Before entering the upside-down laboratory of Professor Wonder, visiting scientists must pass through the psychedelic, spinning lights of the Inversion Tunnel, reorienting themselves in preparation for a day of activities both entertaining and educational. More than 100 interactive exhibits inspire excitement about natural phenomena, including a replica of NASA's Mercury capsule that visitors can climb inside of, a gallery of mind-bending illusions, and the lab where new scientists are grown in bed-sized petri dishes. Experience the winds of a category-one hurricane inside a simulator, guard a virtual soccer goal, and lie down on a bed of nearly 3,500 sharp nails without so much as a scratch. Additional activities include the indoor Ropes Challenge Course, which exercises bodies and minds as challengers navigate several stories of swinging beams and suspension bridges, and a laser-tag arena (not included with regular admission).
Although true time travel is still a thing of science fiction, Teddy and Jenny Meeks have captured a similar sensation at Pier Park. In 2009, the couple purchased the 1964 Allan Herschell Carousel that had been an iconic attraction at the now-closed Miracle Strip Amusement Park. The 30 horses and two chariots were immediately swarmed with giddy riders—some children, and some adults who fondly remembered feeding the horses wooden apples at the carousel's former home. The spinning steeds so charmed the locals that Teddy and Jenny began a more comprehensive revival. They bought Miracle Strip's 1985 Balloon Race and 1952 Red Baron rides, and when they couldn't find the park's original 1975 Ferris wheel, they hunted for one of the same make and model.
The Big Eli wheel now awards its guests views over the Gulf of Mexico and several other classic rides, including a Tilt-a-Whirl and train cars that kids crank by hand. Flowers cloak hanging baskets, and topiaries mimicking animal figures accent sandy paths, adding to the venue's picturesque nostalgia. Teddy and Jenny have also installed a butterfly pavilion, about which Bay Life magazine reports that visitors can glimpse 700 flying specimens, hatching cocoons, and caterpillars drawing up blueprints for wings.