When we were planning our Gatlinburg, Tennessee visit there were a few stops that had to be included on our itinerary. Reviewing their website, we easily saw 6 reasons to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. We decided to block off at least 2 hours for a visit, and we knew that our love for nature would probably require even longer. With our eyes open for discovery, it seemed that every species we examined was keeping their eyes on us, as well.
We want to thank Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies for their hospitality. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
1) Visual Experience
Ripley’s Aquarium is large on the outside, but even the size of the building hides just how much there is to see inside. The displays are designed to delight the eye and intrigue the mind. We loved the huge waterfall that can be seen once you enter the building. You will even pass behind it, as you make your way through the exhibits. Be sure to stop for a selfie, since the large atrium entrance is visible through the water.
2) Educational Exhibits
We love visiting sites that further our education. As we made our way through the aquarium, we found tons of displays that include some background information on the creatures we were watching. Some of the displays are plaques, while others are video screens that provide a short presentation. Whatever they had, it seemed like most of the visitors were intrigued by the opportunity to uncover new details about the species that share our world.
Some of the exhibits included creatures that were familiar to us, like piranhas. But others offered a glimpse at ones less common. How many of you have heard of the mudskipper? This unique little creature inhabits many places in the Eastern Hemisphere. That makes them quite an oddity here in the United States. They almost resemble an oversize tadpole.
3) Quirky Creatures
Many of you are well aware of crows and ravens affinity for shiny objects. Did you know that there is a crab that has the same quirky obsession? The Coconut Crab is well-known for its antics of “borrowing” items that it finds appealing. We are betting it was quite a shock to people visiting the areas that these creatures inhabit.
4) Picture Perfect Moments
Throughout Ripley’s Aquarium you will find beautifully designed displays. These days it’s not unusual to see almost everyone capturing the moment with their cellphones. Sharks, octopus, rays, and many more make great subjects for photos. With so many colorful species to see, you will want to make sure you have plenty of memory space and a full charge before visiting. Now if they will only stand still for a second, so we can snap a pic.
Some of our favorites to watch are the jellyfish. They are almost magical, as they seem to be suspended in space. It’s easy to find yourself in a trance, as you watch these creatures dance in the water. Since about 95% of their mass is liquid, it makes sense that they would be so fluid. We figured that it wouldn’t be necessary to need 6 reasons to visit Ripley’s Aquarium, since just watching the jellies is a worthwhile activity. Everything else is just a bonus.
5) Hands-on For Real
We are usually intrigued when given an opportunity to mingle with animals of all kinds. It gets even better when the interaction can be hands-on. Our travels have given us plenty of experiences that will stay with us for a long time. Feeding giraffes, lemurs, and okapi jump quickly to mind. (You can read about that experience here.) At Ripley’s Aquarium, visitors get a chance to touch some unique aquatic creatures.
When we saw the touch tank for jellyfish, we knew it had to be experienced. Don’t worry, not all jellies are dangerous, and these are quite safe. The staff member gave us a quick lesson on how to touch these amazing creatures, without hurting them. This definitely ranks up there as a memorable moment, so you won’t want to miss it.
6)Up Close & Personal Experiences
Jellies weren’t the only hands-on exhibit. Learning more about horseshoe crabs was another delight. Being an amateur fossil collector, I know that this crustacean has populated our oceans for millions of years. These living fossils are almost alien to see and their hard shells add to their intriguing appearance. They are almost a little tank of the ocean, with their hard shell.
Rounding out our list of 6 reasons to visit Ripley’s Aquarium had to be the ability for visitors to get so close to the subjects. Many of us would never have the opportunity to travel all over the planet to witness these creatures in their natural environments. Even if we did, how close do you think we could get without them darting off for safety? Zoos and aquariums help visitors get a closer interaction, that helps cement our relationship with the other creatures that inhabit our world. This is important, as it will possibly spark the next great zoologist or exploratory scientist. It also shows us how delicate the bond is between species.
While we think those 6 reasons to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies may be enough, there is even more to be seen. As we continued to explore, we came across their “Shipwreck” exhibit. Inside was a nice grouping of displays, that show some of the most famous ships lost to the depths of the seas. There are also some interactive displays that teach how artifacts are uncovered in the vast depths of the ocean. It seemed that the farther we delved into the aquarium, the more exhibits we uncovered. Our time was drawing to a close, since we always pack our itineraries full of fun. As we departed, we knew that we would be taking some great memories with us. After all, how many people can say that they were able to pet a jellyfish?