Georgia Aquarium: Whale Shark of a Good Time

The Georgia Aquarium is one of the biggest and best aquariums in the world. It was easy to put it high on our bucket list of “Must Go” places. We would like to start by saying a big “Thank You” to Jessica for being so cool with us. We always appreciate it when people open their doors and show us everything we wanna see. Now the highlights and details of the Georgia Aquarium.

Parking: Use the parking garage connected to the aquarium. It’s $10 for all day parking pass. We initially had some confusion on where and when to pay the parking fee. Here is the scoop on that subject: Pay when returning to your car at the kiosk near the elevators. Make sure to grab the receipt which you will use to raise the gates at the exit. Do not be cheap and use nearby parking lots offering $5, your car is much safer in the garage.

Hours: Sunday through Friday: 10am-5pm Saturday 9am-6pm Allow for 2-3 hrs to explore all that Georgia Aquarium has to offer.

Cost: General Admission Adult $29.95 Child $23.95. The experience for the child is “off the charts”, leaving long-lasting memories and making the admission price well worth it overall.

Our pictures and videos from the Georgia Aquarium centered around four permanent exhibits. We will give an overview of each exhibit. We decided to skip the Dolphin Tales because we heard it was geared more toward children. We also decided to pass on Georgia Explorer, we had been to a few aquariums in the prior months that feature local habitat similar to Georgia Explorer exhibit.

The Ocean Voyager Exhibit has to be the pride and joy of the Georgia Aquarium. It was a jaw dropper for us when we entered the exhibit and stood in front of the enormous viewing window for a long time just gazing into the blue hue. It is easily the largest tank in North America holding 6.3 million gallons of salt water, with four whale sharks and four manta rays . They are the only manta rays in an aquarium in the United States. An added bonus is the 100 foot underwater tunnel through the massive tank bringing you up and close to the giant groupers.

Nick standing in front of Ocean Voyager. Nick stands 5’11” The Ocean Voyager viewing window measure 23 feet high by 61 feet wide

Here is a tip: Have your camera ready when entering with a child, the expression on their face is priceless and needs to be captured.

Video:

The River Scout was pretty interesting to walk through compared to the other exhibits. The exhibit carries an outdoor theme throughout the entire exhibit. River Scout features animals that can be found across the world. Some of our favorite animals in the exhibit: Asian small-clawed otters (sleeping) and red piranhas.

White American alligator in River Scout Exhibit

Video:

The Cold Water Quest has a lot of stars in the exhibit The beluga whales (4 of them) are constantly swimming by the viewing window entertaining the crowd. They definitely acknowledge and know when people are watching them. The southern sea otters are huge compare to some other otters I have seen in the past from other aquariums. The otters were play wrestle with each other like siblings in their childhood years. In the penguin area, I convinced Nick to crawl through a tunnel to reach an up-close viewing area. The penguins were very active, swimming and waddling around their surrounding.

Nick trying to get a close up of the penguins in the Cold Water Quest exhibit

Video:

We have to agree with Georgia Aquarium’s statement “Tropical Diver is a living art exhibit”. The Pacific Barrier Reef filled with so many moving colors making it rough on the eyes to select just one fish. We never saw a garden eel before and it was helpful that one of the volunteers was present to tell us more info about the eel.

Video:

Our Closing Thoughts

Shawn: Great aquarium, really appreciate the high theme level for each exhibit. It works well in setting the overall mood for the exhibit. I could easily sit for more than a half hour in the Ocean Voyager and watch the whale sharks.

Georgia aquarium is a “Must Visit” if you have children. The kids in the area are lucky to be able to go on field trips to the aquarium and see the behind the scene workings. My childhood field trip consisted of trips to Johnstown Flood Museum which barely reached exciting on fun score.

