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The Appalachian Lodge

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in downtown Gatlinburg.

Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg has been voted the best aquarium in America by the readers of USA Today, and it’s easy to see why! Home to over 10,000 sea creatures, this hugely popular attraction is famous for its interactive exhibits like the Penguin Playhouse, Shark Lagoon, and Touch-A-Ray Bay. In addition to the hours of fun included with standard admission, Ripley’s also offers a number of special add-on experiences that you won’t find at other aquariums. To help you make the most of your next vacation, The Appy Lodge has put together a guide to six unique adventures you can have at Ripley’s Aquarium.

1. Glass BottomA shark in an aquarium. Boat Adventure

Ripley’s Glass Bottom Boat Adventure lets you see Shark Lagoon from a whole new perspective! When you take this amazing boat ride, only 3 inches of glass will separate you from the ocean’s most notorious predators. Throughout the boat tour, your guide will regale you with fascinating information about the exotic sea creatures that call Shark Lagoon home.

2. Splash with the Stingrays

During a typical visit to Touch-A-Ray Bay, guests just pet stingrays on the top of their heads. When you upgrade to the Splash with the Stingrays experience, however, you’ll jump right in the water with the rays! All of the stingrays have had their barbs removed, so it is totally safe to feed and touch them when you’re in the water. Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit!

A woman petting a penguin at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg.3. Penguin Encounter

The Penguin Encounter is one of the most popular add-on experiences at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg. Participants in the encounter will get to pet a penguin, pose for a souvenir photo with the seabird, and learn all about these adorable animals from one of the aquarium’s experts. Meeting a penguin up-close is something you’ll never forget!

4. Penguin Painting Experience

The Penguin Painting Experience takes the aquarium’s cutest critters and turns them into artists! Guests will watch as a penguin dips its feet in paint and waddles across a canvas to create a totally unique work of art. Each participant gets to take home an original 8×10 penguin painting.

5. Turtle Time

Spend some time with Sally the Sea Turtle! When you sign up for this experience, you’ll participate in a 10-minute classroom program, tour the husbandry department, get a behind-the-scenes look at a training session with Sally, and even feed the sea turtle some lettuce.

6. Behind-the-The Systems Control Center at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg.Scenes Tour

If you’ve always wondered what it’s like to work at an aquarium, you’ll love Ripley’s Behind-the-Scenes Tour! A friendly staff member will show you the inner workings of the aquarium, including the life support rooms and the control center where all the water quality is monitored. Guests will also learn about how the sea creatures are fed and kept healthy.

When you stay at The Appy Lodge, you will be just a 4-minute drive from Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg. Offering free parking, complimentary breakfast, indoor and outdoor pools, and walk-in showers, our hotel has everything you need for an unforgettable getaway. To start planning your escape, browse our selection of Gatlinburg hotel rooms!