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Not your ordinary attraction

A construction worker walks past the front entrance of the new WonderWorks building set to open in early April at Broadway at the Beach. According to WonderWorks, the attraction will be an "amusement park for the mind," featuring 100 hands-on exhibits. The Myrtle Beach site is the attraction's 4th home with 50,000 square feet in size and 97 feet in height. The building is a classically designed mansion with the appearance of landing upside-down.
A construction worker walks past the front entrance of the new WonderWorks building set to open in early April at Broadway at the Beach. According to WonderWorks, the attraction will be an "amusement park for the mind," featuring 100 hands-on exhibits. The Myrtle Beach site is the attraction's 4th home with 50,000 square feet in size and 97 feet in height. The building is a classically designed mansion with the appearance of landing upside-down.

Don't look for Dorothy and Toto standing outside WonderWorks even though everything sits upside down on the tilted exterior, like a tornado just dropped it near U.S. 17 Bypass and 21st Avenue North.

The same upside-down scenario applies in the lobby, with its stairway, light fixtures, and a cabinet with a lamp on top, to make your head turn in curiosity.

However, with a walk through an inversion tunnel just past the admissions desk, the whole scene inside this scientific playground for all ages turns right side up and level.

Robert Stinnett, general manager, led a tour last week of what he described as an "amusement park for the mind," as contractors continued setting up and polishing the more than 100 interactive exhibits spanning four floors to prep the attraction for an early April opening.

The construction project started last May from the ground up on the site of the former Crab House Restaurant at Broadway at the Beach. Stinnett said the 10-story structure reaches 404 feet at its apex. It's the company's fourth site, in addition to Orlando and Panama City Beach, Fla., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Interaction galore

Exhibits range in subject and style, and are sure to appeal to visitors of all ages who have a variety of interests.

The Xtreme 360 sounds like a roller coaster, but it's a suspended bicycle contraption that when pedaled with enough strength, will flip the rider all the way around.

With the season starting, baseball fans might like the Velocity Ball pitching machine, where they can not only measure the mustard of their speed, but opt for their opponent on a life-size screen.

"You pick the Major League player to throw to," Stinnett said.

Power hitters Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, who was in Myrtle Beach on Tuesday for an exhibition game at BB&T Coastal Field, or the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, can step into the batter's box.

Climbing each floor, visitors will see how each step contains artwork; for example, the face of Benjamin Franklin on the first flight up, leading to a corridor honoring such scientists as Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and Nikola Tesla.

"All of our stairwells are artgalleries," Stinnett said.

Bed of nails

Upstairs, a bed of 3,596 nails awaits anyone willing to recline for a moment.

"It teaches you about the dispersion of your weight," Stinnett said, showing up close the tubes for each nail that extend upward for the demonstration. "You lie on it, and the attendant will push the table up."

Another pointy feeling awaits at the WonderWall, where people can press against a panel of 40,000 pins for a three-dimensional impression. Stinnett said plans already are under way to enlarge this apparatus so whole families can team up to make a dent.

Nearby, two simulators offer a choice for a guest to design a virtual roller coaster or subway ride.

"You can go up, down, sideways and around," Stinnett said of the 360-degree flexibility in customizing such a thrill.

The Bubble Lab will put its own stretch on physics.

"You can put your whole body in a bubble," Stinnett said. "Kids love this room."

A machine that focuses on the flipping of a coin notes the 50-50 chance, of course, of seeing it land heads or tails. Press the button to flip the coin five times, and see which side wins the most, then go once more.

The top level, the Space Room, houses a rope course 40 feet high, as well as an arcade and laser-tag area.

Family appeal

Stinnett, whose employer, WonderWorks Management, opened Soar & Explore last year at Broadway at the Beach with an outdoor Zipline Adventure and Ropes Challenge Course, said adding WonderWorks as a neighbor fits in with Myrtle Beach as a family destination.

He said anyone can look at some scientific oddity and learn something.

"The whole family can share the experience," Stinnett said. "You share with your kids things you learned in school."

Walking around the building, including the outdoor half of the cafe, the world turns upside down again. Peer upward to see the detailing that went into making the exterior look like its frame is fractured from end to end. In front, no dog will ever come close to the lone, red fire hydrant dangling, but affixed, in a corner.

Bill Richards, a contractor from Florida, stood on a ladder in the chilly sunshine adding more fine features with his brush on the front wall. He pointed upward to each window behind pillars made to look like they bear cracks, and smiled at so many little details that appear more grand from afar.

"I love art," Richards said. "I love this."

Joking about making the building appear as though a twister dropped it in Myrtle Beach upside down, then welcoming people to right their world again inside with experiments in force, speed and effects, Stinnett said the goal centers on stimulating the mind with awe.

"When you learn, you have fun," he said.

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