If you are my age, you probably grew up reading the Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon in your daily paper. I can remember being fascinated and excited by Ripley's observations of the curiosities from all corners of the globe.
So I was very excited to have been given the opportunity to take my family to the new Ripley's Odditorium at the Baltimore Harbor when we visited there for my mother-in-law's 80th birthday last month. I was given the tickets (at 27.99 per person for the four of us, this was a big perk, I'll admit!) in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own.
It was a beautiful cool afternoon (amazing for May) when we approached the museum, which was not there the last time we visited the inner harbor. We enjoyed the breeze and the beautiful sights.
The museum is located on Light Street, right in the heart of everything as you can see, with an easy walk to food, shopping, and the other attractions. We also were able to find parking close by, but be prepared--it's not cheap.
Now, one of the things I was secretly thinking is that Ripley's didn't really belong in downtown Baltimore. Visiting there instead of the Aquarium (for example) seemed akin to going to McDonald's for supper instead of eating crabs. But as you can see above Ripley's has done their homework to make this Odditorium special and integral to the Harbor.
The sea monster is Chessie, rumored to be a resident of the Chesapeake Bay. And this was one of several local touches we discovered.
We started by looking at the wax models and other displays in the lobby before heading up the staircase to discover more treasures.
We saw another local touch almost immediately--this reprint of one of Ripley's columns on the wallpaper!
Chessie got a whole display to herself!
Another local-themed display showcased the life and art of Johnny Eck, a Baltimore native who performed on the freak show circuit back in the day. It was a sympathetic and nuanced portrait that made me want to learn more about Mr. Eck.
The variety of exhibits at a Ripley's Odditorium is astonishing. You never know what you are going to find around the next corner. There are many human oddities, like Mr. Eck and these photos below:
There are examples of human ingenuity, like this giant penny made of pennies and this replica of Hogwarts Castle made of matchsticks:
And there are genuine artifacts from all over the world, both rare and old, that Robert Ripley collected on his travels, like these items pictured below:
Ripley's also goes the extra mile to entertain, covering every inch of the space right down to the bathrooms:
There are also many interactive exhibits, both old-fashioned and newfangled!
We spent about an hour and a half going through the museum. We (John and I) could have spent much longer--it's 15,000 square feet, after all! But the kids were always running ahead, all excited, and calling back to us to see what was around the next corner.
Our tickets also entitled us to a visit to the 4-D Moving Theatre and the Marvelous Mirror Maze. The Maze was fun, and not too difficult to navigate although we did lose John at one point. It didn't take very long, though, and I expect you might be disappointed if you paid for just that experience and it was over so quickly.
I had no idea what to expect from the theatre. It wasn't my cup of tea (because that kind of thing makes me nauseated, frankly!) but I thought it was very well done. It's like an Imax theatre only the seats also move and there some other effects that I will leave out lest I spoil the surprise, but it was a very realistic experience, probably worth the price of admission.
We had a great time and I am happy to recommend the Baltimore Ripley's Odditorium (in fact, I DID recommend it to John's cousin later that afternoon!).
But if you go, watch out for Chessie! BELIEVE IT . . . OR NOT!