Last month we took our first family vacation ever. Sure, we’ve visited family that lives far away before, but we’ve never been able to just take a week and go somewhere super fun and do nothing but have a blast. We chose to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN.
There were so many things to do and see and we weren’t sure where we’d start all of our adventures, but when we laid eyes on the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies on the way to our resort, we knew it was the right place!
The children oohed and aahed and were really excited about entering this amazing structure. We’ve visited a small aquarium in the past, but never anything of this size and caliber. From the moment we entered the first door, we were amazed at everything that surrounded us.
Did you know that Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is ranked as the #5 Best Aquarium in the World? A well deserving award.
Upon entering the aquarium, you will see that it is divided into several different subdivisions. There are two levels to wander through and you will encounter places such as the Shark Lagoon, the Coral Reef, and the Penguin Playhouse. Rather than jump from place to place, we followed the natural progression through the building.
The piranhas and sting rays captured my seven year old son’s attention rapidly. My girls loved the sea dragons and jellyfish. There was even an entire hands on area devoted to teaching children all about how the aquarium runs and how the various water temperatures are regulated, the water is filtered and other maintenance tasks are performed.
Every new area provided sea creature after sea creature to feast our eyes on. There were familiar faces and ones we’d never seen before at all.
I loved the atomosphere of each zone. The aquarium is truly set up to make you feel as if you are visiting that portion of the ocean’s depths to see the creatures in their natural habitats.
Hands down, the best feature of the entire aquarium is the Shark Lagoon. A 340 foot long glidepath helps you travel through an underwater tunnel where you can watch the sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and more swim right above and around you. It’s an unforgettable experience and will be a point of comparison for any aquarium we visit in the future.
If you live nearby, you can even organize for your group to spend the night in this fantastic tunnel! How fun would that be?
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