Are you traveling the Southeast this fall season? Perhaps you are one of ten million visitors to wind through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year?
We spent our Labor Day weekend in the area, driving up in a super comfortable 2015 Toyota Highlander (review to come) and staying in an adorable rental cottage less than a mile from the Gatlinburg Parkway - and within a few steps to a trolley stop. Check out the Gatlinburg cottage rental here - I would recommend it!
If you are planning a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, a stop in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg should be on your list. I grew up in East Tennessee, so these eclectic towns are very familiar to me. However, if you do not know the area, I can describe those two towns for you: busy, family-friendly, unique, and fun.
Pigeon Forge boasts several museum and interactive attractions, shows, and the Dollywood theme park in a city setting. Gatlinburg is located higher in the mountains with trees and streams, cabins and (sometimes) bears. Gatlinburg also offers more family attractions than you can do in a couple days, so plan a lengthy stay if you want to try it all.
The Ripley's brand of entertainment venues offers not three, not four, but eight Gatlinburg attractions:
We were not able to do the Haunted Adventure given the ages of our young children, but lots of pre-teens and teens were coming out of there in an excited, happy state, so it must be scary - and fun!
The Believe it Or Not! Odditorium and Guinness Museum were favorites of my daughter, who loves interesting facts and unique things. These museums had photos, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that made it fun to learn.
World's largest button collection!
A really cool mirror - he talks to you!
Ripley's Moving Theater shows two different movies with life-like digital effects while your seat bumps and dips and shakes. It is really fun for kids of all ages (our toddler didn't ride, of course).
Ripley's Marvelous Mirror Maze is one of our daughter's favorites. The maze isn't long, but it is such a unique experience to have no idea if you are looking at a wall or a doorway! We bumped and giggled and inched our way into dead ends and out again.
The Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies was a highlight for us. This aquarium has just about everything including a shark lagoon, touch-a-ray-bay, a coral reef, the discovery center (with lots of things to explore for little and big kids!), and a penguin playhouse. We arrived at opening time and did not experience much crowd, even though it was a very busy holiday weekend. We were able to wander through and look in all the tanks at our leisure. The interactive areas provided a perfect opportunity to let our toddler roam away from the stroller and touch, push, and twist gadgets and wheels.
Up close with the "Nemo" fish
Happy with stuff to touch
Morning visit = little/no crowd!
If you are headed to Gatlinburg sometime, add at least a few of the Ripley's attractions to your to-do list. You can get a discount if you buy a combo ticket which includes the aquarium and two other attractions.
- - -
Note: I was provided free tickets to all the Ripley's Gatlinburg attractions for my family. However, all opinions states here are entirely my own.