I have been asked to remove the photo I found online of WonderWorks as posting it was a copyright violation. I've not yet been able to ascertain whether it was WonderWorks or the photographer that demanded that picture be removed. If it was WonderWorks, it was terribly short-sighted on their part. They would essentially be preventing free advertising of their business in order to protect their rights to a photograph. I totally support protecting artists rights to their work, and I always try to honor copyright protection laws whenever I reasonably can. Any photo that I've "borrowed" from the web I would happily pay a reasonable price for, if provided a way to do so. It seems like a system for connecting photographers with those interested in using their online photos and allowing users to pay a nominal fee for each photo used would be a win-win situation for everyone. Think iTunes for digital photos. At any rate, the photo is gone, so if you want to see what WonderWorks looks like, you'll have to click on the link below. I am grudgingly keeping my endorsement of the attraction, as their boneheaded approach to copyright infringement doesn't make the attraction any less amazing.
When the Carnival Sensation returned to port Thursday morning, June 9, 2011, we were out of money, but not out of time. We still had another 24 hours before our flight left for Columbus. What were we to do with the remaining time on a budget of zero dollars?
Fortunately, my cousin Yvette Saliba came to the rescue. Having planned our budget carefully, I knew from the outset that there wouldn't be anything left over for Orlando, so I'd written Yvette hoping that she might be able to pull some strings or call in some favors and get us tickets to somewhere to while away the day in Orlando. Sure enough, she was able to hook us up with tickets to WonderWorks on International Drive.
Now we've all heard of the Disney World empire with it's vast network of parks from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot to Animal Kingdom. You're undoubtedly familiar with Universal Studios and Sea World. You may have even heard of nearby Busch Gardens, but Wonderworks? What's that?
Wonderworks, it turns out is one of Orlando best kept attractions secrets, but after a fantastic afternoon there I'm eager to do my part to raise the profile of this wonderful little place. Wonderworks has done an outstanding job of positioning itself as an easy addition to any tourist's Orlando itinerary. It is essentially a hands-on science museuem, though that description fails to do it justice. Indeed, Yvette's promo of the place was laced with caveats--there are no rides, no theme park characters, very little in the way of obvious "wow" factors--and really who would want to go look at science stuff when you're in the home of Mickey Mouse? But the truth is Wonderworks should be high on the list of any Orlando visitor's to-do list for a number of reasons:
1. It's small. This is just the place to fit in when you're sunburned and exahausted from a couple of days at the big parks, or when Central Florida's afternoon thunderstorms make the thought of long lines at the rides seem daunting. You can see the whole place in 3 to 4 hours and Wonderworks has made the savvy decision to keep it's doors open until midnight making it the perfect place to tack on to a late afternoon or early evening of a day's activity. Our group didn't arrive until four in the afternoon and we had plenty of time.
2. It's cheap. Granted, it was really cheap for us (thanks again Yvette!), but even for those who don't have helpful and generous cousins living in Orlando, the price for an adult full day's admission is $25, almost a quarter of the price of admission to Disney for a day, and about $60 less than the cost of a single-park ticket to Universal. A mere $20 bucks gets your kids under 12 in the door and includes admission to the 4D theater and the ropes course. The laser tag option is just $10 more.
3. It's fun! From the moment you enter the place (through a truly dizzying "inverter" that gives you the illusion of being turned upside down), the experience is first class, well-planned, and lots of fun. After your thrilling pass through the "inverter"--the idea is that the building is a mad scientists' experiment gone awry and that his inverter enables you to experience his upside down house as if you were right side up--you encounter the first of a series of rooms. Each room contains loads of fun, hands-on science activities. Virtually everything in Wonderworks lets you get involved--whether it's experiencing an earthquake or hurricane-force winds, designing and riding your own virtual roller coaster or using a computer model that depicts what you'll look like in fifty years.
Rather than being hit by the full force of the Wonderworks at once, the experience is divided up into a series of rooms, which encourages you to spend more time in each room, fully experiencing each one, before discovering the entrance to yet another room of wonders. After completing all the exhibits, you climb the stairs past dozens of mind-bending paintings and drawings by M.C. Escher and others until you reach The Basement (remember the building is "upside down.") The Basement holds an expansive video arcade, the 4-D movie theater, the laser tag course, and the ropes course. I like that they save all these activities until the end--otherwise kids might race past the exhibits in order to get to the video games, thus missing out on more than half the fun.
The Basement activities were all a cut above too. The 4-D theater provided some pretty exiting thrills and was better than any virtual ride I'd been on. The straight points system in the laser tag arena provided a maximum of action during our session there and easily outclassed any indoor laser tag experience I've had (though even this exceptional experience couldn't come close to the outdoor laser tag experience in Australia). The ropes course, dangling over the arcade, was fun and challenging too. Finally, the kids burned through the last of their pocket money on the arcade. We were there for over five hours and the kids probably would have stayed longer if we'd let them. And we didn't even go to the dinner and comedy and magic show, which from what I hear, is pretty impressive too.
So if you're looking for an an inexpensive and fun addition to your Orlando vacation for kids at least school-age or older, check out Wonderworks. Just look for the upside down house!