While our family was on vacation in July we visited Gatlinburg, TN for three nights. We stayed in a cabin that was sitting peacefully on top of the mountains and spent the entire three days roaming around the Smokies. WE spent a couple of hours walking through the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, taking in all the beautifully colored sea life.
We have visited this aquarium before but it never ceases to amaze us. The place is huge! We had a few friends with us this go round and they really enjoyed seeing all the various exhibits. My friend's daughter had never visited an aquarium before and she was mesmerized by the size. I think her favorite part was walking in the tunnel where the aquariums are completely surrounding your body. You see sharks swimming above you, sea turtles on one side and brightly colored fish on the other. It's amazing to see all of the different types of fish swimming in the same tank, safely.
My favorite part of any aquarium is the jellyfish tank. I could watch them swim for hours. The colors change in the tank and for some reason it is just so tranquil to me. I took several videos on my phone, one I shared on Instagram here. I just wish I was able to have an aquarium with jellyfish in my home. That would be a wonderful way to relax each night. They are fascinating creators.
Have you ever met a Mermaid? I have!
This is one part of the Ripley's Aquarium that I had never seen before. Mermaids! How awesome is this? My kids are a little older so they cleary knew it was a woman in a suit. However, the little kids that were visiting the aquarium that day were so excited. I loved seeing it. I must admit, I was impressed myself - as an adult.
The ladies put on a whole show and were so friendly. They kept swimming to the bottom of the tank and posing for photos. Where a little kids would walk up to the glass they would wave and smile. The parents were able to capture photos of their kids with a live mermaid in a tank, that's priceless.
My teen said she thinks that must have been the best job to have and to be able to swim with all those fish daily is pretty cool.
The penguin exhibit is in a separate room. There are fun tunnels for the kids to climb in so that their heads pop-up right in the penguin area. Of course the space for their heads is closed off but they can get face to face with dozens of penguins. We were able to watch a feeding time which was neat. The tiny penguins are my favorite to watch swim around. They swim so fast!
Throughout the aquarium there are multiple areas for kids to touch and learn. My teen was the only brave one out of the family to hold a horseshoe crab. She held it up for the other kids to see. My son just barely grazed it to say he touched it. He also had the chance to touch a stingray.
The lighting throughout the aquarium was very low which made being able to see the fish in the bright tanks easier. The only problem is it made taking photographs difficult. All the shots of the kids standing in front of a tank with the large sea life behind them did not come out very clear. But they had a blast either way.
Since the aquarium is multiple levels your family can spend hours visiting. Each room you enter has several tanks filled with different types of fish. Even though there was a crowd we were able to manage fairly easy. There is no specific order you must see each exhibit in. So if one area is too crowded you can move on and go back.
Everyone enjoyed their day at the aquarium and I'm sure we will go back again when we visit Gatlinburg next.