Come Play With The Penguins

Coming face to face with a bunch of penguins might be the last thing you’d think to encounter while traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. But it can happen.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies specializes in offering encounters with two of their favorite residents, penguinsand stingrays. The aquarium’s Penguin Encounter lets visitors get up close with the flightless Antarctic fowls. For $39.99 you get to pet them and get your picture taken with them.
Across the aquarium, you can wade into the water and hang out with stingrays. The Aquarium of the Smokies’ Splash With The Stingrays experience is $29.99 and includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium ending at Touch-A-Ray-Bay, where you wade into the water and swim with a stingray. The aquarium provides the towel but you’ve got to bring your own swimsuit. When it’s done, you receive a souvenir T-shirt.
Times and dates for both attractions vary and depend on the health and temperament of the animals. However, the aquarium still recommends you make a reservation, which you can do at its website,
The aquarium itself is one of the most popular destinations in the state and has dozens of exhibits, everything from coral reefs and octopuses to sharks and flounders to an enormous rain forest display. If you decide to go, buy your tickets in advance. The aquarium offers a series of discounts if you buy tickets online before you show up. Plus, buying online lets you skip the lines and head straight into the aquarium. Full price tickets are $27.99 for adults and $15.99 for kids. Discounts range from $3 to $5.
Ducking into an aquarium after a day on the road can be a nice change of pace. It’s also a great way to get lost in a different kind of nature.
(Photo Credit: Matt Chan/Flickr)

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