Believe it or not. 

Be it the National Aquarium or the Haus des Meers  or the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, there is a simple enjoyment in peeking at aquatic life. Ordinarily we likely would have given Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies a pass, as it lies within that conurbation of kitsch (Pigeon Forge-Gatlinburg) but the timed-entry reopening made purchasing tickets a whole lot more appealing.

Sidenote: Revenue shortfalls and job losses aside, I confess that we are loving the fewer crowds in museums and restaurants. If only this arrangement could be permanent.

To our great delight we arrived at the opening, and just in time for a PENGUIN PARADE!

The “Ripley’s” part of the aquarium is its own separate exhibit that we did not explore; there’s enough weirdness in the world right now to make us scratch our heads and wrinkle our brows~no need to see more. Besides, we came for the sea life.

Sweet.

Not so sweet.

The spot on the tank where one of the sharks attacked. Told ya they aren’t sweet.

A face only a mother could love.

At the end of the tour one has the opportunity to not only touch the rays, but to feed them, too! You know we did both, including “baiting” the feeding hook with sardines. Manta rays are velvety to the touch.

Parading penguins and munching mantas. Just the escapism we needed.