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Alex Moiseyev photo and video

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day seven - #1 Aquarium in US

While stopping at visitor center on our way to Great Smokies, we have picked up a brochure advertising Gatlinburg aquarium as #1 in US. Well, #1 or not, we have decided to give it a try - given that it was too hot to do hiking and road to the attraction is a main scenic road crossing national park - so, we decided to combine sightseeing with an attraction.
Road from Cherokee to Gattlinburg is about 45 minutes of pure driving. Given that we are staying 7 miles from Cherokee and the road is ~25mph for real,  plus multiple overlooks along the way, it ook us almost two hours to get to the target.
Need to say that driving less stressed than with camper yesterday, we have realized that our 7 miles drive from campground to Cherokee is going trough 6 or 8 other campgrounds, so this is really popular destination. We have also observed how competition works - large franchises like Yogi or KOA have survived, while smaller true private ones have collapsed or at best became anarchic colonies of tireless campers.
Aquarium is great indeed - I'm not in a position to challenge #1 status, but it is a first ime I have seen a huge shark tank that has a walkway in a glass "pipe" under it. Tiger shark (on the picture) was swimming above our heads while we were walking through this corridor. Well, walking is a wrong word - there is a running belt inside, so all you have to do is to watch around (and it also prevents crowd from concentrating in one place - quite smart solution :) ).
Beside sharks one they have quite impressive stingray tank and few smaller expositions on coral life, penguins and pirayas. Given far-away from the ocean location, building and maintaining such an exposition seems major achievement.
Other interesting feature is that all technology that supports the aquarium - computer systems, filtration systems etc. - everything that is usually kept behind the scenes - here is shown through the glass walls, and small exposition explains "how stuff works".
Gattlinburg itself is a funny place. It spans couple of miles along route 441, which is surraunded by mountains on both sides, and there is nothing in town except hotels, shops, restaurants and other tourist entertainment.  Some coastal Maine towns are like this - but Gattlinburg takes it to the extreme.

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