Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is the perfect attraction for family fun.
Voted One of the U.S.’s Best Aquariums
In the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, you may not expect to find sharks, stingrays, penguins and more. With a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, named one of the best aquariums in the United States by USA Today’s 10Best and Trip Advisor, you’ll come eye to eye (or fin to face) with an assortment of exciting aquatic wildlife as well as fun and educational exhibits.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is the perfect family-friendly attraction. Rain or shine, you can spend hours exploring each level of this acclaimed museum, learning about different aquatic species and getting up close and personal through hands-on activities.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Exhibits
The aquarium features nine areas with unique exhibits in displays on both the lower and upper levels.
Depart Gatlinburg and transport yourself to the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific when you visit Ripley’s Aquarium’s Coral Reef tank. There, you’ll find some of the most colorful and exotic fish in the world, such as clown triggerfish, regal blue tang and foxface rabbit fish.
Bet you didn’t know there was a rainforest in Gatlinburg. Ripley’s Aquarium’s Tropical Rainforest is where you can find creatures from the Amazon Rainforest, including piranhas and poisonous frogs.
Waddle over to the Penguin Playhouse to crawl through tunnels and watch the penguins play in their habitat. This large exhibit, with indoor and outdoor habitats, allows you to view the penguins from different vantage points as they eat, swim and play.
The Gallery of the Seas showcases some of the sea’s most beautiful, and often deadly, species. An octopus swims by you using its giant tentacles while a Japanese spider crab skitters along the bottom of the tank. Their bright colors and fascinating sizes and movements are sure to leave you amazed.
Get hands on at the Discovery Center. Touch puffer fish, horseshoe crabs and jelly fish as an aquarium educator teaches you about the different creatures. The Discovery Center also has puzzles and other interactive displays to test your knowledge.
Touch more creatures at Stingray Bay. These stingrays may look intimidating but you’ll quickly learn how gentle they can be. Watch as several species of stingray emerge from the sand to eat right from the hands of the trained staff at Ripley’s Aquarium. For more fun with stingrays, visit Touch-A-Ray Bay to get right in the water and interact with the stingrays. Don’t forget your bathing suit!
Meet the species of fish that live deep within the ocean at the Ocean Realm exhibit. These fish are masters at defending themselves using camouflage and burrowing techniques. They find fascinating ways to protect themselves from larger predators.
Discover some of these predators at Shark Lagoon. A moving glidepath takes through an underwater tunnel where massive sharks, sea turtles, eels and more swim right over your head and around you.
Check the schedule so you won’t miss one of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies’ live shows. Watch divers interact with species in the Shark Lagoon, Penguin Playground, Coral Reef, Stingray Bay and more.
Other Ways to Experience the Aquarium
While you’re sure to love all of these exhibits, there are even more ways to explore and experience all of the wonderment at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
For an additional fee, make a reservation and take the family on a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium. Watch the animal’s food preparation and learn what it takes to keep the variety of animals happy and healthy.
Glass Bottom Boat
Purchase a separate ticket and board a glass bottom boat to get an overhead look at Shark Lagoon. Just three inches of glass separates you from sharks and the other exciting species that live in Shark Lagoon. A member of Ripley’s Aquarium’s Adventure Crew will teach you about the thousands of animals in Shark Lagoon during this boat ride.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Camps
Summer or spring, enroll your children in one of Ripley’s Aquarium’s camps. With camps for ages 4 and up, your kids will love spending their spring break or summer vacation learning and exploring the museum in a fun, interactive way.
Sleepovers at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Fall asleep as a 12-foot shark swims over your head or have a pajama party with penguins. Ripley’s Aquarium lets you have a fun-filled night complete with a dive show, scavenger hunt and more before sleeping right in the aquarium.
Shop and Dine at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Once you’ve explored all of the exhibits, stop by the Ripley’s Cargo Hold™ Gift Shop for a souvenir. You’ll find the perfect marine-themed gift to commemorate your visit.
After watching stingrays, penguins and sharks eat, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Grab a bite to eat at the Feeding Frenzy Eatery. The menu features a number of options, including kid-friendly meals, that will satisfy the whole family. If you’re looking for something more, downtown Gatlinburg has a number of fantastic restaurants for every taste and budget.
Know Before You Go
Directions to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is located along the Gatlinburg Parkway at traffic light #5. Parking is behind the museum and costs $6, cash only. There are also a number of parking garages nearby.
The aquarium is also one of the stops along the Gatlinburg Trolley route and walking distance from several hotels in downtown Gatlinburg.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Hours
Memorial Day–Labor Day, Monday–Thursday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
Labor Day–New Year’s Day, Monday–Thursday: 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.
January–February, Monday–Thursday: 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Friday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.
March–Memorial Day, Monday–Thursday: 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday–Sunday: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.
Tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
You can purchase individual tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, along with Ripley’s other attractions in Tennessee. Adults can save $2 when they purchase their tickets to the aquarium online.
Those interested in visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and the other area Ripley’s attractions should purchase one of the passes. The Aquarium Pass and Ultimate Fun Pass earn you unlimited admission to Ripley’s Aquarium and discounted or unlimited admission to Ripley’s other Tennessee attractions.
Annual passes are also available for purchase and include benefits such as:
- Unlimited admission to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies for 12 months
- Discounts on food, merchandise, special exhibits, other Ripley’s attractions in Tennessee and partner attractions, including Dollywood, Zoo Knoxville and the Tanger Outlets in Sevierville
- Discounted tickets for family and friends
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Discounts
Throughout the year, Ripley’s Aquarium offers discounts on events and activities. Be sure to check their website to find them before you visit.
Those staying at area hotels should see what discounts are available. Many offer free tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium and other Gatlinburg attractions when you book your stay.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and all of its exhibits and attractions are handicap accessible, per ADA specifications. Wheelchairs are available at Guest Services. Strollers are also available at Guest Services for $3, or you can bring your own.
Only service animals are allowed in Ripley’s Aquarium.
Cameras and video recording are welcome throughout the aquarium to capture all of the memories when you visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.