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Courtesy the Rockwell Group

A massive immersive entertainment venue is coming to Navy Pier

Visitors will be transported to sub-Saharan safaris and space via the Illuminarium when it opens in 2023.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp

Every wondered what it would be like to go on a safari or walk on the surface of the moon? You'll get a glimpse of those adventures when a new entertainment venue opens inside Navy Pier in early 2023, bringing a rotating selection of immersive experiences to the lakefront attraction.

The entertainment company Illuminarium Experiences plans to build a 32,000-square-foot Illuminarium—which uses huge projections and soundscapes to create virtual reality-like exhibits—inside of the Pier's Crystal Gardens space, a six-story glass atrium currently home to a botanical garden and some fancy fountains. Visitors will get to walk through a a series of narrative exhibits that aim to place viewers “inside” the story without using headsets or typical virtual reality gear, thanks to the use of special camera projections and other technology, which is already in use at an Illuminarium location in Atlanta.

The inaugural exhibit, called “Wild: A Safari Experience,” will use video content shot in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania on cameras that provide a 240-degree field of view—a wider, more cinematic version of the 210-degree human field of vision, complete with sounds and scents. (What are the “scents” of a safari, you ask? Guess we'll have to wait and see.) Similarly, the next exhibition, “Spacewalk,” will project images from the surface of the moon and Mars, plus other celestial sights.

“Navy Pier juts out 3,300 feet into the water, and our Centennial Wheel rises 200 feet into the sky, but Illuminarium breaks all boundaries by taking us places most of us would never see—transporting us across oceans—and under them—and sending us soaring beyond the reach of astronauts,” Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner said in a statement.

The venue will also feature The Bar at Illuminarium, a dining and drinking concept that incorporates projection and audio systems to mimic seven different settings from around the world and beyond, including a crowded Tokyo street and trippy dreamscapes. There's no word on how much tickets will cost yet, but expect something in the realm of other popular immersive experiences; in Atlanta, the standard admission fee for the safari experience is $35 for adults and $30 for children.

Construction on the Navy Pier Illuminarium will begin in early or mid-2022, and the venue will open about a year later. In the meantime, check out out this video from the Atlanta Illuminarium (and photo photos from its bar) below.

Illuminarium bar
Photograph: Jordan Viision for Rockwell Group
Illuminarium bar
Photograph: Jordan Viision for Rockwell Group
Illuminarium bar
Photograph: LAB at Rockwell Group

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