Category Archives: Family Attractions

Reviews of the various family attractions in Gatlinburg, TN. Play miniature golf, ride go-carts, experience museums, walk through haunted houses, and more!

Ripley’s Aquarium, Dinosaurs: When Giants Ruled

A 10-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex at an aquarium? It’s not the first thing you’d expect to see on a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. However, the T. Rex is the new centerpiece of the aquarium’s “Dinosaurs: When Giants Ruled” exhibit that just recently opened.

The “Dinosaurs” exhibit is there through 2013. It’s the aquarium’s big spring exhibit. Each year they seem to get bigger and better.

Now, T. Rex isn’t alone. He and four other animatronic dinosaurs fill the 2,000-square-foot exhibit space. You’ll think that you’ve back to the land that time forgot. There’s even a 7 ½-foot, man-made volcano.

There is an Apatosaurus, which for those of you asking “What is an Apatosaurus?”, it’s a 30-foot-long, green-skinned dinosaur that moves its long neck and turns its head in the exhibit. Meanwhile, the horned Chasmosaurus parent and child also turn their heads, open their mouths, roar and squeal at the passersby. Finally, you’ll find that the model Mosasaurus, a prehistoric marine reptile, is suspended in the exhibit’s ocean display.

There’s even a sand display that kids can dig through as they search for dinosaur bones. This interactive exhibit incorporates nine iPad dinosaur-themed, children-oriented “Dino Challenge” applications with the more old-fashioned technology of a dig pit.

“Dinosaurs: When Giants Ruled” also spotlights fossils of actual dinosaurs unearthed over the years including a Triceratops horn dug up in South Dakota, an arm and hand bone of a two-legged Gallimimus found in Mongolia, and a Stegosaurus skeleton found in China in the ’90s.

Ripley’s General Manager Ryan DeSear said an aquarium hosting an exhibit about dinosaurs “just kind of fits. We have a marine dinosaur back there called a Mosasaurus, where you can kind of see the evolution of sharks. So there is a fit there. It’s maybe a bit tenuous but it’s still there. And people love dinosaurs. They just do.”

Motion Ride Movie Theater

Next time you get a hankerin’ to go see a movie, you might just want to venture down into Gatlinburg and experience the Motion Ride Movie Theater. This isn’t your regular flat-screened cinema that you’ll find at any local multiplex.

Once you leave a movie at the Motion Ride Movie Theater in Gatlinburg, you’ll have been tossed over a cliff, experienced the g-forces of soaring close to space, been turned around, twisted and thrown for a loop – all while sitting back in your seat. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget and will make other films seem like a walk in the park.

The Motion Ride Movie Theater has six adventures movie-goers may pick from. That’s quite a lot compared to other similar theaters found mostly at large theme parks. The movie Smash Factory takes you through underground tunnels at some of the highest speeds you’ll not really experience, get it? Glacier Run takes you through a winter time paradise. Astro Canyon Coaster is great for the kids who want to explore different landscapes they may not be familiar with. Slot Car Boogie is another high speed driving movie that will leave you wind blown and on the edge of your seat. Or if you are from the mountains of West Virginia and your grand pappy was a coal miner, choose a movie to honor his memory, The Volcano Mine Ride.

What makes this simulator experience different than other simulators you may have tried before is that your seat will not be the only thing moving. The movie screen actually moves with the seats creating a much more realistic experience.

The Motion Ride Movie Theater opens at 10am every day except Christmas. It costs $10.99 for one movie or $13.99 for two movies, but the real bargain is to be had when you purchase a ticket to watch them ALL for only $15.99. If you are in the military, be sure and let the vendor know so that you can receive your discount.

This exciting Gatlinburg attraction is located at the Reagan Terrace Mall on the Parkway between lights #6 and #7.

Ripley’s Penguins

There’s only one place you can catch the rare, African Penguin in this part of the country and that’s at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN.

Since 2010, these little penguins have become one of the highlights of the Ripley’s Aquarium experience. The aquarium has even initiated a couple different events that celebrate the loveable little critters. During the summer, kids can take part in camps and sleepovers at Ripley’s that allow them to get inside the lives of the penguins. It’s a great way to spend part of your summer vacation while learning more about these exciting creatures.

