For many families, the holidays are a time to come together for unique experiences. At this most special time of year, the Aquarium’s annual Holidays Under the Peaks is set to deliver the usual helping of unforgettable encounters with incredible animals alongside an extra helping of seasonal spice.
The six weeks of wonder begins on Nov. 20 and continues through Dec. 31.
On any given day of the year, there’s a distinctly joyous wonder that accompanies trips through the Tennessee Aquarium, but as the last days of the calendar dwindle, the sense of awe and magic becomes even stronger. Every bubble seems to shimmer with a silvery sheen, the animals’ movements become balletically graceful and the sunlight streaming through the glass peaks takes on a warming, amber glow.
This year, the Aquarium’s holiday splendor will be apparent as soon as visitors walk through the doors. Festive decorations and holiday music piped into the River Journey lobby will serve as a jolly kickoff to each adventure from the mountains to the sea.
As their journey commences, guests can take part in a fun, seasonally themed scavenger hunt. By answering a series of cryptic clues about the species they’re seeing, visitors will learn interesting facts about the Aquarium’s world-renowned collection of animals and the right to claim a sticker in the gift shop as a reward for their cleverness.
While animal programs have been temporarily suspended to ensure proper physical distancing, the holidays will be full of plenty of unscheduled fun. The animals enjoy this time of year just as much as their human audience, and staff members have plenty of stimulating enrichment activities planned for the season.
You never know when you’ll see River Otters or Gentoo Penguins playfully reacting to an unexpected “snowstorm” in their exhibits or when a Giant Pacific Octopus will retrieve a delicious treat from a puzzling container in a shocking display of intelligence. Fittingly for a time of year when surprises abound, every visit during Holidays Under the Peaks offers the chance to see something delightfully unexpected.
What could be more unexpected than an Electric Eel serving as the Aquarium’s official tree lighter? Miguel Wattson, the Aquarium’s snarky, tweeting eel became a bonafide global c-eel-ebrity last year when his electrical discharges were married to a nearby holiday tree and light display. Although the display isn’t actually powered by his discharges, sensors connected to Miguel’s tank cause the connected lights to brighten and dim in response to the strength of his zapping. This year, the festive arrangement will glow to life with an official, live-streamed lighting ceremony on Dec. 1.
While some Aquarium traditions are just now getting off the ground, some are practically generational. This year, screenings of The Polar Express 3D return to the IMAX 3D Theater on Nov. 27. For years, families have flocked to the Aquarium to watch a doubting boy’s incredible journey to the North Pole. Showings of this modern classic will continue through Dec. 27. As always, this heart-warming film is best enjoyed while wearing pajamas, which are the encouraged (but not required) dress code. Tickets are $11.95 for adults and $9.95 for ages 3-12.
Throughout Holidays Under the Peaks, the Aquarium will continue the outreach campaign it has embarked on throughout the year to bring its beautiful animals to fans all around the world. Each week, regularly scheduled Facebook Lives will let viewers near and far witness fun behaviors, glance behind the scenes of their favorite exhibits and maybe even catch a glimpse of a certain SCUBA-diving resident of the North Pole taking a dip in one of the exhibits.
While the Aquarium is an especially fun place to visit during the holidays, a trip through its galleries is a memorable experience year-round. Members can return as often as they want for a year, and these visits, whether alone or in the company of loved ones, offer much-needed opportunities to learn and relax by reconnecting with nature. Gift memberships to the Aquarium are a perfect present, and through Dec. 16, all membership purchases will include an adorable Green Sea Turtle plush to place under the tree as a promise of the months’ worth of fun to come.
For more information about membership benefits or to purchase one for yourself or a loved one, visittnaqua.org/members/. Additional details about Holidays Under the Peaks are available athttps://tnaqua.org/holidays/.
To purchase tickets to a screening of The Polar Express 3D, visithttps://tnaqua.org/imax/the-polar-express-3d/