While on our annual trip to the NQC a couple weeks ago, we were able to visit the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN. This was not our first time there, but we love going through each time we're in the area because honestly, it's the best aquarium we've visited. We actually brought a friend to Ripley's a couple years ago, and he still talks about how much better it is than the popular aquarium in Chicago. Needless to say, the family was excited to be able to visit again.
The Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is a two-level building that sits back off the parkway but catches your eye as soon as you come into town. With four sections on the upper level and five on the lower level, this is not something you want to rush through! One of my favorite areas is always the jellyfish. I find these so fascinating! I literally stood there for several minutes just watching the moon jellies (they're almost transparent!).
I also found the weedy scorpionfish very interesting. They are so neat-looking! As always, the seahorses were another popular exhibit. The way these little guys hold onto the vegetation with their tails is amazing. Honestly, you could easily spend hours in here just watching so many different and strange-looking creatures!
Probably my favorite part of the Ripley's Aquarium is the Shark Lagoon. This is a very unique feature, where you step onto a 340 foot-long glide path that moves you along through an underwater tunnel. Various fish and sharks are not only surrounding you, but also above you! You literally feel as though you're in the middle of the ocean, and could reach out and touch any of the beautiful sea life.
Ripley's also has a new exhibit section this year, focused on Pearl Harbor. As you walk through this area of the aquarium you will see replicas of the USS Arizona as well as many other exhibits detailing the historical event, including a photo op with President Franklin Roosevelt (M, our history buff, loved this!).
As you can see, Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is without a doubt not only one of the must-see attractions in Gatlinburg, it's also one of the best aquariums you'll ever visit! For information about ticket prices, hours of operation, or to plan your visit, check out Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies online.