Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The really expensive Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium will soon open in downtown Atlanta. Along with being the world's largest aquarium, it will also have the highest admission prices for any aquarium outside of the Seaworld amusement parks.

All of which makes the AJC article on the Georgia Aquarium pricing just a bit odd. Partly, it’s the tone, which seems to go out of the way to excuse the high prices. Partly, it’s the omissions. Atlanta has a number of very good aquariums within a day’s drive and the article references none for comparison: North Carolina has 3, South Carolina has 2, Tennessee 1, Kentucky 1, New Orleans did have 1, and any number of places in Florida. That's a lot of fish and water only a few hours drive away.

For example, a family of four could visit the Tennessee aquarium for $23 less than the Georgia aquarium. It’s less than a two hour drive and that will cover your gas. The Tennessee aquarium also offers a family membership. In fact, since your first admission can be applied towards the membership, you’re money ahead if you only visit twice.

Another omission, or perhaps an inaccuracy, is the following:
The aquarium is not offering family discount tickets, which are common for some entertainment venues but rare in the aquarium community.

"I don't know of any major aquariums that do family plans," said Ken Peterson, spokesman for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Actually, family discounts are not rare, if by “not rare” I mean more than half of all aquariums offer family memberships. And the nice thing about family memberships is that most are for two adults and two children under eighteen. This is significant when you consider that most aquariums also charge children over the age of twelve as adults. Being a spokesman, Mr. Peterson has an easy to find email address, so I emailed him. Here's his response:
You're correct that we and other aquariums routinely offer family memberships. Typically, for-profit theme parks offer "season passes" to make repeat visitation more attractive.My quote addressed "season passes" as opposed to memberships, and the unusual approach the Georgia Aquarium seems to be taking by offering special ticket pricing for a season of visits, as opposed to a family membership. Membership typically carries with it other benefits beyond unlimited admission (member-only events, a newsletter and the like), and is created as a way to connect people to the conservation mission of the institution. Needless to say, our hope is that members deepend their relationship, as donors or conservation activists, and become more than just frequent visitors.

Note the unusual approach. To me, this sounds like the Georgia Aquarium is offering less and charging more for it.

Let’s compare Tennessee versus Georgia with two adults and two teenagers. Both charge children thirteen and older at the adult price.

Tennessee aquarium would cost $71.80 (17.95 x 4) for a day visit.
Georgia aquarium would cost $91.00 (22.75 x 4) for a day visit.

Now, according to the article, the Georgia aquarium does offer annual passes. That’s $59.50 a person ($43.25 if under 12), so the same family of four could pay $238 for annual passes. That would require three visits before you started saving money.

Now take a look at the Tennessee aquarium, they have a family pass for $85. That’s unlimited visits for two adults and two children under eighteen. You’ve paid for the membership less than halfway through your second visit.

In other words, with the family/annual pass the Tennessee aquarium will cost you $85 for three visits, while the Georgia aquarium will cost you $238.

The article also mentions the Shedd aquarium in Chicago with the highest admission at $23. This is also slightly deceptive. If you check the Shedd's ticket prices you’ll see that Chicago residents get a discount--$17 for adults and $12 for children, as opposed to $23/$16. The Georgia aquarium offers no such discount, so for Georgia customers the Georgia aquarium is easily the most expensive aquarium ticket in the country.

Searching the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, I’ve listed most of facilities that operate solely as aquariums. For the table below, I’ve extracted those aquariums that charge $15 or more for an adult ticket for a comparison of “major” aquariums. Remember, the article states "Ticket prices are similar to those of other major aquariums throughout he country but are not cheap." As you can see, the "not cheap" is correct, though the prices aren't that similar to other major aquariums. Perhaps if they had a membership plan, the Georgia Aquarium would seem more reasonable.

As it is, the cost for a family of four to attend the Georgia Aqurium is more than $19 above the average of the other major aquariums.

note: there's something screwy with the table formatting, so scroll down a bit for the rest of this.































































































AquariumadultchildFamily of 4 per dayFamily membership
Mote, Sarasota FL151050none
SC Aq, Charleston SC15846$80
Dallas TX15.958.9549.80$135
Adventure, Camden NJ16.9513.9561.80none
Ripley's, Myrtle Beach16.959.9553.80none
Mystic Aq, Mystic CT17.512.560$110
Newport,KY17.9510.9557.80
none
Tennessee Aq, Chattanooga17.959.554.90$85

17.9511.9559.80$90
Aq of the Pacific, Long Beach CA18.9510.9559.80$109
National Aq, Baltimore MD19.513.566$109
Monterey Bay21.9510.9565.80$175
Atlanta22.751779.50none
Shedd, Chicago23.0016.0078.00$95
Averages18.3811.7360.20


Personally, I have nothing against the Georgia Aquarium. I like aquariums. It's just that other than the vanity of the Atlanta leaders and Bernie Marcus, I've never understood the appeal of this project. As we usually attend the Tennessee Aquarium about twice a year, we'll save our money by driving to Chattanooga.

For reference, here's a fuller list of aquariums around the country.

Adventure Aquarium, Camden, New Jersey
Adult (Ages 13-64) $16.95
Youth (Ages 2-12) $13.95
no family passes

Moody Gardens, Galveston, Texas
Adults (12-64): $14.25
Children (4-12): $6.95
Family membership is $260, but is admission to 7 attractions.

