Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies | Gatlinburg, TN

We never would have thought that the landlocked Tenessee would have a great aquarium, but Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the most popular attractions in Gatlinburg and for good reason! Located on Gatlinburg Parkway, in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a fun place to spend a few hours on your next trip to the Smoky Mountains.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is great for fun in Gatlinburg with kids

Thanks to Visit Gatlinburg for hosting us on our Spring in the Smokies getaway. We received complimentary admission to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies but as always, all opinions are honest and my own.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies entrance

We walked across the street to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies after our rainy morning at Anakeesta. It seemed like everyone else in Gatlinburg had the same idea since it’s one of the few indoor attractions in town and it had been raining all morning. The line wrapped around a few times but moved quickly and before long we were getting up close and personal with the fishies.

Gatlinburg aquarium

Every time we go to an aquarium, we HAVE to get a picture of the five kids in front of the giant aquarium wall. It’s so much fun to look back at them and compare how big the kids have gotten over the years. Because of all the rain, the aquarium was PACKED and parts seemed to have wall-to-wall people but for whatever reason, the crowds parted and I was able to easily get this picture which totally made my day!

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies tunnels

One of my favorite things about Ripley’s Aquariums (including Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach) are the tunnels through the Shark Lagoon. It’s not very often that you can go underwater without getting wet and get a totally new perspective of the creatures swimming beneath the surface.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is one of our favorite things to do in Gatlinburg with kids.

We absolutely lucked out and they were having issues with the moving walkway through the Shark Lagoon so we were able to go at our own pace. The kids LOVED watching the fish swim around, especially as they swam right over their heads!

Touching the rays at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg

Like most kids, ours love Touch-A-Ray-Bay and we spent more time here than any other place in the aquarium (with the exception of Shark Lagoon). You can reach over the low walls – or lay on them if you prefer – and touch a stingray as it glides by. For an additional charge, you can actually get into the water with the stingrays for a much more immersive experience (Splash With Stingrays)! Have you ever touched a stingray? Would you hop into the water with one??

We had a great time at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and I suspect it will continue as a must-do on future trips to Gatlinburg. It’s not the biggest or most elaborate aquarium in the country, but it’s entertaining and a great way to spend a few hours. We went on a rainy day and while it was nice to have somewhere indoors to get away from the bad weather, everyone else had the same idea and it was significantly more crowded than usual. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, go first thing in the morning and don’t go when the weather is bad outside.

What’s your favorite aquarium? We’re always looking for new places to explore!!

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  1. June 3, 2019 / 10:53 am


    What a fantastis post! This is so chock full of useful information I can’t wait to dig deep and start utilizing the resources you have given me. The info here are very useful especially that my family and I am planning to go on vacation to Gatlinburg this coming weekend. Thanks a lot!

    • Jennifer
      June 3, 2019 / 10:54 am

      Thank you so much! I hope you have a wonderful trip to Gatlinburg this weekend! What are you most excited to do while you’re there??

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