Tennessee Aquarium Welcomes 28 Millionth Guest

  • Tuesday, June 11, 2024
  • Doug Strickland
Tennessee Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford stands with River Beeler, Kandace Beeler, Neal Beeler and Ridge Beeler, clockwise from left, as the Beelers become the Tennessee Aquarium's 28 millionth guest.
Tennessee Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford stands with River Beeler, Kandace Beeler, Neal Beeler and Ridge Beeler, clockwise from left, as the Beelers become the Tennessee Aquarium's 28 millionth guest.
photo by Tennessee Aquarium

From teeming Appalachian waterways to the wave-wracked shores of Vancouver Island to bustling coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, generations of guests have embarked on an animal-filled globetrot from the Tennessee Aquarium’s home on the Chattanooga waterfront.

On Tuesday, the Aquarium welcomed its 28 millionth guest, whose journey from the mountains to the sea was made even more special courtesy of a special surprise gift bundle from the Aquarium.

The Beeler family from Dalton, expected to see frolicking River Otters, glimmering Flashlight Fish, and leaping Ring-tailed Lemurs, but their milestone visit was accompanied by a celebratory package featuring free aquarium admission and a backstage tour, a Chattanooga Tourism Company VIP pass, gift cards to area restaurants, and Scenic City-themed souvenirs. The Chattanooga VIP pass grants free admission to more than a dozen local attractions.

The Beelers moved to Dalton about 10 years ago and brought their oldest, River, to the aquarium many times, but their youngest child, Ridge, had never visited.

"We've been trying to come for three weeks," said Kandace Beeler.

"It kept getting bumped back, but we finally made it today!" Neal Beeler added.

Their children's names, Ridge and River, are a fortuitous coincidence, as this will be the family's first chance to see the Aquarium's most recent gallery, Ridges to Rivers. Featuring a remarkable array of freshwater fishes found in the headwaters of the Upper Tennessee River's fast-flowing mountain streams, this collection of multi-sensory exhibits highlights the color and diversity of the region’s incredible — if often-overlooked — aquatic life.

The aquarium’s focus on freshwater has inspired three decades of lifelong learners to care about wildlife around the world as well as in their own backyards. Recently, the Aquarium’s dedication to educating visitors about aquatic ecosystems, industry-leading guest satisfaction, and commitment to the highest standard of animal care contributed to its recognition as the best aquarium in the country through Newsweek Magazine's Readers' Choice poll.

The Beelers picked a fantastic time to visit as summer kicks off with a series of family-friendly happenings around the aquarium.

The aquarium’s fountains, winding artificial stream, and nearby Passage water feature recently became operational for the season, offering several refreshing ways for families to relax and cool off when the mercury climbs. As guests walk through the Aquarium Plaza — a public park surrounding the River Journey and Ocean Journey buildings — they can explore the Pollinator Pathway, a self-guided tour accompanied by permanent informative signage through meticulously manicured gardens featuring pollinator-friendly native plants like Tennessee Coneflowers and Milkweed.

Inside the aquarium, guests can enjoy a collection of incredible animal portraits by National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore. Two dozen images are displayed on epic scale across the River and Ocean Journey buildings and the nearby IMAX 3D Theater. These photos were selected from the Photo Ark, Sartore’s ambitious, 17-year (and counting) effort to create portraiture of every species of animal living in human care at zoos, aquariums, and wildlife sanctuaries worldwide.

Riverfront Nights, a free summer concert series, recently kicked off near the aquarium on Ross’s Landing. It feaures weekly concerts every Saturday through Aug. 31. Also on Saturdays, the Chattanooga River Market adds its bustle and flair to the Aquarium Plaza with craft vendors, live entertainment,and food trucks from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater, guests can take in a trio of 45-minute films in 3D:

· Flight of the Butterflies 3D follows the migration of Monarch Butterflies from Mexico to the Northern United States. (Special limited screening run during National Pollinator Week — June 17-23.)

· Blue Whales: Return of the Giants 3D introduces viewers to the epic size and surprising reclusiveness of the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. Screened daily.

· The Arctic: Our Frozen Planet 3D takes audiences to the planet’s northernmost reaches to discover how conditions in the land of stampeding Caribou and roaming Polar Bears affects life thousands of miles away. Screened daily.

The IMAX 3D Theater also offers a steady stream of first-run Hollywood blockbusters. Pixar Animation Studios’ much-anticipated sequel, Inside Out 2, premieres in 2D on June 13, followed closely by A Quiet Place: Day One at the end of June. In July, guests can take in showings of Despicable Me 4, Twisters, and Deadpool & Wolverine.

For a complete film schedule and advance ticket purchases, visit tnaqua.org/imax/.

Travel
Tennessee Aquarium Welcomes 28 Millionth Guest
Tennessee Aquarium Welcomes 28 Millionth Guest
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