Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

This Gatlinburg, Tennessee, favorite is home to more than 100,000 exotic sea creatures representing 350 different species. 

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is compact in size but teeming with life. It’s home to more than 100,000 exotic sea creatures representing 350 different species. Conveniently located in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the aquarium consistently ranks among the best in the country and should be on every traveler’s itinerary.

The highlight of the aquarium is its 340-foot underwater tunnel, which allows visitors to view sharks, a sea turtle, stingrays and other sea animals up close. The tunnel features a moving glidepath that effortlessly transports visitors through the depths of the oceans in one of the longest underwater tunnels in the world.

A recently added attraction is the indoor Glass Bottom Boat Adventure, where just 3 inches of glass is all that separates visitors from 12-foot sharks in the Shark Lagoon. As you cruise along, you’ll get an unbelievable view into the lives of more than 8,500 colorful fish and sea creatures residing there. You may even spot one of the aquarium’s more famous residents, Sally the Green Sea Turtle.

The immensely popular Penguin Playhouse play area provides kids of all ages the opportunity to crawl through acrylic tunnels and go nose-to-beak with dozens of playful African penguins. The combination of the crawl tunnel, pop-up domes and a swim-through passage lets visitors get close to the adorable and endangered creatures. You can even take home a painting made by penguins.

Add in multiple touch pools, live shows, feeding interactions, educational exhibits and more, and it’s easy to spend an entire day at the aquarium.

88 River Rd., Gatlinburg, Tennessee, 888/240-1358, ripleyaquariums.com