Disclosure: I received a complimentary pass for this review. The opinions shared here are 100% mine.
There are a few things in life I never thought I’d see. A penguin egg probably tops that list. After all, how often do you see a penguin egg in your everyday world? Well, we got to see one at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. That, and much more! We visited the aquarium last weekend on our Pigeon Forge trip and, as always, we loved getting to see the wonderful exhibits. The Ripley’s Aquarium folks are experts at taking hands-on to a new level. My kids enjoy touching the horseshoe crabs and stingrays. We loved getting to watch the scuba diver in the shark tank. It was all just wonderful!
Getting to the aquarium was a bit of a headache. Last weekend was extremely busy in Gatlinburg. It’s always that way in the fall, mostly due to the leaves changing, but there was a lot of traffic due to the fact that the national parks were closed. The government shutdown drove a lot of people into the main areas of Gatlinburg so we had to battle for parking spots. We drove past at least six parking garages that were full. At one point we gleefully tried to pull into one that had an opening, but the sign changed to “FULL” just as we reached the gate. It was so frustrating! If you find yourself in Gatlinburg during such a busy season, try to park and take the trolley. We ended up doing that and it was a fun adventure. The trolley only cost 50 cents per person ($2 allows you to ride all day!) and it took us right to the aquarium. My son thought it was a train ride, so he considered it part of the trip. When we needed to head back to the car, we just hopped back on the trolley. We did have to wait a few minutes for the right one to arrive, but if you’re not in a rush it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Once we arrived at the aquarium, it was simple to walk in and start our tour. There were several interactive areas that kept the kids engaged, such as this Fish Guts manipulative pictured above. The kids loved seeing the inner workings of the water cleansing process. We walked through the dinosaur exhibit as well. They have several tablets set up so children can take self-check quizzes, color the dinosaur, and more. My son was fascinated by the movies set up on the television screens. My favorite part, though, was the penguin playhouse. This time there was a penguin egg set up in an incubator and it was so neat to see it!!
The kids in the aquarium loved crawling through the tunnel and seeing the penguins up-close. The penguins also swim below the floor; you can watch them through the glass window. Be sure to take your camera so you can snap lots of pictures.
The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is always a fun place to visit. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!