Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – Gatlinburg, TN

2 10 2009
  • 88 River Road
  • Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • (865) 430-8808
  • Website
Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN

I wasn’t going to write about any of the attractions we went to, but this was too good to not say something about. 

Usually, I’m not a fan of aquariums. When I was little, I was forced to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago more times than I would have liked. In fact, one was too many. I hated it. It was so boring. So, when one of our friends recommended Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies we were skeptical but willing to give it a shot. 

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is just off The Parkway in Gatlinburg. It’s one of the first things you run into if you’re coming from Pigeon Forge (which is a beautiful drive, btw). In true Ripley’s fashion, the building itself is something to look at. It doesn’t have the stuffy feeling of a museum and it’s not an old building with Gothic architecture. It’s a modern design with a lot of glass. 

The ticket window is actually outside before you get to the main doors. The cost for adults was $20, but like I told J, that was cheaper than the freakin ferry ride to Mackinac Island, so in the grand scheme of things, it probably wasn’t that bad. The ticket lady tried to get us to buy tickets to other Ripley attractions in town which would have saved money if we were going to more than one, but we weren’t. 

After getting tickets, we headed inside where another person ripped our tickets and sent us on our way. 

A pirannha

A pirannha

The aquarium is set up to keep you moving. It’s very open and tall even though you never go any higher than where you started. You actually go down at one point then back up to the main floor. 

You start on the main floor and the first exhibit you come to is the piranha’s. I could have sat there and watched them all. They’re ugly little critters. The display cases were set up so most of them were at eye level, but there were a lot of “pools” that you could look down into and see fish swimming. I thought it was funny there were life preservers near these big open pools “just in case.” 

All of the displays were pretty cool and maybe it’s just because I’m a little older now than when I went to Shedd. I don’t know if I just appreciate it more now or that this really is an awesome place. 

There was a whole display on deadly fish including an electric eel that had a volt meter hooked up to the tank so you could see how much electricity he was producing. They also had clown fish, which aren’t deadly themselves, but they had the anemones that are deadly in which the clown fish can hide. 



They had a really cool display of jelly fish. There was a solid blue background behind them, so they seemed to glow in the light of the tank. 

The coolest part of the aquarium and the main show piece is the underwater tunnel which allows you to walk through the middle of one of those “pool” displays that I was talking about earlier. There’s a motorized walkway that will take you through or you can walk next to it if you want to go faster or slower. This exhibit was so cool because of all the sharks swimming above your head. You really did feel like you could reach up and touch one. 

One of the last big exhibit areas was the pet-a-sting ray exhibit which they had set up so you could actually reach into the pool and pet a stingray. We didn’t do it because none got close enough and the wall got pretty crowded. 

Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies was awesome. J’s friend told us if there was one thing we had to do in Gatlinburg, this was it. There are so many choices of how to spend your money, but if you have to make choices, this is where you want to drop your hard earned cash.

The Underwater Tunnel

The Underwater TunnelA shark swimming overhead.




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