From the outside, Professor Wonder?s WonderWorks Pigeon Forge laboratory appears to have flipped completely on its head. When visitors enter the upside-down edifice, they must first pass through the psychedelic spinning lights of the Inversion Tunnel, which turns the building right-side-up so that families can embark on a day of entertaining educational activities.
More than 100 interactive exhibits spark excitement around natural phenomena. The facility houses a replica of an astronaut's space suit that visitors can climb inside, a gallery of mind-bending illusions, and a caf? where human beings transform food into energy through the process of digestion. There's even a display that allows guests to experience the aftershocks of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, as well as one where they can lie down on a bed of 3,500 sharp nails without receiving so much as a scratch. Additional activities include the Indoor Ropes Challenge Course, which exercises bodies and minds as challengers navigate four stories of swinging beams and suspension bridges, and the The Wonders of Magic, a variety show starring illusionist and Merlin Award winner Terry Evanswood.
With guidance from the friendly staff at Lazer Port Fun Center, spontaneous family adventures can begin with laps around the three-story go-kart track. Visiting racers and thrill-seeking spools of twine wind around corners, maneuver along helixes, and plunge down a 40-foot hill, before seeking out indoor adventures. 14,000 square feet of laser-tag landscape invite photon-fighting visitors to participate in 30-minute skirmishes, speeding across black-lit terrain and taking refuge behind alien figures while cosmic landscapes flicker in the background. After an engaging battle, visitors can settle into a 30-minute groove through the outer-space-themed mini-golf course. Cratered asteroids throw neon-yellow light on green fairways as they navigate between crashed spacecrafts, maintaining focus despite the heckling of gravity. The mesmerizing haze of LEDs and bells beckons visitors onward toward the arcade for ticket-churning rounds of prize games.
As a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee's School of Architecture, Jon Felderman savored free time away from his office job in downtown Knoxville. Ditching his button-down shirt and tie, Jon headed to the Pigeon River on the weekends during the spring of 1996 to begin his training as a river-rafting guide. In just a year, Felderman's skill and enthusiasm had earned him promotions from river guide to trip leader and then to river manager—all while he maintained his full-time architecture job. Finally, in 2004, the inexorable draw of nature inspired a massive change: Jon abandoned the rigors of city life for good, founding his own rafting company, Big Creek Expeditions. Staffed by experienced guides who share Jon's love of the great outdoors, today the company leads trips down both the upper and lower Pigeon River and orchestrates rafting and camping packages for overnight expeditioners.
By engineering an indoor, upwards-facing wind tunnel, the brilliant minds behind Flyaway Indoor Skydiving have managed to recreate the adrenalized thrill of freefalling sans the previously required airplane. In the studio’s unique flight room, ersatz divers hover several feet above ground as wind-powered force neutralizes the effects of gravity around them. While a typical outdoor skydive lasts only about a minute, Flyaway delivers a minimum of three straight minutes of simulated freefall, ensuring massive endorphin rushes and flashbacks to past lives spent as a Canadian goose. Before liftoff, the facility’s experienced trainers fill visitors in on everything they need to know about body control, safety procedures, and effective screaming techniques. Classes begin every 30 minutes and operate on a first come, first serve basis. Height and weight restrictions apply.
Runners embarking on the Honky Tonk Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K won't need headphones to hear twangy country tunes. That’s because the hilly Wisconsin Dells course features live bands and DJs along the route to keep participants energized as they race toward the finish line. The party-like atmosphere doesn’t end with the race, as a full-blown celebration complete with food, beer, and line dancing awaits runners and their family and friends. Aside from age-group awards for the top three males and females in each race, finish-line gifts include a Honky Tonk cowboy hat and goodie bag for all participants, a finisher-medal buckle for marathoners and half marathoners, and an ice bath for those who decided to pogo stick the entire 26.2 miles. The Honky Tonk marathon and half-marathon course is USA Track & Field certified and is also a Boston Marathon qualifier.
The career thrill-seekers at Outdoor Adventures of the Smokies guide quests into the Smoky Mountains by a variety of means, including helicopters, safari wagons, and ziplines. Aerial views of Tennessee's rolling farmlands and vast oceans overwhelm the senses as hot air balloons hoist at least four riders aloft from the foothills of the Smoky Mountains National Park. The lower Pigeon River's gentle class I and II rapids sharpen the skills of beginner whitewater rafters as they spend 90 minutes maneuvering frothy crests. Up to 12 land-bound adventurers can pile into monster trucks for five heart-racing laps around a track with two large hills, two petite mounds, and two traffic lights that turn yellow at the last second.