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Visiting the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX in Chattanooga

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Do you ever want to be a tourist in your own city?  So many people miss out on local attractions with the thinking I’ll do that one of these days.  We are fortunate to live in a city like Chattanooga with so much to offer, many people make it their destination for a vacation or long weekend. Visiting the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX should be on your bucket list.

Recently we took advantage of what Chattanooga has to offer in the forms of entertainment and great food.  We started with one of the major draws, the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX Theater. 


Be a Tourist in Your Own City 

With one of the days being rainy, it was the perfect day for exploring the Tennessee Aquarium and the IMAX Theater.  It’s been a couple years since going through the Aquarium but a perfect time to explore the newest exhibit, Ridges to River.  It’s always changing and adding new features to keep you coming back. 

A mainstay in the Chattanooga area is the Tennessee Aquarium.  River Journeys opened in 1992 and quickly became the first stop for any visitor to the area.  In 2005, Ocean Journeys opened to add more to your exploring of downtown.  You will quickly notice how much growth and revitalization has occurred in the riverfront area.  Thanks to many leaders of the community, this long-range plan is still growing.

ocean journey entry
Ocean Journey


Visiting the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX 

Being the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, it is unlike any other aquarium you will visit.  When we are touring other aquariums, we always compare it this one.  Some are larger, like the Georgia Aquarium, many are smaller, but each have their own appeal to visitors.

tennessee aquarium my home and travels outside
View of Rivers Journey

You won’t pick up a travel magazine or visit a website which doesn’t list the Tennessee Aquarium as a top destination, aquarium, or best family vacation.  I’m really proud as a local to have this in my own hometown.


Most Popular to See

The Otters are always a crowd pleaser, and they were really putting on a show for us.  They are some of the most playful mammals, above and under water.  They are so cute and active, so how can you NOT enjoy them? Their habitat allows them to climb on the rocks and dive into the water, just like in the wild.

Otters at Play

The sharks seem to be another crowd favorite. Since people have an innate fear of sharks, it is such a rare treat to be able to watch them at a safe distance. They must constantly be in motion to survive, so when they rest, and sleep is beyond me. 

shark at aquarium swimming
Shark Tank

Near the exhibit is a real shark cage to show you how divers can safely study the shark while underwater.


shark cage at aquarium
Shark Cage

More to See

lazy alligators
Lazy Alligators


Spotted Stingray
Spotted Stingray


Blue Poison Dart Frog
Blue Poison Dart Frog


Red Collared Brown Lemur
Red Collared Brown Lemur


Harlequin Sweetlips
Harlequin Sweetlips


Fish Eating Anemone
Fish Eating Anemone

You will even see how many are hatched and grown at the Aquarium

Razorback Musk Turtle
Razorback Musk Turtle

My Favorite – Penguins

I have always loved penguins.  Many think of penguins only in cold weather such as the Artic, but many you see are actually from warmer climates, including Africa.

tennessee aquarium chattanooga my home and travels penguins rock

Maybe it’s because they look like they are dressed up in their black and white tuxedos and standing at attention.  I got to have a penguin experience at ZooTampa

penguin display tennessee aquarium


Native to the Tennessee River and Area

When you think of fish in the river, most think about catfish, trout, and crappie.  But there’s so much more in our local lakes and streams.  Every time I visit the aquarium, I seem to learn about a different species.  

Gar and sturgeon are a couple you will find.  These fish grow to unbelievable size and a lot of evolution has taken place in the past millennium to allow these fish to survive.  They are considered giants of the river.


Ridges to River

Being the newest exhibit to open recently, you will always find new reasons to come back.  The Tennessee Aquarium will always promote conservation to any water area.  Many people don’t think about what trash can do when you toss it into a river or ocean.  The consequences can be deadly to so many animals and fish. 

tennessee aquarium chattanooga ridges to rivers sign

This Brook Trout wall sculpture was created from household plastic, which most can be recycled.  Don’t throw it in the water, dispose of it properly.

trout out of trash aquarium my home and travels


The Butterfly Garden

Not only will you find beautiful butterflies inside this garden area, but many tropical florals and plants. 


