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TN Aquarium “Staycation” & Giveaway!

TN-Aqua-butterfliesUPDATE: Congratulations to Stephanie Ritter!

Spring Break brings about great images of family vacations and rejuvenation. But with the economy being what it is today, more and more people are finding themselves forsaking their annual retreat in order to save their budget. But who says you have to give up your vacation just because you can’t leave your state?

I’d like to introduce you to the “Staycation”. Between cultural events, parks, museums, shows and more, you’d be surprised at what you can discover inside your own hometown!

Ever since moving to Nashville last year, I’ve been hearing about the TN Aquarium in Chattanooga. So when one of my best friends from Atlanta suggested trying to get together over Spring Break, we thought Chattanooga (about a 2 hour drive for each of us) would be a perfect meeting place. And voila! Our trip to the TN Aquarium became a Staycation reality!

The Tennessee Aquarium is the highest rated aquarium in the USA and one of America’s top ten tourist attractions for overall guest satisfaction! The aquarium was actually divided into two separate buildings, creating two very unique and interactive experiences: The River Journey and The Ocean Journey. While there is no way I could touch on every animal, exhibit and offering we experienced there, I do want to give you just a taste of our favorite moments:

1. The Butterfly Garden

One of our first and favorite moments in the Ocean Journey was the Butterfly Garden. After my children were too chicken to touch the stingrays in the first exhibit, we were delighted to immerse ourselves in a butterfly wonderland. Ever since catching a Pipevine Swallowtail last year, my daughter especially has become enthralled by these winged beauties.

I by no means consider myself a photographer, and typically make fun of people who take pictures of birds and flowers (sorry mom, love ya!), but I could not help myself in there! I was snapping away in every direction. Just look at these creatures on their custom made fruit creations:

2. Keeper Kids

This is one of the neatest programs I’ve ever heard of for kids and it’s FREE with your admission! Keeper Kids allows small groups of children (ages 6-11) to experience the aquarium in a very unique way. Kids can help the vet, feed otters, turtles and partridges, release butterflies or be a SCUBA assistant.  Keeper Kids is one of the top Spring Break ideas in the Southeast and is available April 3-11.

3. Penguins’ Rock

Think of all the things that make you smile when you saw “Happy Feet”. Don’t take my word for it: watch their live web cam!

This made such an impact on my kids that we walked away at the end of the day with a stuffed penguin. I know, I know; never buy anything at gift shops. My daughter finally broke me down with the, “But mommy, I want to have a memory from today.” …Don’t judge me.

I could go on and one, but for the sake of this post, let me just finish by saying that our kids had a great time and slept really well on the way home.

The only down-side to our trip was that there was never a dull moment for me to have a conversation with my friend! Between keeping up with our overly-excited, four children between the ages of 2 & 5, let’s just say we weren’t sipping coffee and talking politics. Ok, go ahead and say it… “Duh!” I guess we’ll just have to go back to Chattanooga for a girls’ weekend without kids to finish that little chat…

Have I wet your whistle enough? Are you ready for a Staycation of your own? Well here’s your chance. The gracious folks over at the TN Aquarium have donated 2 passes for me to giveaway to a lucky SamiCone.com reader! That’s right – you and your family could be on your way to Chattanooga to make your own memories at the TN Aquarium this Spring Break. Here’s how:

  1. Post a comment below with your favorite part of the TN Aquarium (or what you’re looking forward to experiencing most after my rousing review!)
  2. Become a Fan on Facebook (Sami Cone)
  3. Follow @TheSamiCone on Twitter (or let me know you’re already following me!)
  4. Tweet the following: “Win 2 passes to the TN Aquarium for your own Spring Break Staycation over at SamiCone.com: http://bit.ly/9SnO5C (Pls RT)”

The important thing to remember is that you need to post separate comments after you complete entry methods 2-4 above.

You have until midnight on Monday, March 29th to enter. Winners will be selected by Random.org and announced on the site on Tuesday, March 30th. Good luck!


  1. I would love to take Elias to the aquarium – I think he would love it all!!

  2. We love the otters at the Aquarium- watched them for almost 30 minutes, which is to say alot w/ a 3 & 4 y/o!

  3. Hi Sami! So glad to meet you last night and find your blog. We haven’t taken the youngest 2 to the Aquarium yet. We tried the Children’s Discovery Museum across the square, which was amazingly fun!

  4. …and now I’m following you on Twitter, too!

  5. LOVE the new website!!! And LOVE the aquarium! The Butterflies are my favorite. They freak me out a tad bit when they land on me, but they are beautiful!

  6. Mary Elizabeth Maynord

    Hey! We wanna go back (and would love to for free :)–but I want to go in the peguin exhibit, too! How’d you pull that off?? Long story, but a friend of my mother-in-law’s grandson brought a penguin home in his backpack from the Chat. Aquarium–ha!

  7. Thanks,Sami. We love the penguins at the aquarium. Hope all is well. Take care, Jennifer

  8. We have been to the Aquarium 1 time and LOVED it. It has been about 3 years so now that my children are a little older, I believe they would ebjoy visiting again! I love your bargains and suggestions!!

  9. Congratulations, Stephanie, you’re the winner!!!