In all, the Penguin Experience is a 3-hour event that delves deep into the lives of the African Penguins, or Black-footed Penguin, and is presented by the aquarium’s expert staff. You can even get as up close and personal with the penguins as you want. That’s right, you can pet them and walk around in their habitat at the aquarium. Go face-to-face with these magical black and white, flightless birds. You can even get your photo taken with them so that you’ll remember the occasion for years to come.

Penguins are just a part of the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies experience. Though they are a fairly large and important part. Make sure that when you come plan on attending one of the Penguin Painting Experience days. African Penguins are artists in their own right and they love to paint. Each painting is done to the Penguin’s own unique, creative style. It’s a footprint work of art you might say, and you can take it home with you as well.

Both of these events are featured during the months of July and August, so head over to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to catch these exotic birds at work, and at play. Take advantage of the aquarium’s Penguin Playhouse exhibit. There you can crawl through the underwater tube and watch the penguins swim and play. It’s like you’re actually swimming with the penguins underwater!

Davy Crockett Mini Golf

Everybody loves to play miniature golf.  In Gatlinburg, one of the most popular mini golf locations is Davy Crockett Miniature Golf.  Located right off the parkway, there is plenty of parking, free parking, and you are out of the press of downtown Gatlinburg.  Add to this that it is one of the most beautifully made and creative mini-golf locations in Gatlinburg and you are in for quite a treat.

Davy Crockett Mini Golf attempts to tell the story of legendary hero of the Tennessee mountains with the help of an all-critter cast.  From Davy, in this case a fun loving raccoon to the rest of his mountain home friends, you will be amused and your children will be delighted by the antics that these animals get up to.  From shooting cannons to creating water sluices, the animals have been placed around the golf course to add obstacles and to create an atmosphere of fun and adventure around the course, or in this case, two courses.

Both of the courses (36 hole sin all) are challenging and fun.  The obstacles range from water hazards to hills, from wavy bumps meant to make it hard to putt to holes that are not visible from where you start.  Ripleys (yes, the same folks that run the Aquarium) have made this one of the neatest golf courses you will ever play on.  And, unlike many other attractions and activities in Gatlinburg, you don’t have to park and walk for a long time to get there.  There is a parking lot for Davy Crockett Mini Golf guests right next door to the golf course itself, so you aren’t paying extra to park but, it is not far down the street from some of the hotels and motels so you are always welcome to walk to Davy Crockett and enjoy the nice stretch of the legs on your way to play with the family.

Next trip you take to Gatlinburg, make sure that the Davy Crockett Mini Golf is part of your itinerary.  Get the family together and hang out in the great outdoors.  Spend some time challenging the kids.  Play both courses and take in the playful antics of the critters that tell a story about Davy Crockett as you make your way around the courses.  See who can win the game and then, when you come back year after year, play again and again, wait for that day when your kids finally win and then you can reflect on that first game you played with the Davy Crockett raccoon watching from the sign.

Davy Crockett Mini Golf
188 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN
865-430-8851
http://www.ripleys.com/gatlinburg/your-visit/ripleys-mini-golfs/

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort to open December 7!!!

It’s once again that time of year again – time to hit the slopes as Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort opens up for the old town’s winter season! Officially, Ober is planning to open its doors its doors for skiing and snowboarding on December 7 following months of snow-making.

If you plan on skiing in Gatlinburg, TN during your next vacation, church retreat, or Smoky Mountain getaway then the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort is where you’ll wind up. This is the only ski resort in Tennessee, so if you’re looking for more choices you’ll need to look a little farther east in North Carolina at slopes such as Sugar Mountain, Ski Beech, Appalachian, etc.

Ober Gatlinburg is a family ski resort that has activities for everyone. If part of your family doesn’t ski or snowboard, there are other fun things to do such as ice skating, arcade, alpine slide, scenic chair lift, and more. Even party poopers have something to do as they can sit by the fire in the lounge or even “people-watch” around the ice skating rink. Ober’s been a Smoky Mountain staple since 1962 when it comes to entertaining family, friends, and even yourself.

