Tucked away in the Smoky Mountains, Rainforest Adventures Zoo nurtures a diverse family of more than 120 tropical and temperate species, many born in captivity. Brilliantly hued macaws and finches share space with eccentric guests such as lemurs, hissing cockroaches, and reclusive business mogul Howard Hughes. Elsewhere, guests get up close with a cuddly collective of mammals such as a giant porcupine, African servals, and coatimundi, as well as cold-blooded crocodiles, lizards, and snakes.
The early 20th century holds a certain charm. Even while peering through the apothecary's questionable brown bottles or cringing at the sound of the dentist's foot-powered drill, it's hard not to look back with wonder on men in straw hats and women with lacy parasols hopping onto streetcars as they clambered down cobblestone roads. With permanent exhibits set up to re-create such scenes—including an urban streetscape display with an original streetcar—the East Tennessee Historical Society allows visitors to literally take a stroll through state history. Since 1834, the organization has collected stories and artifacts from Tennessee residents, preserving many tales and genealogical records in the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection. The society shares its findings through publications and ongoing lectures, conferences, and interactive school programs.
Since 1979, generations of the Elvis-enthusiastic Moon family have been filling the Elvis Museum walls with memorabilia of the immortal ruler of rock 'n' roll. Guests can reminisce over the last limousine he owned and the Honeymoon Cadillac, marveling over their sleek exteriors and trying to get a whiff of the king's lingering peanut-butter-scented air freshener. Visitors appraise the original TCB ring of his personal jewelry collection and gawk at a selection of artifacts from his last tour, including personal jackets, a guitar, and a grooming kit. Restless whippersnappers can break from scavenging pay phones for discarded nickels and scavenge exhibits for answers in an Elvis trivia hunt, complete with lanyard and postcard prizes. After their wistful museum wanderings, guests cart home Elvis apparel, accessories, and collectables from the gift shop.
This international museum is the only facility of its kind, completely dedicated to the evolution of women's basketball and the talented athletes who helped the sport grow. Bounce buffs can learn the history of women's basketball through the museum's exhibits, including multimedia presentations, numerous basketball artifacts, original photographs, scrapbooks, and old uniforms. Guests inspired by the abundant wooden-court knowledge can try their hand on the facility’s basketball courts, featuring hoops of three different heights (representing the past, present, and future of the sport) and a vertical-leap challenge, allowing you to show off your superb ceiling-dusting skills. No trip to this historical vault is complete without investigating the world's largest basketball, 30-feet tall and weighing 10 tons, which sits atop the museum's northern hall and, during winter months, is used as the base of the world’s largest snowman. Children ages 5 and under receive free admission to the museum.
Behind its simple name and unassuming façade, Adventure Scuba Diving conceals a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Center. Inside, students learn to swim underwater from a dozen diving instructors and divemasters, including Mike Goss, who has the highest training certification available in the PADI system. As a course director, Paul does more than teach first-time students, though he still loves to pop into an Open Water–certification class now and then. He spends most of his time training future trainers, and making sure his fellow instructors make good decisions on their dive trips.
In addition to spelunking expeditions, Greater Outdoor Adventures’ guides run whitewater-rafting and hiking excursions in the Smokey Mountains area. The instructors are well trained, safety conscious, and capable of handling any diplomatic emergencies that may arise during encounters with the mole people.