In my third in my vacation article I take a look at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not attractions in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area. We bought a seven attraction combo package online that allowed the three of us to visit all of them. If you’re planning a week or so stay in the area I recommend doing this because it will save you a significant amount of money. In this review I’ll take a look at all seven Ripley’s locations there and give you an idea of what each of them were like.
Reviews Continued Below…
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Review
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was certainly one of the high points of our vacation. This is one of the better and up-to-date aquarium attractions that you’ll find in the US. The only one that was better was the Georgia Aquarium. If you’ve been there imagine it at about half the size in terms of tank size, exhibits and crowd size and you’ll have a good idea of what the Aquarium of the Smokies is like.
The exhibits were interesting and informative. I especially liked the new ‘lethal weapons’ exhibit that featured various dangerous aquatic life from an electric eel to cone snails to a blue ringed octopus. Also there were excellent underwater shows in the reef fish tank and sting ray tank. In these shows a diver fed the fish while a guide described the fish. As part of the ray exhibit you could also touch the rays in a shallow area of the pool. And, of course, there’s the underwater tunnel where you can view sharks and other fish swimming about over you. Since the sawtooth fish like to relax on top of the tunnel this gives you a great view of the underside of this unusual fish.
I highly recommend this attraction to just about anyone. Just watch out for the strong ‘fishy’ smell you get when you enter although you’ll get used to it quickly.
Ripley’s Mirror Maze Review
Ripley’s Mirror Maze is, as you might suspect, a maze made with mirrors. I found it on the small side as compared to other such mazes in the area. It’s a good deal when you get it with the combo ticket but if you aren’t using the combo I’d recommend trying a different maze attraction, there are better and bigger ones around in the area. The maze is attached to a candy shop so kids of all ages will be tempted to spend more on some treats. The price on them is about average for the area. (Hint, there are more or less public restrooms in this attraction down the left side from the candy store.)
Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum Review
Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Gatlinburg is the home of several interesting exhibits ranging from two headed animals to optical and sonic illusions to human oddities. My favorite parts were the prison exhibit and the horror section. The holographic version of Robert Ripley sitting at his desk was good too although the volume was a bit too low for me to hear it well. Being sort of a history buff and a weird stuff fan I enjoyed this visit but my wife and son got tired of it after a while. The museum is three stories so you’ll go up and down stairs and if you’re tired from walking about Gatlinburg this attraction will wear you out even more.
I recommend this exhibit for adults who’re interested in weird trivia and the like, such as myself, but beware of boredom by other members of your party, especially most kids and younger teens.
Ripley’s Moving Theater Review
Ripley’s Moving Theater uses motion simulator technology with seats that move in 8 directions along with a 70mm film format to create the illusion of motion. This kind of theater is quite common in tourist spots these days and can be quite fun. This year the theater is showing an Indiana Jones clone temple adventure and a glacier skiing adventure, no T-Rex in sight so don’t let the one on the exterior fool you. I found the features to be a lot of fun and entertaining although rather short in duration. Perhaps they have a need to empty out and refill the small theater quickly. At nearly $15 a pop, this attraction isn’t cheap for about 10 minutes of your time. It’s not a bad deal as part of the combo package but it’s rather expensive and may even be disappointing for the price.
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure Review
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure features a haunted casket company motif. The exterior of the attraction is well done and the actors out front do a good job of creating an atmosphere. You’re taken up to the start of the house in a wire trolley like contraption where you meet another actor who describes the rules to you. The guy who was doing this for our group was quite impressive in terms of accent and keeping in creepy character. The rest of the adventure you’re suppose to hold on to the person in front of you and grope your way in the dark from scare to scare. Given that it’s mostly in total to semi-total darkness the majority of it is simply stumbling along in the dark. If you have fear of the dark and/or enclosed spaces this will bother you. There are a few last minute scares that are good but I won’t spoil them for you.
I recommend this attraction more for older teens than younger ones. Adults, unless they’re horror or haunted house buffs, are likely to be more annoyed than entertained. Older teen guys on a date should really appreciate this attraction, just make sure you lead the way with your date’s hand on your shoulder.
Ripley’s Davy Crocket Mini Golf and Arcade Review
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try out Ripley’s Davy Crocket Mini Golf course. The afternoon we planned to go to it there was a thunderstorm and we ended up doing other stuff. The course did look interesting and we will have to give it a try when we return. I think there are better mini-golf courses in the area but this one is no slouch based on appearances. It should round out the combo ticket quite well.
Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini Golf and Arcade Review
Lastly, Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini Golf isn’t in Gatlinburg but in nearby Pigeon Forge. The design here is based on Old MacDonald and features barnyard animals and a rather challenging mini-golf course. You have 3 courses to choose from of varying difficulty. We selected the mid-level course. It was a lot of fun and it wasn’t always clear where the ball would come out at. The attached arcade had a variety of video games and ticket redemption games. While the games weren’t all in the best of repair, the staff was helpful and friendly.