Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London Review – Now closed

Totally weird and wacky - lots of fun but maybe not for those of a sensitive nature

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Ripleys Believe it or Not London is now closed. There is currently no Ripley’s attraction in the UK but there are many Ripley’s around the world.

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MadeForMums rating: 3/5 stars

In a nutshell: A wacky museum – calling itself an “odditorium” – in the heart of Piccadilly filled with strange, unexpected and sometimes hilarious models, exhibits and artefacts collected by adventurer Robert Ripley in the first part of the 1900s. It’s the biggest of more than 30 Ripley’s in the world.

Best for: Toddlers and preschoolers / 5-8 years / 9-12 years

OK for: Babies /12 years+

Cost: £££. It is very expensive, but if you book online in advance for an evening ticket, adults can pay £10 less than they would on the day.

The best bits: Ripley’s has five floors of well-organised and categorised chaos. You can see everything from two-headed animals to a life-size model of Winston Churchill giving a speech.

There’s an animatronic dinosaur which is smaller than but still rivals the Natural History Museum’s, and while you won’t get anywhere near as close to the levels of historical knowledge you will be able to see the T-Rex breathing in and out which little children will love.

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There’s an outer space section which is small but good – it contains rock samples from Mars and the Moon, which will definitely be a hit with school-age kids.

As well as stuff to look at there are some brilliant activities for the kids too. They’ll love the interactive graffiti wall, where visitors are invited to pick up a spray can and scrawl their designs and messages all over the computerised wall.

They’ll also enjoy the fun-fair style mirror maze (if they can find their way out), the black hole tunnel and the laserace. Everyone – even older kids – oh, and mums and dads, will get excited about the Mission Impossible-inspired challenge to jump, dodge and crawl through green lasers in order to hit the checkpoints. It’s ageless fun and will actually make you feel like a real-life spy.

Ripley’s is a self-guided attraction, but guided tours are available at an extra cost (we wouldn’t bother). There’s a café, along with toilets and baby changing facilities on each floor and they allow pushchairs. It has a gift shop too – a good or bad thing depending on how much money you want to spend.

Finally, there are lots of great photo opportunities and younger children will definitely enjoy the colourful (and chatty) elevator!

What to watch out for: Ripley’s contains an ancient human body and several real shrunken heads (which were used as talismans by certain tribes). Some parents may feel that these will be unsuitable for viewing.

In fact there’s a lot of other freaky stuff too, like the dungeon on level 4. If your child is scared of wax figures/models or is easily scared, freaked out or generally sensitive, you might want to call the company or do more online research before visiting.

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If you do still decide to go you’ll see that in certain parts there are warnings of anything coming up that might be especially disturbing – but if you’re really worried ask staff before you start going round (they’re really friendly) about how to avoid these particular areas.

And it’s worth remembering that it’s not necessarily younger children that get scared by creepier things, and, in fact, sometimes older ones will be affected more.

Some families might think Ripley’s is a bit old-fashioned or outdated – although for others this probably comes across as giving it that ‘golden age’ feel. It’s also very touristy, so bear that in mind when visiting if you’re local to London.

There is some strobe and flash lighting in a few areas of the museum. If you’re worried about it tell a member of staff and they’ll be able to help.

Oh – and as you might expect, visitors are asked to dispose of all food, drink and snacks before entering. This is no doubt a ploy to prompt a visit to their 3rd floor coffee shop, which is disguised as part of the museum. You’ll also have to exit through the gift shop.

MFM top tips: This is a pretty pricey attraction but you can usually find a discounted offer if you scout around online. We don’t think it’s worth paying full price for a family. Look in train and hotel brochures, as well as online, to find the best discount.

Ripley’s gets REALLY busy – lots of visitors on TripAdvisor suggest doing an evening visit which is worth considering if you have slightly older kids. You can buy a fast track ticket for £3 but that doesn’t apply to the mirror maze and laser race which are super popular areas of the attraction.

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Make sure you start at the top (5th floor) and work your way down, so there’s less walking and an exciting start to the walkthrough in the talking lift!

When you leave the the laserace keep an eye out for the particularly brilliant arcade. It’s separate from Ripley’s! and you’ll have to pay to play the games (most games cost £1). There’s a wide variety of video games, air hockey and basketball games and more. It’s a real highlight, especially if your child likes interactive games.

Plan no more than 2 hours here. If you want to visit the arcade, make it 2.5 hours.

Don’t just take it from us: We scoured TripAdvisor to see what other parents were saying about the gallery. One said:

“I took my 11-year-old niece here for a day out last year. We found this to be a great place to visit. The attractions and information that went with them was really informative. The only two downsides for me, was the whole room of Spice Girl exhibits, fine if you liked them, and the Black Hole.

I unfortunately don’t enjoy this type of thing and found it a little annoying that you had to go through it to continue and that was no way around it. Other than that we had a great time there. I would say that this is probably somewhere that I would only visit once but would recommend it.”

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Another said:

“We visited as a family of 4 with two young children. We arrived at about 10.15am and walked straight in. No queue.

You start at the top and work your way down, floor by floor. We didn’t rush and saw most things on show. We left at about 11.45am…I would recommend going, but bear in mind this is only a 2hr max attraction. I would say get there early when it’s quieter.

I would like to see this place close for a few weeks, get a serious lick of paint, new floor coverings, a few new exhibits etc. to freshen it up. But for now, it ticks a few boxes.

Don’t expect Madam Tussauds, Natural History Museum type experience otherwise you will be disappointed.”

Getting there: Find it in Piccadilly Circus, just outside of the respective tube station (use exit 4 to Coventry Street – they’re right on the corner).

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Visit the official Ripley’s Believe It or Not! website

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