Chattanooga, Tenn. (March 3, 2022) – For 30 years, the Tennessee Aquarium has been synonymous with Chattanooga’s bustling waterfront, a skyline-defining landmark that has attracted more than 26 million guests from around the world to the Scenic City.
Yet beneath its iconic glass peaks are a constantly-evolving collection of exhibits that are home to thousands of delightfully unpredictable animals. For all the comfortable familiarity of its exterior, then, every trip through the Aquarium’s galleries is a unique, memorable experience, whether a guest is a first-time arrival or a lifelong member.
Thanks to many recent updates at the Aquarium, embarking on an adventure from the mountains to the sea should be an even more enticing proposition for families deciding where best to spend their upcoming spring break.
The Aquarium’s living collection includes more than 12,000 animals representing hundreds of species found on every continent. Nowhere is this cosmopolitan side better displayed than the River Journey building’s Rivers of the World gallery, where Vietnamese Mossy Frogs are just a hop or two away from Siberian Sturgeon, Fly River Turtles, Chinese Crocodile Lizards and a West African Dwarf Crocodile.
The most recent addition to this collection of exhibits representing waterways from around the world is a 2,200-gallon showcase of wildlife from the Kapuas River, Indonesia’s longest waterway. Here, guests can see a community of colorful Rasboras, Barbs, Gouramis and Loaches as well as a pair of critically endangered Malaysian Painted River Terrapins.
First-time Aquarium adventurers or fans who haven’t visited in a while will find plenty to gawk at in the Turtles of the World gallery. This long-time favorite exhibition space underwent a complete transformation in March 2020 with refocused emphasis on hotspots of turtle diversity in Southeast Asia and the American Southeast. The gallery’s true must-see attraction, however, is its working turtle nursery where guests can see a rotating cast of dozens of adorable turtle hatchlings. These teeny turtles represent a wide variety of species, many of them critically endangered or recovered by law enforcement from illegal traffickers.
In Ocean Journey, the tiny animal excitement continues with a Fish Nursery exhibit recently added to the Island Life gallery. This habitat brims with marine fish that were raised in-house by aquarists from eggs collected in the building’s massive Secret Reef exhibit. The animals on display varies as juveniles grow large enough to be moved to other exhibits but guests can see cherubic examples of species such as Bermuda Chubs, Atlantic Spadefish, Sergeant Majors and even bug-eyed Long-spine Porcupinefish.
Island Life’s newest addition, however, is an endangered tree-dwelling resident of Southeast Asia’s Batanta Island off the west coast of New Guinea. As its name suggests, the Blue-spotted Tree Monitor has beautifully mottled blue and black scales. This large lizard has a tail twice the length of it body and can be found in a species-specific tank near the entrance to the gallery.
From Ocean Journey’s depths to its sun-bathed heights, the additions continue with the recent grand reopening of the Butterfly Garden. After a nearly 20-month closure brought on by supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic, this visitor-favorite gallery finally reopened last fall with redesigned landscaping that gave its winged residents more opportunities to be seen. At any one time, about 1,500 butterflies flit through this lush tropical garden with the occasional Instagram-worthy pause to land on lucky visitors.
Across the street from the Aquarium, the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater has made a name for itself among cinephiles as a must-visit venue for giant-screen entertainment ranging from thrilling 45-minute nature and adventure screenings to limited runs of popular feature films.
During spring break, moviegoers will be able to choose from a pair of exciting films that take full advantage of the theater’s six-story screen and state-of-the-art IMAX with Laser projection system.
Australia’s Great Wild North 3D whisks viewers to the Northern Territory at the top end of Australia. There, they’ll explore vast marshlands and sandstone mountains, where they’ll encounter sharks, venomous snakes, dinosaur-like Saltwater Crocodiles and more residents of this little-explored region covering a footprint that’s twice the size of Texas.
Arriving just prior to spring break, Ocean Odyssey 3D joins a mother Humpback Whale and her calf as they merge onto the East Australian Current for an 1,800-mile journey from the Great Barrier Reef to feeding grounds off the coast of Antarctica. With stunning underwater footage of amazing marine life including Sea Lions, Bottlenose Dolphins, Clownfish and White-tip Reef Sharks, filmmakers show how oceanic currents function as a kind of circulatory system vital to life all over the planet.
For more information about spring break at the Aquarium, visit tnaqua.org/spring-break.
Showtimes and a screening schedule for the IMAX 3D Theater are available at https://tnaqua.org/imax
Image courtesy of Tennessee Aquarium.