When Ripley’s announced they were going to put an aquarium in Gatlinburg, there were two questions that everybody asked: Where? & When? Well, they built it in the center of town, right off River Road at traffic light 5. It is impossible to miss this complex that has become as much a part of the scenery of Gatlinburg as the Aerial Tramway to Ober Gatlinburg. Opening in late in 2000, this attraction is more than a decade old and has become one of the most visited family attractions in the Smokies.
With an aquarium, you expect to see tanks full of fish. Ripley’s has designed an aquarium that allows you to roam from tank to tank, making sure that you are able to see fish in as natural an environment as possible. The aquarium boasts over 10,000 aquatic animals, some of which you can even hold and touch. This is a world class aquarium, bringing you salt water animals from all over the world. As you walk from tank to tank you explore places as diverse as the Amazon Rain Forest, the Pacific Ocean and coral reefs. Each exhibit has been painstakingly designed to give you a sense of being close to the action – of being in the water with the fish.
Two of the exhibits are hands-on. The Discovery Center lets you explore different aspects of the seas and get even closer to some of the fish you have been seeing. Included in this area is a flowing water exhibit that allows you to pick up and handle a horseshoe crab, one of the oldest and most unchanged animals on the planet. Being able to reach into the shallow water and touch these oddities of the undersea world is both unique and exciting. As you near the exit of the aquarium, you will find yourself at Touch-a-Ray Bay. This location lets you gets hands on with small rays and shark in a safe environment. Divers and aquarium staff are on hand to teach you about the animals you are touching and make sure that everyone gets a chance to get hands on.
One of the most unique features of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a trip through the underwater tunnel which brings you through the world of a coral reef with a huge mixture of animals. You stand on a moving walkway that passes through this amazing world. Sharks soar past, inches from your head. Sea turtles glide gracefully through the water and all this time you are moving slowly through a tunnel enjoying the amazing scenery and the spectacle around you.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a must do activity in the Smoky Mountains. Thousands of visitors go through their exhibits each season, making this one of the most visited attractions in the area. A well designed and maintained attraction with an experience that will stick with you for years to come. Make the aquarium a stop for you and your loved ones on your next trip to Gatlinburg.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
88 River Rd