Gatlinburg, TN is full of tourist shops, mini golf parks and restaurants. It is also home of the Great Smokey Mountains. The area is breathtaking, and if you ever get the chance to visit I highly recommend that you do. My husband turned 26 on August 8th, so on the weekend of the 7th I decided to plan a birthday trip for him. We brought our 5-month old so we made sure everything we did was family-friendly.
I was able to score an awesome deal on a lodge in the mountains with a Groupon deal. The lodge had this super cool pool with a waterfall behind it (I didn’t get a picture, so I will add a stock photo from their site). They also offered a breakfast buffet or an a la carte menu, but we didn’t take advantage of either since we brought snacks with us to cut down on spending.
I was also able to score free tickets to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium as well as the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies! My husband was especially excited about the aquarium because we are both huge aquarium fans! When you walk into the aquarium, you are greeted with the gift shop on the left and directly in front of you is the path to the first exhibit, the Tropical Rainforest.
In the Tropical Rainforest, we saw a gorgeous waterfall, some stingrays, piranhas, and other random fish.
Next up is the Ocean Realm. This section of the aquarium focused on my favorite part – sharks! We saw TONS of sharks! They were up close, far away, to the side, literally everywhere. We were able to ride a 15-minute “moving sidewalk” that took us through a tunnel where fish, sharks, and stingrays were on both sides and above us. I got some great pictures of the sharks and their teeth (yikes!). One thing I would like to point out is that this was stroller friendly!
You can also see some video footage I took of the sharks on our Instagram page (make sure you follow us, too!).
The Coral Reef was next. We saw some more sharks (awesome!) among other fish and ocean organisms.
After that, you will come to an area where you can pet horseshoe crabs in their environment, shallow water. Did you know they have 6 eyes?? CREEPY!
Next to the horseshoe crabs is the Megalodon Jaws! If you have never seen this, be prepared to pick your jaw up off of the floor! These 7-foot jaws contain 173 teeth and belong to the school bus-sized Megalodon Shark. Weighing 52 tons, the largest of all sharks that lived nearly 2 million years ago!
We also saw some Lionfish and personally I think they are some of the most beautiful and interesting fish out there. They are up to 15 inches long. Hidden among the colorful fins are venomous spines. A stab from a lionfish is painful but rarely fatal. Lionfish prey on other fish, so we are most likely safe haha!
Next, we saw some jellyfish. Check out the video on our Instagram page to see them in action!
Stingray Bay quickly approached and let me tell you, these rays are gigantic! I love the way they flow and swim through the water with such grace and ease. That was the end of our Aquarium experience, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
We took a small break and then made our way to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium. I had NO idea what to expect here, but I was ready to see some odd things!
Smack dab in the front of the Odditorium is the heaviest man ever drafted. This guy is BIG! Check out some pictures that my husband and I took:
When you walk in to the Odditorium, you are greeted with a door covered in noses. It is definitely odd, and not something you would expect to see, well, anywhere! Next we saw a plate of sushi made of felt. That was cool to see! It looks real, but it also looks like moldy sushi since it is made of felt! We also saw a two-headed calf. I learned that this calf was born on a farm in Gatlinburg, which is pretty neat. We also saw a statue of a man who was born without anything below his stomach. He was actually a twin, and his brother was born with a completely normal body. This man was extremely talented and was able to do so much with only half of a body! It was impressive.
The Worlds Longest Gum Wrapper Chain was really neat to see as well. A school teacher created it over an 18-year period.
While we were carrying our stroller up the 3 flights of stairs to the next floor, I was frustrated that they didn’t have an easier way for strollers and handicapped people to make it up to the next floor. However, once we made it we saw an elevator and we felt a little silly that we didn’t see it earlier and that we just carried a fully loaded stroller up the stairs. Oh well, it was great exercise!
There are 3 floors total, and each floor is filled with odd facts, pictures, recreations and interactive exhibits. This is especially great for elementary and middle school aged children, but there is definitely something for everyone!
We can’t wait to take my son back to the aquarium and the odditorium when he’s older and see if anything has changed, been added, taken away or updated. This was definitely a trip to remember and the perfect way to celebrate my husband’s birthday!
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Must purchase online. Guinness World Records Museum, Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, and Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze
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