19 Extraordinary Experiences Open Now & Coming Soon: May 2024

Welcome to this month’s round up of Extraordinary Experiences across all experience sectors and around the globe.

Keen to capitalise on the third series of Bridgerton, creators Netflix and Shondaland are putting on a series of events around the globe, including a lavish Queen’s Ball in Melbourne with Fever and a Bridgerton-inspired garden at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Speaking of gardens, across the pond it’s Alice in Wonderland that has provided the inspiration for a new immersive exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden, where a myriad of mind-bending experiences await inside its iconic glasshouse.

Studio Ghibli fans are also in for a treat this month, as an exhibition dedicated to the Japanese animation studio has just opened in Shanghai, while in the UK you can catch a theatrical performance of Spirited Away at the London Coliseum, which includes a live orchestra playing Joe Hisaishi’s score.

And from immersive water parks to football theme parks, there’s plenty more inspiration in this month’s tour of 19 Extraordinary Experiences from Toronto to Tennessee and Shanghai to Dubai.

(Working on an Extraordinary Experience you’d like us to consider for a future edition? Share it HERE.)

19. The Twenty-Sided Tavern

Cast of Dungeons & Dragons Twenty Sided Tavern (c) Daniel Rader, New York, US

Opens: 15 May until 10 November 2024
Location: New York, US
Experience Sector: Theatre, Immersive Entertainment

The first theatrical adaptation of popular roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons opens off-Broadway at Stage 42 this month. The cast includes Tyler Nowell Felix, Madelyn Murphy and Diego F. Salinas and is the brainchild of Sarah Davis Reynolds and David Andrew Laws of Curious Hedgehog, and David Hutchinson and Nathan Brine of Showpath Entertainment. Co-creative in nature, the audience will be able to influence key plot decisions via Gamiotics, a browser-based software that allows people to vote on which characters appear and where the story will go. 

With over 30 playable characters, the audience will experience an expansive fantasy world set in the Forgotten Realms, and face riddles, puzzles and combat to help shape the story. For those seeking an interactive experience, there’s the chance to join the action onstage and test your strength, dexterity, wisdom and charisma through a series of games including trivia, charades and fantasy beer pong. A global phenomenon and leader in cross-platform fantasy entertainment, Dungeons & Dragons is the most popular tabletop roleplaying game in the world, and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

(Want to see more Extraordinary Experiences in New York? Check out our New York Experience Safari for the best experiences currently open in the city.)

18. Fida Muris

Fida Muris, Blandy-Les-Tours, France

Open now until 11 May 2024
Location: Blandy-Les-Tours, France
Experience Sector: Immersive Entertainment, Immersive Learning

The French village of Blandy-Les-Tours plays host to a new immersive experience this month at Château de Blandy-les-Tours. Called Fida Muris (meaning ‘loyal to the walls’), the historical adventure combines theatre, role-playing and escape games and gives attendees a glimpse into the intensity of 1429 and the Hundred Years’ War. Ideal for history buffs, the experience transports attendees to the Middle Ages, where your actions and decisions can have major consequences. Offering a fun and educational approach to history, the event includes excavation activities and group workshops.

Organised by immersive experience specialist Sculpteurs de Rêves, the evening event takes place across two sessions for up to 60 people, beginning at 7pm and 9:30pm. During the experience participants will travel back to 1429, a time when the county of Melun was under English rule during the Hundred Years’ War. Visitors can take on the role of a peasant, soldier or monk, sharing in a crucial moment in French history and helping to shape the narrative. During the evening you’ll encounter historical figures such as Denis de Chailly and Marguerite de Melun, who will seek your help to escape from the fortress.

17. Real Madrid World

Real Madrid theme park, Dubai, UAE

Open now
Location: Dubai, UAE
Experience Sector: Themed Attractions, Sport

An entire world dedicated to the football team Real Madrid has just opened in the city at Dubai Parks and Resorts. Called Real Madrid World, the fan experience – the world’s first Real Madrid theme park – includes the region’s first wooden rollercoaster and the world’s tallest amusement ride. The venue boasts over 40 experiences and attractions, including immersive rides, adrenaline-spiking coasters, themed shows and a collection of official Real Madrid merchandise.

