Believe It or Not! we’ve been drawing millions of curiosity seekers from across the globe since the opening of our first permanent Odditorium in historic St. Augustine, Florida, back in 1950! We continually add new artifacts, themed galleries, and captivating video stories plus interactive displays to immerse everyone in a fun-filled unbelievable experience.
Did you know that each of our Odditoriums has a unique façade? For instance, our Orlando location looks as if the building is falling into a sinkhole. One of our most iconic façades is our Taj Mahal-inspired building in Grand Prairie, Texas.
“Many of the Ripley building façades depict some disaster in progress,” said Drew Hunter, former Creative Director of Classic Attractions. “Walls are cracking—the building is splitting, sinking, or has fallen over—and sometimes plants or animals have taken over, or an aircraft has hit it, or a T-Rex is rising through the roof. But Grand Prairie is different. It has more in common with the St. Augustine ‘Castle Warren’ location. It is an interesting building which stands on its own to attract guests. No disaster has befallen the structure. It is simply—unique.”
After an unfortunate fire that destroyed what was initially the Wax Museum of the Southwest in Grand Prairie, the Classic Attractions, Inc. management team needed to come up with a façade idea fast. They always knew they wanted a Wax Museum and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in the same building. With the location right in front of Interstate 30, the attraction needed to catch the eye of potential customers. The whole process of designing the building and façade was on a super-fast track.
“I, being Creative Director, developed an idea which I presented to our General Manager Bill Phillips and other team members,” said Hunter. “My vision was of rugged, pointed volcanic rocks thrust up at dramatic angles from the Texas prairie. In the midst of those was a sleek mirror glass building which would contain the two attractions. At night the lava rocks around the building perimeter would glow with streaks of lava, and illuminated smoke would float skyward. Well, not surprisingly, that concept was considered a tad too esoteric and was abandoned. Plus, I imagine that the idea of smoke being involved was a little too reminiscent of the terrible fire which destroyed the old wax museum on the same site only a few months before.”
At the time, Bill Phillips, the General Manager of Classic Attractions, Inc., and Hunter, discussed many different ideas for a façade. They hired an architectural firm, who were inspired by the Brighton Pavilion in England, which was built by King George IV and completed in 1823. It was only natural to call the new wax museum The Palace of Wax! Without hesitation, the plan was approved. Hunter came up with the accent colors to embellish and enhance the landmark that continues to define Grand Prairie!
“One of the most exciting times during construction was the day a huge crane lifted the main onion dome atop the central part of the building. It is fiberglass, with a small door in the rear of the base. While still on the ground in the grassy area in front of the building, I went inside the dome. It was an amazing space, and I loved how my voice resonated inside that strange shape,” said Hunter.
Believe It or Not!, just nine months after the horrific fire, the Odditorium doors opened on June 22, 1989. Following the opening, the horror section of the new Palace of Wax was revealed for the annual Halloween promotion that same year! Finally, the entire wax museum was open to the public in the spring of 1990.
Now, in 2019, you can find a total of 5 attractions, including the Palace of Wax and Odditorium!
- The state-of-the-art-theater will leave you hanging at the edge of your seat. Here you can let your senses run wild as you experience every bump, drop, and turn with our unimaginable motion simulator. The theater offers two high-impact 3D films.
- The Ripley’s Impossible LaseRace challenge will have you breaking a sweat. You’ll need the determination and skill to wiggle your way out of the beams!
- Find your way out or lose yourself in our Enchanted Mirror Maze! Embellished with LED lights and infinity mirrors, it’s time to challenge your perception and sense of direction in our enchanting labyrinth.
We want you to discover the strange, the shocking, and the beautiful at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Grand Prairie. Enjoy some eye-popping exhibits where you can pose with your favorite celebrity, lose yourself in our spinning vortex tunnel, and even see a shrunken head! The array of weird will leave you spellbound. You’ve found your one-stop family fun on East Palace Parkway in Grand Prairie!
“The entire Grand Prairie attraction—building, shows and all—were labors of love for all concerned,” said Hunter. “We likened it to a phoenix rising from the ashes. Literally, new attractions were springing up from the same slab where the original wax museum had stood. We were so proud of our accomplishments, and remain so. And the best part of all is that, though altered in parts from the way they opened all those decades ago, the attractions still draw in the crowds and provide fascinating entertainment to the young and old… I will always associate the Grand Prairie location with good times, good friends, and amazing adventures. So, CONGRATULATIONS to all the folks at the Grand Prairie location for 30 years of almost unbelievable success!”