VOTE: Ripley’s in tight race to win Best Aquarium in North America

Exterior of Ripley's
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies (photo courtesy of Ripley's)

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It’s time to rally, aquarium enthusiasts!

Last year, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was voted the No. 1 Best Aquarium in North America by USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice, and with your help, they can claim that title for the second year in a row. 

At the time of this posting, Ripley’s is toggling between the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the leaderboard for 2020, with Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans being the main competition. But we can help.

To vote for Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, click here. Voting is simple and can be done with just a single mouse click. No registration is required.

You can also vote once per day from now until July 6 to help them take and secure the lead. 

For the 10Best Readers’ Choice awards, travel experts with USA Today select 20 nominees in categories of food, lodging destinations, travel gear and things to do. After the nominees are announced, it’s up to the readers to cast their votes.  

Ripley’s is competing with 19 other aquariums, nearly all of which have been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Notable aquariums in the competition include the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. 

Winners will be announced Friday, July 17, 2020. 

Sea turtle at Ripley’s

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies boasts an impressive list of awards, including but not limited to:  

  • No. 1 Best Aquarium with USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice (2017, 2019) 
  • No. 2 Best Aquarium with USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice (2018) 
  • No. 3 Best Aquarium in the U.S. by TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice (2015) 
  • No. 3 Best Aquarium with USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice (2014)
  • No. 4 Best Aquarium in the U.S. by TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice (2014)
  • No. 5 Best Aquarium in the World by TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice (2014, 2015, 2017) 

Upon winning the award in 2019, Ryan DeSear, Regional Manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, said, “This award is so meaningful because it was decided by the public, our guests who visit our aquarium and make us a part of their family vacation. We work hard to offer our guests the best customer service at one of the world’s finest aquariums in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, and we cannot thank our guests and community enough for voting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies the Best Aquarium in North America.” 

One of the reasons for the aquarium’s success is partly due to their new attractions and updates. 

Read more: 6 reasons why Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is rated Best Aquarium in North America   

One of the newer experiences the aquarium is now offering is Curious Campout, a sleepover adventure that caters to younger children ages 2-6. The program adds to the family of other campout adventures, including PJ Party with the Penguins and Sleep with the Sharks, but with a modified schedule, nightly activities, snacks and an early bedtime, all within the Curious Creatures gallery. Families with older children are also able to attend.

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Notable galleries and exhibits include:

  • Shark Lagoon – Glide through a 340-foot walkway as you look up into the underwater tunnel of eels, sharks, squirrelfish and sea turtles.
  • Tropical Rainforest – Check out some poisonous frogs, piranhas and more! Learn more about these creatures, including the fact that piranhas usually only attack when stranded in pools due to drought conditions. 
  • Discovery Center – Enjoy lots of hands-on activities and exhibits, including a new Touch Jellies section. 
  • Stingray Bay – While stingrays in the wild spend their days buried in sand, stingrays at Ripley’s glide around in front of you so you can feel their velvety skin. 
  • Penguin Playhouse – Play with the penguins as they waddle about, and waddle yourself through the tunnels for a close-up look.

Experiences include:

  • Turtle Time – Feed Sally the sea turtle, do specialized tours and view training sessions (temporarily on hold at the time of this posting) 
  • Glass Bottom Boat – You’ve been under the sharks, now go up top in Ripley’s very own glass bottom boat (temporarily on hold at the time of this posting) 
  • Penguin Paintings and Encounter – Help an adorable little penguin make a piece of art with its webbed footprints and take it home as a one-of-a-kind souvenir! 

Ripley’s is also a Green Power participant and uses solar panels to produce electric energy. Ripley’s was the first business in Gatlinburg to install solar panels, and as an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, they actively find ways to help our planet.

Even though 2020 might have not been the year most of us had been expecting, let’s give one of the top Smokies attractions a win this year — and show New Orleans that they got nothin’ on us. To the voting stations!  

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 [email protected] for questions or comments.

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