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.
Ripley’s has enthralled audiences for more than nine decades with its dedication to revealing odd and unexplainable rarities from around the globe. But it all began with one man: Robert Ripley, a wildly successful and eccentric character who rose to fame during the first half of the 20th century. After selling his first cartoon to Life magazine at age 14, he set out on a quick-paced career of drawing sports cartoons for the New York Globe. During a slow day at the office, he sketched nine unusual sporting events and finished his work with a title: “Believe It or Not!” It became immensely popular, allowing Ripley to travel the world in search of more bizarre stories to put into his comic strips. While visiting relatively unknown areas in locales such as India, China, and the inside of his neighbor’s chimney, he picked up a slew of unbelievable souvenirs that later became fixtures in several of Ripley’s museums, or as they’re affectionately called today, Odditoriums. Ripley’s now encompasses publications, attractions, a television show, and a blog, all of which carry Ripley’s tradition of reporting on the world’s curiosities.
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.
Most people associate flying with the sound of whirring engines, intercoms buzzing, and even propellers sputtering into a spin. Wonders of Flight at WonderWorks, however, removes all audible distractions—its helium-filled balloon rises above the trees with nary a hum or vibration. The effect, says the website, is akin to "being on a flying balcony."
A maximum of 30 people can stand on the balloon's circular gondola as it ascends up to 400 feet in the air. After takeoff, passengers are treated to a sprawling view of the Smoky Mountains, as well as a bird's-eye perspective of the upside-down WonderWorks attraction. These 5- to 10-minute flights run throughout the day, permitting riders to snap photos of the scenery as the blue-and-green balloon levitates from its grounded tether. Wonders of Flight also hosts 30-minute wedding experiences, which afford couples ample time to say "I do," and toss a bouquet into a mob of jetpack-wearing bridesmaids.
The days of dragons, princesses, and magic wands are revived at MagiQuest, an interactive medieval quest experience for all ages. The course takes visitors through a live-action game that creeps through dungeons, a village, and a fairy forest as players encounter myriad characters, sneak through secret doors, defeat a goblin king, and return jewels to the princess. The fun doesn’t stop when the game ends, as MagiQuest also has an on-site black light mini golf course, a laser spy challenge, and a mirror maze.
Sprawling across 160+ acres of verdant grounds, Circle G Ranch curates a herd of more than 700+ exotic animals, allowing visitors to cruise down a 3-mile path to get close to the curious creatures. Zebras, emus, deer, and alpaca trot up to vehicles for handfuls of delicious feed, and guided safari-truck and camelback tours impart nuggets of information on the park's wildlife. After treks, visitor head to the petting zoo to visit a rotating gang of cuddly animals, such as baby lambs, goats, and parrots, along with an African crested porcupine and a family of sulcata tortoises.
The Blount Mansion Ghosts and Ghouls tour bridges the gap between past and present by taking visitors on a spine-tingling tour of Knoxville's spookiest historical sites. Leaders donning their most elaborate guises will take visitors through the ectoplasm-soaked streets of downtown Knoxville, regaling them with terrifying anecdotes of bloody and supernatural events in the actual places where they once occurred. Past excursions have included stops at the Gay Street Bridge, where criminals were hanged for horrendous crimes such as murder, robbery, and having shifty eyes. Perhaps the most horrendous intrigue is a recounting of the legend of the Wampus cat —an ancient folkloric creature that causes insanity and drags victims to its underground cave beneath the city, where they're forced to drink with the decidedly less frightening ghost of Andrew Jackson and declare their undying hatred of the Whig party.