Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga: What to See and Do


Located in downtown Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium lets you see the wonders of both the marine and freshwater world. See colorful fish, playful penguins and even touch stingrays. Discover what it’s like to explore a river that stretches from the mountains to the sea. Or learn the secrets of coral reefs. The Tennessee Aquarium offers all this and more, making it a must-visit attraction in Chattanooga.

Tennessee Aquarium History

Designed by renowned architect Peter Chermayeff, the Chattanooga Aquarium’s River Journey building was the first to be completed. When completed, it was the largest freshwater aquarium in the world, focusing on the ecosystems of the Tennessee River and showcasing a variety of aquatic life in rivers.

Tennessee Aquarium Shark
Tennessee Aquarium Turtle
Chattanooga Aquarium

The success of the aquarium led to the construction of the Ocean Journey building, which opened in 2005. The Ocean Journey expanded the scope of the aquarium to include marine habitats and species such as coral reefs, sharks and penguins, further enhancing the visitor experience.

Exhibits and Attractions

The Tennessee Aquarium has two main exhibition buildings: River Journey and Ocean Journey. These exhibits feature aquatic creatures and habitats found in both freshwater and marine environments.

River Journey

This exhibition focuses on the diverse ecosystems found in rivers from the Tennessee River to the Amazon Basin. Along the River Journey you can explore these habitats and their inhabitants:

  • Appalachian Cove Forest: This exhibit mimics the mountain stream and surrounding forest and is home to local species such as river otters, brook trout and various amphibians.
  • Rivers of the World: Discover the fish and wildlife found in major river systems such as the Mississippi, Congo and Mekong, and in the Amazon rainforest.
  • Tennessee River Gallery: Discover the variety of species that live in the Tennessee River, including flatfish, paddlefish and sturgeon.
  • Delta Country: See the creatures found in the Mississippi Delta, such as alligators, turtles and many species of birds.
  • Seahorses: Marvel at the exquisite beauty and unique biology of seahorses and their relatives, pipefish and sea dragons.

Tennessee Aquarium Lizard
Tennessee Aquarium Octopus

Ocean Journey

The other part of the aquarium, Ocean Journey, takes visitors to marine environments. This exhibit features species from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and the open ocean. Highlights of this building include the following attractions:

  • Hidden Reef: Representing the coral reefs of the Caribbean, this large exhibit is home to various species of sharks, sea turtles and tropical fish.
  • Boneless Beauties: Get up close with fascinating invertebrates such as jellyfish, octopus and cuttlefish.
  • Penguin Reef: Watch Gentoo and Macaroni penguins swim, dive and walk.
  • Touch Tanks: Touch tanks where you can feel the texture of sea creatures such as stingrays, horseshoe crabs and sea stars.

The River Journey and Ocean Journey exhibits offer visitors a variety of habitats and species. You can touch some animals. Hand washing stations or hand sanitizers are located next to areas that allow interaction with stingrays and other aquatic creatures.

Tennessee Aquarium Alligator
Aquarium Chattanooga TN

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Tennessee Aquarium?

Visiting the aquarium can be an affordable day trip or weekend getaway. Tennessee Aquarium tickets can be purchased online or at the aquarium. If you plan to buy on site, note that tickets are sold in a different building across the street from the aquarium. If you buy online, you can enter directly into one of the two aquarium buildings.

Tennessee Aquarium Penguins

Current prices can be found on the official website. If you want to enter IMAX in addition to the aquarium entrance, you need to buy a separate ticket. If you buy an annual membership, you can enter the aquarium at any time throughout the year. Children up to two years old are free.

Where is the Tennessee Aquarium?

Located in the center of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Aquarium is a must-visit for anyone who wants to explore underwater life. You have a few options to get there:

  • By car: If you are traveling by car, Chattanooga is located at the intersection of Interstates 24, 59 and 75. There is plenty of parking near the aquarium.
  • By bus: For those traveling by bus, Greyhound serves Chattanooga. The station is at 740 E 12th Street, about 1.5 miles from the aquarium. You can cover the remaining distance by taxi, carpool, or CARTA, Chattanooga’s public transportation system.

Once in Chattanooga, you can take advantage of the free Electric Shuttle, which stops at the aquarium and runs downtown every 15 minutes. More information to plan your visit is available on the aquarium’s official website.



How long does it take to visit the entire aquarium?

The time needed to visit the Chattanooga Aquarium varies depending on one’s preferences and interest. Visitors spend 2-3 hours on average, but some may spend more time exploring the different habitats, interacting with educational exhibits and attending additional programs. It is a good idea to set aside at least half a day to get the best experience.

What makes this aquarium special?

The aquarium stands out for its focus on both marine and freshwater ecosystems. It has an impressive collection of species and offers immersive exhibits that allow visitors to explore various aquatic habitats.

The aquarium is dedicated to conservation and education and offers many programs to teach visitors the importance of protecting our planet’s aquatic ecosystems. In addition, its location on the banks of the Tennessee River adds a unique background and context to the experience.

What is the largest aquarium in Tennessee?

Tennessee’s largest aquarium is the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. This is a premier aquatic attraction with two main buildings showcasing a variety of marine and freshwater species from around the world: River Journey and Ocean Journey.

How far is Ruby Falls from Tennessee Aquarium?

Ruby Falls is approximately 3.6 miles from Tennessee Aquarium. The drive between the two attractions takes about 15 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. Both places are popular destinations for tourists visiting Chattanooga.


The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga offers an unforgettable journey through diverse aquatic worlds. From fascinating exhibits to hands-on experiences, every visit promises adventure and learning. Whether you’re exploring river ecosystems or marveling at ocean creatures, the Tennessee Aquarium is a place where curiosity and discovery come together.