. Fast Facts
The exhibit is open through Jan. 3 at MOSI, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. Tickets, which include entry into the museum, Mindbender Mansion and an IMAX film, are $23.95 for adults, $21.95 ages 60 and up, $19.95 ages 2 to 12 and $3 for MOSI members. Call (813) 987-6000.
TAMPA — Feeling a letdown now that all the Halloween hoopla is over? Take a trip to Mindbender Mansion. It'll help you stop thinking about all the candy you consumed.
There's really nothing scary about Mindbender Mansion, unless you're afraid of math. In a large exhibition room at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, you walk through four rooms — the parlor, library, map room and kitchen — to solve 40 puzzles and brainteasers and five group activities.
Once you've solved the puzzles and collected passwords in each room, you can use them to earn membership to the Mindbender Society. That was one of my kids' favorite parts. But you need to solve the puzzles to find out why.
Here are five reasons to make the trip to MOSI and step inside this puzzling world.
You can work your inner Lucille Ball. Remember that episode of I Love Lucy in which Lucy and Ethel are trying to wrap chocolates on a conveyor belt and they can't keep up? Well, that is the feeling you get on the Feeding Frenzy puzzle in the kitchen, where you must fill trays with puzzle pieces that look like parts of a meal. The number of trays you fill determines whether or not you get a clue to unlock the password in that room. If the conveyor is too slow, you'll never get enough trays. Set it faster for more fun. This one takes a team effort. More on that later.
Kids of all ages can participate. When we first started working on a wooden puzzle, my youngest son, 7, was already ready to leave. But then we found some brainteasers that were right up his alley: large puzzle pieces, which could be easily manipulated by small hands, math problems and some physical activity that made him want to stay. My 11-year-old son loved it from the beginning, jumping in to solve math problems and working with others on more challenging puzzles. They both loved Feeding Frenzy.
You can show off your spelling prowess. In between the rooms, there is a sort of Dance Dance Revolution game, only you're not really dancing. You must answer a question — for instance, name a suit of cards that is red — and spell it out by jumping from letter to letter on the floor board. The more letters in the word, the more points you get. And don't think it's just for kids. On the day we went, the high scorer was a 20-something woman who beat her boyfriend's score.
You meet the nicest people. And you need to make new friends because you're probably going to need their help. As we walked through all the rooms, we found ourselves helping or being helped by other participants. The collaborative spirit was nice.
It's a challenge — really. We found the library was the most difficult room, and we weren't alone. I helped a dad, whose wife and kids were working on a different puzzle, solve a math problem. None of us could make one of the puzzles work. But it was fun, not frustrating, because solving any of the puzzles made you feel like a smarty.
After we finished our turn through the mansion and the kids earned membership into the Wall of Fame, my oldest son said, "When can we bring dad back? He would love this."
He's right. And you would too.
Sherry Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8305.