If you plan on making Ober Gatlinburg your ski resort vacation destination, then you have two options of getting up there. You can either ride the aerial tramway (which happens to be the largest aerial tramway in America) from downtown Gatlinburg or you can drive up the mountain on Ski Mountain Road. Simply turn at traffic light #9 on the south end of Gatlinburg (closest to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and follow the winding road (Ski Mountain Road) all the way to the top…just have cash ready to park. The earlier you go, the better. The are three tiers of parking lots and if you get there early, you have a better shot at getting a parking spot at the top near the resort. Otherwise, it’s a short hike from the lower parking lots, but the locals call that the warmup!

The 2012-13 ski season in Gatlinburg, TN is upon us!

Lift Ticket Rates:
http://www.obergatlinburg.com/wintinfo.htm

Other Attraction Rates:
http://www.obergatlinburg.com/rates.htm

Latest Ski Report:
http://www.obergatlinburg.com/snowrpt.htm

Hillbilly Golf

Right as you go into Gatlinburg, if you are coming from Pigeon Forge, you are going to see a sign for Hillbilly Golf on the left hand side of the road.  Hillbilly Golf is a staple of Gatlinburg attractions and has been a min golf destination for years.  When you give Hillbilly Golf a once over you are going to wonder where the miniature golf course is but that is because you are not looking at the right spot.  Stand in  front of the ticket booth and look up.  You will notice an incline rail system that seems to go up and out of sight, that is where the course is – that is where the fun is.

Get your ticket and jump on the rail car.  You will take a brief ride up the mountain, the 300 feet only takes a few minutes but it does give you a great view of the Parkway as it threads its way into Gatlinburg.  You ride backwards up the mountain to both of the course.  Each one is a full 18 holes and both are delightfully decorated and fun to play.  But of course, half the fun is the fact that you are playing on the mountain.  The courses are built into the mountainside, into the very rock with trees and plants growing all around.

Not only are the courses chiseled into the ground and rock of the Smoky Mountains but they are decorated with a detritus that has taken years to accumulate.  Pieces of mountain history, pieces of the past decorate the courses.  The obstacles that you shoot and putt around are the very articles and things of the past that you might have seen doting the front yard of any mountain person in the Smokies at the turn of the century. Outhouses and stills are part of the course, as are native plants and rock walls that came to symbolize the mountain yards of the homesteads in the Smokies.  Some of these items have been out on these courses since Hillbilly Golf opened years ago.  Golf balls have been shot through and around these pieces of Americana for years and you might even find that you are still trying to putt around the same still that you had trouble with as a kid. Try both courses while you are there, spend plenty of time on the side of the mountain and experience the thrill you had when you rode the incline railway up the first time you took it years ago.

Hillbilly Golf
On the Parkway near traffic light #2
Gatlinburg, TN
865-436-7470

Christ in the Smokies

If you have ever taken River Road in Gatlinburg, you might have noticed a place called Christ in the Smokies.  This museum is a wonderland for people wanting to learn more about Biblical history and experience the Bible stories in life size dioramas.  Combining the museum with a beautiful garden area and the magnificent face of Christ chiseled into marble makes the Christ int he Smokies museum and Gardens a special attraction when you visit Gatlinburg.

The main attraction at Christ in the Smokies is the life-size figures that tell the story of Christ in stark detail.  You will get to stand before a full-size version of the Last Supper, be present for the miracles and of course stand directly in front of the manager during the nativity.  You will get a sense for the personhood and the humanity of Christ as you see Him depicted with people, standing among people and working with them and form them.  There has been great attention to detail and you can see the faith of the people that created the exhibits shine through.  You will feel that you are walking along with the disciples as you walk through the museum.

Along with the main part of the museum, telling the story of the life of Christ, is the garden at the center of the museum.  The garden contains one of the most amazing pieces of art work that you will ever see.  In the center of the garden is a a marble depiction of the face of Christ that seems to follow you as you walk from the right to the left.  Of course, this is just an optical illusion and a tribute to the skill of the artist that chiseled the face out of the stone but it is still amazing to walk from one side to the other in the garden and see the face seem to turn to follow your path.  Many people of spent many of hours watching the reactions of the people as they encounter the the Face of Christ for the first time.  It is a truly powerful and moving experience, especially after leaving the museum itself.

