The Georgia Aquarium Sleepover…it’s been on my bucket list for YEARS…and we finally did it! Cooper and I packed our suitcase and headed to the aquarium for the experience of a lifetime. Was it awesome? Yes! Even better than I imagined!!
We hope our post will inspire you to sign up for an aquarium sleepover, give you the scoop on what to expect when you visit, and offer a few tips for your experience.
Before You Get There
Make Your Reservation
This might sound obvious, but let me give you a little more insight. Are you staying the night as part of a school group or a scout group? That’s awesome. But if you’re visiting as a family, call ahead to inquire about your target date.
Since it was just the two of us, we wanted a smaller, more intimate group. The first date we picked ended up being reserved by a large school group with about 100 kids. We could have kept that date and I’m sure we would have had a spectacular time, but I am very thankful we switched.
There were about 12 people in our sleepover – two other families. There is a benefit to being in a small group. We saw a few more things, were able to vote on where we wanted to sleep, and had a much more “personal” experience with our guide.
If you’re doing a family sleepover, give them a call and ask about the days put aside for JUST families, or check out the schedule here.
Pack Your Bags
Georgia Aquarium recommends packing light, and I couldn’t agree more. Bring your sleeping bag and pillow, plus any special blankets. You’ll want a sweatshirt for the evening, also. We stayed during summer, and it still got a little chilly at night.
Don’t forget your PJs, toothbrush and other toiletries. Also, you might want to bring a battery-powered phone charger. I’m glad we did!
Socks or Slippers
I wore flip flops for the day, so at night I had to either continue wearing them or go bare foot. One of the guides reminded us that thousands of people walked on that floor…so going bare foot before curling your feet into your sleeping bag might not be a great idea.
Bring some socks for your toes…for that time when you have your PJs on, but you’re not yet ready for sleep. Or maybe some slippers to slide on for that midnight trip to the restroom.
To Air Mattress Or Not To Air Mattress
The aquarium provides you a mat. It’s petty comfy, at over an inch thick. Because we were in such a small group, I was even able to stack two on top of each other (because extras were available.)
For me, a blow up mattress or cot would have been overkill. Other people who commented on our Facebook page said an air mattress was a must for them.
If you sleep without an air mattress when tent camping, I think you’ll be fine.
I did not bring a backpack, and I regret it. Don’t make my mistake. You’ll be carrying around a camera, water bottles, etc …and a purse (or your hands) just doesn’t cut it. In addition to the bag you use to carry your jammies, toothbrush, etc…bring a light weight backpack.
Arriving For Your Sleepover
What’s Included With Your Ticket
You’re going to get access to the Aquarium at 6:30pm to start your adventure. You’ll have two different guided tours (one that night and another the next morning,) dinner and breakfast, your sleeping mat, and next-day entry to the aquarium including the 4D theatre, the sea lion show and dolphin show…plus all the other amazing things included in a ticket.
When you arrive, you’ll put your sleeping bag, pillow, suitcase, etc in a secure room near the entrance. This is where they will stay until it’s time to get ready for bed.
If you need to get back in here (like we did, for Cooper’s lunch box) then a staff member will come with you to get your things. Anything you might need should be carried with you in the back pack I mentioned earlier.
More About Dinner
Dinner is included with your sleepover experience. That means chicken fingers, kettle chips, a chocolate chip cookie and a water. You’ll put your name on the water bottle and keep it with you throughout the tour.
My son eats about five things in the universe, and chicken isn’t one of them… so we packed a lunchbox for him (which they recommended.) Turns out, we ate right in the cafe so I could have purchased something there too….BUT that is probably only because we were a small group.
I did take advantage of being there, and grabbed another drink to supplement our water. Oh, and a chocolate eclair. Because…chocolate.
What’s The Evening Agenda
When you arrive with your signed waivers, you’ll store your things and hang out until everyone is there. Then, you’ll get a short orientation about the general rules and plan of attack. After that, you head to dinner.
About 8:15 you’ll meet up with your guide and tour the galleries until about 10ish. Remember, the aquarium closes at 9pm, so you’ll see the crowds get smaller and smaller until finally you are the only ones left in the largest aquarium around. This tour also includes a short break (with gummies for snack.)
