Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg is a one-stop destination in the Smoky Mountains for learning about aquatic life right in the heart of Gatlinburg. It's on par with the Tennessee Aquarium and the Georgia Aquarium and is a delight for people of all ages.
On a family getaway to Gatlinburg, there was one thing that we definitely wanted to do while we were there - visit Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. We found a parking spot and walked over to the aquarium which sits just off of the main strip in Gatlinburg.
After picking up our tickets out front, we went inside and were amazed at all that was there. Upon entering the building there is an area where everyone can have their picture taken together - a memento of the trip, if you will. From the vantage point of the entrance level, you can look below and see the "petting" area. People are welcome to touch some creatures of the sea if they'd like. (We passed.)
Moving on, we saw some pretty interesting piranhas in the Tropical Rainforest section. I am thankful that I was able to admire them from behind glass at the aquarium. Another of the 350 species that we were able to admire were the jellyfish. Look at how beautiful they look swimming in a pool of blue:
Don't worry - the water isn't really "blue." Ripley's has a state-of-the-art filtration system. There are 1.4 million gallons of water in the exhibits. The Shark Lagoon holds 750,000 gallons of water and has 11,664,000 gallons circulate through it every 24 hours.
One of the highlights of our visit was going down to the lower level and exploring the fish while meandering through the underwater tunnel. There is a "people mover" that winds 340 feet through the tunnel that allowed us to take our time and really get an up close view of sharks, tarpons, and stingrays. I was surprised that I was able to catch this shot of shark that swam over head.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is really unique and if you go be prepared to spend a couple of hours.
I snapped this shot of a stingray when it swam by us. I love the look on its face. When we finished exploring the aquarium, we went to check out a couple of the other Ripley's attractions.
Ripley's Aquarium is located at 88 River Road - just off of the main strip (US 441) in Gatlinburg. The aquarium is open daily and the hours are Monday - Thursday from 9:00 AM until 9:00 PM and Friday - Sunday from 9:00 AM until 10:00 PM.
Other Ripley Attractions in Gatlinburg
To get to the Odditorium, we had to walk a couple of blocks up the strip and cross the street. At the entrance we were greeted with life-sized statue of The Lizardman. There was also this cool automaton:
Once inside, we were able to explore some of the unique oddities that Robert Ripley was able to collect. Those of us who were around before personal computer may recall the television show Ripley's Believe It or Not! that aired in the '80's. Visiting the Odditorium is sure to evoke memories of the show and the annuals showcasing the not-so-ordinary from around the world.
The photo below is of a concealed gun in a pegleg. I wonder who it belonged to - a man or a woman....
Some of the other items that I found interesting were an antique chastity belt, a tramp chair, and an Ekoi human skin mask. There was a trunk that people are allowed to open. There was no description of what was in the box. When opened, it would make a really loud sound. We encouraged another visitor to open it and he jumped and we laughed. The guy was such a good sport.
The spinning tunnel at the Odditorium really got me. It is just a walkway that appears to be inside a tunnel. Special effects created with the usage of mirrors makes it seem like the walkway is spinning. Regardless of what I know about it, I got dizzy. Every time I went through it. And we went through there a lot. (Am I a glutton for punishment, or what?!)
We enjoyed our time at the Odditorium and had one more Ripley's attraction to visit.
Ripley's Moving Theater
About one block up from the Odditorium is Ripley's Moving Theater.
Have you ever experienced a film in 5D? We hadn't. It was pretty neat. I found this clip on YouTube to give you an idea of what it was like:
We watched Winter Wipeout The Ride, which reminded me of a cross between a Wii game and a Pixar movie, and Rats Race Xtreme. During Winter Wipeout, it snowed on us inside the theater. In June. It's a great way to beat the heat of summer.
The line was pretty short and the attraction lasted less than 30 minutes. I thought it was pretty fun.
We walked past another of the Ripley's attractions in Gatlinburg - Ripley's Haunted Adventure.
Tickets can be purchased either online or on site. A combo ticket to see Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley's Odditorium, and Ripley's Moving Theater is $39.97. There are 8 attractions in the Smokies that you can pick from: Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley's Odditorium, Haunted Adventure, Mirror Maze, Moving Theater, Old Mac Mini Golf, Davy Crockett Mini Golf, and Guiness World Records.
This post originally appeared on Southern Kissed in 2014.