Gatlinburg by the Sea

Aquarium with sting rays and coral

Nothing says Gatlinburg for the holidays like snow, shopping, seasonal music... and a trip to the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Seriously, why not take a few hours away from your usual holiday activities and spend some time at this incredible aquarium? The Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is literally swimming with sea life; in fact you can see 10,000 creatures from 350 aquatic species. All of the exhibits are extremely detailed and many allow you to touch and interact with various sea creatures, like stingrays, horseshoe crabs, and jellyfish. We really like the lush Tropical Rainforest exhibit, which is teeming with thousands of South American aquatic animals, including piranhas, freshwater stingrays, poison dart frogs, and four-eyed fish called anableps. The largest and most popular attraction at the aquarium is the enormous shark lagoon. Under the lagoon, there is a 340 foot long glide path winding through a transparent tunnel, putting you face-to-face with a green sea turtle, numerous tarpons, squirrelfish, sawfish, and, of course, enormous sharks. On your way out, be sure to take a few minutes to get some face time with the penguins at the child-friendly Penguin Playhouse. We grant you that this experience is not what most people envision for a Smoky Mountain vacation, but we think you'll be glad you set aside a few hours of your holiday to check out Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.

Location: 88 River Road, Gatlinburg