Metro Atlantans who haven’t ventured downtown in the pandemic era could be surprised by changes to the Georgia Aquarium that have nothing to do with primal fear. 

The Western Hemisphere’s largest fish tank began construction on its Expansion 2020 initiative in September 2018, and a little more than two years later had finished a cutting-edge, 1.2-million-gallon shark “gallery” and swooping new entryway overlooking Pemberton Place. 

On the flipside of the facility, a large digital billboard over Luckie Street advertises the aquarium’s latest attraction—the “SHARKS! Predators of the Deep” exhibit—in between soothing footage of whale sharks, sea turtles, and Manta rays. 

A new digital billboard over Baker and Luckie streets. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

It’s the product of a $108-million expansion (Invest Atlanta chipped in $7.5 million) designed by Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets Architects that introduces a seventh gallery to the 15-year-old facility, plus offices and more retail space.  

The $108-million expansion put the new shark facility where visitors formerly queued for entry. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

Measuring 20 feet deep and 185 feet long, the new tank reintroduces truly formidable apex predators at the downtown tourist magnet, including hammerhead sharks, sand tigers, sandbars, and silvertips.

For more daring guests, the aquarium is taking reservations for a dive cage experience that plunges visitors into the water, and then pulls them through the tank, for an up-close encounter with the newest animals. (At a cost of $234 for nonmembers, or $190 for members.) 

The aquarium's toothy new residents. Georgia Aquarium

Behind the scenes at the visitor cage dive experience. Georgia Aquarium

Following COVID-19 lockdown, the aquarium reopened in June with new safety protocols (think: plastic dividers at exhibits, temperature scans, and timed entry). All guests are required to buy tickets beforehand and wears masks inside. General admission is $35.95. 

See the gallery above for a deeper dive. 

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