The really expensive Georgia Aquarium
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.
|Aquarium||adult||child||Family of 4 per day||Family membership|
|Mote, Sarasota FL||15||10||50||none|
|SC Aq, Charleston SC||15||8||46||$80|
|Adventure, Camden NJ||16.95||13.95||61.80||none|
|Ripley's, Myrtle Beach||16.95||9.95||53.80||none|
|Mystic Aq, Mystic CT||17.5||12.5||60||$110|
|Tennessee Aq, Chattanooga||17.95||9.5||54.90||$85|
|Aq of the Pacific, Long Beach CA||18.95||10.95||59.80||$109|
|National Aq, Baltimore MD||19.5||13.5||66||$109|
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
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
Children (5 to 12 years) $5
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
Kids (under 12): $5.99
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey CA
Child (3 thru 12): $10.95
Family membership: $175
Mote Marine Aquarium, Sarasota FL
Children 4-12: $10
Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, Mystic CT
Children (age 3 - 17): $12.50
Family membership: Family $110
National Aquarium in Baltimore, Baltimore MD
Children (3 to 11): $13.50
Family membership: $109
New York Aquarium, Brooklyn, NY
Child (2-12): $8.00
Family membership: $120
Newport Aquarium, Newport KY
Children (ages 3 through 12): $10.95
Family membership (2 adults and 2 children 3-13): $107.60
North Carolina Aquariums
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
Child (3-12): $9.50
Family membership: $85
The Dallas World Aquarium, Dallas TX
Children (3-12 Years): $8.95
Family membership: $135
The Florida Aquarium, Tampa FL
Children under 12: $11.95
Party of Four Membership: $90