Shrunken heads, presidential portraits rendered in fast food fat and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry all share something in common, believe it or not. They can all be found under the same roof at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium in Baltimore.
Wild, wacky, wonderful and just plain hard to believe wonders await visitors to this unique museum nestled amongst the historic ships, quaint shops and beautiful views in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Blowing puffs of smoke and beckoning the adventurous to come explore, “Chessie” the sea monster of the Chesapeake Bay, sits perched atop the entrance as a “three legged” one man band plays a catchy tune in the welcome center.
From the moment my kids caught a glimpse of the “life sized” Bumble Bee (of Transformers fame) in the entrance, I knew we were in for some fun. This museum is a mix of educational,. inspirational and, well.. a little bit odd. It wouldn’t do Robert Ripley justice if it weren’t.
The Odditorium is chock full of displays of art and artistry, history and oddities. My seven year old daughter was the first to find the candy portrait of Justin Bieber, naturally. Several life-like sculptures of iconic characters of Ripley fame grace the halls of the Odditorium in statue form. The Lizzard- Man was my personal favorite. My husband posed for a photo with a neck-ring bedazzled Kayan Lahwi woman.
Tiaras and swords of historic figures (in replica) are on display with faux shrunken heads. We couldn’t help but be in awe of the microscopic sculptures created in the eyes of needles. Each room has a new theme and interactive displays that keep kids engaged long enough for parents to read the stories of the items on display.
Being the Harry Potter dork –that I proudly am– I was most impressed with the scale model of Hogwarts made entirely out of toothpicks! I only I could have shrunken myself to scale so I could attend one of Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration classes. We spent a good two hours exploring the nooks and crannies of the Odditorium, and I suspect we barely brushed the surface. The kids were demanding that we push on to the mirror maze.
Imagine every Hall of Mirrors you’ve seen in a movie that featured an old fashion carnival. Now add to that doors that open and close, floors that seem to vanish beneath you and long hallways with gothic arches. This is exactly the setting inside Ripley’s Mirror Maze, and it is a blast! I thought that I’d easily be able to get my bearings and lead my little expedition through the maze. Wrong. I was just as disoriented as they were, thought I didn’t face-plant into a wall like my son did.
Next up was the thrill of the 4-D Moving Theater. One part ride, one part movie, totally fun! At first the theater looks like any other, you are even outfitted with the same 3-D glasses you’ll find at the local Multi-Plex. This isn’t your grandma’s 3-D though. The seats vibrate, tilt and bounce in time with an exciting hoverboard race through a post-apocalyptic urban obstacle course. Air cannons blow through your hair as you get left in the dust. Next up it a race down the slopes that even Lindsey Vonn would be impressed by, complete with bumps, bounces and even snow!
Things you need to know, before your go (and you should go!):
The Odditorium, Mirror Maze and 4-D Moving Theater are all priced separately.
Without giving anything away., there are several things that are designed to startle with loud noises, air cannons, break away pieces and a few things even pop out at you. I’d advise letting the older kids find these features.
Some of the exhibits are a little intense and may not be the right fit for younger kids. My youngest is six and we had to talk her past a few things.
Open things up, look behind things, really explore and you’ll find lots of hidden features.
The staff will provide you with plastic gloves when entering the mirror maze. This is to keep smudges off the glass. Plan ahead and bring along your own gloves or mittens, if you don’t like sweaty paws (I do not).
There is no gift shop (that I was able to find), though there is a wax station where you can have your hands immortalized in a number of ways that would make Madame Tussaud envious.
The gallery that houses the mirrored dance area (this is in the main museum) is rather loud, if you have kiddos with sensory issues, you may want to steer clear.
Plan for a day of fun, take it slow and explore!
With my family, once they’ve been to a museum they aren’t necessarily begging to go back again, not the case here. I’ve already had requests to put a repeat visit on our summer schedule. That is about the best endorsement a place gets from my kids.
Disclosure: My family and I were provided complimentary admission to this attraction. I was not asked to write a review (of any sort) in exchange for admission. Opinions expressed here are entirely my own.