The wonder of exploration is one of the most amazing things that can spur the imagination. The world that we live in is full of mysteries waiting to be discovered, and while most of us don’t have the ability to explore the world like Jacques Cousteau, we can visit places that bring the world to us. The Tennessee Aquarium brings the mysteries of the underwater world right to our doorsteps.
The ocean journey
You can start your adventure in one of the two buildings that house saltwater and freshwater animals from around the world. In the ocean journey, you begin by taking an escalator up to the very top of the building and enter into the stingray exhibit, which is filled with tropical foliage and feels like you’re about to embark on an exciting voyage. As you make your way around the short meandering path, you’re drawn to a glass pool where baby stingrays and sharks swim in water shallow enough for small hands and big hands alike to have the chance to feel them. Since we learn with all of our senses, touching is one of the best ways to get to know our world. The ocean journey encompasses a wide range of saltwater animals, excluding whales, but including almost everything else from turtles to sharks to penguins to butterflies to jellyfish and so many more.
The exhibits are designed in such a way that the paths through them wind their way through the building, almost giving you the feeling of swimming through the ocean. The rooms are dimly lit, giving center stage to the animals that are on display. The final exhibit before exiting the ocean journey are the undersea caverns. Watching the sharks, turtles and fish from the caverns helps to give the feeling of being deep underwater. You can see the wide eyed wonder and amusement of adults and children alike when you’re in this space.
The butterfly exhibit
Before beginning your ocean journey there’s a surprise exhibit that allows you to walk among some of the most beautiful species of butterflies. These amazing insects range from the size of your pinky finger to the enormous, measuring the size or your hand. Beautifully colored, strangely marked flights of fancy entertain and fascinate children. Allowing them to get up close and let them land on tiny fingers enhances the experience. There is also a viewing room that allows visitors to see how butterflies hatch.
The river journey
The river journey starts at the lower level of the building with the seahorses, sea dragons, sea stars and other strange creatures from the Philippines to Tasmania. Looking at these strange, wonderful sea creatures gets the imagination going, making you want to see more and know more about them. As you leave the seahorses and make your way up into the river journey, you begin to explore the rivers of not only the U.S., but also the world. From the Amazon to the Congo, the exhibits take you into the world of rivers. From small cichlids to the giant lake sturgeon and the giant pangasius catfish. It’s hard to imagine fish so large that they’re the size of a 5 year old child. The dramatic, dimly lit 4 story space puts river creatures in the glass cases on show and as the winding ramps weave you up and down, in and out, they create a maze that makes exploring the exhibits even more exciting.
Finding a world of discovery
Exploring and learning excites the senses whether you’re two or fifty-two, The Tennessee Aquarium takes you on several journeys of discovery in one visit. If you’re planning to visit Chattanooga, it’s definitely a must-see for the whole family or just the kid at heart.
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