Some Tennessee-native friends of ours, when they found out we were planning a trip to Gatlinburg, insisted we visit the Aquarium of the Smokies while we were there.
They told us it how huge it was. They went on and on about all the great exhibits. They described the winding glass tunnel with the moving walkway that transports you through tanks filled sharks and sea turtles and school upon school of fish.
But then, after raving on this World-class aquarium for at least 15 minutes, our friends started to backpedal a bit. They worried that perhaps they’d made it sound better than it was.
Perhaps we’d been to bigger and better aquariums elsewhere — this one, after all, is only ranked 5th Best Aquarium in the World. They were concerned that, maybe, they’d built it up so much that we’d be disappointed when we actually saw it with our own eyes.
Nothing could be further than the truth. The Aquarium of the Smokies was everything they’d promised, plus a whole lot more.
We loved the Tropical Rainforest Dispaly with its soothing waterfalls and lush foliage, green iguanas, bright poison dart frogs, and toothy piranhas.
We loved Stingray Bay, where the bravest among us were allowed to pet their sandpapery skin.
We loved the Penguin Playhouse, where we could waddle right up for a super-close peek at these fascinating birds.
We loved the Gallery of the Seas and the Coral Reef exhibit, and getting to see all sorts of other sea life up close and personal…
…including these “doctor fish” that would nibble the dead skin cells right off our fingers:
We loved the Children’s Discovery Center and all the fun photo-ops scattered throughout this expansive place.
Our only complaint about Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is that we didn’t allot enough time to fully explore it — a situation we plan to remedy on our next trip to Gatlinburg.