We traveled and visited family in Georgia for Thanksgiving. We heard how amazing the Aquarium was and wanted to take our kids. I just thought about how much my daughter would love the sharks and whales. I didn’t think, stress or worry about my son with autism and how he may or may not enjoy it. So, if you have a child with autism or a special needs child I am going to give you my review and any suggestions that may help make the day the best.
The five-star features:
When we got there the line was short and moving very quickly. We made it through the bag check and to the phone area in no time. The ticket taker was like going into the movies, scan and go. We did buy our tickets online, ahead of time with a specific time. The Georgia Aquarium doesn’t have regularly daily hours they vary. You want to make it easier and cheaper by pre-ordering tickets.
The aquarium is amazing and beautiful! It doesn’t disappoint in animals, size of viewing tanks and education centers. When you stand next to those massive tanks and can see dolphins, whales, seals, sharks, turtle, and manta rays so close its breathtaking.
One star features and guest experiences:
We haven’t gone on a vacation in four years and we have not had a decent family photo in a year. We knew that we would spend the money on the photos at the aquarium. We took photos at the gate and I’m pretty sure my kids actually looked at the camera! Then when my husband went to view and purchase them, they couldn’t be found! So, no pictures. And the guest service representative just said to go back outside and take them again. Also, my husband’s occupation is professional photographer just adding insult to the occasion since he never gets in the photos since he always taking them.
Accessibility is terrible. I have a six-year-old with autism that finds comfort in sitting in a stroller or we use it as a place for him to sit if he is out of control. So, we had a double stroller with us. The aquarium is stairs, stairs, and stairs. Also, not like a flight of stairs just like those annoying three to four stairs then a landing and three or four more. The ramp isn’t next to the stairs! It’s all the way around the middle of the center of the aquarium.
So, this brings me to accessibility part two. The exhibits are not linked together they are completely separate. So, if you go to the dolphin section you take the elevator or escalator upstairs to view them. You can’t leave the dolphins and go over to the arctic animal exhibit. You have to go down the same way you went in and then walk all the way around the main part of the aquarium to find the ramp to go to the arctic area. When you finish that you have to come all the way out and down the ramp to the next area. None of the exhibits flow together. The only flow I saw was when the tropical area exits, it’s right in the hall where the bathroom door opens, congesting the bathroom entrance and exit. Speaking of bathrooms…I could only find one. That one was on the opposite side of everything we were viewing.
Lunch was too challenging. We should have sent one parent to the upstairs seating with all the stuff and both kids and one parent to get the food. Instead, we get food and then can’t find a table with all our stuff, kids and stroller. Of course, upstairs ballroom was directly up the stairs. I have no idea if there was even an elevator over there. We sat on the curb part of the railing on the floor because it was too hard to find each other and deal with my son having a meltdown about the bathroom and his drink.
Sound/Senses: It’s very loud and noisy. The sounds are all kinds of various sounds from people, music, exhibits and machines. There is music in the main part, lots of kids and adults talking and making noise, every section had sounds. As if running water doesn’t make enough sounds, you have to add running water sounds. All the workers are micro phoned when they talk which is full of static. It’s overwhelming for those with sensory sensitivity.
- Buy your tickets online ahead of time
- Bring headphones for your child
- Bring an extra adult so that your child with autism or special needs has a one on one all day
- Get lunch early and secure a seat away from the main dining area
- Bring any sensory tools/toys that help your child self-regulate
- Visit the park outside if weather permits or have lunch out there
- Do not take a stroller or anything with wheels
I don’t think we will return to the Georgia Aquarium. The entire experience just caused stress and overall wasn’t enjoyable for our family and we couldn’t even get a photo to remember the experience for what was really cool. Next year, we are going to try a new attraction.