Real Madrid World is home to Hala Madrid, the region’s first wooden coaster, as well as Stars Flyer, the tallest amusement ride in the world at 460 feet, and family-friendly coaster La Ola (The Wave). White Hearts, meanwhile, is a walk-through exhibition celebrating the successful Spanish football club, while the Bernabéu Experience provides access to the players’ locker room, the centre of the pitch and a secret sanctuary guarding the club’s trophies. Don’t miss La Fábrica Training Pitch, a playground with footballs and equipment for children.

16. The Werewolf Experience

Trailer for The Werewolf Experience

Opens: now until July
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Experience Sector: VR, Immersive Experiences

The Werewolf Experience is an immersive branching VR narrative game created by Christopher Morrison, XR evangelist and Reality+ founder (read Morrison’s thoughts on Why Everything You Know About Immersive Storytelling Is Now Wrong here). The user is a werewolf hunting the sacred white stag in order to cure themselves of their lycanthropy – however, they must be quick, as the townspeople are hunting them. The unique experience has a truly original immersive element: in order to trigger the branches in the story, the user must use their own voice and HOWL like a wolf! All choices affect the story and lead to one of three different endings, and the experience is controlled with only your eyes and your voice: no hand-held controllers. 

The experience takes place at NEUU XR Communications Hub in Shinjuku, Tokyo, run by world class railroad and electronics company ODAKYU. Werewolf has been the most popular attraction in the space since its installation back in February of this year and has also played at CANNES, BIFAN, and SIGGRAPH, where it was a fan favourite. Look out for Morrison at this year’s World Experience Summit, where he’ll be live workshopping his iconoclastic ideas on more immersive story structures.

15. Now You See Us

Headline and above image; Kaleidoscope Kavern, Tennessee, US; 17 Anna Airy, Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells Singer Manufacturing Company, Clydebank, Glasgow, 1918. IWM, London, UK

Opens: 16 May until 13 October
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Exhibitions, Galleries

Art history has tended to gloss over the contribution of women to the canon, and their marginalisation has led to reductive explorations of their works. This new show at Tate Britain aims to right that wrong, bringing together over 150 artworks spanning a 400-year period to highlight the important and varied contributions women have made to art history since the Tudor period. Taking in works from Royal Academy founding members Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser among many others, the exhibition shows the lengths these pioneering women went to challenge societal norms in order to pursue careers in art.

The show upends stereotypes revealing how these trailblazing artists defied expectations and tackled traditionally male subjects such as history painting and the nude, when their contemporaries would have been more comfortable with them sticking to ‘feminine’ subject matter like flowers and landscapes. By advocating for equal access to art training and Royal Academy membership, these artists, including Artemisia Gentileschi, Julia Margaret Cameron, Gwen John and Vanessa Bell, broke barriers and redefined the role of women in the art world. The show spans oils, pastels, sculpture and photography.

14. The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience

The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience, Melbourne, Australia

Opens: 1 May
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Experience Sector: Live Events

The arrival of May can only mean one thing – Georgian favourite Bridgerton is back with a bang. The Netflix smash is capitalising on its popularity with a series of events around the globe, including lavish balls in Melbourne. The Regency-inspired Queen’s Ball, created with Fever, gives Melburnians the chance to don their finest finery, finesse their foxtrot and compete for the Queen’s favour at a glamorous ball. She won’t let any riff-raff in; those keen to attend need to join a waiting list and cross their fingers. Once inside, grab a cocktail and do a turn of the ballroom.

Behind the velvet rope, the evening will transport partygoers into the glittering world of Regency London, with all the glamour and gossip it entails. Dressing up is highly encouraged, and as you move through the evening you’ll encounter a cast of illustrious characters, some of whom will be happy to share the latest secrets from the Ton. There will be prizes on offer during the night, including the chance to be named the Diamond of the Season by Queen Charlotte. The ball includes theatrical performances, a live string ensemble playing pop classics, and the chance to learn Regency dance moves.

13. XP Fronts

XP Fronts, Grand Quay of the Port of Montréal, Canada

Opens: 21-23 May
Location: Montréal, Canada
Experience Sector: Live Events

The team behind XP Land is partnering with C2 Montréal to present the first-ever experiential upfronts – the XP Fronts. This agenda-setting program and meeting of the minds for the experiential industry kicks off May 21-23 at the Grand Quay of the Port of Montréal. XP Fronts attendees will experience thought-provoking content, insider tours of the city’s most innovative XP and VFX studios, intimate senior-level gatherings that curate the right conversations among the right XP players, and of course, incredible experiences. Expect unconventional and unexpected content from leaders across the industry, including:

An XP Fronts pass includes 3-day access to the world’s most creative business gathering, C2 Montréal. Request an invitation and see the full speaker lineup here.