Nick: The aquarium was amazing. If you have not been to Georgia Aquarium, you need to plan a trip ASAP. Going behind the scenes with Jessica was awesome. She was very hospitable, and knowledgeable about everything going on at the aquarium. She showed us some great stuff behind the scenes. I loved the penguins and the otters. I have always wanted to own a little penguin. I have to agree with Shawn that the Ocean Voyager was my favorite part. Sitting there looking at Voyager tank is like having a seat down on the bottom of the ocean looking out. Awesome view. Next time I wanna get in the tank! This place is definitely on my top 10 places. Can’t wait to go back. I give this place 10/10

We have more pictures on our Wanna See It All Facebook Page

Advertisements

Ria’s Bluebird, Done Right Their Way

Ria’s Bluebird, a breakfast institution in the heart of Atlanta known for world-famous pancakes. Only a few miles away from the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca Cola. We read in countless articles that many writers put Ria’s Bluebird on top ten list of best breakfast joints across the United States. It was our time to decide the validity of these claims.

We arrived on an early Monday morning in September, much to our delight the place was not hopping yet. We were able to walk in and stake our claim to some good day starters. Before we jump in about the food, I have to make note of some observations I made while waiting for breakfast. Ria’s Bluebird is kinda on the small size on the inside, a very limited amount of seats. I can easily see how a line of people outside the door waiting to hear “Next” on busier days of the week. In our readings of Ria’s Bluebird, we came across a comment that stated “Hipsters frequent this establishment often” . No bother to us, we did see one patron that fit the hipster bill. A very interesting gentleman with very short cut off blue jean shorts and classy handle bar mustache. He helped himself to some coffee with a cup he brought in himself, walked around for a few minutes talking with the locals, and constantly grooming his fine tuned mustache. This only added to the very interesting atmosphere of Ria’s Bluebird. Now lets get to the food.

Looking at half the seating available at Ria’s Bluebird. Get there early.

Shawn: I was originally going to order the famous pancakes with pecans/bananas but I saw an old friend on the menu that I had not seen in a while. Mr. French Toast, my favorite breakfast buddy, who I had not sat down with for some time. The plate was piping hot and loaded with maple syrup. They did not cheap on the syrup, it was actually overflowing the plate. The bananas and maple syrup was the best part of the dish. The best maple syrup I have ever had, granted that I never had maple syrup from local Vermont maple farm. The bananas melt in your mouth with goodness. All bananas should be served this way. I’m not a breakfast person in general, but this dish could make me do it on the daily. I’ll give this dish 9/10 losing a point for just average french toast slices.

French Toast ~ Myer rum dipped brioche with caramelized bananas

Nick: He had the special omelette of the day which was bacon cheddar with mandatory sides. Ria’s Bluebird has strict rules against substitution of sides. The Ria’s standard with special: 1 meat, 1 starch, and 1 bread. Nick’s standard with special: 2 starch and 1 bread. Denied because the chef feels the dish has been perfected the original way and should not be altered for integrity of guest experience. We always give respect and it prove to be a non issue.

Nick’s Feedback “As soon as the waitress told me the special was a bacon cheddar omelet I was sold. It was the best omelet I have ever had in my life. However, I am deducting two points from my rating because I was unable to substitute a side. I simply wanted extra potatoes instead of a meat. I don’t like sausage and there was already bacon in my omelet. My rating is 8/10. Amazing food and definitely a fan of everyone sleeved with tattoos!”

Special omelette of the day: Cheddar Bacon with skillet potatoes, bacon, & warm biscuit

Overall:

A great experience with the added luck of being seated promptly. A lot of good menu items, some people could view the pricing on the high side. But I always felt, the price you pay always matches the quality when it comes to food. So for us the pricing is justified. It’s too early for us in our adventure to call this place “Top Ten” but it definitely left a long-lasting memory.

Check out our Wanna See It All Facebook Page

SweetFrog, Get in My Tummy

SweetFrog is a chain of premium frozen yogurt shops found across the United States. They are a type of yogurt shop where you grab your own cup, flavor, and toppings. The weight comes into the factor of the cost of the goodness. I only became aware of this place couple weeks ago while reading a post on Facebook. Someone mentioned how they had a craving for some SweetFrog that needed fixed ASAP. After 36 “Likes” and positive comments I knew we had to check this place out.

