Explore the Wonders of the Tennessee Aquarium

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Looking for a fun day out in Chattanooga? Look no further than the Tennessee Aquarium and discover fascinating marine life, from playful otters to majestic sharks. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through freshwater and saltwater habitats and dive into adventure. Experience the magic of the ocean right in the heart of Chattanooga!

The Tennessee Aquarium.

Ranked #1 overall for guest satisfaction in the country, the Tennessee Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals and an amazing variety of fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Through its exhibits, education programs, and research efforts, the aquarium works tirelessly to further its mission of freshwater conservation.

There are two buildings that comprise the aquarium. Most people begin their visit by exploring the building nearest the ticketing plaza, Ocean Journey.

There are two buildings housing aquariums – one for River Journey and one for Ocean Journey.  (This post features a couple of the exhibits at the Ocean Journey.)

Ocean Journey

After guests present their tickets, they are directed up the escalator (or elevator for those who need it) to the upper level where they can learn about freshwater sting rays at Tropical Cove. Guests can even “pet” a sting ray as it swims by in the touch tank. (There are hand sanitizing stations nearby for guests to use after they finish “petting” the sting rays.)

Kids around a stingray pool.

There are nine exhibits inside the Ocean Journey:  Tropical Cove, Lemur Forest, Stingray Bay, Butterfly Garden, Penguins’ Rock, Secret Reef, Boneless Beauties, Jellies:  Living Art, and Undersea Cavern.

The next stop is the Butterfly Garden where more than a thousand butterflies flutter about. The butterflies were sustainably raised on Costa Rican farms and now call the Tennessee Aquarium home.

Black, white, and orange butterfly on a plant.

Be careful not to pick up any hitchhikers while visiting the Butterfly Garden.

Sign that says, "Removal of Butterflies is Prohibited.  Please check yourself for hitchhikers."

The next exhibit is on Level 2 where guests can see penguins at Penguins’ Rock. The exhibit features Gentoo and Macaroni penguins who dive and play in the cold water. They seem to enjoy watching visitors and might put on a little bit of a performance for you.

Six penguins.

Moving on, aquarium visitors will see the Secret Reef and can watch yellow tail snapper, southern stingrays, cownose rays, sand tiger sharks, green sea turtles, and more swimming around the reef.

And to the delight of kids of all ages, there are jellyfish in tanks that seem to change colors as they swim.

Jelly fish in a tank.

Before heading to River Journey, guests can stop by the gift shop to pick up a momento of their aquarium experience.

Stuffed turtle toys for sale in the gift shop.

River Journey

Like Ocean Journey, guests make their way to the upper floor at River Journey and work their way down learning about freshwater habitats and the animals who live there.

The Tennessee Aquarium is committed to freshwater conservation and offers many ways for guests to learn about the importance of clean water and what they can do to help. Through its exhibits, education programs, and research efforts, the Tennessee Aquarium is working to ensure that our rivers and streams will be healthy for generations to come.

Among the first things visitors get to see at River Journey are the otters. There are North American river otters and Asian small-clawed otters. The otters are so playful and fun to watch as they swim, explore, and play with their food.

Moving on, guests will come to the Delta Country exhibit which features turtles, alligators, snakes, and fish that call the Mississippi River home.

Alligator in an aquarium.

The aquarium isn’t limited to aquatic species only found in the US. In fact, there are exhibits featuring animals from all over the world such as piranhas and Electric Eels other creatures that call the Amazon River basin home.

Of course, the aquarium would not be complete without an exhibit in honor of the Tennessee River. The Tennessee River Gallery features fish, reptiles, and amphibians that can be found in the Tennessee River. There’s even a turtle nursery where guests can see baby turtles that will one day call another facility home and some that might be released into the wild.

Large mouth bass in a large fish tank.
Largemouth bass

The Tennessee Aquarium is a great place to spend a day whether you’re a local or just visiting Chattanooga. There’s something for everyone to enjoy and learn about the importance of freshwater conservation.


The Tennessee Aquarium is located at the downtown riverfront along the banks of the Tennessee River and is located at One Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

Aquarium Tickets and Hours

Tickets cost $34.95 for adults and $21.95 for children (ages 3-12). IMAX tickets are $9.95 per person.

Want to see behind the scenes?  Guests can purchase tickets for Deeper Dives, an exclusive 1.5-hour guided tour.  Rates are $85 per person and participants must be at least 8 years old. 

The aquairum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.  (Chattanooga is in the Eastern Time zone.) The Tennessee Aquarium is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

If exploring the aquarium causes you to work up an appetite, be sure to read our post about Where To Eat in Chattanooga for some great restaurant recommendations.

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