KOAA Reviews An Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour at the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant!
Getting lunch or dinner at the Aquarium Restaurant is a huge event for my kids. They always beg to go when we're at Opry Mills and they're completely gobsmacked the whole time we're there. Like many other families, we've thought of it as a wonderful restaurant that happens to have huge fish tanks. After spending a fascinating hour behind the scenes with marine biologist Kevin Rowe, our thinking has completely changed. Now, when we grab a bite at the Aquarium Restaurant, we'll be looking at it from a different persepective altogether. It's really an Aquarium that happens to have a restaurant!
With more options than you might imagine, the Aquarium Restaurant offers families the opportunity to be a Marine Biologist For A Day, enjoy Behind the Scenes Tours or Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tours, have Birthday Parties, and take an Educational Tour. I want to do all of them with my family, but I decided that an Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour was the perfect place to start.
The first indication that the Aquarium Restaurant isn't just a restaurant with a few giant fish tanks was when we were introduced to Kevin, our guide. Kevin isn't the restaurant manager. He's the guy with a Master's Degree in Marine Biology who oversees every single aspect of the restaurant's aquatic realm. This includes managing the team of four (!) full time marine biologists working behind the scenes to keep the fish happy, healthy, and safe. Um, yeah. This is not your typical restaurant.
The tour begins with the stars of the Aquarium Restaurant, the fish. You'll learn about the different tanks and how they decide which fish go into which tank, and you'll be introduced to fish like Queenie, a huge grouper who has lived at the Aquarium since it opened 14 years ago. This is your chance to ask every single question you and your kids have: how often do fish die? Do the fish ever have babies? Where do you get them? How do they get here? What happened during the big flood a few years ago? Do the fish all come from the same part of the world? Do they get along? Do they eat each other? What happens when they get sick? What are those whisker things on that fish over there? Is that fish a unicorn? If you can think it, Kevin will know the answer and deliver it in a very simple, approachable manner. There's no scientific jargon thrown at you. But, if you have more than a passing knowledge of icthyology, feel free to ask your more difficult questions - you won't be disappointed.
The second part of the tour is where your mind will be blown. You will walk down a short, dim hallway where Kevin will open a normal looking door into a room with..... OK, so here's my dilemma. I really, really want to tell you every single thing we saw, encountered, learned, and touched. BUT, I also want to make sure you get to have the same mind blowing experience we did!
What I will tell you is that behind the scenes is a noisy place, so advise your kids that they'll have to pay attention to make sure they don't miss anything. The floor might be a bit wet, so wear sensible shoes. You will climb a perforated metal staircase which gave me the heebie jeebies - but only because I have an active imagination and things like that staircase make my pulse race. You will see a laboratory, a kitchen (of sorts), a locker room, two quarrantine tanks (one for large fish and one for small), two different rooms with equipment doing things I've never imagined, and MORE. You'll get to touch a few different creatures including a hermit crab with a miraculous back story and see a pretty big turtle Kevin brought from home. It will be difficult to ask questions on this part of the tour because your jaw will be hanging open.
Once the tour ended we, of course, got lunch and talked about everything we had learned and the things that surprised us the most. We also took a million more pictures and visited the gift shop. I have no complaints at all about this spectacular experience, but I do have two things on my wishlist: 1. Someplace we could see a list of the names and descriptions of all the fish in the aquarium (a page on the website or a dedicated app, maybe?), and 2. A stuffed-animal grouper in the gift shop.
All Education Tours, including the Exclusive Behind the Scenes Tour, occur daily.
You need to schedule your tour in advance by either calling or submitting this form.
The latest time to schedule a tour is 10:30 am.
Maximum of 10 guests.
Education Tours cost between $5 and $10 per person (plus tax)
Meals are not included with the tour.
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Helena Robin is President and CEO of the Robin family. She coordinates and executes all family operations including (but not limited to) communications, transportation, management, catering, maintenance, troubleshooting, and cultural development. Her Executive Team comprises a Husband/Creator of Chaos and three unpaid interns.