Is Ripley’s Aquarium worth the money: A review of Gatlinburg’s aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies has often been voted the best in North America. Does that make it worth the price of admission? (photo by Morgan Overholt/

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Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the crown jewel attractions in Gatlinburg, Tenn., featuring over 350 species of aquatic life in its massive 85,000 square foot facility.

But when you’re planning out your precious vacation dollars, budget and time, a question commonly comes up: Is the aquarium worth it?

While “worth” is different to different people, we believe this article will help you determine if an aquarium visit is right for you and your family.

Let’s start with the basics.

A diver with a shark at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg
If you’re lucky, you might see live dive shows inside the tanks at Ripley’s (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

How much does it cost to go to Ripley’s Aquarium?

At the time of this writing, an adult ticket is $39.99. Children (6-11) cost $24.99 and children (2-5) cost $9.99.

Didn’t see the price of admission for toddlers? That’s because children under age two are free!

Now, shelling out $40 on an aquarium ticket might seem a little steep.

But, for comparison sake, I looked at two nearby competitors: The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Ga. Both of which run closer to the $35 range for adult admission.

That being said, the price of admission for adults is offset by the price of admission for kids.

For example, let’s say you have a family of four with two kids between the ages of 3-10.

A day at the Georgia Aquarium would cost roughly $148. A day at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga would cost $114, and a day at Ripley’s would cost $130.

And if one of your kids was under age 5, it would offset the cost of Ripley’s even more.

Notably, you can also save even more money (up to $35) when you bundle your aquarium ticket with other area Ripley’s themed attractions (more on that below).

Play area inside Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg
Ripley’s has hands-on experiences and huge play areas for children (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

How long does it take to walk through Ripley’s Aquarium?

Google tells me that most people spend an average of about 2.5 hours here. However, the last time I was at the aquarium, it took me at least half a day to get through it.

And honestly, if you stop to read everything, do everything, touch everything, you could easily spend several hours doing just that.

Could you speed walk through it and see it in less than two hours? Probably, but you might just be missing that one giant fish in that one tank.

Plus, the longer you spend at the aquarium, the farther your entertainment time-per-dollar goes.

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Is it cheaper to buy Ripley’s Aquarium tickets online?

There are clear advantages to buying your tickets online before you go.

The first of which is that you can skip the line upon arrival, saving valuable vacation time.

And if you are interested in seeing any other Ripley’s attractions, or playing some mini-golf in the area, you can save even more by bundling some of the other attractions.

The more you buy, the more you save per attraction.

And it’s worth noting that Gatlinburg has more Ripley’s attractions than anywhere else in the world.

The other attractions may not be quite as popular as the aquarium, but the mini-golf alone might make the deal worth it.

The additional attractions in the Smokies area include:

  • Believe it or Not! Odditorium
  • Haunted Adventure
  • Mirror Maze
  • Moving Theater
  • Old Mac Mini Golf
  • Davy Crockett Mini Golf
  • Super Fun Zone

Read Also: Ripley’s in the Smokies: A breakdown of each attraction (with discounts and coupons!)

An octopus at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg
If you move through the aquarium too quickly, you may overlook some of the 10,000 exotic sea creatures (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

How long are Ripley’s Aquarium tickets good for?

When you buy a ticket online, the ticket is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

At this time, reservations are not required for general admission.

So is Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg worth it?

In my opinion, the aquarium is very well done. And my vacation math, especially for a family of four, also checks out.

Certainly, I have not personally been to every aquarium in North America (unfortunately), I’ve visited some of the big ones, including the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.

I even had a brief stint as a volunteer at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

And not to hate on those guys, because they are all great in their own right. But Ripley’s remains one of my favorites.

Even though it’s still a large aquarium, it doesn’t get quite as crowded as the aquarium in Georgia. Plus, Ripley’s does a great job of offering hands-on experiences, such as touching the gentle stingrays.

Two of my personal favorite features of this aquarium is the 340-foot underwater tunnel with a glide path. And of course, the Penguin Playhouse.

If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, you can even do art projects with a penguin, and take one home as a souvenir.

For more information about special events such as pirate sleepovers, camps, and penguin art, visit the aquarium events page. Group discounts and special promos are also available.

Sharks in a underwater tunnel at Ripley's
Ripley’s underwater tunnel offers amazing views of giant sharks, rays, and giant sea turtles and is a unique feature of this award-winning aquarium (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

Special combo attraction promo tickets are available as well, follow the link to learn more.

Special promo discount offer: Save up to $22 with the Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium + 2 attraction combo!

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is located at 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. For more information and to plan your visit, follow the website or book your tickets here.

What do you think of Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg? Is it worth it? Let us know in the comments!

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at for questions or comments.

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12 thoughts on “Is Ripley’s Aquarium worth the money: A review of Gatlinburg’s aquarium”

  1. It’s just ok. The line to get in is the length of a football field from open to close. Although nice and clean it’s small. If you spend all day there it must be your first trip to an aquarium. I have been to many and do not need to re read facts on the same fish again. Traffic is grid locked in Gatlinburg so plan on walking 3 or 4 blocks to get in.

  2. I live across the mtn. in Townsend. I love the Gatlinburg Aquarium. When they hsve “local days”, my mom and I usually take advantage of it. Sometimes all they ask for is a canned food, or just an ID. I am in a wheelchair. Not paralyzed. Have A bad leg. It’s easy to get around in my manuel w/c We even enjoy eating at the food court. Just 1 restaurant . Great burgers. Plus, time it right and you can watch the diver in the big tank feed the fish, etc. The food court is in front of a huge glass window/panel where you can view the sharks, stingrays, etc. Yes!! I enjoy going there.

  3. It was okay. Best thing was the sharks. Was small. Don’t see how it could 2 hours, besides the fact it is packed with visitors. Sure you could spend 2 or more hours, but like I said it’s small. If you eat, and let the kids play in play area for a while probably could stretch to 2 1/2 hours. We only staid an hour n half. Couldn’t enjoy to many people. Nice Aquarium just not one can see taking all day or longer then 2 hours not unless including line time, play area and eating or other activities

  4. We went in March 2021, there was no line, I did do the bundle pass, much, much better deal. My daughter is 13, the aquarium was a little young for her, but we still enjoyed it. Great place for younger kids.

  5. Ripleys aquarium is more then worth the money. I love aquariums been to aquariums up and down east coast and this one is my favorite

  6. I have been to many aquariums all over this country including Hawaii. I took my wife and 3 grandsons. We all were fascinated by the variety of fish there. The place is very clean and the people were super accominating.

  7. Our family loved it! Great Experience!!! We ate there, as well. We’ll be back!!

  8. When we went it was near New Year’s and they weren’t allowing anyone to be around each other much so no extra things so felt cheated out of some things that they normally had. Kind of pricey for what you got

  9. There were about 15 of my family when we went. One of the attendants approached us and took us on a behind the scenes tour which was really interesting. This was the year after the big fire and the things he told us about that were what I remember most. They used the aquarium as a staging center.

  10. Just went today and found this aquarium to be overpriced and overcrowded. There are some interesting exhibits, but difficult to get close enough to see them.

  11. We had a good day there. It really worth the money and will surely repeat the visit

  12. I went to the one in myrtle beach and it was not worth it the sting rays weren’t there going threw the walk way where the sharks were wasn’t working the glass bottom boat was short and didn’t see anything so paying all that money wasn’t worth it took about 1 hr to see everything won’t waste my time on aquariums any more

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