A local dad compares Pigeon Forge’s WonderWorks and Beyond the Lens
In a battle of entertainment venues, the only true winner is those of us who wish to be, well, “‘entertained”.
In one corner stands WonderWorks, the venerated Pigeon Forge attraction of the upside-down facade, an attraction aiming to educate and entertain. WonderWorks bills itself as an amusement park for the mind with more than 100 hands-on exhibits. The WonderWorks brand of edutainment mines the world of science and brings visitors to space, explores extreme weather and invites them to test the boundaries of their own imagination. And it has a really cool four-person Pac-Man game.
In the other corner, is the relative upstart Beyond the Lens Family Fun, which aims for a different slice of the entertainment pie. Beyond the Lens explores pop culture with interactive games, photo-ops and something called “techno-tainment”. While techno-tainment will not require you to “Pump up the Jam” it will celebrate questionable decision-making, such as allowing attendees to pose like Kim Kardashian under an arc of champagne, jump into an adult-sized bubble pit and pose like they were in a police line-up. After all, who doesn’t want to come on vacation and reenact scenes from the “Law and Order” franchise?
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What I liked (and didn’t) at Beyond the Lens
In 2019 a perplexed executive explained to the Branson News that visitors weren’t connecting with the original concept based on the “very rich, 80-year history of one of America’s favorite tabloids.” In response, a spokesperson for the Gullion household said “LOL. No duh.” Setting aside the decision of tying your new attraction to an ancient printed tabloid known to embrace kayfabe and in-depth reporting on Michael Jackson’s attempt to purchase the remains of the Elephant Man, Beyond the Lens is actually pretty fun.
If your kids like thrills, there’s the FlyRide where they can soar over America in motion seats with effects to make the experience feel real. And there is the Flip Zone, which is like bumper cars in an anti-gravity chair. There are several exhibits that hint at the attraction’s tabloid past. The Search for Bigfoot is an interactive experience that explores the myths of the mighty ‘Squatch.
There’s also a chance for families to Walk the Red Carpet and get a feel for what it’s like to be the focus of the paparazzi. In what is the museum’s most “educational” but also kind of creepy exhibit there’s a deep dive into the crimes of the previous century. Included is tabloid fare like OJ Simpson, JonBenet Ramsey, Laci Peterson and more. There’s a part of me that wants to mock the celebrity mugshot trivia challenge, but I aced it. So you know … something about glass houses and throwing stones.
What I liked (and didn’t) at WonderWorks
At WonderWorks, the pretense on education is a little more serious. The exhibits, in my opinion, are a bit superior. However, the WonderWorks facility in Pigeon Forge is showing its age. For example, when we went a couple of months ago, there were some things that weren’t working or not working correctly. It needed a good sprucing-up overall.
WonderWorks bills itself as “edutainment” and there is certainly quite a bit of “edu”. But there’s far more “tainment”, including laser tag, a 4D XD simulator ride and an indoor ropes course that goes up into the upside-down buildings’ rafters. Of the attraction’s six zones, we enjoyed the Extreme Weather, the Physical Challenge, the Light and Fun Zone and Space Discovery best. Maybe it was an off day, but the art gallery was just something to take up space and walk through.
Which is cheaper? WonderWorks or Beyond the Lens?
Beyond the Lens tickets are cheaper than WonderWorks tickets. At the time of this writing, Beyond the Lens tickets are $28.99 for adults and $16.99 for kids ages 5-12. FlyRide adult tickets are $19.99 and $14.99 for kids. Combo tickets can also be purchased. Occasionally you can even save a couple of dollars on admission by booking online using Tripster ahead of your arrival. But the best Beyond the Lens deals are usually found on their Groupon page (up to 38% off general admission).
WonderWorks tickets, at the time of this writing, are $33.99 for adults, $25.99 for children (ages 4-12) and $25.99 for seniors (60 and up). Discounted WonderWorks tickets are also available when booking using WonderWork’s Tripster page. Both attractions are located on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
Which is better? WonderWorks or Beyond the Lens?
Ultimately, I can’t tell you what is best for you and your family. But here’s my two cents. There are positives to both, I just feel like the “entertainment” level at WonderWorks is higher. Having recently taken my family to Pigeon Forge and chosen between the two, I chose WonderWorks. I will likely do the same next time. Well, at least until I can go through the museum without taking 15 minutes to rehash the grassy knoll and the rampage of Scott Peterson with my 8-year-old.
Which do you think is better? WonderWorks or Beyond the Lens? Let us know in the comments.