We received complimentary tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium. All thoughts and opinions remain my own, as always.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is one of my favorite places to go while in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I have visited a handful of times and it’s a definite must-see while on a family vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. We have taken the kids to a more local aquarium every few months, but Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a totally different beast with excellent exhibits and a large hands-on discovery area.
My favorite part of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is the moving tunnel. As guests travel through the tunnels on a conveyor, they are surrounded on both sides and overhead with a gigantic aquarium. The view is stunning with sharks swimming above and schools of fish passing by. The experience is unlike any other. It captures the attentions of kids and adults. Along the way, you’ll even spot a sunken ship.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Shark Tunnel
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Discovery Center
After the tunnel, it’s time for some hands-on fun with an open area dedicated to fun stations. This is the perfect place for little ones to release some energy, make some noise, and enjoy being able to touch and feel. There several tanks where the go crawl under and stand up “in” them for photo opps and props are all around. A large touch tank is in this area for kids and parents to learn about and touch stingrays.
Even though I’ve been to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies before, I’m still impressed! I loved being able to take Bryson and Bella and watch their little faces light up as they experienced it for the first time. You can see the amazement on their faces in the photographs.
I shot over 200 photos from our time at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, but since I can’t include them all, I’m only sharing a few of my favorites. There is so much to see, touch/ feel, and learn about. We were excited to visit while their Dinosaur Exhibit was live. I believe it’s going away at the end of the year, but it was one of our favorite parts. Bryson loved it and getting to dig for dinosaur fossils was a highlight for him.
If you plan on visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, be sure to set aside at least two hours. If, like us, you’ll be visiting with little ones, I highly suggest a lightweight and easy-to-maneuver stroller for your visit. This will allow toddlers to rest their legs and give you somewhere to keep the diaper bag while walking through the aquarium. There is a large gift shop before you exit and a photo opportunity as you enter. Exhibits include Tropical Rainforest, Ocean Realm, Systems Controls, Coral Reef, Shark Lagoon, Discovery Center, the Gallery of the Seas, Stingray Bay, Touch a Ray Bay and the Penguin Playhouse.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. If you’ll be staying in the area, check at your hotel for discounts on local attractions like the aquarium. If you plan on visiting other attractions in the area, you’ll want to check into the combo tickets to save money. I can’t imagine a Smoky Mountain vacation without a stop at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, so if you are ever in the area, take some time to visit and check out the thousands of sea creatures!