The Smoky Mountains are great for anyone to visit, but they’re downright amazing for kids, thanks to the educational activities galore. Here you can find hours and hours of kid-oriented educational fun, from experiential learning to environmental and wilderness courses and local history museums. Read on to learn about some of the best options.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
This is one of the nation’s best aquariums, and it’s located right in the middle of all the Smokies fun. It has over 10,000 species of ocean life housed across 10 themed galleries. There are learning programs for all ages, and the whole family will enjoy the glass tunnel through Shark Lagoon, the chance to pet stingrays and penguins, and a ride in a glass-bottom boat.
Titanic Museum Attraction
You won’t have trouble finding this half-size model of the actual Titanic. Inside the ship-shaped museum you’ll find an actual-size replica of the ill-fated ship’s staircase, hundreds of artifacts from the real ship, and a lifeboat exactly like those on the Titanic that you can sit in. Every guest experiences history in a personal way with a boarding pass showing an actual passenger or crew member’s name.
About 150 meters up the Parkway from the Titanic Museum Attraction is the WonderWorks Pigeon Cove location. Curiosity and learning will be all that happens from the moment you see the building, which looks like an upside-down White House. Inside, kids learn science in experiential ways. A fun example is the Earthquake Café, featuring a simulation of a 5.3-magnitude earthquake.
RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo
A less-crowded take on the city zoo, the RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo allows you to get up close and personal with over 130 species of animals from rainforests all over the world. Entrance is an affordable $12.99 for ages 3-12, and kids under three years old can enter free. You’ll be able to feed and pet some animals, see some of the rarest monkeys on earth, and learn all about the zoo’s animals in a live show.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute
For those more serious about education, the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont offers overnight stays for kids and families as well educational programs like wilderness emergency response and Appalachian naturalism. The Institute has a specific focus on the Smokies themselves and how education is the key to true enjoyment and preservation of them.
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Today is #OutdoorClassroomDay! Every day at Tremont, we see how outdoor learning engages and excites students. We believe school communities are happier and healthier when teachers and students are learning with curiosity and a sense of wonder. While we're pretty fond of our classroom of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, outdoor learning can be as easy as taking the classroom out to the schoolyard. Explore and wonder! 🍁 ⠀ ⠀ #tremontinstitute #tremontexperience #peopleandnature #gsmnp #smokymountains #smokies #greatsmokymountains #outdooreducation #experientialeducation #education #environmentaleducation #gooutside #learn #explore #discover #wonder
Little River Railroad Museum and Mountain Farm Museum
For local history, try the Little River Railroad Museum. Through its exhibits, this museum both preserves and highlights the communities that existed before the national park opened, including Native Americans and settlers. On the opposite side of the park from the Little River, the Mountain Farm Museum offers a visitor center, trails, and historic buildings where you can see how communities of the past sustained themselves with the Smoky Mountains’ natural resources.
Plan Your Educational Adventure
This list gives you only a sampling of the best kid-friendly educational fun in the Smokies. The park and its surroundings have unlimited fun for kids, including firefly viewings, nature walks, bike rentals and tours, and much more. Check out the exclusive offers at Courtyard by Marriott Pigeon Forge and make sure you get the best rate.