If you find yourself in or around the vicinity of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you simply must make a stop at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. No matter what your age, you will be in awe of the environments that the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokiesâ has created in order to give visitors a “not the usual experience.”
When you first enter you will see a large cylinder tank filled with a variety of fish and in the distance a waterfall and dark corridors. As you move toward the waterfall, you will come face to face with Red Bellied Piranhas. As you continue along your way you will be traveling along darkened hallways that allow for maximum view into the large lighted tanks that cover the walls. The initial tanks are filled with strange and interesting creatures and some have video monitors that provide added information.
Soon you will step onto a moving sidewalk and enter the world’s longest underwater aquarium tunnel. Marine life swims on both sides of the tunnel and over your head, as you are slowly conveyed onward through the underwater “bubble.” Seeing these creatures in a close to natural environment-at eye level-is something hard to describe. As you pass through Shark Lagoon of the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, sharks and rays will be swimming ominously overhead. This author’s grandson was seriously concerned about these denizens of the deep. “They can’t get out can they?” Seeing those rows of pointed teeth up close gives one a new perspective on and respect for these massive creatures-and these babies are only about 12 feet long. This is not a television show or movie and none of these creatures are mechanical.
Little ones will love the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Discovery Center, where they can crawl under and up into the middle of specially designed aquariums to gain a 360 degree view of the tank’s swimmers. They will also have an opportunity to hold a horseshoe crab and learn a bit about them from the staff on hand to help. The Discovery Center has a tunnel where the young ones can crawl through and view creatures that glow in the dark. The tunnel is a bit confining for an adult, but hey, give it a shot, this author did-gives one a better perspective on how the little ones see things. On display in the Discovery Center is a set of shark jaws that will make your jaw drop-those really were babies you just saw and this is the granddaddy!
When you leave the Discovery Center, you will pass through the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Gallery of the Seas where Giant Japanese Spider Crabs crawl and side step. Don’t miss the Golden Jelly Fish. They have an added Predators of the Sea exhibit that holds pirate “booty,” relics, skeletons and a cannon that goes boom with the flick of a switch. It contains over 30 educational and interactive exhibits. You will find a snack bar at the end of the Gallery of the Seas exhibit, appropriately named Feeding Frenzy, and you might want to make a quick stop here. You are almost to the end.
Once you ascend from Feeding Frenzy, you have an opportunity to touch a ray at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Touch-A-Ray Bay, supervised, of course. The gift shop is right behind the Touch-A-Ray Bay and those who man it will be quick to tell you that you must exit through the back of the shop, not through the main doors. This is a not too subtle way of ensuring you must “run the gauntlet” of assorted stuffed animals, toys and souvenirs. The woman who “caught” this author trying to make a get away out the main door was not very nice or friendly about it-must be she has to snare people a little too often for her liking.
This is an attraction that this author would gladly see again and again. There is simply no way to take it all in the first time. You will want to allow plenty of time at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to ensure you experience all of the over 10,000 exotic sea creatures in a leisurely manner. When you get to the end your first time through, consider going back. There is a walkway beside the moving sidewalk that allows for two-way traffic. And remember that you purchased a day pass. If you want to go have lunch and come back that same day, you can.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Tickets
Adults $17.95 for one-day pass
Children 6-11 $9.95 for one-day pass
Children 2-5 $3.95 for one-day pass
Children under 2 are free
Senior, ask for discount. They don’t publish it, but they may have it.
Contact Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokiesâ for group discounts.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Hours
Sunday – Thursday 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 9:00 am to 11:00 pm
Open 365 Days A Year
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Address
Traffic Light #5
88 River Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Contact Information
Email: [email protected]