Situated in the heart of downtown on the banks of the Tennessee River, the aquarium’s exhibits stretch across two five-story buildings. The River Journey Building is home to the world’s largest gathering of freshwater species, including well-known critters from the American South: river otters, trout, sturgeon, a diverse collection of turtles, and dozens of alligators.
Just across the Aquarium plaza is the Ocean Journey Building — home to a massive diversity of saltwater and tropical life. Exhibits here include a Madagascar Lemur Forest; dozens of shark and ray species at Stingray Bay; and an indoor butterfly garden. The self-guided tour peaks with a visit to the sub-Antarctic, home to a colony of Macaroni and Gentoo penguins. Finally, visitors wind their way around and under the Secret Reef — a massive, 600,000-gallon recreation of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Here, you’ll find thousands of species of fish, marine plants, and sea turtles.
The Backstage Pass is the Tennessee Aquarium’s premier experience providing visitors with a VIP glimpse behind-the-scenes.
Only two tours are scheduled daily — one at the River Journey Building and another at the Ocean Journey Building. In both cases, the exclusive 45-minute tour allows guests to step into the boots of one of the Aquarium’s caretakers.
Visitors can expect:
- A visit to the Food Prep Room to see first-hand how meals are prepared for the Aquarium’s critters
- To see the Keepers Only area overlooking the River Giants exhibit
- To chat with scuba divers fresh out of the shark tank while overlooking the Secret Reef exhibit
- A “birds-eye” view from above the Macaroni and Gentoo penguin exhibit
- Other up-close and personal animal encounters
In Their Own Words
Within our two buildings, you’ll trace the path of water from the mountains to the sea. Come face-to-face with the fascinating native animals that live in our backyards and the amazing creatures that thrive in some of the most remote locations on Earth.