With numerous awards and accolades under its belt – 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, #1 Aquarium in America on TripAdvisor, #8 Best Aquarium on USA Today’s 10 Best list, one of America’s Best Aquariums by Forbes – Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has found its place as one of the top attractions in Gatlinburg and across the country. Boasting amazing underwater displays, exciting hands-on experiences for kids, and impressive interactive exhibits for all ages, the aquarium provides hours of entertainment, exploration, education, and fun for families, couples, and large groups.
Located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies actually has more fish than there are people living in the whole town of Gatlinburg! It’s home to more than 10,000 exotic sea creatures spread across more than 350 different species! The aquarium houses penguins, sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, sea turtles, and everything in between! While some may be familiar, many of these odd sea creatures are new sights to most guests.
Hailing from locations all over the world, the creatures here run the gamut, from sleek and beautiful to slimy and gross. The new Slime exhibit features over 30 interactive and educational exhibits that will make guests say “Ewww!” Guests can touch jellyfish, watch videos, and see African lungfish, moray eels, discus fish, parrot fish, mud puppies, and a variety of snails, worms, and slugs. The boys in the group will especially love this ooey, gooey area! Those enjoying a romantic evening out will appreciate the beauty of the graceful jellyfish, stunning coral reefs, and colorful fish.
The huge variety of sea creatures and exhibits will impress children and adults of all ages. Along a tour of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, visitors will come across:
Home to freshwater stingrays, four-eyed fish, poison dart frogs, green iguanas, and piranhas, the Tropical Rainforest is a lush and diverse area. More than 2,000 species of fish live here!
The “ultimate underwater experience without getting wet,” the Shark Lagoon features a moving sidewalk and underwater tunnel where guests can watch sharks, sea turtles, sawfish, tarpons, and other sea creatures swim above and around them.
Octopi, cuttlefish, sea nettles, scorpionfish, and lionfish are some of the most fascinating creatures in the seas. Tentacles, suckers, and multiple arms set them apart from other fish found in the ocean. Natural pieces of art, these creatures feature interesting colors, strange shapes, and unique movements that will intrigue guests.
A new exhibit at the aquarium, the Penguin Playhouse is fun and interactive. Guests can view the penguins from above and below through underwater tunnels and encasements. Guests can even pick up an original penguin painting from the gift shop – made by the penguins themselves! Half of the proceeds go towards conservation efforts for these amazing birds!
Featuring hundreds of the most colorful fish from across the world, the Coral Reef is teeming with life and variety. Familiar faces for the kids (think “Finding Nemo”) are here, including regal blue tang (Dory), clownfish (Nemo and Marlin), and Moorish idols (Gill).
Guests can touch stingrays as they glide past in the water at this fun, interactive display. Aquarium educators are always there to be sure the guests have a pleasant and safe experience with these unique creatures!
A collection of unique species – weedy scorpionfish, flounder, garden eel, and more – make their home in the Ocean Realm. Guests here will also see schooling fish as they gracefully move through the water.
When living in the wild, stingrays spend the majority of their lives buried in the sand as they hide themselves from predators. But at Stingray Bay, these graceful, majestic creatures showcase themselves each day. There are even dive shows where guests can watch the stingrays eat straight from divers’ hands!
A look down into Systems Control will give guests a peak into the intricate systems that help the aquarium run smoothly.
Made for curious kids, the Discovery Center features puzzles, tests, games, classes, student programs, and an interactive touch tank with horseshoe crabs! Kids of all ages will love exploring here!
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies also caters to a variety of events. Birthday parties at the aquarium include admission, cake and punch, a personalized greeting during a dive show, goody bags for the kids, a special gift for the birthday child, invitations, a private decorated room, an educator host, interactive activities, a take-home craft, and one-on-one time with an animal in the aquarium! Guests can even add a sleepover – a PJ Party With the Penguins or Sleep With the Sharks! Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies also hosts catered events, corporate meetings, weddings, and proposals!
For teachers, school groups, and home schoolers, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies provides a variety of great educational resources. Families will have fun and learn a lot at the Sharktastic Camps, and kids will love the Jr. Aquarist Camp (ages 9-13), Kids Night Out (ages 5 and up), and SSI: Shark Scene Investigator (ages 6-13).
Tickets are available online and at the door. Along with regular admission, guests can buy tickets for special experiences, groups, or a combination of local attractions.Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies 88 River Road
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Robert Leroy Ripley was born in Santa Rosa, California, in 1890. From an early age, Ripley led a very interesting life. At age 16, he was selling local artwork and playing semi-professional baseball. Just a few years later, he started selling cartoons to LIFE Magazine. After an injury ended his baseball career, he started traveling the world. As he traveled, he would document the strange and interesting things he came across. In 1933, he opened his first auditorium in Chicago, Illinois. It featured original displays that attracted people from across the country. For the next 10 years, he opened more auditoriums. Today, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies stands as a reflection of Robert Ripley’s unique interests and passions.