penguins and Other Animals
The next level of The Ocean Journey begins with the penguins. They are usually really energetic and fun to watch!
I love when the caretakers are inside the enclosure with the penguins. It is always entertaining to see how they interact.
After viewing the penguins, visitors can continue on their journey to see all types of ocean life including sharks, turtles, jellyfish, etc.
You end the Ocean Journey on the main floor near sliding doors that lead outside. Guests can then take the short walk over to the River Journey.
The River Journey Animals
You begin your journey on the river side at the top level just like with the ocean side.
The river otters are some of the first animals visitors encounter.
They were not out and about on the day we visited below, but they are usually one of our favorites to watch!
Guests continue down the river side to view different creatures like bass, turtles, alligators, etc.
There are informative signs placed throughout your tour to give additional information on each animal
Like The Ocean Journey, this side has an interactive area where visitors can pet animals.
On The River Journey, you can pet catfish of all different sizes.
Both The River Journey and The Ocean Journey have gift shops near the exits.
Guests can find all sorts of merchandise related to the aquarium and to Chattanooga here!
Tennessee Aquarium FAQ
Below are some of the most common questions I receive from visitors to the Chattanooga area.
How long does the aquarium take to tour?
Overall the Tennessee Aquarium is a great way to spend time in Chattanooga with adults and kids of any age! It usually takes us about 2 hours to complete both The River Journey and The Ocean Journey.
Once you finish touring, there are many restaurants and area attractions within walking distance.
What’s near the Tennessee Aquarium?
Since the Tennessee Aquarium is located right in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, there are many fun things to do within walking distance.
The Creative Discovery Museum, High Point Climbing Gym, and IMAX 3D Theater are all family friendly attractions you will find nearby.
In addition, the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park is just a short drive away from the Tennessee Aquarium.
What is your favorite animal at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga?
Let me know by commenting below!