If you are visiting the Smoky Mountain area soon, especially Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you will not find yourself short of things to do. There are a lot of dinner shows to see, (and some of them are very good) there are a lot of shops to visit, there are a lot of restaurants to eat at, there are a lot of arcades, and fun parks, and mini golf places. But maybe you want to see something a little more unique, too. Maybe you want to go to a place that is not like anything else in that area. Maybe you want to see sharks. Wait, sharks in the mountains? Yep, that’s right. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies can offer you something you won’t see anywhere else in the Smokies. Here are a few reasons why Ripley’s should be on your must-do list.
(Thank you to Ripley’s for hosting our visit and providing tickets for this review. As always, we only share our honest opinions and experiences.)
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is just at the start of the main strip in Gatlinburg. There is cheap parking right nearby, too. You can plan to stay in town for several hours; even a whole day. And you will want to. If the thought of the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Gatlinburg gives you hives, (like it does us,) you won’t need to skip out on this attraction. And then you can leave your car behind and just walk to wherever else you need to go.
A Peaceful Visit
If you are feeling stressed out on your hectic trip, slow things down a bit at the aquarium. All of the beautiful fish floating about can be quite calming. The jellyfish are like a moving work of art, and so serene. Plus, there’s no time limit, so you don’t have to hurry through. You can move at your own pace. There is a nice, big picture window/wall that looks into the shark lagoon tank. This is the perfect place to sit and watch the various sea life glide around while you take a little breather. Your kids can play or snack, or whatever it is your children do.
As we have mentioned before, Shark Lagoon is unlike any aquarium I have ever been to before. There are so many sharks! If you love sharks, or have someone in your family who does, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit at Ripley’s. There is even a spot, marked with a placard, where a shark attack scratched the glass some years back. They have a huge variety of sharks, rays, sawfish, and other members of the Cartilaginous fish family. (I looked it up!) We have been to aquariums of various shapes and sizes in the past, but this one really shines when it comes to sharks. You can even see a feeding up (pretty) close.
Sharks aren’t the only thing they have, though. There is a pretty great penguin encounter, as well. It has the usual tunnel into a close-up dome, with lots of penguins. There will be penguins all over, interacting in all sorts of ways. Plus, the window curves, so you get a lot more exposure to the penguins than you would with just a flat glass wall. Finally, there is an outdoor exhibit, which can allow for even more penguin exposure, weather permitting.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is Well Worth a Visit
While there are plenty of things to do in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, there is only one spot for sharks, unless you want to drive out of the mountains. And since you are there already, why wouldn’t you take advantage of something that you can only see in one place?