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Photograph: Courtesy Summit One Vanderbilt

Incredible immersive experiences to do in NYC right now

From art exhibits to theatrical events, these experiences promise to transport you to new realities.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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New Yorkers, as much as they love their city, want to be transported to another space and time — at least that's the trend museums, companies and artists are capitalizing on. Immersive exhibits, events and experiences are popping up all over NYC these days.

From "cocktail experiences" featuring beloved themes and stories with theatrics to trippy digital art taking over massive spaces, there's no shortage of ways to be immersed in a different reality.  

With so many ways to be immersed, we decided it was high time to round up all the cool, immersive events, exhibits and experiences happening in NYC now and coming up soon so you won't miss the chance to experience something new and potentially mind-blowing.

RECOMMENDED: The best museum exhibitions in NYC right now

Incredible immersive experiences in NYC

  • Art
  • Art

"Machine Hallucination: NYC" is NYC's latest immersive experience that uses artificial intelligence and the latest technology to map a massive dataset (more than 100 million publicly available photographs of New York’s iconic architecture and urban landscapes without people) that shows AI re-imaginings of NYC set to "awe-inspiring" sound design by Berlin-based composer Kerim Karaoglu who used New York’s sound archives with machine intelligence. The show—30-minute experimental cinema presented in 16K resolution—tells the story of what could come in the near future with a hopeful bent, rather than an apocalyptic one that computers are usually associated with. This time, visitors to the show will also be able to order a cocktail at the XR Bar and scan their cocktail on the ARTECHOUSE app to bring it to life with augmented reality. 

  • Art
  • Midtown West

The Shed's galleries are being transformed daily with multi-sensory installations that immerse the viewer to inspire reconnection to nature. Presented by The Shed and Superblue, "Fragile Future" by Amsterdam-based artists DRIFT takes its audiences on a journey through multiple installations that encourage exploring the universal search for origin, destination, and connection, as well as the power to be found in relinquishing control when embracing change.

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  • Art
  • Chelsea

The recent eruption of the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland inspired interdisciplinary artist and musician Jo虂nsi (of Sigur Ro虂s) to create two new sound installations and sculptural works that infuse the senses, including ambient sounds, mechanically generated frequencies, samples from nature,  his own voice as well as earthy, atmospheric fragrances that help to transport viewers. On the ground floor, visitors enter a darkened room that has a central plinth surrounded by about two hundred speakers that'll play a choral hymn in four parts added to soundscapes of gritty rocks and searing lava. It'll be layered over with smoky, tar-like aromas of fossilized amber to further transport his audience into the belly of a volcano. 

In the upstairs galleries, resin and obsidian glass sculptures sit at each end of one room while crackling sounds play over visuals of burnt walnut trees, showing how destructive volcanic forces are. Another sound installation affixed with flower-shaped metallic discs and LEDs, pulsates with light in short bursts, blinking slowly at first before swelling into rapid-fire successions—a nod to Brion Gysin’s 1960s "Dream Machine."

All of this launches in tandem with the release of Jo虂nsi’s third solo musical album that is also inspired by the volcano.

  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Midtown East

A heart-pounding experience in the sky is unlike any other experience atop a skyscraper. Summit One Vanderbilt sits atop the new 67-floor One Vanderbilt super-tall—a 1,401-foot-high—skyscraper. As the city's fourth-tallest building after One World Trade Center, Central Park Tower and 111 West 57th Street, it sits just west of Grand Central Terminal, where you first enter the experience underground. After a trip through a mirrored hallway with its own immersive elements, visitors take an elevator up to the 91st floor, where they're 1,000 feet over the streets and sidewalks of NYC. Kenzo Digital has created a totally mirrored infinity room called "Air" that reflects the sky and city views over and over, making you feel like you're walking in the sky or on another plane of existence. Looking above you and below you in this two-story space, you see your reflection repeating forever. One of the coolest parts of the experience, besides the absolutely breathtaking view of the city (where you can see all the major landmarks and bridges), is that it changes with the weather and time of day. When the weather is nice, it'll look like you're walking among the clouds. When it's stormy, you'll see the rain fly sideways and around the building. The sun in the morning will cast a different light than the sun in the evening.

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  • Theater
  • Theater & Performance

No show in town offers as intimate an experience as Bottom of the Ocean, a new interactive experience in Bushwick that has been created to be performed for just five audience members at a time. A surreal look at the nature of ritual and ceremony, Bottom of the Ocean invites spectators on a unique journey. The third production from Andrew Hoepfner’s company Houseworld Immersive, Bottom of the Ocean draws on techniques that Hoepfner explored previously in Houseworld and WhisperlodgeThe piece was created in collaboration with Chia Kwa, and features costumes by Laura Borys and tech design by Howard Rigberg. It is staged at Gymnopedie, a multiroom space that has been created by restoring 5,500 square feet of the 19th-century basement at Bushwick United Methodist Church.

