From mind-bending illusions to awe-inspiring oddities, explore the whimsical wonders that await. Join us as we unravel the magic and mystery of Ripley’s—a must-visit destination for curious minds and thrill-seekers alike.
Nestled amidst the scenic beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is not just a gateway to one of America’s most cherished national parks but also home to an extraordinary collection of Ripley’s attractions.
From the eerie mysteries of Ripley’s Haunted Adventure to the mind-boggling oddities at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, these attractions invite visitors to explore the extraordinary and embrace the bizarre. Get prepared to step into a realm where the extraordinary meets the unexpected, and let the journey through Gatlinburg’s Ripley’s attractions be your portal to a world of awe and fascination.
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.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg has received numerous awards and accolades, including being named one of the “Top 10 U.S. Aquariums” by TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice and a “Top 10 Aquarium in the United States” by USA Today.
The aquarium is home to over 10,000 exotic sea creatures representing more than 350 individual species. Visitors can explore a wide range of marine habitats, from coral reefs to the Amazon Rainforest.
Ripley’s Aquarium offers various interactive exhibits, including touch tanks where visitors can get hands-on with horseshoe crabs, rays, and other marine animals.
In the Tropical Rainforest section, visitors can safely observe the Amazon’s most infamous creatures – piranhas.
But the Rainforest’s attraction extends beyond piranhas. Visitors can discover the colossal arapaima, one of the largest freshwater fish on the planet. With a length that can exceed 10 feet and a weight of up to 440 pounds, this freshwater fish commands attention with its sheer size and undeniable presence.
Don’t worry – the water isn’t really “blue.” Ripley’s has a state-of-the-art filtration system for the 1.4 million gallons of water in the exhibits. Interesting fact: 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 visiting the aquarium is going to the Shark Lagoon and walking through the underwater tunnel while sharks, rays, and other marine life swim all around and above.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is really unique and if you go be prepared to spend a couple of hours.
Location and Hours
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.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium
To get to the Odditorium, walk a couple of blocks up the strip and cross the street. At the entrance, you might find yourself greeted by a life-sized statue of The Lizardman or a cool automaton (shown below).
Once inside, guests can explore some of the unique oddities that Robert Ripley was able to collect. Those of us who were around before personal computers may recall the television show Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that aired in the ’80s. Visiting the Odditorium is sure to evoke memories of the show and the annuals showcasing the not-so-ordinary from around the world.
Some other interesting items on display are an antique chastity belt, a tramp chair, and an Ekoi human skin mask. There is a trunk that people are allowed to open. Be forewarned, there is no description of what is in the box and you may be in for a surprise!
The spinning tunnel at the Odditorium is a must-see. While it is simply a walkway that appears to be inside a tunnel, special effects created with the usage of mirrors make it seem like the walkway is spinning.
The Odditorium is located at 800 Parkway and is open daily from 9:00 am until 11:00 pm.
Ripley’s Moving Theater
About one block up from the Odditorium is Ripley’s Moving Theater. Ripley’s Moving Theater is a 5D cinematic experience that combines state-of-the-art technology with motion seats to create an unforgettable adventure, immersing viewers in a multisensory journey unlike any other.
What is a 5D film?
A 5D film is an immersive cinematic experience that combines 3D visuals with various sensory effects to create a more engaging and interactive movie-watching experience. The “5D” stands for:
- 3D Visuals: Like traditional 3D films, 5D movies utilize special glasses to make images on the screen appear three-dimensional, giving the illusion of depth and making objects seem to pop out of the screen.
- Motion: The seats in a 5D theater are equipped with motion technology, allowing them to move and vibrate in sync with the action on the screen. This motion adds a physical dimension to the experience, making viewers feel like they’re part of the movie’s world.
- Environmental Effects: 5D theaters often incorporate various environmental effects to stimulate the senses. These effects can include wind, rain, fog, temperature changes, and even scents. For example, if there’s a scene in the movie where characters are in a rainstorm, viewers might feel water sprayed on them and hear the sound of rain.
- Special Effects: Some 5D theaters also incorporate additional special effects such as strobe lights, bubbles, or even seat ticklers to enhance the sensory experience.
- Interactivity: In some cases, 5D movies allow viewers to interact with the storyline through handheld devices or buttons on the seats. These interactions can affect the outcome of the movie or trigger specific effects.
The attraction lasts under half an hour and is a pretty cool experience.
Ripley’s Moving Theater is located at 904 Parkway and is open daily from 10:00 am until 11:00 pm.
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure offers a spine-tingling and immersive encounter with the paranormal. This renowned attraction, part of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! family, beckons the fearless and the curious to step into a world of eerie mysteries, where ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena await around every corner.
The Haunted Adventure is located at 908 Parkway and is open daily from 11:00 am until 11:00 pm.
More Ripley’s Attractions in Gatlinburg
- Ripley’s Mirror Maze: Ripley’s Mirror Maze offers a fun adventure as visitors navigate through a maze of mirrors, creating optical illusions at every turn.
- Ripley’s Mini Golf: Tee off at Ripley’s Mini Golf, where two uniquely themed courses, “Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf” (located in Sevierville) and “Davy Crockett’s Mini-Golf,” provide family-friendly fun and challenging holes among imaginative settings.
- Ripley’s Super Fun Zone: Ripley’s Super Fun Zone is an entertainment hub featuring arcade games, a laser race, and interactive experiences that provide hours of excitement for visitors of all ages.
- Ripley’s Mountain Coaster: The Ripley’s Mountain Coaster in Gatlinburg is a thrilling alpine coaster that whizzes through the scenic Smoky Mountain terrain, allowing riders to control their own speed for an adrenaline-pumping adventure.
- Ripley’s Super Fun Park: Ripley’s Super Fun Park offers go-karts, bumper boats, and arcade games, providing a perfect blend of adventure and amusement for families and thrill-seekers alike.
Tickets can be purchased either online or on-site. Tickets options range from single attractions to the Ultimate Fun Pass, an annual pass allowing unlimited access to all 9 attractions.
This post originally appeared on Southern Kissed in 2014.