Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Christmas Vacation: The Georgia Aquarium Pt. I - Getting there.

My girlfriend was very pleased that the Georgia Aquarium finally opened for business. While vacationing in Atlanta for the holidays, we spent an evening enjoying the World’s Largest Aquarium. You see, we're real suckers for this kind of thing. Tampa's got a nice aquarium (hell, it may have multiple aquariums, for all I know, but we only saw one) that was a little pricey, but fun to experience. Of the two, I'd prefer one in Georgia, but at least parking was free (or cheap) in Tampa. We drove around and found $8 parking in Atlanta, but some lots charged $10 and $12 (and probably more). In fact, I think I'll start with what we experienced trying to get to, then in The Aquarium. We'll get to the attractions, later.

Okay, finding this place was not easy for me. I grew up in the Atlanta area (though not ATL-proper), so I'm somewhat familiar with the area. Of course, I've been gone for a decade, so there've been quite a few changes. Anyway, that'll give you an idea of where I am on the stranger/local spectrum.

Between The Aquarium's website information and the switchboard.com directions AND the signs around town, we STILL wasted about an hour trying to find this place. With an attraction of this magnitude, I think Atlanta or The Aquarium should be doing a helluva lot more to make sure visitors and old schoolers can find it, park, enjoy, and get the hell on, making room for the next wave of people.

There was a big-ass sign on a building that overlooks an I-20 overpass (right near 285). I mean it was as wide as the building. This was a BIG sign. With that much surface area, you'd think they'd have an arrow or an address or a phone number or SOMEthing to help you find the damned place. No such luck. In fact, WE were thinking that WAS the Aquarium, at first. Why else would someone put up a big ass sign on an unrelated building? Pure advertisement, I'm afraid.

Even when we found smaller signs which lead us in the right general direction, they were so doggone far apart that we'd wonder if we'd missed a turn or something. Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe there was some user error, but I still think they could've done a much better job of helping us get there. I *really* feel for tourists, in-town to see THE WORLD'S LARGEST AQUARIUM. Good luck finding it.

I hope there's a MARTA station nearby or in the making. That'd make the process so much easier. Atlanta's got a great mass transit system, as far as I'm concerned. It'd make sense to make the most of it. It'd cut down on fuel consumptions, traffic, and cost to the consumer.

When we finally found the place and chose one of the overpriced parking lots, we jumped out into the chilly (but not as "witch's titty" cold as we expected) weather and walked about a hundred yards (I dunno) to it... just to be told they weren't selling one-day passes. If we hadn't already decided to buy 12-month passes, I'd have been pissed. How the hell do you tell people AFTER they've spent time and money getting TO this place that they'll have to pay 2.5 times as much to get into a place they might not even LIKE?! I asked an attendant if there was some reason for this, as it didn't even make sense that they couldn't sell one-day passes (or just let you in for one day) and she suggested, without my leading her, that The Aquarium was just trying to make that money.

That's some evil shit.

The set-up was still there from Christmas Day, which we hear was NUTS. The wait must've been CRAZY then, considering how they'd set up those lil zig-zag-line guide thingees. Still, we ended up in a line that was modest, but slow-moving. An attendant volunteered information which saved us a bit of trouble, though. She said we could use a wall-mounted machine to purchase one-day passes.

That's right. ONE-DAY PASSES.

Apparently, the attendants who said they weren't selling those were just lying (either with or without management approval - I dunno, but I'd be willing to guess). Anyway, the truthful attendant told us that we could just purchase the one-day passes and then, when the lines are short, go to the Information Desks (or whatever they're called) to upgrade those tickets to 12-month passes. Nice.

We followed her advice, which allowed us to by-pass a lot of other patrons who were needlessly waiting in line. Unfortunately, when we got inside, we went to a place with a sign like she described, waited in line, then were told they don't do upgrades there. We'd have to go around the corner and wait in THEIR line. Not nice.

I didn't want to complain to the person at that desk and hold up the line, so I found an employee who was standing out in the open to help whomever walked by. I explained that we'd waited in that line, as instructed, but that they don't do what we were told they'd do... so we thought it'd be a good idea to put up a little sign to give people a CHANCE to save themselves a needless wait. The young lady began to explain where we needed to go to upgrade our tickets. That was NOT what I asked for. In fact, I didn't ask for anything. I made a suggestion. Unfortunately, she wasn't really listening to what we said. All she heard was, "blah blah blah upgrade tickets blah blah blah they said they wouldn't do it."

I'm sick of situations like that, but I've learned that it's usually not worth my time to try to explain to the person what I'd really said. Trust me. It was clear as damned day. The young lady just didn't listen, so, ironically, we'd wasted MORE time, while trying to provide them with valuable feedback.

Anyway, at least we didn't have to wait in those other lines and we were actually IN the place. After upgrading our tickets and speaking with an employee (who listened to what we ASKED and answered that), we began enjoying the sights.

Unfortunately, I didn't make sure I'd brought freshly charged batteries for my camera. After a bit of searching, we found a place in the building that had AA's in stock. In fact, I saved 20% on them, I think, because I had a 12-month pass. Too bad no one advertised that true fact (that we saw). They might've sold even more passes - fair and square.

We also realized we forgot to put on deodorant. BOTH of us. Too weird. Screw that. I was NOT walking around that place all funkalicious so we walked out, found a nearby hotel, and bought a four-freakin-dollar 1.5 ounce thing of Degree deodorant. Oh well. That's what we get for forgetting AND that's what *I* get for taking my "emergency deodorant" out of my truck. This kind of situation was PRECISELY what I bought it for.

We left the coats in the truck, since we were already outside, and decided to brave the chilly weather. The temperature in the building was too nice for a big-ass leather jacket and I'd have ended up sweating or burdened with the dead weight of the thing.

FINALLY, we walked through the facility and saw the sights. More on those in part II.

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