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/TheSmokies.com)

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Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the crowned jewel attractions in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

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 a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg 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 divers 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 for Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is $39.99. Children (6-11) cost $19.99 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. Both of which run closer to $35 range for adult admission.

That being said, the price of admission for adults is offset by the price of admission for kids, which is more expensive at Ripley’s competitors.

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 $144. A day at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga would cost $114, and a day at Ripley’s would cost $119.

And if one of your kids was under age 5, it would make Ripley’s the least expensive of the three.

You can also save a bit of money (up to $35) when you bundle your aquarium ticket with other area Ripley’s themed attractions in the area (more on that below).

Play area inside Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg
Ripley’s has hands-on experiences and a huge play areas for children. Note: This photo was taken in 2019; check here for current policies and procedures (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

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 the majority of your day 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. They go to work every day working hard to be the best.

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

Read Also: Is Anakeesta worth the money? An honest review

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 coupons!)

An octopus at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg
If you move through the aquarium too quickly, you may overlook some amazing creatures, like this octopus (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 of the Smokies in Gatlinburg worth it?

In my opinion, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a very well done aquarium, and my vacation math, especially for a family of four, certainly checks out.

And while I personally haven’t been to every aquarium in North America (unfortunately), I have been to some of the big ones, including the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, and 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.

Two of my personal favorite features of this aquarium is the 340-foot underwater tunnel, 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.

Sharks in a underwater tunnel at Ripley's
Ripley’s underwater tunnel is a unique feature of this award-winning aquarium (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies)

Special 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, visit their 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 info@thesmokies.com for questions or comments.

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9 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.

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