Monday 18 August 2014

A Birthday visit to Ripleys Believe It or Not! London

It was my birthday last week and with my 40th last year being a bit of a wash-out I was determined that we should celebrate as a family and have some fun. So it was decided that an overnight trip to London was needed and we had a very lovely couple of days walking, eating and exploring some new places.

One of the places we went to visit was Ripleys - Believe It or Not! in Piccadilly, London. I'd not heard of this attraction before they contacted me recently but when I mentioned it to my 10 year old son JJ, he got all excited 'oh yes Mum, I so want to go there. There are loads of interesting facts and all weird stuff. I've got the book'.  So on that strong recommendation I arranged a visit for the weekend.

Last Saturday was super busy in London, far too much for me. You literally could not move in Leicester Square, so I was expecting Ripleys Believe It or Not! to be uncomfortably busy but I was very pleasantly surprised to find a queue of just about 15 people in front of us and this was gone through within 5 minutes. JJ was super happy anyway as he found a door you could open that screamed when you did and this set his expectation that loads of fun would follow.

One of the first exhibits you see is the swarovski crystal covered Mini Cooper, worth over £500,000. This new exhibit has travelled from America to be in London and uses over a million crystals in 50 different colours to represent the 50 states in America, it also depicts many classic American icons like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore.

I'm not really sure how to explain what Ripleys Believe It or Not! is, so I'll use this bit from their website -
At Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London visitors can marvel at an unbelievable collection of jaw dropping artefact's from across the globe – many of which were collected by the ultimate explorer Robert Ripley himself. With over 700 astonishing exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences spanning across 6 floors, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre in all its forms, which are sure to excite, delight and thrill the whole family. Want to see how will you measure up to the world’s tallest man? Or come face to face with our rare collection of Amazonian shrunken heads? Will you dare to venture into Ripley’s Marvellous Mirror Maze and defeat the Impossible LaseRace?
And actually look at this short video clip as this gives a really good insight and idea.

The Best Bits
Probably my favourite part of the attraction was the artwork. It is truly amazing what you can use to make great art - bottle tops, tape from cassettes, keyboard keys, matchsticks, leaves, dung and even toast!

I also enjoyed the hall of exotica as it was interesting to see what other cultures use.

Of course the part the kids loved best was the interactive exhibits and JJ said he would have liked more of these. There was an awful lot of things to just look at and for my boisterous and busy kids this is not what they want to do generally.

I asked JJ for a comment about Ripleys Believe It or Not! and he said 'It was good but not the best' and I then asked him to compare it to going to somewhere like the Science Museum and he said he would prefer the museum as there is more to get involved with and explore. JJ also commented that he thought Ripleys Believe It or Not! could make their signage/ commentary more interesting. Other places we have been to have made the kids lift doors, looks in boxes, match up answers etc but at Ripleys Believe It or Not! it was mainly just reading a straight forward sign about what the exhibit is.

In fairness there were a few areas where you could watch. There was an excellent holograph of Ripley himself at the beginning explaining about how all the artefact's were gathered and then at others times there were short explanatory shows. Like about the shrunken heads and then another showing a man doing some odd swallowing and regurgitating trick, that one felt a bit like an old fashioned circus side show if I'm being honest. JJ tells tells me there was a few clips together that we could have stood and watched but they were shown in a big empty room which felt as it if should have had chairs or benches in so you could sit and watch for longer if you liked.

I asked my 7 year old twins about their favourite bits and Miss E (who is dyslexic) said she liked seeing all the art as she wants to be an artist herself when she is older but she thought lots of things were boring as she could not read the signage herself.

My husband said there were some interesting areas within Ripleys Believe It or Not!, he really enjoyed being able to talk to our kids about the Berlin Wall and the Olympics area was really good but these were combined with other areas that were just a bit 'freak showish' for us. Within the Dungeon area there was some very macabre items and whilst it was interesting to discuss some of them with my 10 year old the idea of my children having their picture taken in a chastity belt just seemed so wrong.  It was good that you could take a route to miss the dungeon if you did not want to go through it.

LaseRace, Mirror Maze and the Black Hole
Miss M said her best bit was the LaseRace, this is at the end of the tour and you can choose your level of difficultly and try and get through the maze of lasers without breaking the beams and in the quickest time to get added to the leader board. You got one go at this in the price and could pay £2 for another 2 goes if you fancied.

JJ loved all of these. He mastered the mirror maze in no time and as it was not too busy he kept going in again and again and the black hole freaked me out entirely as I could not maintain my composure and was convinced the bridge was moving under my feet, of course it was not!

Sadly the interactive graffiti wall exhibit was out of action when we visited.

Cost & General Visitor Details
If we had turned up on the day and bought our tickets we would have spent just short of £100 for 2 adults and 3 children and if we purchased in advance via the website it would have been £85 which is a good saving but it is still a lot of money to spend, especially considering we were only in the attraction for about 2.5 hours.

Ripleys Believe It or Not!, London is really easy to access with buses, tubes and trains serving it frequently. The opening hours of 10am - midnight are excellent and it is accessible for those with disabilities. We used a couple of the toilets on site and both were very well used and a bit grotty with wet floors and smelly bins.

I noticed there were audio guides available in various languages and you can arrange for a guide too, I imagine it would be an interesting school visit.

The cafe was really nice in the middle of some exhibits and we were able to buy a drink and snack. We paid £1.50 for bottled water, £1.75 for a bottle of Coke and 90p for polos.

As with most attractions nowadays you leave via the gift shop and thus the kids beg you for various sweets and knick-nacks!

I'm glad we went to Ripleys Believe or Not! as now we have seen some very unusual exhibits and learnt a few new facts but if I'm honest it is the kind of place I'd only visit the one time. If you love the odd and the unusual  then this will definitely be for you.

Disclosure: We received complimentary entry for our family for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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