If you're looking for an attraction that is truly unique among Smoky Mountain experiences, you'd have to rank Christ in the Smokies Museum & Gardens among the top contenders for that honor. Regarded as one of the nation's foremost inspirational attractions, the museum utilizes lifelike diorama scenes, dramatic lighting, music and special effects to tell the story of Jesus Christ.
Christ in the Smokies is located on River Rd. in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, near Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, and what it delivers inside is a 25-minute self-guided wax museum tour depicting highlights from the life of Jesus. Among the life-size diorama scenes are his birth, temptation by Satan, healing a blind man, spending time with children and finally, his crucifixion and resurrection.
But that's just the beginning of what's offered at Christ in the Smokies. Once the indoor tour is over, guests are funneled into a greenhouse prayer garden, where they'll see a stone relief carving of the face of Christ. No matter which angle you view it from, it looks as if the eyes in the face are following your movements.
However, the carving you'll see today is not the same Carrara marble face that stood for so many years on the site. That's one of the many changes that's taken place since Christ in the Smokies evolved several years ago from the former Christus Gardens attraction, which had occupied the same facility for some 50 years prior.
Those who had previously visited Christus Gardens will notice that the experience has been updated significantly. For one, new wax figures have replaced the old ones, having been purchased from the Hollywood Wax Museum chain, which had put its religious figures up for sale.
In addition, Jesus looks authentically more Middle Eastern than Anglo, Satan is depicted as more human than cartoonish, and the pace of the tour has been shortened significantly, giving guests more time to take both the indoor and outdoor portions.
These days, the museum also offers a special exhibit called Temple Treasures & The Ark of the Covenant. Guests will see replicas, models and reconstructions of temple furnishings and vestments that were a part of daily worship in the tabernacle and other locations of Jesus' time. The exhibit also includes a virtual tour with a high priest into the Holy of Holies at the temple.
Christ in the Smokies is located at 510 River Rd. and offers free parking for museum guests. The attraction is open most days of the year, rain or shine.