When you’re in Gatlinburg, you’ll want to visit the Ripley’s Aquarium and get your very own penguin painting. That is a painting by one of their resident African penguin artists. That’s correct– a painting by a penguin.
The penguins won’t pick up a brush and paint like Van Gogh, but you’ll come home from the aquarium with a unique work of art that you’ll help make.
The way it works is you’ll pick colors that the penguin’s handler will dip the penguin artist’s feet into. The bird will then waddle over a canvas, creating a unique pattern of footprints. You can then take home the 8×10 picture that you and your penguin pal collaborated on.
Besides creating this unique souvenir, when you participate in the Penguin Painting experience, you will also learn about African Penguins -also known as black-footed penguins- pet a penguin, and take home a souvenir photo of you and the bird. You’ll watch them swim and eat while you get face to face with them throughout the exhibit. Throughout the Penguin Playhouse, you can see the penguins on land and in the water. The aquarium staff will answer any of the questions you may have.
Besides the work you help make, the Cargo Hold Gift Shop offers more penguin paintings. Fifty percent of the proceeds from each sale go to help The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCOB). SANCOB is an internationally recognized wildlife rehabilitation center in Cape Town, South Africa that has cared for over 85,000 birds since their beginnings in 1968. In addition to rehabilitation, they also raise awareness about threatened species-like penguins- and educate the public about conservation. So your visit to an aquarium in Tennessee can help penguins in South Africa.
This experience is available for aquarium visitors ages four and up. But really, is anyone too old to play with penguins? Children ages four through seven need to have a chaperon throughout the Penguin Painting Experience.
While at the museum you will see a variety of fish and corals, have the opportunity to touch a horseshoe crab, meet octopuses, and jellyfish. And of course paint with African Penguins.
The Ripley Aquarium is located on River Road in the middle of Gatlinburg. It is very easily accessible from the cabins, and all ages will find the aquarium interesting. Some people return for multiple visits to the aquarium, and others take in the other things the Gatlinburg area has to offer like Dollywood. But you won’t want to miss your opportunity to paint with penguins!