Josh’s Choice: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Milk Yogurt with chocolate chips chopped up snickers, caramel syrup and hot fudge with whip cream.

The closest one for us was only 4 miles away. When we walked into SweetFrog, we were greeted right away. The employee had so much joy and enthusiasm that it actually carried over to us. I was so pumped up to pull the yogurt machine handle and win my prize. They have over 50 flavors but the location we were visiting only had ten flavors available. Before going to SweetFrogs, I checked the flavor options online ~ I was gunning for Jolly Rancher Fruit Punch. It would bring back memories as a kid walking home from school and stopping at small newspaper/candy shop to buy some 10 cent jolly ranchers. I was a little disappointed that my memory was not available and I had to go with a back up plan. I decided to get all Top Chef “Just Dessert” creativeness with the red velvet yogurt with white cake pieces and white chocolate chips. It was amazing and only $5 out-of-pocket (pretty good value) It actually tasted like red velvet cake.

I told Nick ahead of time to get crazy with his selection and be somewhat adventurous. Prior blog entries ie Wilber’s Barbecue might give you a clue how far out of the box Nick goes. He went with Cookies & Cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. His selection reminded him when he was little, his mom would take him to dairy queen almost every day after school to pick up some cookies and cream blizzards or sometimes stop by the gas station and pick up some Reece cups / slurpie combo. Overall he agreed with me that SweetFrog has some good yogurt.

Shawn’s Choice: Red Velvet with white cake & white chocolate chips

Nick’s Choice: Cookies & Cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

We will definitely be repeat customer at SweetFrog. So many interesting flavors to try. As we try them we will update this post.

Our Flavor Hit List: Apple Pie, Maple Bacon Donut, New York Cheesecake, Root Beer Float and Thin Mint Cookie

Side Note: Josh went a couple of days later after us.

Halloween Edition: Candy Corn at this House, Next!!!

Narrator: Shawn

One of our favorite months of the year for us is October for so many different reasons. Football season, great fall weather, and slower pace after a heavy tourist season some of the main reasons for the October Love. But no reason is bigger than the month-long celebration of Halloween. Classic Halloween movies being played all month-long like Poltergeist, The Frighteners , A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Cujo being some of our favorites. (A great list of the top 100 Horror Movies) Certain items that only make an appearance during Halloween time like Berry Boo Cereal. Who doesn’t want some of that blueberry flavored milk that comes after you finished the cereal which is better than the CoCoa Pebbles milk. Our workplace host probable one of the biggest costume parties in South Carolina located at Broadway at the Beach, so seeing all the creative costumes and the great outfits the ladies choose to showcase are always an extra treat during a crazy night of work. All the haunted houses and scary forest that pop up overnight to make a solid attempt to make yourself scream. We even created a map of the best haunted location across the United States on our Wanna See It All website. So many good reason why October is the best month.

We would like to share our childhood memories of Halloween and some our pictures of us in costume.

Shawn:

I was the kid on the left in the Fred Flintstone Costume

My parents were great when it came to the job of taking my brother and myself trick or treating. I think they got some enjoyment out of it also. My parents would have a solid game plan to maximize our chances for some great candy by taking us to the neighborhood that either had the nicest houses or houses that were rock out with decorations. Kinda knew those people were not handing out popcorn balls or candy corn to the kids. But that kind of planning came with a cost, a finder’s fee was applied at the end of the night. My parents would take a couple of pieces of candy for themselves. That was alright as long as I got the good stuff.

Later when I was allowed to go trick or treating by myself, I had a crafty plan that worked for a couple of years. I would have a back up mask in my candy bag. If I came to a house that was giving away full size candy bars (back in the day it really happened), I would come back with the other mask on so I could reap the double dose of candy awesomeness.

