Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer Review

by Sami

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On our recent trip to Chattanooga, we were finally able to experience the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer and I wanted to review it for all my readers.

As you know, we’ve become big fans of Chattanooga: it’s a short 2 hour ride from many major cities (including Nashville) and they have a lot of great, family friendly activities.

One of those fabulous activities is the Tennessee Aquarium. A few months ago me and the kids met up with one of my best friends and her two kids who drove up from Atlanta, but we weren’t able to experience the River Gorge Explorer. So when we were invited to stay at the Sheraton Read House Hotel over Father’s Day, we were also given the opportunity to cruise on the River Gorge Explorer!

Before I give you my opinion, let me provide you with a few amazing facts you might not know about the River Gorge Explorer (I know I didn’t until our fabulous guide, Debbie, told us about them on the boat!):
*It’s the country’s most exciting river explorer
*They just celebrated their two year anniversary
*It is the ONLY passenger boat in North America or Europe that has ever been approved by the coast guard to run high speeds on the river! (It’s true! We were passing cars on I-24 next to us!)
*It’s a catamaran! So we were actually riding on top of the water.
*It weighs 42 tons and measures 40 ft long and 24 ft wide.

Here is a brief video of the experience:

The two hour experience was truly unlike anything else. The watercraft alone was so impressive! In addition to the cruise, we learned so much about the surrounding area, as well as the history of Chattanooga and Tennessee.

Since we went at 1pm on Father’s Day, it happened to be incredibly hot and the waterway was quite busy, which meant a lot of quick stops (which was similar to the log ride at the amusement park, so the kids loved that!). I have to admit, I was expecting to see more wildlife once we got to the gorge, but my own kids could barely stand outside for very long in that sun, so I guess I couldn’t expect much from the animals 😉

Fawn Weaver Record Holder

So, in typical, Sami Cone fashion, I’m going to bullet point my experience for you:
*Too hot that afternoon (but obviously not the boat’s fault 😉
*Didn’t see very many animals
*A bit long with little kids (but again, that was mostly due to the above two factors!)

*Amazing boat!
*Super fast = Super fun!
*Our guide (Debbie) was SO knowledgeable and personable, she truly made the trip an experience to remember.
*The quick stops were a blast, literally! (Water would soak the windows every time we stopped)

We noticed a lot of families and groups on the trip, and I think this would be a great thing to do with a large group of people you love. I also think cruising later in the day would be beautiful, which brings me to another savings tip:

The Aquarium offers the three-hour, “Sunset Special” which is an hour longer excursion aboard the Explorer for the price of a two-hour cruise. (Full details: Sunset Special Go on the 4:00, 4:30, 5:00, 5:30 or 6 PM Sunset Special and get an extra hour of FREE cruising. Beer, wine and snacks are available for purchase on the three-hour sunset cruises.)

So what are you waiting for? Go get your cruise on!

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