By Eva Whalen
If you want to see that thrilled, eye-popping expression usually reserved for heaps of presents and shooting stars, usher your kids into Times Square for an evening at Madame Tussaud’s and the new Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Located next to each other, they’re different enough to provide a rich variety, yet each is spectacular in its own way. They also provide a more subtle way to fuse history, politics and science into an evening’s entertainment than a trip to a traditional museum, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re in close proximity to a dozen kid-friendly theme restaurants in New York’s version of Disneyland.
There is so much to experience at Ripleys’ Believe It or Not that it actually rivals other interactive museums. True, you’ll see the requisite two-legged dogs and three-legged humans, but a trove of factual and historical information offsets the bearded ladies and 1,140-lb man. Kids love the spinning tunnel – a dark tunnel with a bridge that visitors cross as the walls spin around them. It’s nauseating, but awesome – just what kids crave. There’s also a gruesome room that features old-fashioned torture chambers, which you can certainly avoid if you like, and a short film about the perseverance of offbeat people and animals that’s touching and fascinating. Historical artifacts abound, and you’ll absolutely feel that you’ve seen a few things you could never imagine by the time you and your brood exit. Birthday parties can be arranged, and groups can find discounted rates. Visit www.ripleysnewyork.com.
There’s something to thrill everyone at Madame Tussauds: from 50 Cent and Beyonce to Einstein, Woody Alllen and Castro. Young boys will love the ball players, young girls will love the movie stars, and adults will marvel over lifelike historical figures like Theodore Roosevelt and Tom Thumb cast in wax (and, ok, Oprah). Each room has a different theme and setting, whether it’s a formal party at dusk in a Tuscan town square, or a professional recording studio, and the wax figures are often indistinguishable from the visitors around them. Jennifer Lopez. Brangelina. Is that Madonna in wax on a bench or…is it a French tourist? Sometimes you’re not sure. An American Idol Café grants visitors the chance to perform and mug for Simon themselves, and the gift shop offers some interesting wares. There’s an elegant banquet hall in the museum for memorable parties, and a party space for children’s or adult parties that overlooks the bustle of Times Square below — from enormous windows high above 42nd Street. You can also get a discounted group rate for parties of 15 or more. Visit www.nycwax.com for more details.
Whether planning a birthday party or a Friday evening excursion, you can’t go wrong with either of these museums, and it’s impossible to choose which is more fun. They’re next to each other for a reason: they’re to be experienced and appreciated. Flip a coin to see where you’ll head first, and don’t forget that you’re just blocks away from Planet Hollywood, Applebee’s, and Dallas BBQ. You might as well go whole hog when you’re in Times Square.