About 10ish, we picked up our things and made our way to the theater in Cold Water Quest, which is where we slept. We laid out our mats and sleeping bags, changed into PJs, brushed teeth and got ready for bed. The kids all played until about 11pm, when the lights began getting dimmer and yawns developed. Night, night!
Gallery Tours Are Awesome
Did you read above? “…you’ll meet up with your guide and tour the galleries…” Maybe that sounds boring or “uneventful” especially if you, like us, have visited the aquarium dozens of times.
I assure you it is AMAZING. In fact, I think it was the highlight of the adventure for me, which is why I bring it up.
In all those times that we have visited, in all the special tours we have taken part in, this was the first time that we spent time with someone in the general gallery areas. Nicole showed us so many things that were new to me!
She told us about how the lacy jellyfish feed themselves. She pointed out the aquarium’s only puffer fish. She told us about special personality traits of the beluga’s and how to tell them apart. She explained why Tank the turtle hangs out near the large rock, and pointed out a crazy fish that looks like a living fossil. And that’s just the beginning.
Nothing – and I mean NOTHING – beats exploring the aquarium galleries with a treasured member of their team.
Evening At The Aquarium
Where Will You Sleep
If you are with a large group, chances are that your location is pre-determined. With a small group like we had, the grown-ups were allowed to choose (though our minions clearly had a vote.) Choices include Ocean Voyager, Tropical Diver Gallery, Cold Water Quest, River Scout or the Dolphin Tales Theater Viewing Window.
And even within the galleries, there are more choices. We decided to sleep in Ocean Voyager (because whale sharks are AWESOME.) For a while, it seemed the kids were leaning towards slumber under the tunnel – with the moving sidewalk turned off, of course. But in the end, we all decided that the theater area was best.
One family slept on the wide stairs, but we opted to sleep right next to the large acrylic window…it was everything I imagined.
Turn Out The Lights
What happens to the lights in the gallery? That was a big concern for everyone – especially the kids. It turns out that the lights in the Ocean Voyager gallery closely mimic the sun. They are dimmed a bit at closing, then a little more about 10:30ish, then a little more at 11pm, and then after that they go dark.
How dark? Dark enough to sleep (though I noticed some adults wore sleep masks) but still light enough to go to the bathroom without incident. Once your eyes adjust, you can still watch the fish swimming in the gallery, too.
Lights came on dimly about 6am, and by 6:30 am everything was all lighted up.
Your Morning Adventure
Jump Start The Packing
We woke about 6am, rolled up our sleeping bags and then got dressed for the day. With our small group, a guide led us through the employee entrance out to our car so that we could load our suitcase and sleeping bags (keep that backpack.)
She said that will larger groups they might load everything into a school bus, or keep them in a back room.
Breakfast Is Served
Once we loaded up our things, we headed back to the cafe for breakfast. Thank goodness for coffee!
In addition to the coffee, we were offered large muffins (cheese, blueberry, chocolate, etc,) yogurt, an apple and apple juice. Once again, if this doesn’t suit your little one, pack a breakfast. Just remember, there are no refrigeration options so pack wisely.
The Party Isn’t Over Yet
It’s about 8am. The aquarium isn’t open yet, but you do begin to see other employees coming in for work. Your guide will take you on a backstage tour after breakfast. You’ll see the penguins and whale sharks being fed their breakfast, stop at the commissary to see where all the animals meals are prepared, walk on top of Tropical Diver and learn about how the aquarium is growing their own coral reef…and much more.
Your tour finishes with a stop at the stingray touch tank, and then a visit to the 4D theater, where you’ll say goodbye to your sleepover guides.
On Your Own, But It’s Not Over
The 4D movie ends about 10am and is the conclusion of your sleepover experience, but you don’t have to leave! You now have the entire day to explore everything the aquarium offers.
See the Sea Lion or the Dolphin show, check out the whales or the otters, hang out with the penguins…enjoy the aquarium at your leisure!
This experience goes down as one of our favorites – we loved it and hope you’ll make an effort to visit with your family for a Georgia Aquarium Sleepover!
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Disclosure: 365 Atlanta Family is proudly an Ambassador for Georgia Aquarium…but it doesn’t influence what we share here. The sleepover experience is one for the memory books!
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.