Downtown Myrtle Beach is full of odds and ends and plenty in between for people of all ages, vacationers or residents.
Going on the SkyWheel or Myrtle Beach Zipline Adventures, or for anyone with heavier hearts or chops, on the Sling Shot and Skyscraper thrill rides, will afford towering views of the Grand Strand and ocean.
Closer to or on the ground, Family Kingdom Amusement Park has remained a downtown staple with an oceanfront water park renamed Splashes this year, as has Ripley’s, which occupies its own block of Ocean Boulevard, between Ninth and Mr. Joe White avenues.
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium bears more than a new name. This museum reopened in late spring after a week of extensive renovations. Patrons were lined up on a Friday afternoon last month to walk inside for a cool break from an Ocean Boulevard hoppin’ with summer heat and activity.
Upon entry, don’t miss a model figure of Erik Sprague, with his snakelike, bifurcated tongue and tattoo-laden body.
Upstairs into a tribute to ancient Egypt and King Tut, let your eyes scan an 8-foot-long, 125-pound replica of a ship in which Cleopatra sailed only once, to reach Rome. Made of gum and sugar, this model lets viewers imagine how its real-life version took five years to build, and would tally 50 to 60 miles a day, on the muscle of about 90 galley slaves.
Flukes of human nature have quite the home in the Odditorium.
Lines of families awaited a turn for photographs by a wax figure of Robert Wadlow, an Illinoisan known as the tallest human of all time, topping off 8 feet 11.1 inches in his almost 22 1/2 years of life. A brief biography playing in that part of the Circus Room gallery explains how by age 15, he had reached 7 feet 10 inches and weighed 300 pounds, growing by age 21 to 8 feet 8 inches.
Nearby, check out the bodily anomalies of two Chinese men, one whose head included a protruding 13-inch horn like a unicorn, and another with double pupils – four eyes in a different context.
A lock of hair from Darla Reed sits behind glass, stretching 76 inches, longer than her 5-foot-2 stature and most of the peering visitors.
Jessica Mula, marketing and public relations coordinator for Ripley’s Attractions in Myrtle Beach, said the building first opened in the 1970s, and underwent upgrades in 1985, before “a complete interior renovation” this year.
Replacing the Graveyard Gallery with the “Tech Depot,” with such superhero figures as Iron Man, has been a hit.
Mula called that stop, a spacious area for a break from the intensity of the galleries, “wicked cool.”
“That whole room,” she said, “people just love it. ... It’s open and fresh and new and fun.”
On the subject of heights, Mula said “anything that’s taller,” including Iron Man at about 8 feet, mesmerizes visitors.
Art also takes on innovative forms and designs across the Odditorium.
A portrait of the late Lucille Ball might puzzle viewers, exactly the intention of Doug Powell, with his aversion to predesigned puzzle projects. He constructed this work honoring the comedienne from western New York state using pieces from about 90 different salvaged jigsaw puzzles. Notice how not one piece interlocks, but stand back and see how they all connect visually.
Gladys McRae made a U.S. flag out of about 7,000 ribbons from state fairs, and Greg Constantine took his own “Poetic License,” lining up the lyrics to the first and common verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with words voiced on vanity license plates from all 50 states. The Florida plate plays the caboose with “brave,” and North and South Carolina are back to back about four-fifths of the way through, with “was still” and “there,” respectively.
Wilmer Lam used cigarettes not for inhaling, but for crafting a portrait of actor Robert Downey Jr., through burning the tobacco and finger painting with ashes. Another wall shows how J. Scott Blake scanned in his own interpretation of Elvis’ likeness, with only bar codes.
Ezekiel Ola and Tomi Fadeyi from Philadelphia enjoyed their visit to the Odditorium. The “Iron Maiden” of Nuremberg – not a reference to the heavy metal icons – triggered a yelp when the deck in front of the coffin with knives dipped all of a sudden, an intended effect.
They said this museum resembled the caliber and interactivity of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square in New York City and liked how the Myrtle Beach site has posted so many short video clips throughout its halls.
“It paints a picture for you to be able to see,” Ola said.
Speaking of pictures, act like you have dancing shoes on when leaving the Odditorium through a large, dark room with a wall-size video screen that molds guests’ figures with flowing colors and motion, even some psychedelic hues, much as Kool & the Gang did to groove with their music video to “Get Down On It” in the early 1980s. You might as well get down before you get out of the building!