  • Art
  • Art

A new art installation featuring creations from Grimes, Bon Iver, Miguel and other big-name entertainers has opened in Brooklyn. "Undercurrent," which is pitched as an “immersive audiovisual” experience, will feature a 60,000 square foot space showcasing celebrity-made art pieces that poignantly explore the ever-increasing climate crisis. Viewers can expect to find imaginative pieces at Brooklyn’s The Jefferson, including Grimes’ AI-created meditations and a multimedia installation from Bon Iver, which will feature a new version of his 2019 song “Naeem” remixed by Chris Hontos. Other artists involved also include Aluna, Actress, Jayda G, Mount Kimbie, and Nosaj Thing. 

 

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  • Theater
  • Drama
  • Chelsea

Appropriately billed as "a ghost play in a pub," Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s horror novel The Woman in Black pairs shots with hair-raising shocks. Presented as a play within a play, it begins with a haunted old man named Arthur Kipps (David Acton) imploring an actor (Ben Porter) to help him tell his terrifying real-life tale as an act of purgation. So Porter becomes a young Kipps and reenacts a gothic story of woe, set in a secluded house by the sea in early-20th-century England. Even if you’re unfamiliar with any other version of The Woman in Black—it has also inspired a TV movie, a radio play and a film starring Daniel Radcliffe—you won't need extrasensory powers to predict where it’s going next. It’s about the mood, not the mystery.

  • Things to do
  • Chelsea

New York City's first and only immersive exhibit about cannabis—and the only experience to encourage coming to it high—opens this week with eight rooms to take you on a journey across various states of being. The Stone Age, which is a woman and minority-owned business by Sasha Perelman and Elizabeth Santana, whisks you up a tunnel-like escalator into the exhibition which delves into the many benefits of cannabis, from increased creativity and arousal to euphoria, pain management and mindfulness by using eye-grabbing art installations across 9,000 square feet of its Chelsea building. Santana and Perelman wanted to create an experience that was "relatable no matter your relationship with cannabis."

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  • Art
  • Art

SuperReal has reopened at Cipriani 25 Broadway, inside the historic Cunard Building, bringing its cutting-edge projection mapping tech and multimedia art to its walls and ceiling—and it happens to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Cunard Building, which opened in 1921. Created by multimedia entertainment company Moment Factory in partnership with hospitality brand Cipriani, SuperReal first opened in the summer of 2019. It aims to transport visitors through dreamlike scenes in its gorgeous hall. Across 45 minutes, the show places viewers in five unique and abstract sequences that are both stunning and interactive. One minute you could be daydreaming in a fairylike flower garden and the next you're caught in an epic thunderstorm or thrown into the middle of a tropical disco. During the show, people are encouraged to relax on bean bags or play with balloons that also react with the 360-degree show. The floor is a gigantic mirror that only enhances the special effects. It's the ultimate place for selfies and fun Instagram fodder.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

CAMP, the experiential retailer known for its kid-friendly shops, is bringing a new immersive concept to its flagship store near Union Square called Cosmic Camp. Behind its magic door and across 8,000 square feet, families will be transported to space by AR and projection-mapping technology by Future Colossal and interactive experiences will unfold across space stations, asteroid fields, lava pools, and other immersive worlds. Families who enter Cosmic Camp will enter through a tunnel to arrive at the Launch Pad. With the press of a button, they'll watch as smoke billows and flames erupt as they take off into space. Once they get to the Space Station, kids can climb up into a teleportation tube and use joysticks to control Remote Rovers on an alien planet. When they arrive in Deep Space, they can throw asteroids into black holes to collect coins before they disappear and discover Ice Caves with mind games and crazy visual effects. The Floor is Lava room will challenge families to traverse fields of (virtual) lava — the living room game made realistic.

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  • Things to do
  • Midtown West

Immersive art exhibit Arcadia Earth has reopened after being closed due to the pandemic, and it looks better than ever! The exhibit aims to inspire visitors artistically and ethically, as it uses 15 rooms to spotlight the environmental challenges that our planet is facing (such as overfishing, food waste, and climate change). Experiential artist Valentino Vettori is the brain behind the design that includes human scale art installations, many of them making use of augmented and virtual reality, overpower your senses, and force you to contemplate the subject matter. Each of the rooms has been created to highlight a specific challenge facing our environment—challenges including overfishing, plastic pollution, food waste, deforestation and climate change. Each installation makes you confront the damage that we are doing to our planet on a daily basis. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, that’s not the point, and each installation contains a placard with tips for what you can do to help on a daily basis. This exhibit will not only leave visitors in awe, but it will help support Oceanic Global, an organization devoted to raising awareness around our aquatic ecosystems. In addition, a tree will also be planted for every ticket sold, making it a perfect gift for your eco-conscious friends!

