As part of an overseas getaway from their home in Skipton, U.K., Alistair and Carol Shuttleworth brought their daughters Emily and Freya to visit the Tennessee Aquarium Monday morning. As they prepared to pay for their tickets, however, they were more than a little surprised by the total.
Alistair, a construction project manager, and Carol, a teacher, were the Aquarium’s 23 millionth guests since opening on May 1, 1992.
In honor of the occasion, the family received free passes to the Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater, a pair of lemur plushes and an all-access pass to Chattanooga area attractions from the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We were a bit shocked,” Emily said.
“We were excited,” her mother added.
“I was a bit confused what was happening,” Freya concluded, grinning.
The Shuttleworth’s have been in America for a little over a week. After four days on the Florida coast and visiting Alistair’s sister in Atlanta for the Easter holiday, they added a two-day trip to Chattanooga.
Their Scenic City adventure began with a ride up Lookout Mountain aboard the Incline Railway, after which Emily and Freya asked to visit the Aquarium based on a friend’s recommendation.
In addition to seeing the world’s largest freshwater aquarium for free, the Shuttleworths also received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Ocean Journey building, which offered a special birds-eye perspective of the Macaroni and Gentoo Penguins colonies of Penguin Rock and a trip to the feeding and dive platform over the Secret Reef tank.
All in all, the experience was even better than anticipated, Alistair said.
“It was very interesting,” he said. “We got to see a lot more than we expected. It’s really good, and it’s not just an aquarium. You start at the top with the lemurs and butterflies and then move on to see the sharks and things. It’s really cool.”