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18 Extraordinary Experiences Open Now & Coming Soon: May 2023

Each month we share our edit of the experiences opening around the globe that our WXO Members and team think are truly extraordinary. Here’s what’s worth checking out from May 2023!

And if you’re working on an Extraordinary Experience you’d like us to consider for a future edition, please share it HERE.

1. Vivid Sydney

Opening: 26 May – 17 June
Location: Sydney, Australia
Experience Sector: Immersive entertainment

Vivid Sydney fuses art, innovation and technology in collaboration with boundary-pushing artists, thinkers, musicians and culinary experts. This year’s festival centres on community, authenticity and what we can learn from the natural world.

Expect outdoor immersive light installations, light walks, and projections that transform the city’s urban landscapes into a kaleidoscopic wonderland, alongside free performances by local and international musicians and an ideas exchange forum featuring public talks and debates with leading creative thinkers, including author Jeanette Winterson. Look out for The Last Ocean by American artist Jen Lewin, Vivid’s largest installation to date. Also new for this year is Play with Your Dinner, a painting-dining experience at renegade restaurant Chin Chin.

2. Utopian Garden

Utopian Garden Tacoma, US

Opening: 19 May – 30 June
Location: Tacoma, US
Experience Sector: Immersive art

If you’re green-fingered be sure to swing by Utopian Garden, a 45-minute ‘edutainment’ experience for all ages that takes visitors on an immersive journey where they’re given the chance to co-create their own garden state with other attendees with the help of state-of-the-art projection mapping and interactive, sensor-based tech.

Keen to stimulate all of the senses, the experience, which puts visitors at the intersection of art, science and nature, takes inspiration from the likes of Ada Lovelace, Carl Linnaeus and Claude Monet, and includes a bespoke score and responsive sound design. Taking place at the Tacoma Armory, Utopian Garden is the brainchild of Berlin design studio flora&faunavisions, creators of Da Vinci: the Immersive Experience’ Following its Tacoma run the show will tour the globe.

3. In Pursuit Of Repetitive Beats

In Pursuit of Repetitive Beats, at FACT Liverpool

Open: Until 14 May
Location: Liverpool, UK
Experience Sector: Music, Immersive entertainment

Whistles at the ready: FACT Liverpool has created a virtual-reality rave for those keen to experience the heady days of Acid House. The euphoric interactive experience has been devised by artist Darren Emerson, and takes ravers back to the heyday of the UK’s Acid House scene through the power of cutting-edge VR tech with 3D modelling, archive materials, 360° video and animation.

Lasting an hour, the experience, which takes place at a virtual illegal warehouse party in 1989, requires ravers to don a VR headset, haptic vest and controllers in order to deliver a multi-sensory music extravaganza. The event brings to life the stories of promoters, police officers and ravers whose rivalries and relationships drove a working-class dance revolution.

4. The Tree Of Life

Tree of Life, Onyo

Open: Until 7 May
Location: Nantes, France
Experience Sector: Immersive entertainment

This immersive, multi-sensory experience by French experience design specialists Onyo takes you deep into an enchanted forest where you’ll commune with animals and vegetation to help you to connect with the natural world and experience the quiet majesty of ancient trees.

The experience is inspired by the sun goddess Hikari, whose heart was said to be hidden in an ancient tree. It asks participants to take part in a ritual that happens once a century, when animals, plants and humans gathered to restore the tree’s flame. The 30-minute experience, designed to awaken your senses and strengthen human connections, can be shared with 15 others per session. Read more about Onyo’s approach to “regenerative experiences” here.

5. Masterclass Of Happiness

Masterclass of Happiness, Finland

Opening: 12 – 15 June
Location: Rantasalmi, Finland
Experience Sector: Transformational travel

When it comes to happiness, we could all learn a thing or two from the Finns. If you’re keen to tap into their Nordic magic then you’re in luck, as the country will be hosting a ‘Masterclass of Happiness’ for 10 visitors this June, which aims to teach tourists happiness Finnish style through getting closer to nature.

The ‘Finding Your Inner Finn’ programme will be held at the luxury Kuru Resort in Finland’s Lake District, where participants will have the chance to delve into the region’s jaw-dropping natural beauty and indulge in local food and music. Guests will stay in a private villa with its own sauna and spa. Activities during the workshop include exploring the local pine forests and spending quality time outdoors – the ability to do so is something Finns put their above-average happiness levels down to.

6. Sorolla Through Light

Sorolla, Through Light by Joaquín Sorolla at the Royal Palace, Madrid

Open: Until 23 June
Location: Madrid, Spain
Experience Sector: Immersive art

One of Spain’s most magnificent but under the radar painters – Joaquín Sorolla – has a dedicated immersive show at Madrid’s Royal Palace. Called Sorolla, Through Light, the exhibition marks the centenary of the Impressionist-inspired painter’s death in 1923 and includes giant LED screens and VR experiences that provide a unique insight into the painter’s life and work.

