Now I know why Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains was voted the number one aquarium in America by Tripadvisor. I went to another aquarium years ago, and when I left I was not exactly anxious to return. However, after finishing my visit to Ripley’s in Gatlinburg I can say one thing for sure: I will definitely be returning again. Anyone who is looking for the ideal family activity–even if they are hard to please–should consider paying a visit to this attraction. There were literally thousands of different sea creatures. The variety of marine life that I saw thoroughly impressed me. I positively adored the tiny sea horses, and walking through the shark tunnel was extraordinary. It was almost as if I were the one in the fish bowl and the sharks were observing me!
I could easily have spent three to four hours in the aquarium, and the location of the restaurant was highly convenient, as well. The food was not overpriced and it was of good quality. I was also impressed with the items in the gift shop, and I found souvenir prices to be quite reasonable. In all seriousness, the designers of this aquarium have thought of just about everything a marine-life enthusiast would like to see.
Some of the things I enjoyed the most were the coral reef and the shark lagoon. Feeding times at the coral reef were very entertaining, and I could not believe the brilliant colors of some of the fish. I really had not realized that tropical fish were so colorful. I also was unaware of the fact that other marine life happily coexist with the sharks in the lagoon. As I moved along the conveyor belt–which was a very convenient way to see these amazing fish–I saw a giant sea turtle, tarpon, and what I think were snappers. One of the most exhilarating experiences is when a shark floats directly over your head. They were so close I could count their rows of teeth–four to be exact! If it were not for the glass separating you, you could literally reach out and touch them. A unique experience indeed. Some of the sharks were enormous! I was not aware that that type of shark could grow to such a large size.
Stingray bay was sensational as well, and I petted a stingray on his belly, which was unquestionably a fun experience that I will never forget. The piranhas and four eyed fish were high on my list of favorites, as well. I will probably return to the aquarium again in the future, as I was unaware of how much it had to offer. I considered it not only a recreational activity, but also an educational one for me and my entire family.
Official Aquarium Website: http://gatlinburg.ripleyaquariums.com/
Children (6 to 11) $10.99
Children (2 to 5) $4.99
Infants (under 2) free
Hours of Operation:
Memorial Day to Labor Day: Everyday 9am to 11pm
Remainder of year: Sunday through Thursday — 9am to 9pm; Saturday & Sunday — 9am to 11pm
NOTE: $2 per ticket discount by booking online and coupons in almost all local area magazines once you get there
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