Starting today, vaccinated travelers planning to visit the Tennessee Aquarium can scratch one item off their packing checklist: a mask.
In accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated guests arriving at the Aquarium or IMAX 3D Theater after 11 a.m. will no longer be required to wear a mask. The Aquarium will not require proof of vaccination, but members and visitors are asked to responsibly and respectfully cooperate with the mask guidance and safety protocols.
Guests with special health concerns who wish to explore the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings with complete peace of mind can visit during a new early bird admission window. All visitors ages five and up arriving during this period — daily between opening and 11 a.m. — will be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
To offer more opportunities for all guests to visit, the Aquarium’s hours of operation will expand in June.
• Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Fridays and Sundays: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Saturdays: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
These additional hours arrive just in time for the next phase of the Aquarium’s yearlong Global Passport Program celebration. Every month of the year, the Aquarium is shifting the focus of its online content and on-site signage to highlight species from a different continent. Guests visiting during the month of June will be encouraged to pay special attention to African animals, whether it’s rambunctious Ring-tailed Lemurs from Madagascar, surprisingly brainy Elephantnose Fish of the Congo River basin or the maze-patterned Mbu Pufferfish of Lake Tanganyika.
Visitors can gain new insights into the Aquarium’s globe-spanning living collection via its free app, which was updated by Tennessee Tech University. In addition to offering helpful visitor info, the app now features a trio of Global Passport-themed games that challenge their memory and their mastery of wildlife trivia.
While they explore, visitors also will notice that some exhibits previously closed due to health concerns have been reopened. These include interactive touchscreen games in the Turtles of the World gallery as well as beloved pop-up tanks that offer a unique, in-exhibit perspective on Giant Japanese Spider Crabs, the wave-tossed Vancouver Island coastline or the teeming waters of a Pascagoula River bayou. Additional elements that remain closed, including the Butterfly Garden and Lake Sturgeon touch tank, will be re-evaluated for reopening as conditions continue to improve.
Across the street at the IMAX 3D Theater, Chattanooga’s largest screen is now playing an all-new film, Great Bear Rainforest 3D. Guided by narrator and Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, viewers are whisked away to the ancient, seldom-visited wilds of coastal British Columbia’s rugged temperate rainforest. This sprawling landscape is home to the world’s rarest bear species: the Spirit Bear. With a total population estimated at just a few dozen individuals, this genetic offshoot of the Black Bear is pure white and has almost never been captured on film. Great Bear Rainforest 3D offers stunning, unprecedented views of these rare bears and the many other amazing animals with which they share their home, including Sea Otters, Bald Eagles, Humpback Whales and Grey Wolves.
Despite the removal of the Aquarium’s mask requirement for fully-vaccinated guests, other safety measures will remain in place, including a cap on hourly attendance and the use of timed-entry ticketing. The Aquarium’s housekeeping staff will continue to rigorously sanitize frequently touched surfaces, and all staff members will be required to wear masks while on duty.
For more information on the Aquarium’s health protocols or to purchase a timed-entry ticket, visit tnaqua.org/welcomeback. For IMAX show times and movie descriptions visit tnaqua.org/imax.