Taking visitors to Malvarrosa beach in Valencia and Sorolla’s studio in Madrid, the show, curated by the artist’s great-granddaughter, consists of 24 original works (some of which are from private collections and have rarely been seen in public), a seven-minute VR experience, and two sensory rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling projections of Sorolla’s paintings and drawings set to an original score, alongside photos and press clippings.

7. Solaire Culture

Solaire Culture exhibition for Veuve Clicquot’s 250th anniversary, London

Opening: 12 May until 6 June
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Food and drink, Immersive art

Following on from successful runs in Tokyo and LA, Champagne house Veuve Clicquot’s 250th anniversary exhibition, Solaire Culture, lands in London in May. The free immersive experience takes you on a journey through the house’s heritage, with historical documents and an ancient bottle of Veuve Clicquot from the 1840s on display.

The show also features original artworks inspired by formidable matriarch Madame Clicquot and the power of the sun (in a hat tip to the bottle’s famous yellow label) from nine renowned female artists, including polka dot enthusiast Yayoi Kusama, Shelia Hicks and Moyoco Anno. The Sunny Side Up Café, which popped up in Soho last year, is back in time for the exhibition with a new food menu from effervescent chef Andi Oliver and lashings of fizz.

8. Meow Wolf Grapevine

Meow Wolf in Grapevine, Texas

Opening: Summer 2023
Location: Texas, US
Experience Sector: Themed attractions

Masters of experiential, immersive art collective Meow Wolf, are opening their fourth permanent exhibition in Grapevine Mills, just north of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, this summer. The venue invites visitors to portal-hop into worlds unknown and venture through mind-bending narratives brought to life with cutting-edge immersive art.

Billing itself as a place of “beauty and discovery”, the 30-room, 29,000-square foot venue will shine a light on Texas-based artists including Dan Lam, Sergio Garcia and Tsz Kam, and will boast a retail space, live performance venue and food galore. A fifth permanent exhibition space will follow in Houston next year.

9. La Tables Des Chefs

La Tables Des Chefs, France

Opening: 12 May
Location: Champagne, France
Experience Sector: Food and drink

For those seeking to combine two of life’s greatest pleasures – Champagne and fine food – Champagne house G.H. Mumm’s innovative new chef’s residency concept is well worth the pilgrimage to Reims. Maison Cordon Rouge, Mumm’s historic home, is flinging its doors open to the public for the first time with the launch of La Table des Chefs, a bold new dining concept based on the model of an artist residency, which will see some of the best emerging talent in the culinary world flock to Champagne for a three-month residency.

A first for the famous French wine region, the residency will be open all year round for a unique experience of sharing and discovery. Kicking things off will be newly Michelin-minted Mallory Gabsi, who will bring his Belgian and Tunisian influences to the table and his sommelier, Andréa Harel, in tow.

10. TeamLab Planets

teamLab, Moss Garden of Resonating Microcosms – Solidified Light Color, Sunrise and Sunset © teamLab

Opening: Open now
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Experience Sector: Immersive art

Fancy roaming through an immersive garden of floating orchids? Head to digital museum TeamLab Planets in Toyosu, where you’ll be able to walk on water, become one with the flowers and co-create large-scale interactive artworks.

Blending art, technology, and the natural world, the museum, which opened in 2018, recently added a new area to the mix boasting an enchanted garden with over 13,000 live orchids and a surreal space overgrown with moss and scattered with green, egg-shaped structures. Best of all, by incorporating natural light into the spaces the works transform in real time and show different aspects of themselves during the day and after sunset. The aim of the museum is to dissolve the boundary between body and artwork.

11. Shanghai Museum Of Glass NXT

Opening: May 2023
Location: Shanghai, China
Experience Sector: Museums

The Shanghai Museum of Glass has launched a virtual experience that utilises game engines and AI-backed programming to create virtual exhibitions. Called SHMOG NXT, the venture was created in order to embrace and reflect its audience’s highly digitised lifestyles. Designed to offer an engaging and educational cultural adventure, SHMOG NXT delivers an interactive experience to visitors across its 50,000 square metre ‘phygital’ exhibition space.

This isn’t prescribed interactivity, but instead leaves room for freedom and creativity as visitors explore the physical and digital spaces of the museum. The aim is to create an extended museum experience in the virtual realm and provide immersive environments for storytelling and visitor guidance. Once inside the digital space, visitors are assigned an avatar and are given the freedom to roam, interacting with the artworks and other visitors in the recreated museum space.

12. Dark Mofo

Trance, Tianzhuo Chen at Dark Mofo in Australia

Opening: 8 – 22 June
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Experience Sector: Museums, Immersive entertainment

Those keen to embrace their dark side should check out Dark Mofo, the winter version of the MONA FOMA festival in Tasmania. With many of its events taking place at night, it celebrates the darkness of the southern winter solstice and features a colourful array of musical acts, large-scale light installations, a winter feast on Hobart’s waterfront and – for the brave – a nude solstice swim.

