Welcome to WonderWorks! The Smokies only upside down attraction. An amusement park for the mind, featuring over 100 interactive exhibits for the entire family to experience.
In the late 1950s, the classic TV show “The Twilight Zone” kicked off each episode with a spellbinding introduction: “You’re traveling through another dimension-a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.” Some 50 years later, it turns out that host Rod Serling could just as easily have been describing a day at WonderWorks, Pigeon Forge’s newest and most anticipated attraction.
Part interactive science museum, part entertainment venue and 100 percent family fun, WonderWorks is located on the Parkway, in the former Music Mansion Theater. But what visitors discover when they pull into the parking lot bears little resemblance to the attractions that Pigeon Forge guests are accustomed to seeing. The building’s 82-foot-tall facade makes it appear as if an entirely different building has crash-landed upside down on top of the one-time theater. Hissing steam emanating from a crack at the museum’s entrance only, enhances the illusion that a disaster of staggering proportions has just taken place.
“Understanding the folklore behind the apparent catastrophe is all part of the fun,” says Sande Weiss, WonderWorks’ vice president of operations. “WonderWorks began on a remote, uncharted island off the Atlantic coast, in the middle of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle,” she says. “As the story goes, governments from around the globe collaborated to create the world’s most technically advanced research facility for scientists to study unexplained, unpredictable and uncontrollable phenomena.”
Legend has it that one experiment went awry, and in an attempt to harness the power of a man-made tornado, a giant swirling vortex formed, spun out of control and took on a life of its own, unleashing its power throughout the laboratories. The energy vortex was so powerful that it sent the entire structure of the laboratory skyward, hundreds of miles away, where it landed upside down in the heart of Pigeon Forge’s Music Row.
As you step inside the 45,000-square-foot WonderWorks, however, legend blends seamlessly into reality as you take in the lobby, where the topsy-turvy interior of a stately scientific institute looms overhead, fresh from its sky-high plummet.
“When you enter the building, everything will be upside down, so in order to participate in the fun, you must be inverted,” explains Weiss. Guests pass through an inversion tunnel, which uses special lighting effects to create the sensation of being flipped upside down. Once you’ve passed through the tunnel, you’re greeted with proof positive that you’ve gone end up; as you gaze through the windows looking out on to the parkway, you’ll see that everything outside-cars, pedestrians and all-now appear upside down.
And that’s just the beginning. Once you’re properly aligned for your adventure, more than 100 interactive, hands-on exhibits await your exploration as you move from room to room, each of which is based on a different theme.
In the Disaster Zone, for example, simulators help you experience a 5.3-magnitude earthquake, or you can go head to head with hurricane-force winds. In the Space Zone, you can try your hand at landing a space shuttle orbiter, and in the Lights and Sound room, you can be amazed by a variety of nifty optical effects or do some fancy legwork as you play a giant keyboard with your feet.
According to Weiss, the Control Center houses one of the most amazing exhibits inside WonderWorks. “You get to design your own roller coaster and then get inside a simulator that takes you on a ride, based on what you just created,” she says. “It’s so realistic. The vehicle is controlled by a mechanical arm that makes it feel just like you’re riding a roller coaster.”
Other areas of WonderWorks include, a small theater venue that shows a video about the wonders of the world and the Illusion Gallery, where nothing is really what it appears to be. On the upper level of the attraction, guests will find a laser tag area and a large video arcade.
Address: 100 Music Road, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Phone: (865) 868-1800
Photo Credit: Emmett Tullos