Posted by: lylescott89 | July 3, 2013

The Great Smoky Mountains Journey Day Five: Ripley’s Aquarium & The Old Mill

Ripley's Aquarium of the SmokiesHey kids,

On our previous visit to the Smokies Adam had really wanted to go and see Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, but we just did not have the time or energy to do so.  We promised him that we would go sometime and today was the day that promise was kept.

As usual we had wanted to get an early start, but as usual we were slow and tired and doggone it we just did not like the idea of leaving the cabin.  But nonetheless we did leave after breakfast and made our way to the aquarium.  It was a good day for aquariuming (Is that a word?) because it was raining and the forecast called for a lot of rain that day.  (It cleared up by the afternoon) We pulled into the parking lot behind the aquarium shortly after 10:00 AM and I was pleasantly surprised that the lot was virtually empty.  (It is important that you remember this for later)  We quickly parked, took the elevator down and began the short walk to the entrance.  Adam was incredibly excited and was sort of skipping and hopping his way to the entrance while we lagged behind.  We got to the entrance and there was a very long line at the ticket windows.  Since I had already purchased tickets online we were able to bypass all of that and walk right in.

We stopped for the obligatory photo shoot (seriously, how many people actually buy these photos for $25.00 a pop?) and then walked right into the tropical rainforest.  Adam likes to point out all the fish and let us know little facts about them.  I suppose it is his way of showing off, but we do not mind.  We actually find it quite cute.  Often he will spout of some little known fact and then when we get to the point where we can read about the fish in question that same fact is written there.  I also like to quiz him and ask what kind of fish are we looking at and see how he’ll respond.  Always a lot of fun.

The aquarium is set up in such a way that you are always heading one direction.  There is no picking and choosingFish which exhibit to go to next as you are almost always going the same way.  We could stay as long as we liked at each exhibit.  The main exception was the area with dinosaurs and if you ask me why they had a dinosaur exhibit inside an aquarium I will have to tell you that I have no idea.  There was not much too it and it was in a small area so it was about the only part of the aquarium that was congested.

My favorite part was the big underwater tube that we got to ride through on a conveyor belt.  (One could step off if one chose to do so)  We were surrounded by fish and coral and it was really cool to see sharks and rays swimming over our heads.  Of course this has been an aquarium staple for years so it was to be expected, however it was still most enjoyable.

They also had a very nice penguin display.  I truly enjoy standing there and watching penguins.  For some reason they are just fascinating creatures.  They had this tube that children could crawl through to get right in the middle of all the penguin action.  I suppose adults could go through as well, but I knew my limitations and chose not to do so.  I think if I had tried I may have been in there for a very long time.

Adam with the penguinsAs we were finishing up we came across this huge set of jaws and I wanted a picture.  I asked Adam to go stand behind them, but he got busy looking at living sharks and I chose to just let him enjoy himself.  So as I got ready to take the photo I could see this old guy with a cane to my right with my peripheral vision.  I had already hit the button so I was desperately willing the camera to snap the photo.  As it attempted to focus and decide whether or not to utilize the automatic flash the old guy wandered in and then SNAP, the photo was taken.  He kept on walking and I took another one figuring I’d just delete that one.  However, when I saw the photo with him in it I just laughed and laughed and decided not to delete it.  The look on the old guy’s face was priceless and I have posted it here for your enjoyment.  Let me know what you think.  And if you know this old guy tell to pay attention where he is walking.

After two hours of aquariuming (I don’t think that is a word) we hit the gift shop and then headed out for lunch.  The line to buy tickets was even longer than before which made me think that a lot of people chose to sleep much later than we did.  We walked back to the parking garage and took the elevator up.  When we reached the top I was shocked.  All I could see was wall to wall cars in every direction.  Every spot was taken and there was a line of cars just sitting there with apparently nowhere to go.  Donna said they were trying to get to the lower levels to find parking, but were all backed up.  This annoyed me because I knew we would have to get into this mess as there was no end in sight to cars entering the garage.  (Quick point: when a car enters the garage it must go to the top level first and then work its way down through all levels.  Since the top lot was virtually empty when we arrived I just parked there)

Well I knew someone would let me out since spots were at a premium and as soon as I put the car in revers a guy in aSurprise! blue car immediately put on his blinker to take my spot.  As we descended to the exit I could see that the problem was people waiting for spots to open up instead of just driving all the way through to find an empty spot.  Once we got clear of the mess we got down to ground level where there were at least a dozen empty parking spots.  Ugh.  If only they would just drive and not have to wait for a spot we could have avoided an exit that took almost 20 minutes.

On this day Adam wanted to choose a place for lunch so I gave him two choices.  (I cannot give him much more than that because he’ll never make up his mind) I offered The Old Mill and Smoky Mountain Brewery.  He chose The Old Mill so off to Pigeon Forge we went.  For those of you interested The Old Mill is the only building in Pigeon Forge listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is an old grist mill built in 1830 that has been renovated to a restaurant and shopping area.  It sits right on the west fork of the Little Pigeon River and if nothing else it is really cool to look at.  But even better than that, they have delicious food.

I dropped off Donna and Adam while I went to park the car.  Naturally I walked through the entire restaurant before I found them, but once I did I was pleased to see that we had been seated right over the river.  Donna ordered some sort of veggie plate while Adam went with a cheeseburger.  I decided I’d get the chicken and dumplings because that is something that I never have.  I was quite pleased with all that I got with my main course:

• A cup of their signature corn chowder (I actually got two since Donna did not eat hers)
• Corn fritters & butter (I think I ate about two dozen of these)
• Homemade mashed potatoes
• Green beans (If Donna could make green beans like these I’d be very happy)

The Old MillThe chicken and dumplings were quite delicious as they were served, but I did add a little pepper to them.  I added pepper to the corn chowder as well.  I like pepper (I should also remind you that tigers love pepper, but they hate cinnamon.  Thank you Alan) and as you can imagine I was quite stuffed and wanted to go back to the cabin, but Adam and Donna wanted to play putt-putt and since there was one nearby off we went.

Ripley’s has some very nice mini-golf course in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.  We chose Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf on this day and had the choice of three different courses.  We chose the moderate course as opposed to the easy one or the difficult one and we had a lot of fun.  I even got a hole in one on the last hole and won myself a free game of golf.  I cannot tell you which one of us won because we did not keep score.  It just seemed like too much work at the time.

We returned to the cabin and since it had cleared up Adam and I went swimming while I believe Donna took a nap.  When it came time for supper I was so stiffed still from lunch that I passed on a meal.  It is not very often that I skip a meal, so I am recommending that the owners of the cabin put up a plaque commemorating that momentous occasion.

The evening was spent playing games and goofing around as well as simply relaxing.  Tuesday was going to be a big day so we were off to bed earlier than usual.  You are wondering what was on tap for Tuesday now aren’t you?  Stay tuned kids.




  1. There is no way I would have passed up that opportunity to crawl through a tube to be in the midst of penguins. I can’t believe you did not indulge. I think aquariuming should be a word. I like it. I know a good word when I hear/see it. Old guy and shark jaw, love it. Donna most likely can make green beans that way, but chooses not to. Chances are they were not vegetarian green beans.

    • They definitely were not vegetarian green beans. Neither was the corn chowder.

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