Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Believe It or Not

Like everyone else, I get a lot of emails every day. Some good, most bad. Some interesting, most spam. Then you get those ones that seem too good to be true, mostly from Nigerian bankers that want to deposit $400,000 into your account for reasons unclear to nobody. However on this occasion I got one of the good ones - would I like to come and visit Hamley’s before it opened, then lunch at Planet Hollywood followed by a guided tour around Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Would I ever.

So last Sunday found myself and my son Nate off on our mini boys adventure whilst we left the girls to explore Westfield and try on shoes, or do their nails, or do whatever it is that girls do to pass the time in those places.

We were undeterred by the torrential rain that greeted us at Oxford Circus station and failing to spot an empty taxi-canoe, waded down the River Regent Street to Hamley’s. For those that haven’t been, Hamley’s is one huge almighty toy shop, spread over seven floors and filled with every toy imaginable (and some you’ve never imagined). It’s a place of wonder at the best of times and we were getting a guided tour when the place was completely empty. A bunch of over-excited kids, left to roam free playing with the toys, albeit with the occasional glance at our own children to make sure they were behaving.

 Nate having a ball

Our tour finished just as they were about to open the doors to the public and I’m just glad I had a huge big bear to hide behind as it was pandemonium once those doors opened.

From there it was off to Planet Hollywood and a spot of lunch. It’s a great place for any film buff to eat as it is wall-to-wall film memorabilia and I reckon you could visit every week and still stumble across some un-seen titbit from favourite film you haven’t seen in ages. It’s one of those places where you don’t mind waiting for your food (not that we had to) as you spend the whole time looking around trying to name the films.

Han Solo in carbonite

After that it was off to the main event – Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s plays host to over 700 jaw-dropping exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences across 6 floors and it was now showing off its latest exhibit – a Swarovski crystal covered Mini Cooper worth over £500,000. The crystals are in 50 shades to represent the 50 states of America and it apparently took over 6 months to put together. It was quite a sight to behold but, boys being boys, we wanted to get straight in and see all the freaky stuff – the shrunken heads, the world’s fattest person and an asteroid from Mars – blokes stuff.

There really was something for everyone here. Crazy art including a portrait of Kate Middleton made from lipstick kisses, Brad Pitt made form Cigarette ash and Amy Winehouse made from broken CD’s. Historical busts of infamous people from the past – the worlds ugliest woman and the man with longest ever nose were some of the funnier ones. Even as you walk between the exhibits the walls are covered with strange facts that will raise either a smile or an eyebrow.

They make a lovely couple

I could spent the whole day listing the incredible things you will see in there, but to be honest I don’t want to spoil it for any of you that are thinking of going, and I thoroughly recommend that you do. I also think I may need to visit again as I probably only saw half of it. I will say though, that two of Nate’s favourite parts were the mirror maze (which he insisted we go through twice) and the LaseRace game where you have to get through a darkened room all burglar style with laser alarms everywhere.

From the tallest head to the shrunken head

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is open 365 days a year from 10am until midnight and at £79.95 for a family ticket (two adults and 2 kids) is quite a bargain, especially for something right smack in the middle of London. If you book online in advance ( www.ripleyslondon.com ) you get 15% off, so a bit of planning can save you a few bob towards your lunch.

But if you want to save yourself even more money a snag yourself a FREE family ticket*, all you have to do is the following:

Leave a comment below fessing up to your own ‘Believe It or Not’ moment. Anything from “Believe it or not I accidentally reversed over the Mother in Law’s foot”, or “Believe it or not I hold the world record for long distance marshmallow blowing from a nostril’. Anything you’re brave enough to admit is good enough for me.

The winner will be whichever one that I and my distinguished panel of judges (aka my grotty kids) find the most amazing/funny. Oh and here’s a little tip, my kids love funny. Oh and retweets and sharing on Facebook would also go down well with the judges (though not a requirement). The judge's decision is final and the winner will be announced on 2nd September 2014.

I’d like to thank Naomi Finn and her team at Ripley’s for a most excellent day out and will point out, for the sake of clarity, that it was a free event.

*The family ticket will be for 2 x adults and 2 x kids OR 1 x adult 3 x kids, whichever you prefer and is valid for 1 year. This is for the London site only.