Surrounded by water, but without fluidity?

So I finally made it to the Georgia Aquarium. It really is a treat – a gorgeous display not to be found for miles around. Of course, I’m a bit partial to animals and water, but whatever.

However, I did notice some odd design flaws during my experience. Having grown up in theme park land (i.e. Orlando, Florida) I’m used to being herded and shuffled, lined up and zig-zagged, all in an orderly fashion. Yet at this aquarium, it seemed to be a free for all without much thought to crowd control.

For instance, one of the major attractions within the Aquarium is the beautiful Ocean Voyager exhibit. Upon entering the exhibit you are pretty much bottle-nosed into an eventual 90-degree angle in which you can either step on a people-mover (if you can even see it since it’s so dark) or walk through the acrylic tunnel. Again, this is the most popular and most hyped exhibit (the one with the whale sharks), yet visitors are crammed into this tiny space. Once you finally make it through the tunnel hoping for some air, it gets worse. The entire crowd runs into a walled area, forcing you to either turn left or right to enter the viewing window area. As if that was bad enough, the people already in the viewing area are also trying to exit (although they really shouldn’t) through the very hall through which you’re entering. In the background muffled with the sound of the crowd, I could hear the monotonous tone of an Aquarium guide: “Please step to your left, please step to your left…” Pity.

Another observation included the Café Aquaria, their food service area. At the checkout, you come to four cashiers in two rows. Since they’re back to back, two huge lines form for patrons checking out. Wouldn’t it make a bit more sense to make them diagonal or staggered so that folks could be directed through more quickly?

Of course every new attraction is going to have snafus, and who knows if the crowd will keep up, but I hope the folks running the show take notice. The design of the building itself may limit what they could do, but some attempt might be nice. It is such a wonderful addition to the downtown area and I’d love to see it sail smoothly for everyone.

3 Comments so far

  1. Eric (unregistered) on February 1st, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

    Having just moved up here from Orlando last year (although I’ve lived here once before), I totally understand. Doesn’t the set-up of the Georgia Aquarium remind you of the Living Seas at Epcot? The crowd control is HORRIBLE at the big fish tank downtown. I have twin year old boys and we walk with them around the aquarium, it’s all cool. There are so many strollers clogging up the walking areas that it truly makes it lousy to get around. The other thing is just how self-absorbed people are. They take themselves and have their kids plastered against a display, stand there for minutes on end, and don’t let anyone else get up to look at the fish. It’s a terrific facility, but they have to work on running it properly.

  2. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on February 1st, 2006 @ 7:39 pm

    I went with my wife and in-laws for the first time last Sunday. The biggest advice I can give is BOOK A 9 A.M. ENTRY TIME. It’s still selling out on weekends, and it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out when you let 1,500 people in per hour and nobody has to leave at any particular time that the crowds just get worse and worse as the day drags on.

    We headed straight to the Ocean Voyager after getting in just past 9 (another tip – buy your tickets online and print them out yourself; it’ll save you 20 minutes in the will-call line) and were able to enjoy that really impressive tank in relative privacy. No big crowd in the tunnel and plenty of space to park ourselves and watch the big window for 15 minutes or so.

    After getting a little breakfast, we headed out to check the other tanks. This was after 10, so the population was doubling, and it showed. By 11:15 it was almost impossible to move around the place. We hit the tropical tank last just after 11, and that was a miserable experience.

    We were smart and got there early and went right for the Ocean Voyager and then the cold-water tank, but I can’t imagine being there at about 1 p.m.

    Also, does it seem a bit strange that they run metal detector wands over small children and confiscate tiny keychain pocket knives and lighters?

  3. cody (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

    has anyone else noticed that the acquarium closes at 6 on weekdays (maybe everyday) — this greatly limits when those of us who live (and work and pay taxes) here can attend. I work right across the street — but there’s no way I’ll ever get there by the 5 p.m. cut off for entry. :(

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