Visiting the Whales in Chattanooga

A Day Away By Mike Steely

You’d never think about visiting whales within a two-hour drive from Knoxville but if you are into the world’s largest mammal or you simply like 3-D movies, you might think of Chattanooga and the Tennessee Aquarium.
No, there are not large whales at the aquarium, which by the way has two different buildings featuring freshwater and saltwater creatures. But the Tennessee Aquarium’s IMAX Theater is featuring a fantastic 3-D film on blue whales.
My wife and I drove down recently and found a paid parking spot at the Aquarium, walked to the theater across the street and settled into the large auditorium not really knowing what to expect. We put on the 3-D glasses and spent about 45 minutes in awe of those large creatures, their lifecycle, their birth and their adventures.
It was mind-blowing and so real it felt as if we could reach out and touch the creatures. The narration and music were great and the images were very well done and impressive.
“Blue Whales: Return of the Giants” tells the story of the revival of that population in an award-winning feature. It airs each day at noon, 2:30 and 5 p.m. and runs through September. A ticket is included with a Tennessee Aquarium admission of $47.95 for adults and $37.95 for children. Or you can visit the IMAX whale show for $9.95 per person. A special rate for military and veterans may be available.
The different levels of the aquarium contain sea and river creatures, everything from turtles to sharks, stingrays to sturgeons, and, yes, they have penguins.
The complex is next to the Tennessee River and is part of Chattanooga’s restored riverfront development. The view from the aquarium’s upper floors is great. The complex is wheelchair accessible and offers special tours for things like a reef feeding event in its “Deeper Dive” tour.
Getting to the Tennessee Aquarium and the IMAX Theater was a bit confusing but we followed I-75 south to Interstate 24, went west to I-24 and got off at 4th Street and followed the signs. Paid parking at the complex was crowded but we found a spot, bought the parking on an outdoor computer, and walked through the aquarium over to the theater.
After the “Blue Whale” film we walked over to the two buildings of the aquarium and spent our time watching the sea animals.
Chattanooga has spent many years developing its riverfront with attractions, hotels, events and commerce.
You can get more information about the Tennessee Aquarium and the IMAX theater online or you can call (800) 265-0695.