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Other Orlando: WonderWorks

by Michelle R. Mangio, Guest Contributor

Like many Disney fans, my husband and I rarely ventured outside of Walt Disney World when we visited Florida. To us, "The World" was Orlando, and it was all the vacation we wanted. But one year we decided: let's see what's in Orlando. I could easily talk about SeaWorld and Universal Studios, the two main attractions outside of Disney World that many visit each year. But though we enjoyed both attractions -- and have, from time to time, returned -- what captured our interest and enjoyment most was a little tiny place called WonderWorks.

To us, WonderWorks is the hidden gem of Orlando, an amazingly themed adventure that delights the senses even as it enriches the mind. It's great for families, but equally fun for two kids-at-heart who are fascinated by the amazing magic of science.

It was sheer luck that led us to this discovery, as we turned down the wrong way on International Drive in Orlando and found ourselves near the entertainment complex. As we drove, looking for a convenient place to turn around, we happened to spy an upside-down building off to the side.

"What is that?" we wondered, "And why is this huge building upside down?" Our curiosity thus ensnared, we found a place to park and made our way to this intriguing landmark.

We were delighted from the onset. This building even had sound special effects to make it sound like it was creaking as we approached, and was ingeniously designed to appear as if it hand landed on top of another building! Some of the "original sidewalk" of the building was still attached, and so palm trees swayed slightly over your head.

All plans of another Orlando destination forgotten, we ventured into this building to see what it would hold.

Because it is upside down, you must enter through the "attic," and all elevators go "down" to the basement below. Umm … above? You can see how it becomes a bit confusing! It was in the entrance, where you purchase your admission tickets, that we learned the "story" of this little attraction.

It was originally located in the Bermuda Triangle, a top-secret laboratory conducting experiments. Scientists had been trying to find answers to the unexplainable, but their experiments had gone awry, causing a freak tornado to erupt from within the building, carrying the building all the way to Florida before dropping it into Orlando.  Amazingly, all the experiments remained intact, now allowing you to venture inside to interact with them.

On the first two floors, there are over 100 different interactive experiments. This is a science museum where the science truly comes alive, in a fun and compelling way. You can land the Space Shuttle, or fly in a Fighter Jet. Design your own roller coaster and then ride in it. Or get all shaken up in the Earthquake Simulator!

But the fun doesn't stop there. Other exhibits include becoming a Virtual Sports superstar, or spending hours in the Bubble Room where you can make bubbles larger than you are! Perhaps you can show your little ones just how Leo, June, and Quincy (of the Little Einsteins) managed to get stuck in that giant bubble!

You can learn what it's like to lie on a bed of nails, or make a 3-D impression of yourself on the Wonderwall. Watch your hair rise up towards the ceiling in the static electricity generators (but prepare for the shock if you touch anything metallic!).

WonderWorks does its best to keep the illusion of the upside building going, too. When you look out of any of the windows, a little bit of magic is at work, and the rest of the world appears upside down, as if you are now right side up in the building!

When you make your way to the "basement," you can play some rounds of Lazer Tag (if you bought the combo ticket, or play it directly without going to the interactive science museum). This game is fun even for the adults, and the kids certainly take delight at being able to shoot you, causing all of your lights to blink like crazy.

But even if that weren't enough grand entertainment, WonderWorks also offers a wonderful "Outta Control Magic Dinner Show." For dinner shows, it's reasonably priced at $21.95 for adults, and $14.95 for seniors and children 4-12 (3 and under are free). The price includes unlimited hand-tossed pizza, beer, wine, and soda. And though the food is good, the best part really is the show, which is part magic show and part gales of laughter, as the two magicians use improvisational comedy and sensational magic to entertain adults and children alike. It's one of the best shows in Orlando, if you ask me.  But, then, I was always found of magic. It's why I love Disney… and why WonderWorks managed to endear itself to me as well.

This article appeared in our June 3, 2006 newsletter -- subscribe to our popular newsletter today for free!

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Updated 10/6/07 

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