If you are looking for relaxing fun in Chattanooga there is one special place that offers the best of both worlds. It is exciting and fun but it also offers a perfect way to spend a relaxing day.
The Chattanooga Aquarium opened May 1, 1992 as the world’s largest freshwater aquarium but that was just the beginning. In May 2005, the city of Chattanooga unveiled its completed $120 million dollar Waterfront Project. Since then it has just continued to be an imspiration to other Chattanooga attractions.
Chattanooga's skyline from the river showing the Aquarium buildings
You begin your River Journey on the fourth floor with the Seahorse Exhibit. If you always thought seahorses were all alike think again. Just watching the playful otters splash their way in a forest cove is guaranteed to lower you blood pressure and make you smile.
Otters frolic at Chattanooga Aquarium Credit Martin Walls
Enter the steamy backwaters of the Mississippi Delta and observe the interaction of alligators, turtles, wading birds and other wildlife that make up the complex web of life in the steamy swamplands.
fish in the chattanooga Aquarium
Fish swimming in the aquarium look like you could almost reach out and touch them Credit Martin Walls
Glimpse the variety of life that inhabits the rivers of the world. You can actually touch a prehistoric sturgeon or watch giant catfish skim along a river bottom. When you are saturated in freshwater wonders, move on, as do the rivers of the world, to the Ocean Journey.
Ocean Journey is Chattanooga Aquarium’s second phase. The aquarium is housed in two stunning buildings whose peaked glass spires add a distinctive touch to Chattanooga’s skyline.
One of the colorful flying jewels in the Aquarium's Butterfly Garden Credit Martin Walls
It’s hard to choose which you will like better. The original aquarium is larger but the Ocean Journey is so packed with color and adventure. From the tiny flying jewels in the butterfly garden that actually alight on your body to the huge sharks that you can actually touch, this is an adventure into another dimension. View the immense beauty of a coral reef teeming with thousands of colorful fish, barracuda and shark to tiny minnows as only a diver could. Marvel at the Boneless Beauties Gallery where exotic sea life ranging from tiny luminous jellyfish to huge Pacific Octopus await you.
An IMAX theater is also part of the aquarium complex.
Chattanooga Aquarium's newest attraction is a perfect treatment for those visitors who have had a hyper day. You have rushed around visiting lots of attractions. You are wound up tighter than an over coiled spring. Didn't you come on vacation to relax? Then you board the Chattanooga Aquarium's River Gorge Explorer.
An egret struts along the bank of the Tennessee River
You take a seat and stare out at the blue sky overhead, the water gently rocks you until the boat takes off. You no longer have to worry about traffic and getting anywhere on schedule. Then you are skimming along. You begin to relax.
The boat is a three million dollar creation that can seat 70 passengers inside the main deck and had an upper observation deck if you want to be outside under the sky. It was designed in New Zeeland. The 65' aluminum catamaran high speed tour boat was constructed by All American Marine in Washington state and took a full year to build. It was brought around Pacific through the Panama Canal then to Fort Lauderdale and into the Gulf of Mexico, into Mobile Bay up the Tombigbee, into the Tennessee River and to its berth in Chattanooga. It is a one of a kind boat.
Talk about a mansion on a hill!
The naturalist, Betsy, explains that you will cruise at top speeds until you reach the Tennessee River Gorge and will cover about 500,000,000 years over the next two hours. The boat is the fastest tour boat on the river but will slow and stop for interesting sights along the way. It can turn almost in its own length. The bank is covered with interesting cliffs and greenery The boat slows to watch a wading bird near the shore. You spot a osprey flying overhead. Now this is what a vacation should be like.
There are coyotes, deer, chipmunks, and countless other species of wildlife along the banks. You are in the in an area of one of the highest biodiversity in the county. There is a 550 feet difference in elevation as you travel east to west. You are looking out on the Cumberland Plateau. Off the bow, you can see famed Lookout Mountain.
This is some of the prettiest real estate you will find. Naturally there are some gorgeous homes perched on the cliffs high above the river. One white mansion is particularly eye-catching.
By the time the boat returns to its dock, you know this is why you choose Chattanooga for your vacation
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