Interior of Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg.

Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg: Planning Your Trip

Make memories that will last forever at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee! It’s brought to you by Ripley Entertainment, the same folks behind Ripley’s Believe it or Not! This underwater adventure brings you face to face with over 350 different species of fish, sharks, jellyfish, barracudas, eels, and exotic sea creatures. Additionally, you can meet the colony of playful penguins, go on guided tours, and watch in awe as over 10,000 sea creatures come alive in the ten themed galleries. If you’re hungry, grab a bite to eat at the on-site Feeding Frenzy Restaurant.

Although this attraction is compact, it is still rated as one of the best in the area. Initially opened in 2000, Ripley’s Aquarium sees about 15 million visitors a year. The park is consistently ranked by USA Today as “the best aquarium in the country.” Located just off the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg at 88 River Road, Ripley’s Aquarium definitely provides entertainment for children of all ages — especially if you are an aquatic animal lover.

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What’s Inside Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg?

Once you step inside the aquarium, you will find a wide range of activities to enjoy on two levels.

Upper Level

      • The Tropical Rain Forest: Find the best of South America right in the Smokies. See poisonous dart frogs, piranha fish, four-eyed anableps, and the arapaimas, which can grow up to 10 feet.
      • Ocean Realm: Here you can watch schools of beautiful scorpion fish, flounders, and even spotted garden eels do their thing.
      • Shark Lagoon: A 340-long path takes you into the lair of moray eels, sand sharks, nurse sharks, green sea turtles, and much more. The glass bottom boat takes you on a 20-minute adventure that you won’t soon forget.
      • Touch A Ray Bay – This exciting lagoon feature lets you touch stingrays as they glide by. They have very smooth skin and are actually very friendly. One of the aquarium’s coolest features!

Lower Level

      • Coral Reef: This colorful adventure features exotic species like clownfish, regal blue tang, box face rabbitfish, and sohal tang fish exploring their environment.
      • Discovery Center: Let Ripley’s educators teach you about the touch kellies, the aquarium’s latest exhibit. You can also learn about the special abilities of the puffer fish and the horseshoe crab.
      • Gallery of the Seas: At this colorful exhibit, you can learn about intriguing and whimsical creatures like lionfish spider crabs, sea stars, and octopus.
      • Penguin Playhouse: Have a penguin encounter in this dazzling in-door playhouse! Visitors can watch the penguins interact, play, and swim in a giant man-made habitat.
      • Stingray Bay: Visit the three species of rays that live in Stingray Bay: cownose rays, spotted eagle rays, and southern stingrays.

The Ripley’s Aquarium has a schedule of several live shows that vary by season:

Ray Bay Shows are daily (unless otherwise changed) at 11:00 a.m, 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.

Penguin Shows (daily penguin feedings) are at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The penguin parade is at 1:15 p.m.

The Coral Reef shows are at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

What Are The Aquarium Hours?

Sunday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Monday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Tuesday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Wednesday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Thursday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Friday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Saturday – 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM

The aquarium is open 365 days a year. Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg is one of the most visited places in the area, so it’s advisable to visit during off-peak hours.

Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg offers several different single and combo ticket packages. Keep in mind that these tickets and passes are good from one year to the date of purchase. Reservations are not required, but tickets and passes are good for that date. Ticket packages go fast — so get yours as soon as possible.

Virtual Tours

This is one of the coolest features you can find at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. You can explore the exhibits right from the privacy of your own home. These live guided tours will take you through every area of the aquarium via pre-recorded footage. The price of the virtual tour is $100 per program. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and get an up close and personal look at every part of the virtual exhibit.

Group Events at Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg

Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium has many group events that visitors can participate in such as summer camping, sleepovers, and birthday parties. Contact the facility for more information.

  • Sleepovers: Visitors are invited to spend the night and “sleep with the sharks.” During this activity, guests are treated to a late-night snack, scavenger hunt, and drift off to sleep as the sharks interact inside the tank.
  • Summer Camping: The aquarium has yearly summer aquarium camps for people of all ages. Booking is available right now. These interactive camps allow visitors to get up close and personal engagement with the fascinating animals. The camp will have a full itinerary of activities. Book your spot today!
  • Birthday Party: Celebrate aquatic life with your very own birthday party at the aquarium. These two-hour parties come with everything needed to have a successful celebration. Ripley’s supplies all the food and drink — cake, juice, party favor, gift, and one of five themes you can choose from. The requirement is to schedule your party at least two weeks in advance.

Aquatic Family Fun in the Smoky Mountains

If you plan to visit Gatlinburg soon, definitely put Ripley’s Aquarium Gatlinburg on the visitation list. It is well worth the price of admission. You must go to the website to find out more about pricing, packages, parking, dates, and other important information. You can also find maps with directions from major cities such as Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Lexington, and more. Go to the Ripley Aquarium website for more information about Ripley’s Gatlinburg and other Ripley’s attractions. For all the information you need about visiting Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit Relax Gatlinburg!