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The Ripley Empire - A Legacy of Fun

Leroy Ripley – cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, illustrator, and seeker of the odd and unusual. Many say that it is fitting that his life be summed up in the phrase “Believe It Or Not.” Nearing the 100th year of its existence, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! has many historical artifacts that have been on display for years; yet there are still more to be seen. The people of Ripley’s are still searching for modern but historical items. And much like Mr. Ripley himself, people still travel the world in search for those one-of-a-kind objects. Have you ever wondered how it all began?

Gaining world fame

In the first half of the 20th century, Mr. Ripley was one of the most famous people in the world, best known for his tales and adventures. Born as Leroy Ripley in 1890 in Santa Rosa, California, he went by Roy for his early career, until about the age of 15. He was a talented artist and athlete from his early years, pitching semipro baseball at the age of 13. Eventually, he utilized his talents to illustrate posters for the different games.

Selling his first illustration by age 14, LIFE magazine became Roy’s way into the professional working world. This talented young artist used his cartoon to get his foot into the door of success. By age 15, Roy was working for the San Francisco Bulletin and later moved to the San Francisco Chronicle. Around this time, Roy began going by Robert and moved to New York where he began his career as a budding cartoonist. This man of many talents then began working at the New York Globe where he sketched sports cartoons.

One day out of pure boredom, Robert decided to draw 9 unusual sports events. He titled it “Believe It or Not!” The cartoon became very popular; soon after, Robert decided to travel the world. He spent his time seeking out more things that he found to be unique and bazaar to feature. He was one of the few of his time that traveled not only across states but also all over the world.

Visiting people as far as India, Robert liked to experience their different cultures. His favorite place to visit was China. This makes sense considering how rich in history their culture is. One of Robert’s many traveling habits was to search for things he thought to be unusual and collect them to bring back home. These souvenirs are what now make up an extensive collection of puzzling objects and unique experiences. The tales that Ripley told are fascinating people around the world to this day.

Ripley’s Attractions in the Smokies

Several of the most popular attractions in the Smokies are part of the Ripley Empire. The idea for some of these museum attractions originally came from the popular TV show that aired from 1999-2003. The show demonstrated all the things that Ripley sought after and loved. After it went off the air in 2003, many other projects began to form. There are countless books being published each year about Ripley and the adventurous life he lived. While you are here in the beautiful Smoky Mountains on vacation, make sure to take advantage of all the Ripley’s attractions that are nearby. With eight attractions to choose from, all of them being so different, you may just want to see each and every one of them!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium

Freaking out guests for more than 90 years, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium features a collection of some of the world’s most unique and unusual artifacts, facts, animals, and more. In its 3 stories, the Odditorium has more than 500 artifacts from around the world.
Open 365 days a year
Contact: 865.436.5096

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Home to 10,000 exotic sea creatures across 350 different species, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is hours of fun and learning for the whole family. People of all ages will be amazed as they see 12-foot sharks swim above their heads in the underwater tunnels, pet stingrays, play in the kids’ Discovery Center, and watch dive and feeding shows in Coral Reef, Stingray Bay, and Penguin Playhouse! You can spend hours exploring underseas here!

You can also check out the new Pearl Harbor exhibit, featuring an interactive gallery, news clippings, and tons of great information for an educational and amazing experience!
Open 365 days a year
Contact: 865.430.8808

Ripley’s Haunted Adventure

Rated the #1 haunted house in Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is full of chills, thrilled, fun, and screams! The state-of-the-art attraction features live actors, impressive costumes and makeup, incredibly detailed sets, and a special theme each Halloween! *Children under 6 not permitted.
Open 365 days a year
Contact: 865.430.9991

Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy Factory

In this fun and challenging attraction, guests will maneuver their way around dead ends, loops, and many, many mirrors! There are plenty of surprises in store, and at the end, Ripley’s Candy Factory offers hundreds of candies to try – from the latest treats to the classics that will leave you feeling nostalgic for “the good ole days.”
Open 365 days a year
Contact: 865.430.1834

Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf

Featuring animated, interactive displays – chipmunks, bears, raccoons, crows, and more – these two 18-hole miniature golf courses are well-groomed and offer the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains as their backdrop.
Open year round, weather permitting. FREE Parking!
Contact: 865.430.8551

Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf

With 54 holes of “down on the farm” family fun, Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf is fun for everyone! The 3 miniature golf courses feature animated barnyard characters, interactive elements, and water features throughout.
Open year round, weather permitting. FREE Parking!
Contact: 865.428.1699

Ripley’s 5D Moving Theatre

A state-of-the-art motion simulator, Ripley’s 5D Moving Theatre offers thrills and excitement for kids and adults! Six-channel digital surround sound and cutting-edge technology make the action-packed films even more exciting!
Open 365 days a year
Contact: 865.436.9763

Guinness World Records Museum

Bringing the Guinness Book of World Records to life, this museum offers interactive games, trivia, impressive displays, and hundreds of record-breaking exhibits! Guests will learn about world records in sports, space, animals, human achievement, food, and more! The museum also features memorabilia from celebrity record holders, including Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Elvis, the Beatles, and more.
Open 365 days a year
Contact: 865.430.7800

These one-of-a-kind attractions can be found in major cities all over America, which is only fitting – Robert Ripley loved to travel the world! And with these 8 attractions all available in the Smokies, you can experience them all in one trip to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge!

Prices and hours vary, so check online for more information. You can purchase tickets online, and there is a $2 discount when you order from the Ripley’s website.

Cabins For You Partner Program Discounts

Teaming up withCabins for YOU, Ripley’s attractions in the Smokies are happy to bring you some great deals! When you stay with Cabins for YOU, you’ll save on the area’s top attractions. You can book online or buy tickets at the door, but the online tickets are the best value! Check out our Cabins for YOU Partner Program page for more details and to see where else you’ll save!

If you need a place to call home while you’re visiting the Smokies, check out our Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabin rentals. We have more than 200 cabins to choose from, including cozy 3-6 bedrooms and large group cabins, along with pet-friendly cabins! Several of our cabins are also 1 mile or less from downtown Gatlinburg, placing you within walking distance of some of Ripley’s most famous attractions! Call 1.800.684.7865 to speak to a reservation specialist today!