The opening of the Georgia Aquarium elicited such excitement and intrigue as the new one in Atlanta did in 2006. The $250 million (£162 million) gift of Bernard Marcus to the city where his company, Home Depot, began, it is the world’s largest aquarium. Located in downtown Atlanta, traditionally the domain of office workers, not tourists, it is a nine-acre state-of-the-art facility with a staggering eight million gallons of both fresh and salt water that contains more than 100,000 different animals, representing over 500 of the planet’s marine species.
The aquarium is divided into several marine-life areas. One of the most popular, perhaps owing to its appearance in sultry Georgia, is the Cold Water Quest, a habitat for creatures that thrive in the world’s icier seas. Here, you’ll see beluga whales, California sea lions, African black-footed penguins, a giant Pacific octopus and Japanese spider crabs. The Ocean Voyager is another crowd pleaser, where stingrays, whale sharks (the largest species of fish in the world) and groupers swim gracefully through a 100-foot-long saltwater tunnel.
Next to the aquarium is the brand-new World of Coca-Cola Pavilion, an exuberant tribute to the world’s most popular soft drink. You can then wander around the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park, the focal point for the 1996 Summer Olympics, and walk to the CNN Center (the Cable News Network’s studio headquarters), where a behind-the-scenes tour is a uniquely Atlanta experience.
If all this walking and gawking has you feeling hungry, make the short drive to the world’s largest drive-in, the Varsity, open for business since 1928. There’s seating for 800 people, who consume some two miles of hot dogs and 300 gallons of chili every day. Servers traditionally bark “What’ll ya have?” to customers, who respond with orders for cheeseburgers (topped with pimento cheese), barbecue pork sandwiches, crisp onion rings and hulking chili cheese dogs—with a gigantic cup full of Coca-Cola, the local drink of choice.
To date, Georgia Aquarium has attracted more than eleven million visitors and employs more than 400 employees and a dedicated core of more than 2,000 volunteers. The Aquarium has dedicated twenty-five percent of the gallery space to educating students of all ages who visit the Aquarium, we call it our Learning Loop. The Aquarium utilizes innovative technologies as well as interactive and interdisciplinary techniques to ensure that students have an enjoyable academic experience.
One of the Georgia Aquarium’s major goals is to be the leading facility for aquatic animal conservation and research. Our state-of-the-art animal health facility, the Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health, is 10,000 square feet and was designed by world class veterinarian professionals and conservation organizations. It is the only integration of an aquarium and a veterinarian teaching hospital. On a more global scale, the Georgia Aquarium supports, conducts and leads research on environmental and conservation issues.
Visit the Georgia Aquarium website