When you are done with the main parts of the museum tour, the dioramas and the gardens, you will be able to take in the gift shop and the exhibit of coins and gems form the Holy Land.  Every visit to the Christ in the Smokies Museum brings you closer to your faith and you will find something more each time you visit.  The Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens is easy to find.  It is in the middle of Gatlinburg in River Road.  If you are on the Parkway, headed toward the GSMNP, go to the SkyLift and take a right.  When you come to the traffic light at the bottom of the hill you will be facing Christ in the Smokies.

Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens
510 River Road
Gatlinburg, TN
http://christinthesmokies.com

Skiing in Gatlinburg, TN

 

* Ober’s new Snow Magic system continues to make snow in the tubing park and plans are to open snow tubing Friday, November 16th.

Think you have to go out west or to the northeast to enjoy great skiing? Think again! A trip to Gatlinburg, TN means you can enjoy winter sports in the heart of the south!

The Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort is a centerpiece in Gatlinburg, offering visitors a buffet of winter sports to enjoy! Experience skiing and snowboarding on eight different trails, varying from easy to difficult. All trails take you on an exciting adventure down the slopes of the Smoky Mountains, offering spectacular views of snowy peaks, wintry forests, and thrilling skylines! If you are a beginning skier, or have never skied before, you don’t have to be left out of all the fun! The Smoky Mountain Snow Sport School, located at the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, offers lessons for individuals and groups! This is a fun way for families, friends, or corporate groups to learn to ski, while bonding together.

If you don’t have your own skis or gear, don’t worry! You can rent everything you need at the gear store, located in the resort. They have clothing and gear available for rental in a variety of sizes, for both kids and adults!

In the warmer months, Ober Gatlinburg’s Amusement park is filled with fun and excitement for the entire family! Enjoy the Alpine Slide, indoor ice arena, and scenic chairlift. There is also a waterslide, arcade, bumper cars, pirate ship, bungee jumping, Velcro jump wall, shooting range, and mini golfing! You can spend days and days with your family, and never enjoy the same adventure twice!
Enjoy winter sports with a touch of Southern hospitality at the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort. Ski, snowboard, or just enjoy the winter mountain views! Be sure to see our links to the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort lift ticket rates and ski reports.

Gatlinburg Sky Lift

One of the best views in Gatlinburg can be seen from the Gatlinburg Sky Lift!

There is one great way to take in the entire city of Gatlinburg from one attraction, and that attraction is the Gatlinburg Sky Lift.  You have seen it if you have driven through Gatlinburg.  About halfway through town, you will see rows of yellow chairlifts rising into the air on the righthand side and then descending down the mountain on the left.  Go find a place to park and get ready to see one of the best views of Gatlinburg, this side of the Space Needle.

When you get to its location on the Parkway, make sure everyone pairs up! The Sky Lift chairs hold two adults at a time or an adult and a couple of small kids.  The chairlift is a nice slow ride up the mountain.  The yellow chairs are as much a part of the skyline of Gatlinburg as the Aerial Tramway that is located right down the road. The chair comes around, you sit down as it continues to move and you start your ascent. On the way up the mountainside, you get to check out Gatlinburg, including the Christ in the Smokies Museum and Mysterious Mansion located on River Road. After you have been to the top of Crockett Mountain, you will get back on the chairlift and start your way back down. This is where you get the best view! You get to take in Gatlinburg from the air. You get to see all that Gatlinburg has to offer and the opportunities to snap as many pictures as possible while you are on the lift.

The Gatlinburg Sky Lift was established in the 50s. It is one of the oldest continuing attractions in the Smoky Mountains and has become a staple in Gatlinburg. While other attractions in Gatlinburg are constantly reinventing themselves, the chairlift remains a constant. They don’t have to try anything new as the scenery of the mountains and the beauty of Gatlinburg are the draw for this attraction. That being said, they have added things at the top of the mountain.

At the top of the mountain, you get to walk around and explore the top of the mountain. They have a gift shop and concession stand for refreshments, too. You can get a soft drink and a snack or some ice cream while you take in the views. You can also purchase your souvenir photo that was snapped of you while you traveled up the mountain!

Gatlinburg SkyLift
765 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN
865-438-4307