A few months ago, I sat in shock as the staff at Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg, Tennessee were forced to leave and abandon over 10,000 animals because of a deadly wildfire. In the interviews that followed, you could tell that Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg staff really cared about these animals. They even mentioned, they had waited until last minute to even leave; risking smoke, fire, and, ultimately, death.
Thankfully, that deadly wildfire never touched Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN and no animals were harmed – they were all safe!
During our visit, just a few months later, we could still clearly see how close that fire was to destroying the aquarium and the beautiful town of Gatlinburg. The trees around the area were still charred with smoke, caution tape still surrounded a few areas, and on the hill – a house sat badly burned.
On the day we visited Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg, we were fortunate enough to have beautiful sunny weather. We woke up early planning to get into the aquarium as soon as they opened at 9 am and luckily got parking at one of the nearby, paid parking lots. All around the outside of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies there are beautiful landscapes, a bridge, and a few statues to take your picture with.
Up top at the aquarium’s steps is where folks are lead to buy tickets or go to guest services. Since we arrived early morning, the ticket line was still pretty empty, but by the time we left the line was a lot more packed. Inside the aquarium, as you first walk in, there is so much wow-factor. A giant aquarium starts you off with fish and to your left, you have a gift shop. Then you’re whisked away to a Tropical Rainforest. Everywhere you looked, there were fish. There were so many different kinds that I’ve never even heard of and a few that I’ve always wanted to see, like these piranhas. These color-changing jellyfish were so mesmerizing to watch.
All around the aquarium, there were different halls to turn down and a bunch of exhibits to see. Our favorite hall that we turned down, is probably one of the more talked about exhibits at Ripley’s and it was so much fun – the shark exhibit.
The shark exhibit allowed us to stand along a moving floor and watch as sharks, fish, and manta rays swam all around us. Standing under the huge tunnel aquarium, I saw a whole different side of the fish that most people don’t even see in pictures.
Unfortunately, the whole exhibit is pretty dark, so most of my pictures in the moving tunnel didn’t turn out too well. Along with the moving tunnel, there was, even more, fun stuff to see and do for the kids. This kiddie area had its own touching zone, a playground, and some interactive exhibits for kids to play with. My kids really enjoyed standing front and center of these Nemo fish. One cool exhibit that is fairly new to the Ripley’s Aquarium, The Pearl Harbor exhibit, allows families to learn all about that fateful day on December 7, 1941. Inside of the Pearl Harbor exhibit, there is so much information and interactive play, that my kids loved learning about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The kids even got to make a lot of noise sounding the alarms in the Arizona. Lastly, the Penguins Play Area was probably another favorite – we love Penguins! Although Pittsburg Zoo and Aquarium is notorious for decorating their Penguin’s den up with Pittsburgh Penguins gear, Ripley’s Aquarium had a lot more penguins and a ton of space for the penguins to play.
In between the penguin’s habitat, kids were able to crawl through a tunnel to get right in the center of them. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was so much fun and this post does not do it justice. If you’re ever in Gatlinburg, Tennessee I highly recommend visiting the aquarium. When purchasing your tickets, just remember you can get a discount on the other 7 Attractions by purchasing your tickets as a combo ticket.
Check out what I had to say about the other attractions HERE.