Delving into centuries-old rituals to explore the links between ancient and contemporary mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, and birth, death and renewal, the event’s tenth incarnation this year includes performances from Max Richter, Black Flag and Zheani.

13. Krasota

Krasota, Dubai

Opening: Open now
Location: Dubai, UAE
Experience Sector: Immersive dining

If you like your dinner with a side dish of art, immersive restaurant Krasota in Dubai is worth having on your radar. Costing £500 a seat, the 20-cover venue isn’t cheap – but a night in its clutches is one to remember, turning dinner into a performance via visual storytelling. Ramping up the theatre, guests are sat around a large circular table kitted out with projection tech.

Dinner is divided into eight edible acts that include a 3D multimedia performance projected across the walls and flashed over the table. Throughout the meal the dishes, devised by head chef Vladimir Mukhin, are brought to life by interactive installations, 3D displays and original AI artworks by film director and co-owner, Anton Nenashev. The restaurant runs three sittings a day and the experience includes eight courses, an amuse-bouche and two cocktails. 

14. Destination Cosmos

Destination Cosmos, New York

Open: Until 4 June
Location: New York, US
Experience Sector: Immersive entertainment

Budding astronauts keen to experience life in orbit should head down to Destination Cosmos: The Immersive Space Experience in the former Emigrant Savings Bank in Lower Manhattan. Designed by Culturespaces with participation from NASA, the immersive experience explores our galaxy and beyond with stunning visuals and real-life videos.

The journey begins with an explosion of constellations and shooting stars that dance across the former bank’s ornate ceiling. You’re then catapulted to the 1960s space race, complete with a retro soundtrack, tube televisions and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for man” refrain. We like the idea of flying close to the sun, marvelling at the Earth from above and exploring the red planet to the sounds of Bowie’s Life on Mars.

15. Sarah Sze Timekeepers Series

Sarah Sze Timekeepers Series, Peckham Rye station

Opening: 19 May – 17 September
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Immersive art

The latest London location to get the immersive treatment is a vaulted Victorian waiting room at Peckham Rye station, which has been shuttered for half a century. Sculptor Sarah Sze has created an immersive installation inside the cavernous Old Waiting Room, which was repurposed as a billiards hall before closing in the 1970s.

The free to view installation forms part of Sze’s Timekeepers series of large-scale sculptures. “I’ve always been interested in certain times throughout history where our relationship to the way we experience time and space in the world speeds up radically. We’re in the middle of an extreme hurricane where we’re learning to speak through images at an exponential pace,” said Sze, who is known for her fragile structures that are complemented by found objects.

16. Space Explorers: The Infinite

Opening: 3 May – 3 July
Location: Montreal, Canada
Experience Sector: Immersive entertainment

While we’re on the topic of space, Montreal has also gone intergalactic this month with the launch of Space Explorers: The Infinite, an hour-long VR experience. Created by Felix & Paul Studios in collaboration with TIME Studios and NASA, visitors are invited to join the ranks of Canadian astronauts at the Phi Centre and explore space via a virtual world inspired by NASA missions.

The experience features the first-ever spacewalk filmed in 3D and 360-degree VR outside the International Space Station, giving visitors a rare chance to experience of seeing Earth from a perspective only a handful of astronauts have been lucky enough to enjoy. Visitors will also witness the Artemis I lift off on an immersive wall formed of five giant screens.

17. Skydeck Voyager Theatre

Skydeck Voyager Theatre, Melbourne

Opening: Open now
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Experience Sector: Themed attractions

Not one for vertigo suffers, the recently revamped Skydeck Voyager Theatre in Melbourne has had a shiny new makeover. Get cosy in one of the egg-shaped chairs and buckle up for an 11-minute VR flight that takes you soaring over the city, swooping low over vineyards and rowing on the Yarra River.

Once you’re back on terra firma, you can soar up to the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower – the tallest public observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere – and step inside The Edge, a glass box jutting out from the building that suspends thrill-seekers high above the ground. The VR Plank Experience has you soaring above the city’s rooftops on a virtual zipline, while the Melbourne Skydeck app allows you to capture animated virtual replicas of the city’s landmarks.

18. Prada Caffè

Prada Caffè, London

Open: Until the end of 2023
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Food and drink

Following on from the success of its Dior Cafe, luxury London department store Harrods has struck gold again with the Prada Caffè. The pistachio-green interiors of the all-day café are inspired by the Marchesi cafe in Milan, an 18th century ‘pasticceria’ owned by the Prada group, while the café’s black-and-white chequered floors mimic those of the historic Prada boutique on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.

The space serves breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside small bites and Italian aperitivo cocktails. All the tableware is original and was selected by Prada to complement the surroundings: think pale-blue Japanese porcelain and crystal glasses featuring Prada’s triangle motif. On the food front expect Italian classics like burrata, pizzettes and tramezzini sarnies alongside decadent dishes like spinach and ricotta cannelloni with black truffle and the café’s signature pistachio cake.

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