Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sleeping with the Sharks

We have had the opportunity to go on a lot of fun outings with our Girl Scout troop this year.  But I think this takes the cake.

As a reward for their good cookie sales, the girls got to go to the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, TN and sleep with the sharks.

I, obviously, couldn't let my sweet, baby girl go sleep with sharks without me.  So I tagged along as a chaperone.

I was completely impressed by their program.  We arrived at the Aquarium at 8 PM and they had a full schedule of activities planned until midnight, when we started getting ready for bed.  (I'm very glad I made Julie take a nap before we left, or that late night would have been awful!)

First up, a jeopardy style trivia game about sea life.  Notice the glowing necklaces.  That differentiated us from the regular crowd at the aquarium and showed them we were there for the whole night.

Then it was time for the stingray dive show.  They hand-feed the stingrays but they don't hand-feed the sharks.

After being fed, the stingrays were more than happy to let the girls touch them.

Then it was time to make souvenirs to remember their night.  So we fish-printed T-shirts.

What?  You don't know what it means to fish-print something? 

Well, I didn't either. 

It means you give a child a rubber fish to paint then flip it over and leave it's imprint on a shirt.  Then you give the child free-reign to paint whatever they like on the shirt.  And this is the result.

I thought it came out great!

At this point, it was about 10:15.  The schedule showed pizza snacks next.  I didn't think I'd be hungry, but I was starving!  Each person got 3 pieces of pizza and a rice krispy bar.  That's a lot.  I ate most of mine, but the kids didn't eat a lot.  They must of been too excited...or too tired.  Either way, what little they ate, gave them new energy for our next activity....the scavenger hunt.

The scavenger hunt was really just a way to let us explore the aquarium.  So off we went.

The last time I visited this aquarium was when I was pregnant with Julie.  I remember getting my picture made in this very same spot but with her inside of me instead of outside.  I thought it would be fun to take a picture of the two of us there. 

Unfortunately, those were the days before digital pictures and my only copy of that picture is securely fastened to a scrapbook page.  So you'll just have to trust me that the picture exists.

Julie with her best bud, Lauren.
 These guys are my favorite.
 This one is pretty big and scary looking.  Yikes!
 African penguins - they live in the heat, not the cold.

That was our last activity for the night.  We blew up our air mattress, changed our clothes (to warm ones) and trudged into the tunnel to "sleep" with the sharks.  Needless to say, not a lot of sleeping actually went on.

You can see what I had to sleep under.

Kinda cool, kinda disconcerting.

In the morning was breakfast and one last activity....

Touching a shark!  How cool is that!

Granted, this is a small, bamboo shark that is used to being touched by children, but still...it's a shark!

Overall, I was impressed by the program.  Julie had a great time.  I had a great time.

But when I got home, I was very thankful for my bed and my nap.

What about you?  What has been the best activity you've done this summer?


  1. I don't know if it is the BEST activity we have done this summer, but all 3 of us have really enjoyed splash country this year. We went 3 times and found something new and fun each time we went. You should add it to your Dollywood passes for next year.


  2. Our cub scout pack is going in a couple months. Thanks for the great review!!

  3. Thanks for the great review. My son's cub scout pack goes this month. Your overview is helpful. We are trying to plan for sleep and what to pack. The info the aquarium sent mentioned that space for air mattresses will be limited. What were your observations? How big a air mattress did you bring? How many were in your group? We have 40 going.

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. If I remember correctly, it was a queen size air mattress (it's been a few years). I don't remember exactly how many were in our group, probably around 20. But we weren't the only group there that night. There were several others. The tunnel was full but I didn't feel squished for space. The most annoying part about taking an air mattress was that there are no power outlets in or around the tunnel. You have to blow up the mattress somewhere else and carry it into the tunnel.