PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — As an attention getter, it’s the tops. Or maybe it’s the topsy-turvy.
No one had warned me about a hands-on interactive center named WonderWorks in Panama City Beach. It’s not the kind of sight you expect to see.
I was on my way to Liza’s Kitchen to enjoy a gourmet sandwich for lunch. And there it sat. A huge, three-story, classically-designed building that looked as though it has been picked up and tossed upside down onto the beach resort.
The lampposts dangled upside down. The trees had their roots pointed toward the sky and their leafy tops aimed at the ground.
Sure makes you wonder. And that’s the whole point.
WonderWorks is a place where reality and fantasy mix. It’s a fun way to learn about some of the world’s unusual phenomena. Adults and children both were enjoying the Florida center when I stopped in.
“What I like is that my grandchildren have fun and learn at the same time,” said Marilyn Calloway of New Jersey. “We thought we’d come in here during the sunniest part of the day and give the kids a break from the beach.”
NATURAL MYSTERIES EXPLORED
The attraction is a place where the unexplainable comes to life and natural mysteries are explored. This is done with sophisticated graphic and audio techniques.
WonderWorks even has a tale to explain how it came to be. The story is pure fantasy, of course.
The murky origins of WonderWorks reportedly began on a remote, uncharted island in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast, the story goes. It was supposed to be located in that spooky place, the mysterious Bermuda Triangle.
Governments from around the globe got together to build the world’s most technically advanced research facility for scientists to study unexplainable, unpredictable or uncontrollable phenomena, the story goes.
Leading scientists gathered there to conduct experiments — far removed from public scrutiny — seeking answers to the unusual.
The tale continues that an experiment went awry. In an attempt to harness the power of a man-made tornado, a giant swirling vortex spun out of control and created a life of its own.
Influenced by the energy of the Bermuda Triangle, the vortex altered the laboratory’s other experiments. The results were totally unforeseen.
The energy vortex lifted the huge laboratory skyway and sent it hundreds of miles away to Panama City Beach. There it crashed to earth, upside down, squarely atop a warehouse.
Functionally intact in the midst of one of the world’s most popular destination areas, the laboratory opened its door to the public. Now visitors can see and experience for themselves the strange experiences conducted in the WonderWorks laboratories.
The whole story is hogwash, keep in mind. But is an interesting and unusual premise. Some of the things to encounter in WonderWorks include:
Thanks to still-secret technology, visitors are turned upside down, enabling them to explore the upside-down laboratories. (Note for people with vertigo: You are not really turned upside down.)
Feel the effects of winds reaching 74 miles per hour. According to the Saffar-Simpson Scale, the hurricane in this simulation is a category one. Be sure and hang on.
SPEED OF LIGHT
Move like the speed of light to press the buttons on the light matrix to win points and beat the clock.
Water is traveling from the floor to the ceiling, or is it? At the touch of a special button that you control, water will appear to change direction. Look up. The change in frequency of the strobe lights is what causes the water to appear as if its directional flow has changed.
WonderWorks Pulley Challenge lets you flex your biceps. A three-station challenge, participants see the effects of sitting on a chair and using two-, three- or four- pulleys and a rope to pull themselves up.
With the addition of each pulley, the amount of body weight you must pull up is dramatically reduced. The two pulley station requires lifting approximately one-half of your body weight. The three pulley station cuts the amount of weight to just about 1/3 of your true weight; the station containing four pulleys trims your weight to about one-quarter of your actual physical body weight. These reduction devices used in pulley challenges are a great blend of science and physics.
Kids of all ages love bubbles. This exhibit is just for the fun of it. Put yourself inside a gigantic bubble that you created. Bubbles do not have their own color. They reflect and refract the light around the bubble. The colors you see on a bubble actually show the thickness (or thinness) of the bubble wall.
WonderWorks Piano is reminiscent of the movie, “Big.” Starring Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia, the two have a memorable scene in an FAO Schwartz toy store as they play piano music by dancing on huge piano keys. Visitors to the Panama City Beach attraction may choose from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “Hush Little Baby.” Of course, you could dance to a tune of your choice if your feet have a bit of “Hopscotch” in them. You’ll make music by leaps and bounds at WonderWorks.
BED OF NAILS
You’ve been out in the sun viewing Florida beach attractions and frankly you’re a little tired. It may be time to just lie down and take it easy. Anyone can just lie down…let’s make it a bit more interesting. How about lying on a bed of nails – 3,497 of them to be exact.
With your weight evenly distributed on the rigid bed, the nails rise – ever so slowly and you will be resting on the points of thousands of nails! The average pressure of 0.04kg per nail is less than the pressure required to do damage to your skin. It takes 2 kilograms of pressure to puncture the skin.
So, you get the point and a relaxing break from Panama City Beach attractions.
For more information: Contact WonderWorks at www.wonderworksonline.com/panama-city-beach/ and the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.visitpanamacitybeach.com