Ripley’s has enthralled audiences for more than nine decades with its dedication to revealing odd and unexplainable rarities from around the globe. But it all began with one man: Robert Ripley, a wildly successful and eccentric character who rose to fame during the first half of the 20th century. After selling his first cartoon to Life magazine at age 14, he set out on a quick-paced career of drawing sports cartoons for the New York Globe. During a slow day at the office, he sketched nine unusual sporting events and finished his work with a title: “Believe It or Not!” It became immensely popular, allowing Ripley to travel the world in search of more bizarre stories to put into his comic strips. While visiting relatively unknown areas in locales such as India, China, and the inside of his neighbor’s chimney, he picked up a slew of unbelievable souvenirs that later became fixtures in several of Ripley’s museums, or as they’re affectionately called today, Odditoriums. Ripley’s now encompasses publications, attractions, a television show, and a blog, all of which carry Ripley’s tradition of reporting on the world’s curiosities.
At Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium, one of the primary goals is to get visitors excited about the ocean. To that end, the facility offers engaging educational programs and fun activities designed to enhance visits to its public aquarium, which houses blue-spotted stingrays, lionfish, and sharks. Visitors get introduced to aquatic marvels via hands-on exhibits covering topics such as marine mammals, turtle rescue, and mermaid sign language. In addition to leading onsite activities, expert staff members take youngsters on informative snorkeling trips in the Florida Keys. The facility is also great for families, senior citizens, groups, and is handicapped-accessible.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden garnered a best-day-trip award from Charlotte magazine in 2009 for its copious collection of exotic and endangered animals that captures the majesty and variety of the wild. Explorers of all ages journey through nine locales that artfully re-create natural habitats, encountering ring-tailed lemurs, slender-tailed meerkats, and tale-spinning birds that sing of their raucous college days. When it's time to smell the roses, adventurers may cool their heels in one of five botanical gardens, each representative of a different plant group. Budding zoologists and their families may engage in animal demonstrations and discover the keys to keeping rattlesnakes or learn that giraffes, unlike their animal-cookie cousins, love being fed.