Nick:

I have several great Halloween moments. Walking down the street with my dad going door to door gathering as much candy as we could, helping my mom pass out candy to other trick or treaters, and going to see my papa and walk around his neighborhood. This picture that I am choosing to use is special to me because it has my grandpa and my mom in it and the costume I am wearing was hand-made by my grandmother. I remember all year-long I would think of what superhero I wanted to be that year. I miss those days, fun times and more candy than I could eat.

Jerry:

Jerry as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

The best place my parents would always bring my two sisters and I Trick or Treating was over my grandparent’s neighborhood. You know the neighborhood with tons of decorations and lights, where everyone went all out on Halloween. It was always cold around this time of year in New England, so my parents would drop us off at the houses that gave out CANDY BARS! My sisters and I would always know what houses gave out candy bars from the year before. My parents kept the heat blasted in the car when we would get back. There was always that haunted house on the block that would go all out and have people scare you as you walked up to their door. We were always looking over our shoulders. Then back to Grams house to see how much candy we all had. Of course we would have to grab a handful of Grams candy, lol. You sometimes miss those bitter cold walks up to doors to see the people’s faces! And see who could get the most candy.
Josh:

Josh as a clown

One of my best memories is decorations of my family’s house. Giant pumpkins and spiders full of leaves, the dummy hanging from a noose beside our house hanging over the street. My step-dad would dress up as a dummy and scare people when they walked up trick or treating. Tombstones all over the yard. We were like the Griswolds of Halloween.
Our advice: Make the most out of the last weekend of October and enjoy all the Halloween greatness.

Side Note: Special thanks to our mothers for digging up the costume picts.

North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, We Got Turtles

The mascot for North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

Shawn, Jerry and I decided to take a trip up the coast of North Carolina for one of our road trips. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores was one of our stops on the trip. The aquarium was better than I expected. The reason I had low expectations was due to the fact North Carolina has three aquariums along the coastline and figured that they would spread out key exhibits among themselves. The aquarium admission cost us about $8 a piece, which isn’t bad for what the North Carolina Aquarium has to offer. The North Carolina Aquarium has a variety of different fish from fresh water to salt water. They even has otters, snakes and an outdoor bird walk. My best advice is to check out the otter feeding around 11am for some fun play between the otters.

When you first walk in the North Carolina Aquarium has some fresh water fish along the walls leading you into the next room which has part of floor (interactive play) that looks like you are stepping on water which causing ripples and goldfish to swim away. The otters in the next room were not that active due to being stuff with food. We decided to come back later after their power nap to see if any of them were causing some curious fun. Only one of the three were awake after our second attempt, we caught him on video (video at bottom).

One of the otters at play

Moving on along, you will come to the reptile area which I love snakes and other reptiles, they fascinate me. They have small crocodiles, different kinds of snakes and a turtle tank. The turtle exhibit was filled with turtles, I had to estimate about 50 of those swimming critters. The aquarium created a pond environment for them to hangout in with couple of the old-timer turtles on the surface sunbathing to the heat lamps. When you walk to the next room there is a sting ray tank that you can stick your hand down in and touch one as is swims by. In this same area they have a nursery for baby loggerhead sea turtle. One of the turtles kept hitting the bottom of the tank trying to get either food or saw his reflection on the bottom. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores does extensive work and take great strides to help the loggerhead sea turtles.

Sunbathing out of the water.

The next room was the Shipwreck Tank. This is their biggest tank in the aquarium and the call it the shipwreck tank because of the sunken submarine creating the habitat for the fish.The North Carolina Aquarium had many different fish in with the sharks in the tank. They feed the sharks very well so they do not get the urge to digest the smaller fish in the tank. The North Carolina Aquarium probably had only 3 different types of sharks but they were cool to watch. One of them was laying on the bottom with its head next to a vent looking like a dogs cheeks when its head is out the window. They also had an adult loggerhead sea turtle on exhibit in the tank. The North Carolina Aquarium has a couple smaller tanks behind the shark tank. These tanks were filled with lobster, octopus, and jellyfish. The shipwreck tank was the best part of the aquarium and was excellent way to close out the aquarium.

