I may or may not be a little bit addicted to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. We’ve been there 4 times I believe. I love going through the different areas and feeling like I’m in the depths of the ocean. There’s no way I’d be brave enough to swim with sharks and rays. So being able to be “this close” and seem them in person is amazing for me.
The kids, Clay, and I were lucky enough to receive some free Ripley’s Attractions tickets on our last trip to the Smoky Mountains. We were pretty swamped with planned activities but we definitely made time to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium again. Our entire family loves it there! It certainly puts our little bitty fish tank to shame size wise.
You can walk through the aquarium at your own pace. It’s pretty crowded each time, though, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time if you want to take lots of photos. We usually plan our visit for at least half the day and go through leisurely. You certainly don’t have to but that’s the best way to see everything. We took a little break at one point and just watched one tank. In the 5 minutes we stopped, several different varieties of fish became active and moved around in the tank. Ones that had been hiding and we would have missed if we’d simply rushed through. So definitely take your time and enjoy it!
There are so many different types of fish. My favorites were the Spotted Garden Eels and the Leafy Sea Dragon. They are both so unique. The garden eels look like little worms with their heads poked out of the sand. They will rise up a little and then go back down. That is about all you ever see them do but they are so cute looking.
The Leafy Sea Dragon looks just like plant life. You have to really look at it to tell that it is not a plant. When we were there this time, I believe that two were mating. I’m not sure how they mate but there were two that stayed connected and did sort of a swim dance together. Then they separated and swam off. It was so graceful and beautiful. There were typical looking sea horses in the same tank but I couldn’t stop looking at all the sea dragons. They are so amazing looking.
There are signs next to each display that gives you plenty of information about each creature inside. Like the Weedy Scorpionfish, another that looks remarkably like a plant. From the sign, I learned that when it hunts it rocks back and forth to mimic algae and that it’s dorsal spines are venomous causing pain when stepped on. Watch out for that!
And then there are real plants, other plant-like animals, barnacles, sea anemones, etc. The list goes on and on.
I love the jellyfish. They are so peaceful to watch. It’s hard to imagine, watching them float through the water, that they have the ability to inflict massive pain. They are alluring and beautiful to watch.
I created a little video to show you how tranquil they are to watch. It’s only a few seconds because other people wanted to take photos too. I didn’t want to be a jelly fish hog!
Going on the conveyor belt through the tunnel beneath the sharks is another of my favorites. You don’t have to watch where you’re walking, just ride and watch. The sharks swim right over top of you and up to the glass. There are several different types and it can be somewhat scary being that close to something that could eat you! I didn’t get the best photos this time because they were all quite active and I was trying to spin around and capture as many as I could. But there was one that swam above me with its mouth slightly open. Those teeth! Oh my goodness, those teeth. I had cold chills!
There are several interactive displays throughout the aquarium. The kids can climb beneath some of the tanks and up inside a dome for a 360° underwater experience. There is also an interactive fish diagram showing how a fish body is made up inside. In another section you can see the workings of the aquarium and learn how their systems are designed to filter and treat the water in the same way the ocean does. I believe that the kids favorite interactive parts, though, are the tank where you can touch a horseshoe crab and the tank to touch a ray. We were starving when we got to the ray area and it was packed so we didn’t go up there this time.
Lastly, there are penguins. Cute, adorable sweet looking little penguins. I could stand there all day and watch them. I adore penguins. The kids were able to crawl through to another dome and get an up close view of them. Lucky!
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Pricing:
You can save buy purchasing your tickets online. You can also save buy buying bundles and visiting more than one Ripley’s attraction. There are 8 Ripley’s Attractions to check out! Visit this post <<<< to get a discount by simply being our reader!
When you’re done visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, grab some Dippin’ Dots and then head out side and take a nice stroll along the Gatlinburg River Walk, especially in the fall. It is such a beautiful area along the Little Pigeon River. We didn’t see any ducks this time but during the warm months there are plenty. You can even buy food at the Aquarium to feed them. We just enjoyed taking a little rest before heading out to eat. It was a very peaceful and relaxing day.
If you’re ever in the Gatlinburg area and are looking for a family friendly attraction, be sure to check out the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.