Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a small hamlet nestled in the Smoky Mountains. While the lure of natural beauty is all around, the town boasts fun activities for everyone in the family, including the eight great attractions available from Ripley’s. During a recent visit to Gatlinburg, we were able to visit three of Ripley’s attractions for ourselves; the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the Ripley’s 5D Movie Theater, and the Ripley’s Mirror Maze. If you are planning a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, here’s why you don’t want to miss these Ripley’s Attractions.
Thanks to Ripley’s Attractions for providing us with complimentary passes. All opinions are my own.
Ripley’s Attractions, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
There’s a reason this aquarium has been voted the number 1 aquarium in the US by USA Today’s Readers Choice Awards. With interactive fun for all ages, everyone from children to adults will find something they enjoy. We visited shortly after the aquarium opened on a school day. I highly recommend this if you have young children because there were no crowds and it we were able to visit the exhibits as long as we liked without feeling we were blocking anyone’s view.
Located on two levels, the Aquarium covers everything from the Ocean Realm to the Tropical Rainforest. Kids will want to visit the Discovery Center with plenty of hands-on activities to learn about aquatic life. Plus, there’s the opportunity to touch a jellyfish and a horseshoe crab. There’s also a 4 story play center with had a hard time convincing the toddler to leave!
One of my favorite exhibits is Shark Lagoon. A 340-foot glide path allows visitors the change to travel “under the sea.” The slow-moving glide path moves through an underwater tunnel while Sandtiger and Nurse sharks, along with Green Sea Turtles, Green Moray Eels, and Tarpons swim above and around you.
Another of our favorite exhibits is Penguin Playhouse. It’s easy to get up close and personal with the penguins by traveling through the tunnels below their habitat. (Be warned: You actually have to crawl through these, but they are the perfect size for children.) Along the way, there is a spot to pop up beside their private beach. This is a great spot to view feeding time!
History Buffs will be delighted to know a new exhibit on Pearl Harbor has been added to the aquarium. Be sure to check out the fun aquatic facts located on the walkway leading up to the aquarium. Ripley’s Aquarium is located at 88 River Road.
Have you ever wanted to be “in” the movies? Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater will give you a “moving” experience. Movies are shown every fifteen minutes so even though we had to wait between showings, the wait was minimal. The theater provides a double feature of a Looney Tunes Cartoon (Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner) and an Angry Birds short film. What’s different about this theater? As we entered the theater, we were given glasses to capture the 3D effects. Then, it’s time to strap into moving seats that move up, down, and side to side with the action. The 5D experience is complete with occasional mists of water or air.
While all ages are welcome in the theater, children under a certain height must sit in the nonmoving seats in the front of the theater. Toddlers must be held in laps in the nonmoving seats. While there is only a light misting of water or air during the movie, neither of our toddlers enjoyed that experience. There were several preschool-age children in the audience who appeared to be having a wonderful time. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring a child old enough to enjoy their own seat. The theater is located at 908 Parkway.
We were prepared for twisting, turning fun in the Ripley’s Mirror Maze, but this maze exceeded our expectations. Filled with over 100 mirrors with LED lighting and digital sound, the Mirror Maze reminded me of an updated version of a classic fair attraction. After donning disposable gloves, we were sent behind a curtain into a dark maze, filled with dead-end passages. Bright strobe lights illuminated our way as we felt for open doorways among the mirrors. Midway through the maze, we wandered into a room designed to resemble the night sky that captivated the entire party, including the toddlers. The path through the maze is fairly short but will take some time to navigate if you explore the passages.
Tickets can be reused to travel through the maze as many times are you want. Kids (and in our case, adults) would have a great time competing to see who could travel through the maze the fastest. After we finished our first visit through the maze, we went back through in a competition. Although the Mirror Maze would be fun any time of year, it’s a perfect cold weather or rainy day activity. While visiting the Mirror Maze, don’t miss the Ripley’s Candy Shop, filled with everything from classic candies to modern favorites. The Mirror Maze is located at 623 Parkway.
If You Go:
- Other Ripley’s attractions include the Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini Golf, the Davy Crockett’s Mini Golf, the Haunted Adventure, the Guinness World Records Adventure, and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. The Odditorium is presently closed for remodeling, but all other attractions remain open.
- All attractions are open 365 days a year.
- Combo Passes including the Aquarium and up to 7 other attractions are available. These passes are a great way to save money and can be purchased at a discount online.
- Pictures are allowed.
I can’t wait to visit more of Ripley’s Attractions the next time I am in town. I’m excited to see that the Odditorium is in the process of being remodeled and will probably open again in late spring. Have you visited any of Ripley’s Attractions in Gatlinburg, Tennessee?