12. Surrenne

Surrenne, London, UK

Open now
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Wellness

Health fanatics with cash to splash should hoof it down to Surrenne, the latest in a growing number of luxury wellness clubs to have opened in the capital. Spanning four floors and 2,000 square meters of subterranean space beneath the Emory hotel in Knightsbridge, Surrenne features a gym with electro stimulation machines, 22-metre pool, spacious spa and the UK’s only fitness studio from trainer to the stars, Tracy Anderson. With its Toto loos, Alice Temperley robes and Damien Hirst art, no expense has been spared. Keeping things bespoke, members can request their own playlists while they swim.  

Membership to the club costs £10,000 per year plus a £5,000 initiation fee, and includes 12 of Anderson’s high-energyclasses a year, access to Technogym machines, Hydrow products, Pelotons and EMS machines that shock muscles while training, along with blood tests performed by concierge doctors from 3 Peak Health, which are used to create a comprehensive wellness plan tracking sleep and stress levels, which might include vitamin supplements and specific exercises. Don’t leave without trying one of the club’s £20 ‘skin and tonic’ mocktails, which blend collagen with electrolytes and non-alcoholic gin.

11. F1: The Exhibition

F1: The Exhibition, Toronto, Canada

Opens: 3 May until 11 July 2024
Location: Toronto, Canada
Experience Sector: Sports, Themed Attractions

Having blazed a trail and smashed attendance records in Madrid and Vienna, F1: The Exhibition, will make its North American debut when it opens in Toronto at the Lighthouse ArtSpace this month. Canada has a storied motorsport heritage, with the Grand Prix a staple on the F1 calendar since 1967, and a strong track-record of talented drivers including Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, and Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll. Petrol heads will be treated to an immersive experience through six bespoke rooms spread over 20,000 square feet.

The exhibition features exclusive interviews from the sport’s top teams, and includes iconic Formula 1 cars, historic artefacts and archive video material. New for Toronto, visitors will be able to try their hand at racing an F1 car on state-of-the-art simulators using official F1 gaming equipment. Formula 1 has over 100 million fans in North America, and with this year’s Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal selling out quickly, the exhibition will provide both diehard fans and newbies to F1 the chance to engage with the sport away from track.

10. Ice Dinosaurs

Ice Dinosaurs, Florida, US

Open now until 6 September 2024
Location: Florida, US
Experience Sector: Museums, Immersive Learning

Budding palaeontologists will be delighted to hear that the The Museum of Science & History (MOSH) in Jacksonville, Florida, has a new show dedicated to Arctic dinos. Called Ice Dinosaurs: The Lost World of the Alaskan Arctic, the brains behind it is Imagine Exhibitions, an industry leader in travelling exhibitions. Most exciting of all, the show’s discoveries from the Alaskan Arctic are new additions to the scientific record. Delving into the history of Arctic dinosaurs, the show features a feathered tyrannosaur, a giant species of raptor, and tiny hatchlings of herbivorous dinosaurs including duck-billed dinosaurs.

This interactive, educational experience includes ancient fossils, some of which can be handled, two complete skeletons, and animatronic exhibits that explore the unique adaptations of polar dinosaurs that lived above the Arctic Circle and survived harsh winter conditions, challenging traditional paleontological knowledge. The display features over 20 animatronic and static dinosaurs and covers a year in the life of these creatures, who lived over 73 million years ago, presenting scientific data confirming their unexpected nesting in the Arctic, warm-blooded nature, and ability to thrive in the harsh polar environment.

9. The Bordeaux Experience

Caldo by Daniel Faro

Opens: 1 May
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: F&B, Immersive Learning

Keen to embrace the latest trends, the wine industry has dived into the immersive realm with the launch of The Bordeaux Experience, which will plunge guests into the goings on in the famous wine region. Taking place at Market Halls on Oxford Street, the event is open to the wine trade during the day then opens to the public in the evening. While there you’ll have the chance to sip on fresh whites, fruity reds, juicy rosés and sophisticated sparklers from the region alongside Thai and Lebanese street food.

The relaxed and convivial experience features over 100 different wines from across the famous French region and will see attendees challenged to guess the grape from shots of single-varietal wines while trying their luck at the Bordeaux Casino; a taste skill challenge run by the Ecole du Vin. The event includes live DJ sets and a series of short, snappy, pop-up talks and wine tastings hosted by Bordeaux Crew representatives focusing on key trends. Those keen for a deeper dive will have the chance to chat to the winemakers throughout the experience.

