Disclosure: I received a free item in order to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own and reflect my family’s actual experience.
Last week, you may have noticed from my Instagram that our family was in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee. We had planned on going back to the smokies since our vacation last year, but we actually decided last minute that we wanted to go to to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
If you’ve never visited the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas of Tennessee, you’re really missing out. There is literally so much to do there, that it’s no surprise that Gatlinburg is one of the best tourist areas in the United States.
With just 4-days to do everything on our long itinerary, we knew we wouldn’t get to experience everything, so we made sure the kids could do everything they wanted. Thankfully, their list of things they wanted to do was short. One wanted mini golf, one a hotel, and the other just wanted a trip to an aquarium. Thankfully, Ripley’s Gatlinburg offers a pass that offers both mini golf, an aquarium, and more!
Although, you can purchase each of these passes as a single admission pass, you really do get the best deal by making your pass a combo one that includes all 8 of the area attractions which are:
- Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
- Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
- Ripley’s Mirror Maze
- Ripley’s Moving Theater 5D
- Guinness World Records
- Old Mac mini Golf
- Davy Crockett Mini Golf
Although, we visited all of these attractions last year, minus Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, it was so different visiting them again this year. Unlike other attractions, Ripley’s attractions do change periodically, so you get a unique experience at least once a year.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is hard to miss. Located in downtown Gatlinburg, the aquarium is centrally located and inside of a fairly large building.
Inside, you will find many sea animals including a Shark Lagoon that you literally glide along a moving walkway through an underground tunnel. The kids will love the Discovery Center where they can touch real live jellyfish and horseshoe crabs. They will also love the fun playhouse and the many tunnels that they can crawl under and get face-to-face with their favorite sea animals.
Our kids loved getting up close and personal to the penguins in the Penguin Playhouse. But their favorite part of the aquarium was just checking out all the sea creatures and animals.
Although, most of Ripley’s Aquarium was the same as last year, there was one part that changed this year – the museum area. Last year when we went, the aquarium had a Pearl Harbor exhibit, but this year it was a Shipwrecked exhibit which we actually enjoyed a little more.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is something you should definitely do during your visit to the Smokies, even if you decide not to purchase all the extra attractions.
Tips for Planning Your Visit
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is probably one of the biggest tourist attractions in downtown Gatlinburg, so you want to be sure to make your visit early. We arrived a few minutes before opening at 9 am and the line was already getting long.
Plan to spend 2.5-4 hours inside of the aquarium. Allow more time if you decide to add on a special experience.
The aquarium does have a small restaurant, but I recommend eating in one of the downtown Gatlinburg restaurants.
Although, there is no parking, you can easily find a parking spot at one of the nearby pay-for-parking parking lots.
Tickets are only good for a 1 time entry of the aquarium, so you cannot leave and come back in the same day.
Ripley’s Aquarium is where you have to go to pick up tickets since they are the only location with a will-call window.
Ripley’s Mirror Maze
Walking down the streets of Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Mirror Maze was our next stop and the shortest of the Ripley’s attractions. Here you can shop for candy at the Sweet Shop and take your shot at navigating trough a mirror maze.
Unlike some of the other Ripley’s attractions, this one was the same as last year, so we got through it pretty fast, even with the kids navigating.
One thing I do recommend, if possible, is waiting to do this until you’re the only one inside. If you follow someone in, the thrill of finding your way will be lost since the person ahead of you will be doing all the work and it will be hard not to notice where they end up.
After leaving the mirror maze, it took us 10 minutes, you are allowed to enter back as many times as you want during the same day.
Ripley’s Odditorium was fun last year, but this year, it was all new and just reopened. Inside, odd and insane things are on exhibit throughout three floors. Visitors here start on the third floor and work their way back down to the first.
During your self guided tour, you can touch and play with many hands-on exhibits while learning many odd facts. One of our favorite things we got to do here was walk across a completely safe tightrope.
Unfortunately, during our time here, it was really busy, so we didn’t get to spend as much time as we wanted to at some of the exhibits. I recommend arriving at Ripley’s Odditorium early because it seems to stay pretty busy throughout the day.
Guinness World Records
I personally loved the Guinness World Records attraction the most of all the Ripley’s attractions. Here, there are many “games” to play and ways to see if you can beat the world record for different activities.
This is a great attraction for kids because they can literally run and do everything inside.
For older adults, you can even test your Pac-Man skills with a Pac-Man arcade game and large screen Pac-Man that you can challenge a friend. For younger children, they can test their basketball, soccer, lumberjack, and karate skills along with many others.
Guinness World Records is an attraction that you can spend hours in playing. Plus, there is no time restrictions here, so you can literally try to break the world records all day, if you wanted to.
While you play, Guinness World Record official coaches are even there to cheer you on and make you feel like a real Guinness World Record breaker.
Ripley’s Moving Theater 5D
Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater was one thing I was really looking forward to this year. Last year, my daughter was too small to ride a moving theater seat, so I had to sit in a non-moving seat with her and I missed out on the fun moving chairs. This year, my daughter was finally the 42″ height and we were able to ride a moving chair.
During the time at the movies, we got to watch two short films that last about 15 minutes while wearing our 3D glasses.
This year, we got to watch a movie about an airplane and a Santa Clause movie. I personally thought the Santa Clause movie was better, but I also know movies change regularly so you have to check what is playing before you go.
While I have been on a lot of stimulating rides, the theater wasn’t really comparable to one of them. Instead, I found the seats to be jerky and uncomfortable. Although, we all had fun and laughed, the Moving Theater was probably the only attraction of Ripley’s that I really didn’t care for.
Old Mac Mini Golf & Davy Crockett Mini Golf
Last year, we spent our time at Davy Crockett Mini Golf. Since Ripley’s allows you to pick 2 rounds of mini golf either from the same place or at both mini golf areas, we decided to do both the mini golf courses at the Old MacMini Golf in Pigeon Forge. Located in the same parking lot as the Outlets, you can find parking a lot easier here.
With three different mini golf courses, you can pick whichever one you want to do and start your game immediately. Whenever you finish all 17 holes, the 18th hole is where you take your chance at winning a free round of mini golf. If you don’t win, that’s okay, but you will lose your ball after the 18th hole and have to scan your ticket again to play your next round of golf.
We personally loved all the extra affects Old Mac Mini Golf had and found the mini golf to be just challenging enough for our young children.
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
The one attraction that we did not do either year we visited Ripley’s was the Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. Just like the name says, this is a haunted house and just from the outside, you can tell it would be scary.
Since my kids are still young, none of them were brave enough to try the haunted house, so we didn’t force them.
If you are planning a trip to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area be sure to add Ripley’s 8 Attractions to your itinerary, you won’t regret it!
Just be sure to plan 1-day to have plenty of time to visit everything. If you want to do one attraction each day, you can even do that because tickets are good for one year from the date of purchase.
To learn more about Ripley’s of the Smokies, check out their webpage where they share special events, news, and ticket information.