Aquarium of the Bay, SanFrancisco, CA
Adult (Ages 11-64) $13.95
Youth (Ages 3-11) $6.50
Family Membership (2 adults, 2 children): $65

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA
Adult: $18.95
Child (3-11): $10.95
Family: $109 - 1 or 2 adults and their children (ages 3 –17)

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, LA
currently not available due to Katrina

Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, Bermuda, FL
Adults $10
Children (5 to 12 years) $5
Family $55

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Inst. of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
Adult, 18-59 years $11.00
Youth (3-17 yrs,) $7.50
No family plan

Houston Aquarium, Houston TX
Adults: $8.99
Kids (under 12): $5.99

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey CA
Adult: $21.95
Child (3 thru 12): $10.95
Family membership: $175

Mote Marine Aquarium, Sarasota FL
Adults: $15
Children 4-12: $10

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, Mystic CT
Adult: $17.50
Children (age 3 - 17): $12.50
Family membership: Family $110

National Aquarium in Baltimore, Baltimore MD
Adults: $19.50
Children (3 to 11): $13.50
Family membership: $109

New York Aquarium, Brooklyn, NY
Adults: $12
Child (2-12): $8.00
Family membership: $120

Newport Aquarium, Newport KY
Adults: $17.95
Children (ages 3 through 12): $10.95
Family membership (2 adults and 2 children 3-13): $107.60

North Carolina Aquariums
Adults: $7
Children: Ages 6-17: $5
family membership: $40 - free family admission to all three NC aquariums.

Ripley's Aquarium, Myrtle Beach SC
Adults (12 yrs and older): $16.95
Children (Ages 5-11): $9.95
Adult annual pass: $36.95

Seattle Aquarium, Seattle WA
Adult 13+: $12.00
Youth 6-12: $8.00
Family membership: $60

South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, SC
Adults (12-61) $15.00
Youth (6-11) $8.00
Family membership: $80

Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga, TN
Adult: $17.95
Child (3-12): $9.50
Family membership: $85

The Dallas World Aquarium, Dallas TX
Adults: $15.95
Children (3-12 Years): $8.95
Family membership: $135

The Florida Aquarium, Tampa FL
Adults: $17.95
Children under 12: $11.95
Party of Four Membership: $90

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, there is the Ripley's Aquarium in Hillbillyburg, er, I mean Gatlinburg, TN. And they have sharks! http://www.ripleysaquariumofthesmokies.com/

I grew up 5 miles from the Mystic Aquarium in CT and spent several happy days there as kid under their family membership program. It's an great place with many educational programs geared towards kids.

-AMG

9/21/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Considering it is the world's largest aquarium, It's not surprising that they charge a premium price. Obviously, it has not hindered attendance, so why should they charge less (this is not a charity).

And you're a fool for driving 2 hours to see something 1/12th the size of the aquarium that is re-vitalizing downtown Atlanta. Hope you have hybrid, because 4 hours round trip could easily cost you more than $23 nowadays.

6/01/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

They can charge anything they want, I just don't see anything that justifies the cost. If everyone wants to be a lemming and stand in line with all the other lemmings, that's no concern of mine.

And screw downtown Atlanta and their unoriginal aquarium. They should've done something fun and unique...like a giant beach and wave machine for surfing or maybe an indoor downhill skiing.

And even at the curent gas prices, I'm still saving money driving to Chattanooga.

6/01/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous RionRustleRevue said...

And NOW are you saving money still by driving to Chattanooga? An average of $3.67 per gallon of gas in Georgia is fun! Just kidding.

5/11/2008 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Usually when people say "Just kidding," they're not. So, RRR, let's run the numbers. I'll use your price even though that's about a dime more than I paid yesterday. Vehicle gets 30 mpg.

Tennessee Aquarium
100 miles
3.33 gallons = $12.22
3 tickets = $52.85
parking = $5
total = $70.07

Georgia Aquarium
28 miles
.93 gallons = $3.41
3 tickets = $81.00
parking = $10
total = $94.41

I will accept your apology.

5/11/2008 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

I forgot to do the mileage as roundtrip AND I'm still coming out ahead. Good thing the whale-killing Atlanta fishbowl is so expensive.

Tennessee: 82.29
Atlanta: 97.82

5/11/2008 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Because we had free passes I finally went to the Georgia aquarium. Until I get around to a more complete review, this will have to do:

Jesus Christ, what a pain in the ass. It might be the world's largest aquarium, but they do such a good job hiding it it's hard to tell. Walking around the main tank there are 20-30 foot sections where you see NOTHING! Give us multiple layers so we're not just on the bottom. The whole experience just pissed me off and I doubt I'd go back as a paying customer.

6/20/2008 02:47:00 PM  
Anonymous faisha said...

Bill You are funny! I still havent been to the aquarium yet because I know I'll only go once(due to the costs) so I'm trying to wait until a large group of family members come to visit.

Although the one guy is correct, it's not supposed to be a charity, I'd think that one goal would be to expose the general public to aquatic life, not just the upper middle class.

9/20/2008 04:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that when the original plans were laid out, IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A CHARITY. I feel ripped-off that I donated money to what ended up to be a theme park and was never turned over to the people...

10/03/2008 08:39:00 AM  
Anonymous T5 Aquarium Fixture said...

Current USA Nova Extreme T5 fixture is a 24 hour T5 fixture containing T5 HO lights and Lunar LEDs in one fixture.

10/08/2009 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is 09/23/2016
I purchased tickets for myself, sister and nephew and a 10.00 parking pass for the day, my total was 120.00 dollars. This will be our first time visiting but Georgia Aquarium prices are ridiculously high. my tickets were 36 and my nephews which he is 5 years old, was 29 dollars. C R A Z Y
We BETTER enjoy ourselves tomorrow haha

9/23/2016 07:13:00 PM  

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