8. Belfast City Hall Immersive Experience

Belfast City Hall Immersive Experience, Belfast, Ireland

Opens: Summer 2024
Location: Belfast, Ireland
Experience Sector: Immersive Learning

Set in the heart of Belfast City Hall, this exciting new addition to the existing visitor centre uses cutting-edge digital tech from BT to create an innovative immersive installation for all ages. Experience the buzz of augmented reality as walls crumble to uncover secret rooms, books open to let their stories take flight into the air, and virtual children invite you to join their street games. The experience allows visitors to explore Belfast from a bird’s eye view with the help of a digital 3D scale model powered by the latest wireless tech from BT.

A collaborative R&D project between BT and Belfast City Council, the exhibition sends visitors on a journey through the city’s rich culture. Taking place across three rooms, the immersive experience explores Belfast’s unique language variations and how they emerged from the tapestry of history and movement of people; the changing landscape of the city as it expanded outwards and upwards; and the characters that have filled the city’s streets past and present.

7. Kaleidoscope Kavern

Kaleidoscope Kavern, Tennessee, US

Open now
Location: Tennessee, US
Experience Sector: Themed Attractions, Water Parks

We love pretty much everything that Moment Factory turns its hands to, and its latest project – a technicolour water slide experience at Wilderness at the Smokies in Tennessee is no exception. The multimedia entertainment studio has created a unique and trend-setting immersive multimedia attraction for Wild Water Dome, the biggest indoor water park in Tennessee. Appealing to both returning guests and newcomers, Kaleidoscope Kavern is a multi-sensory multimedia tunnel that forms part of the water park’s 40,000-square-foot extension, and marks Moment Factory’s debut into indoor water parks.

Drifting along a lazy river, visitors enter the Kaleidoscope Kavern, where they are taken through nine colourful chapters inspired by the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. The experience unfolds alongside an interplay of dynamic lighting, spatialised sound and video projections that extend onto swimmers’ bodies, immersing them in the ever-evolving canvas and heightening the multi-sensory experience. During the experience, colourful and hypnotic visuals merge with the reflections of the water and bespoke soundscapes, blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination. Inflatables at the ready…

6. Studio Ghibli Story

Studio Ghibli Story, Shanghai, China

Open now until 31 October 2024
Location: Shanghai, China
Experience Sector: Immersive Entertainment, Film

We’re excited by the news that Studio Ghibli has launched an immersive art exhibition at the CMG International Media Port in Shanghai. Called Studio Ghibli Story and running until October, the show is a venture between Studio Ghibli, Alibaba Pictures and Damai, following their efforts to bring Oscar-winning animated feature The Boy and the Heron to China, made by Japanese filmmaker Miyazaki Hayao of Spirited Away fame. The Shanghai show includes a light and shadow tunnel and stills from the film exhibited for the first time.

Covering a total area of ​​2,800 square meters, the exhibition combines physical scenery with digital light and shadow tech to lead visitors into the fantasy world of Studio Ghibli’s top ten animated works, including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky. The show includes 600 books from Studio Ghibli’s collection and 52 digital projectors to heighten the immersive experience, while it took 10 Japanese craftsmen to prepare the props for viewing. Don’t forget to take a selfie with the six metre tall Totoro greeting guests outside the show.

5. Barbie Bahamas Beach Vacation

Opens: 24 May 2024
Location: Nassau, The Bahamas
Experience Sector: Themed Attractions

While Barbie may not have won big at the Oscars, we can’t get enough of Barbiecore it seems, as a new immersive experience dedicated to the world famous doll is soon to launch at Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas. Called Barbie Bahamas Beach Vacation, the experience will kick off during Memorial Day weekend and features immersive playsets, activity stations, themed Barbie doll boxes for photo opps, and a Barbie-style ball pit in time for the Mattel character’s 65th birthday.

As part of the experience, Barbie-themed guest rooms and suites will be available at the Atlantis resort, which will dial up the pastels via pink pillows and throw blankets, as well as customised chair cushions. The Coral hotel’s Sun & Ice café, meanwhile, will be transformed into a ‘Barbie culinary adventure’, featuring Barbie-themed décor and a Barbie-inspired menu of desserts and cocktails. Paradise Island’s younger guests can get stuck into a series of Barbie-themed activities, including cooking classes, at Atlantis Kids Adventures.