This was the shipwreck tank with an assortment of sea life

All in all, North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is very nice for the price. My favorite part was watching the otter run around in the tank. The shark tank was pretty cool too. If anyone is in the Atlantic Beach area, this is a must do.

Mount Mitchell, Gets No Higher East of the Mississippi

Mount Mitchell Sign

Shawn and I decided to take a trip up to Mount Mitchell while we were in the Asheville area. It was a nice drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had never been on the parkway, but had heard it was an awesome road to travel on. It was a good hour drive up Blue Ridge Parkway (it was only about 35 miles but all the curves in the road slowed progress) to reach the bottom of Mount Mitchell. Make sure your gas tank is full because we didn’t see one gas station the whole way there.

View from top of Mount Mitchell

Once you turn off of Blue Ridge Parkway you will have to take another road pretty much all the way to the top of Mount Mitchell. They also have a nice restaurant looking over the mountain about half way up. After reaching the top there is a parking lot looking down on the road we traveled up on and all across the mountain range. As we stepped out of the car I noticed instantly that we were going to have a bug problem so bring plenty of bug spray. There were flies everywhere.

There is a short trail, but very steep, that takes you to the tip-top of Mount Mitchell. They have benches every 20 feet or so to stop and take a rest. When you get to the top you will notice a stone structure that is the grave of the man who discovered Mount Mitchell. Walking past the grave site is a bridge leading up to a platform area which is the highest point east of the Mississippi. This is the best view from the mountain.

Founder of Mount Mitchell Buried Here

We had a good trip up there. I think the drive up to Mount Mitchell down the Blue Ridge Parkway was more enjoyable to me. Do I recommend traveling to Mount Mitchell? Yes, because who wouldn’t want to stand on the highest point east of the Mississippi!

If you can watch HD video switch to 720p on bottom menu bar of video

Congaree National Park, No Paddle Necessary

After working from 7 pm til  3am on a Saturday night at one of the busiest night club in South Carolina, we decided to take a road trip up to Congaree National Park. I was worn out from the busy night of work.  The Congaree National Park is the  largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent. It’s about a two-hour drive from Myrtle Beach and located right outside of Columbia, SC. Shawn did some research and found out that they offer free canoe trips guided by the park rangers. Have to make reservations ahead of time in order to do this activity. The park is way out in the middle of nowhere, which is the type of places I love to visit when on road trips.. Once we arrived at Congaree National Park (around 9am) ,  we had to sit in a class room and get the run down on the park and how our canoe trip was going to go. There was about 14 people in our group, the ranger asked the group who had experience canoeing, Shawn and Josh both raised their hands quickly like little children at school that knew all the answers in class.

After the brief discussion we had to get back in the car and follow the tour guide down to where we put the canoes in the water. We had light rain during most of the canoe trip. I was selected to be in the canoe with the park ranger while the “experienced” Shawn and Josh were in their own canoe. The water was a little low that day, so Shawn and Josh had a hard time getting around in the water. Out of all the canoes, they had the most weight in their canoe. When the water is low it take more time and effort to navigate around the shallow spots on the river. The Congaree National Park had a lot of shallow spots and broken tree limbs in the water. For most of the canoe trip, Shawn and Josh were way in the back and it was hard not to laugh at them. The park ranger had incredible paddling skills to the point that I decided to lay my paddle down and enjoy the scenery. We saw a few snakes hanging in trees, and we also saw a beaver dam which was a first for me. We were on the water for about 2 hrs and we covered a lot of water. The video below was shot from Shawn and Josh’s canoe.

I highly suggest taking a trip up to Congaree State park. The canoe trip was totally free and worth riding down the river in the rain.