The bend of the Parkway shortly after the transition from Sevierville to Pigeon Forge is one of the more surreal stretches of land in the Smokies.
Everything appears to be seemingly normal. There are hotels and restaurants – including the McDonalds that sits on the land where my wife and her family lived when she was a young girl.
Pretty standard stuff, really.
Then, as you cross the Hard Rock Cafe, things get weird quickly. There’s the looming silhouette of the Titanic rising above the hill ahead.
Across the Parkway sits a pair of giant hands holding an extremely out-of-date camera above the entrance to a building being crushed by a falling skyscraper, also known as Beyond the Lens!
Don’t worry kids. It’s just a “museum” trying to distance itself from a disastrous launch with the National Enquirer branding.
Throw in the conceptually out-of-place Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show, and the bizarre concept of the Buttonwillow Civil War Theater and you have legitimately one of the strangest confluences of attractions this side of Vegas.
And that doesn’t include the upside-down building.
An upside down building?
I said what I said.
The upside-down building is actually a museum by the name of WonderWorks.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of WonderWorks – a franchise of kid-friendly museums scattered across tourist locations like here in Pigeon Forge, Orlando, Panama City and of course, Syracuse, New York – the sight of an upside-down building that looks like the courthouse from “Back to the Future” can be arresting.
But inside the building – which is right side up – it’s pretty standard kids museum fare. It’s entertaining, fun and begrudgingly educational.
But for those of you unfamiliar with the WonderWorks concept, let’s tackle a few frequently asked questions.
Why is the house upside down?
You couldn’t start with an easy question?
The best answer is “Man, I don’t know.” My best guess is somebody in WonderWorks corporate, possibly the founders, were way too clever and had way too high of a budget.
“If we put the building upside down, that’ll really grab their attention.”
“What if we just had a regular façade and filled the building with quality exhibits like every other museum in the world?”
“What? No. It’s gotta be upside down. It’s genius.”
The WonderWorks website explains it thusly:
“WonderWorks began as a Top Secret research laboratory on a remote island in the Bermuda Triangle. During this experiment, something went awry, and the power of the tornado was unleashed inside the laboratory.”
“This created a swirling vortex that was strong enough to rip the laboratory from its foundation,” the website continues. “It was carried thousands of miles away and landed upside-down … the rest, as they say, is history.”
Yeah. History that happened six times and landed in tourist-friendly locations.
You also have to walk through some kind of “inversion” tunnel thing at the entrance to explain why everything on the inside isn’t also upside down. There’s not enough room in my head for how much I roll my eyes every time I walk through that thing.
What’s inside the upside down house?
Other than the inversion tunnel there’s a series of exhibits. They’re called Wonder Zones.
Each Wonder Zone has a theme like weather, space, art and more. They play a little fast and loose with some of the themes. The Physical Challenge Zone is basically sports stuff, and the Light and Sound Zone has a lot to do with television and video games.
Of course, those two were among my kids’ favorites, so take that for what it’s worth.
What is there to do besides look at the exhibits?
Each “Wonder Zone” has interactive exhibits, rides and things like that. In the sports zone, there’s a ball toss game which is basically a big sports video game you stand inside.
There’s also a ropes course, 4D XD simulator ride and a laser tag arena. And Extreme Bikes 360, like a motorcycle gyroscope thing and the Wonder Coaster, a virtual roller coaster that pitches and inverts to simulate a series of dream coasters.
How much is the upside down house in Pigeon Forge?
Can I tell them my money fell out of my pocket in the inversion tunnel? No. Trust me. They’ve heard that one and they are NOT amused.
At the time of this writing, tickets for adults are $31.99 and children (ages 4-12) are $24.99 as are seniors 60 and over. You can also buy tickets (usually at a $5-$6 discount) on Tripster.
Children under four are free.
Have you been to the “upside-down” house in Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.