4. Wonderland: Curious Nature

The Orchid Show: Florals in Fashion at Wonderland: Curious Nature, New York, US

Opens: 18 May until 17 October 2024
Location: New York, US
Experience Sector: Immersive Entertainment

Will the experiential world ever tire of riffing on Alice in Wonderland? Seemingly not, if the new show at the New York Botanical Garden is anything to go by. Called Wonderland: Curious Nature, the exhibition, which runs until October, features horticultural and contemporary art installations that evoke the spirit of exploration and the uncanny nature of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic tale and its 1871 sequel, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, the immersive exhibition promises a multi-sensory adventure.

Visitors will be able to explore a variety of mind-bending experiences in the garden’s iconic glasshouse – the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory – in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building and across its scenic 250-acre grounds. The installations will be fittingly trippy, including works that play with scale and perspective, with no shrinking ‘Drink Me’ potion needed to enjoy the full effect. The garden will showcase beautiful blooms in the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, while whimsical food pop-ups will be dotted throughout the grounds.

3. Bridgerton Garden At Chelsea Flower Show

Bridgerton Garden At Chelsea Flower Show, London, UK

Opens: 21 May until 25 May 2024
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Themed Attractions

Speaking of gardens, we’re delighted to discover that one of the gardens at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show in London is inspired by Bridgerton. The garden is the fruit of a collaboration between Netflix and show creator Shondaland, which have launched the space to mark the start of season three. Visitors can expect a secluded space inspired by Penelope Featherington, the (not so) secret author of Lady Whistledown’s column and the focus of the new series.

According to its creators, the garden has been designed to reflect Penelope’s coming of age journey drawing you in with a moon gate then taking you towards an ornate water feature and sunken seating area in the centre. A shaded space down half of the garden alludes to themes of turmoil and defiance, while layers of ferns and ivy represent a woven network of secrets, say the RHS. The other half of the garden boasts a brighter palette of colours, creating a ‘full bloom’ effect symbolic of Penelope’s transformation.

2. Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies

Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies, New York, US

Open now until 30 June 2024
Location: New York, US
Experience Sector: Immersive Art

Digital art and poetry collide at Aṣẹ: Afro Frequencies, the latest show at Artechouse in New York’s Chelsea district. The immersive show offers a reflection on the past, present and future of the Black experience told through the perspective of London-based Afro-surrealist digital artist Vince Fraser, alongside rhythmic drums and evocative poetry by Philadelphia-based Ursula Rucker, who honours the struggles and complexities of the Black experience in her work. The show’s title, ‘Aṣẹ’ (pronounced ah-shay) stems from a spiritual belief held by the Yoruba people of West Africa, meaning “so will it be.”

The centrepiece of the exhibition, called Vision of the Black Experience, takes visitors on a four-part journey through the universal themes of resilience and cultural celebration. Visuals showcase Fraser’s designs and Rucker’s poetry to reflect on the current zeitgeist and a vision of a hopeful future. The show ends with an exploration of AI tools in digital art, highlighting the potential of digital innovation. The ‘Afrikanism’ exhibit incudes an interactive African map that shifts below people’s feet with re-imaginations of the African continent. At the bar you’ll find signature serves made with traditional African ingredients.

1. Spirited Away

Spirited Away, London, UK

Open now until 24 August 2024
Location: London, UK
Experience Sector: Theatre

In other Studio Ghibli news, hot on the heels of the RSC’s acclaimed My Neighbour Totoro production comes this inspiring Japanese production of Hayao Miyazaki 2001 masterpiece, Spirited Away. Adapted for the stage by John Caird – co-director of Les Miserables, with puppets by Toby Olié, the show will play a limited run at the London Coliseum as part of a wider international tour. The quintessential work by Ghibli’s head honcho, Miyazaki, the film focuses on Chihiro, a young girl who crosses over into a world filled with strange spirits.

When her parents are turned into pigs and she’s put to work in a bathhouse, Chihiro must use her wits to survive in this strange new realm, and find a way to free her parents and return to the real world. Studio Ghibli has produced a number of much-loved, fantasy-tinged features over the last few decades. Presented in Japanese with English subtitles, the London production of Spirited Away sees Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi reprising their roles as Chihiro, who are accompanied by a live orchestra playing Joe Hisaishi’s score.