  • Art
  • Art

Update: "Immersive Van Gogh" is reopening November 17 and will run through January 2, 2022.

"Immersive Van Gogh" exhibit on Pier 36 solely features the frenetic work of Vincent van Gogh projected onto massive walls, set to emotive music by artists like Imogen Heap, Edith Piaf, Thom Yorke and Luca Longobardi, an Italian composer who curated the playlist. The traveling exhibit has wowed audiences in Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and sold more than 1.5 million tickets. The exhibition spans more than 500,000 cubic feet of animated projections—that's the "largest and most elaborate" of all the "Immersive Van Gogh" shows as well as the biggest showing of van Gogh's art in the world, according to David Korins, the New York show's creative director, who has also won awards for his work on Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. He, along with creator Massimiliano Siccardi, art director Vittorio Guidotti and curators Corey Ross, Svetlana Dvoretsky and Irina Shabshis have created a mesmerizing way to connect to the artist on a deeper level that envelopes you in his work. The projections fall on the walls and mirrored surfaces, yes, but they also wash across your face and body, bringing you into the art, too. Van Gogh's brushstrokes are closer than ever and really come to life as the music swells.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, at Skylight on Vesey at 300 Vesey St., starts as soon as you enter the space as you climb multiple stairways covered with 3-D sunflowers and Van Gogh portraits. At the top of the stairwell, you walk into the main exhibition space with soaring, two-story-tall ceilings and contemplative, orchestral music playing. The first part of a visit (the entire experience takes about an hour) takes you through dark galleries that feel similar to your standard traveling exhibition. Informative text provides details on the artist’s life and samples of his work are displayed to illustrate various periods and fixations. A few especially striking elements of this portion of the experience include three-dimensional models of famous interiors featured in his paintings (such as his bedroom in Arles) and a captivating projection overlaying multiple examples of his paintings of vases. The last two areas of the experience have more hands-on, interactive elements. In an especially kid-friendly area, coloring pages and crayons let visitors create their own works of art and then scan them to be displayed on a massive, illuminated wall. For an extra fee of $5, guests can also take part in a ten-minute virtual reality journey through “A day in the life of the Artist.” The VR adventure takes out on a calming walk with the artist as you encounter some of the real-life sources of inspiration behind his famous works.

Immersive experiences coming soon to NYC

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Netflix and Fever have teamed up to launch an action-packed theatrical event called "Money Heist: The Experience," coming in December, based on Netflix's most popular non-English language series, La Casa de Papel (Money Heist). The experience recruits you into the notorious gang by Lisboa to pull off a number of heists on international targets. As you follow The Professor's instructions, they'll break into a major landmark and find out if they have what it takes to infiltrate the vault and earn a spot in the gang—all while wearing jumpsuits and cartoonish Salvador Dalí masks. Fever and Netflix promise "astounding" visual effects and plot twists that happen when you interact with actors, including live-action gunfights and ambushes, during the 60-75 minute experience.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

A new Stranger Things immersive experience is headed to NYC in Spring 2022, bringing with it a new storyline that'll place visitors inside a parallel universe where they must unlock their secret powers to save Hawkins. The experience will take you through Stranger Things’ most iconic locations, including Scoops Ahoy, where you can get USS Butterscotch sundae, Hawkins Lab, the Palace Arcade—all while avoiding encounters with the Demogorgons in the Upside Down that'll come to life with "mind-blowing audiovisual effects." Across the 1980s-inspired space, which you can wander through on your own, there will be immersive photo ops, interactive fun, food and drinks from the show, and a one-of-a-kind Stranger Things bar.

 

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  • Art
  • Art

A new exhibition featuring 200 never-before-seen and rarely seen works by Jean-Michel Basquiat called “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure” is set to open in early Spring 2022 at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea. The exhibition will feature a wide range of mediums including paintings, drawings, multimedia, ephemera and artifacts to provide larger context to the work of one of the world’s most famous artists. Alongside that theme of a greater intimacy, the exhibition was actually conceived by the artist’s sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, who run The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat along with their stepmother Nora Fitzpatrick. You can find out more information on the sure-to-be-blockbuster exhibition on the show’s official site. The site also reveals that the show’s title comes from a 1987 painting completed by Basquiat called “King Pleasure,” the name of a bartender-turned-vocalist whose 1952 song “Moody’s Mood for Love” brought him a new level of fame.   The exhibition will be sponsored by Spotify and Phillips and operational partner Superblue.

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