You may have to look really close to find them.  Many are bright and colorful and popular species you will recognize like the Monarch.  But, you may have to look a bit closer to find those that blend into the background, being camouflaged for their own safety. 



Tropical Orchid
Tropical Orchid

Fun for Kids

Color a Turtle
Color a Turtle


Pretend You are in a Turtle Shell
Pretend You are in a Turtle Shell


IMAX Theater

We are very fortunate to have a state-of-the-art IMAX theater in the same area downtown near the aquarium. It’s a unique viewing experience that should not be missed. When you walk into the theater, the first thing you notice is the huge floor-to-ceiling screen.

imax entry my home and travels tennessee aquarium
Entry to IMAX

We saw Serengeti, which I knew was an area, but didn’t really know anything about.  Many of these movies shown are almost documentaries, most about animals, land, and space.  Sometimes though it’s fun to see a popular type movie on this type of large screen.  Like when Top Gun – Maverick came out.  So much more exciting in this theater. The surround-sound system makes
you feel like you’re right there on the Serengeti or flying in the jets.

IMAX at Tennessee Aquarium
IMAX at Tennessee Aquarium

If you are visiting the Aquarium, you can add on a ticket for the IMAX for a discount.

Buying your tickets

Buy your tickets online for the aquarium to ensure entry at the time you want to visit.  All tickets are timed to control capacity.  If you wait to buy your tickets when you arrive, you may have to wait a few hours, or even the next day.  This is especially true during peak times like holidays, school breaks, and summer time.

tennessee aquarium ticket office
Tennessee Aquarium Ticket Office

There is a ticket office at the IMAX for their movies.


Almost all parking is paid.  Prices can vary by day and time, plus length of time.  A lot of street parking is free on Sunday.  My favorite place is the garage at the corner of    across from the IMAX.  This is also just down the hill from AT&T Field, if you are going to a Lookouts game. 

Another thing to check ahead of time about parking – what’s going on downtown like festivals or a game.

Chattanooga Visitor Center

Between the Aquarium and Ticket Center, you will find a small Chattanooga Visitor Center.  There’s free maps, activity ideas for kids, and merchandise.  The staff is a wealth of knowledge if you are looking for more ideas on how to spend your time or even finding a great meal.

Chattanooga Visitor Center
Chattanooga Visitor Center

Great photo areas

While in the downtown area and the aquarium, check out all the great places for photos.  I love the bridge areas. 

tennessee aquarium bridge
Bridge at Tennessee Aquarium

Remember to look up as well.

tennessee aquarium
Angle of Aquarium Roof

The water isn’t in the fountains yet, but it’s a great place for the kids to play, and cool off later this year.

Tennessee Aquarium fountain areas
Tennessee Aquarium Fountains

While visiting Chattanooga, consider all the options you have, whether it’s downtown or not. 

Do you like museums?

Top Museums in Chattanooga

museums in chattanooga my home and travels feature image

Here’s some of the top to visit including the International Towing Museum.



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I’ve included affiliate links to Amazon for you to find some products easier.  I may receive a small commission, but the price is the same for you.  It just helps my blog out.

Happy Travels, 


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  1. We have not yet made it to Chattanooga. But I can see why we would put the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX on the list of things to visit. Sharks are always a big draw. But those Blue Poision Dart Frogs would be interesting . Lots of great fun for kids.

  2. Oooh I would not normally expect to see an aquarium and an imax theatre in the same spot – but there is no reason not to! I LOVE visiting the otters, they are so playful and fun…my other favourite is always the jellyfish. They are such artistic little dancers. 🙂

    Fab post. Chattanooga sounds like a fun place to explore.

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