On October 4th 2019, the Georgia Aquarium hosted their 14th annual Aqua Vino, a night of live musical, local-inspired food tastings, varieties of wine sampling, and auction items. On top of all of these unique happenings, guests also have access to almost the entire Georgia Aquarium and all the fun exhibits that come with it. This event helps to fund the Georgia Aquarium’s research and conservation efforts around the world. All proceeds go towards rescue and rehabilitation of African penguins, promoting awareness and expanding research for endangered whale sharks, and providing a much-needed forever home to to hundreds of different aquatic animals.
Aqua Vino: Important Details
The suggested attire for the evening is cocktail attire. Each guest attending must be at least 21 years of age. Aqua Vino is held on a Friday night, usually, and lasts from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM. The 2019 event sold out very quickly so it is highly suggested that you buy your ticket in advance.
Aqua Vino: What’s Included in Your Ticket?
Parking is complimentary for each guest attending the event. There are 3 different tier levels of tickets. These tiers are grand tasting (lowest), VIP (middle), and Premium VIP (highest).
Grand Tasting tickets include:
- Entry into the event at 7:00 PM
- Free self-parking
- Signature wine glass to bring home with you
- Over 150 varieties of wine from around the world
- Samplings of food from 40 different Atlanta restaurants
- Live music
- Access to the aquarium’s main exhibits (including views of the whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays, and belugas)
- Silent auction
- Free water and soda
- Cash bar for beer and liquor
VIP tickets include:
- Everything listed under grand tasting and…
- Entry into the event at 6:30 PM
- Special access to a lounge with exclusive tastings and reserve wines
- Behind the scenes access to the Tropical Diver reef exhibit
- Free valet parking
VIP Premium tickets include:
- Everything listed under grand tasting and VIP and…
- Exclusive access to the lounge area in the main ballroom
- A fun gift bag worth over $285
Aqua Vino: How much do tickets cost?
This greatly depends on when you buy your tickets and if you are a member! *These tickets will be based on 2019 prices* If you buy an advanced ticket, the grand tasting ticket is $75 and the full price grand tasting ticket is $95. For members, a grand tasting ticket costs $70. The VIP ticket for members costs $140, an advanced VIP ticket costs $150, and a full price ticket costs $175. The full price for a VIP Premium ticket is $250, the advanced VIP Premium ticket costs $235, and for a member, a VIP Premium ticket costs $225.
Aqua Vino: The Experience
You will be ushered into the back entrance of the aquarium when you first arrive! After going through security, there is an area for will-call (to pick up tickets) and the line to check tickets. You will be directed to a hallway, where you will be given complimentary souvenir wine glass and a paper tray that attaches to your wine glass so that you can hold it all in one hand. You will then enter the main ballroom area where a majority of the restaurants will be, as well as several wine vendors. There are tables spread throughout as well as a dance floor and a live band that will be playing! There are a couple photo spots as well. The photographers use a selfie ring light to get the best lit picture of you and your party throughout the aquarium. For those with premium VIP tickets, your exclusive lounge area is in this area. You can grab samples of anything you would like to try! This area was very busy when you first arrive, so I would highly suggest heading to some of the other areas for 30 minutes and then coming back to the ballroom area to try everything. The ballroom area vendors ended up closing early (around 9), either because people stopped showing up or they were out of food. Many of the vendors throughout the aquarium started to close up around 9-9:30, so make sure to get as much food and wine as you can, and then enjoy the exhibits right before you leave to get the best value you can out of the night.
Once exiting the ballroom you will usually see the Georgia Aquarium wines (they have their own wine collection not yet in stores) as well as all the silent auction items that you can bid on! As you walk throughout the aquarium there are a couple of vendors in almost every exhibit. The main lobby area of the aquarium (the central area of all the exhibits) has a majority of the food and wine vendors. Make sure to walk through every exhibit that is open (almost all of them on the first floor are open) to find all the vendors. If you are a VIP ticket holder, there is a lounge area that you can locate by walking up the stairs in the main exhibit area. The entire upstairs portion of the aquarium is blocked off for this lounge area.
While the 2019 event sold out, the crowds, compared to a normal weekend day, were minimal. You can enjoy all the exhibits with little to no interruption from other visitors. There are educators located throughout the aquarium to tell you all about the different animals in each tank. This is also a perfect time to get pictures since there is hardly anyone in the way. Since the event is adults only, the overall experience of the aquarium is much better without any children running around and making too much noise. Some of the food was lackluster, but there are plenty of options from seafood to vegetarian to desserts (definitely the best part). The wine selection is definitely the highlight of the night. There are more booths than you will be able to visit, and you have your pick of any type of wine you like! This event is worth every penny just for the minimal crowds and unobstructed views of the exhibits. Add in the food and wine samplings and you have one of the most incredible nights you can experience in Atlanta! This should be a must on every person’s list, and definitely be on the lookout for when tickets are released for 2020 so you can buy yours before they sell out again!
For information on the 2019 event and some listings of the wine and food vendors, check out the Georgia Aquarium’s website here.