Instagrammable moments, or should we say “immersive experiences” at interactive museums in NYC, are taking over the Big Apple. Whether located in a pop-up space, museum, or major retail store, these photo ops are awfully pretty and fabulous fun to visit. There’s the selfie-friendly Color Factory, cutting-edge art spot ARTECHOUSE, and offbeat picks like the immersive art of INTER_. Each of these cool museums and experiences will make great fodder for your Insta feed, only in the endlessly photographable New York City.
The Best Interactives in NYC
Hall des Lumières
Set in Lower Manhattan’s former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank, Hall des Lumières brings the Beaux-Arts landmark back to life with cutting-edge mapping technology. On view now is Chagall, Paris – New York, devoted to the unclassifiable artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985). The exhibition showcases Chagall’s full career while drawing on modern art capitals Paris and New York, which represented two crucial stages in his artistic life. Beyond painting, Chagall’s work in theater, costumes, sculpture, ceramics, stained glass, mosaics, and collage are all part of the digital immersion here. The projections are complemented by inspirations like klezmer, jazz, and classical music. Also on view: Kandinsky, The Odyssey of Abstraction, with art by Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), and Infinite Horizons, an artistic journey through landscape co-created by Parisian creative company HKI-Hellohikimori. Get tickets today at halldeslumieres.com. 49 Chambers St., @halldeslumieres
Head to the historic boiler room of Chelsea Market to experience the immersive space ARTECHOUSE, NYC's original home for digital art. You’ve never seen art like this before, as room-sized digital projections merge with sound design to create a cinematic experience. Open up fresh horizons at ARTECHOUSE’s new show, World of AI·magination, a stunning large-scale experiential digital artwork. The show is a testament to the collaboration between human ingenuity and cutting-edge machine learning, involving the creation of over a million unique data sets. The result, with its mesmerizing audio-visual components, is a poetic homage to the ageless power of imagination. (While you’re here, grab a drink at The XR Bar, an extended reality bar powered by the ARTECHOUSE XR App.) 439 W. 15th St., #artechouseNYC, @artechouse, artechouse.com
Harry Potter: The Exhibition
Harry Potter: The Exhibition near Herald Square is the most comprehensive touring exhibition ever presented on Harry Potter and the entire Wizarding World. Tickets are on sale now at new-york.harrypotterexhibition.com. With a special bracelet synched up to interactive stations, guests can choose a Patronus, cast a spell, explore the Hogwarts Classrooms (the Herbology room smells amazing!), and brew potions. The exhibition includes costumes, props, and magical environments using best-in-class immersive design and technology. Stop in the shop for Butterbeer and a large selection of Potter merchandise. Score points throughout the exhibit for your house and you'll be emailed highlights from your experience. 50 W. 34th St., harrypotterexhibition.com
New hyper-sensory environment INTER_ in SoHo/Tribeca will let you play with sound waves, interact with body movement, and immerse yourself in a dome. The journey takes cues from the elements, earth, wind, fire, water—and ether.
Through January 16th, INTER_ will be getting into the spirit of the season with wINTERverse. Dive into the city's coolest immersive winter wonderland with two floors of interactive art for all ages. Beaded snowflake decorating and a take-home cocoa kit add to the fun—perfect for a cozy date night or outing with friends and family. 415 Broadway, interiam.co
The Paley Center for Media preserves cultural history while exploring media’s powerful shaping influence on society. Don’t miss the institution’s annual holiday extravaganza PaleyLand, where five floors transform into a winter wonderland. Highlights include photo ops with Santa, a stunning menorah, meet-and-greets and photos with beloved holiday characters like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Hermey the Elf, Blizz the Snowman, and a Toy Soldier, as well as screenings of holiday shows and other seasonal specials. For kids young and old, there’s an enchanted gingerbread house with a whimsical swing, a holiday sleigh, and an interactive igloo straight from the North Pole. One more major highlight: the Paley Express, a magical holiday train display. 25 W. 52nd St., 212-621-6600, paleycenter.org
Enter a world of light at newcomer Astra Lumina, which is now open at the Queens Botanical Garden. An illuminated nature walk brings a series of glowing installations. The experience includes a photo booth, gift shop, and food and drink. 43-50 Main St, Queens, astralumina.com/new-york
Winter Lantern Fest
More than one-thousand handmade Chinese lanterns and lights have transformed the Queens County Farm Museum. Inspired by Chinese myths and zodiac, the illuminations will include swings and seesaws, making for some stellar photo ops. Through January 4th. 73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Queens, winterlanternfestival.com/new-york
Color Factory, a massive interactive art space, began in 2017 in San Francisco. Wildly popular, the project has set up shop in SoHo. Designed by a wide spectrum of artists, Color Factory walks visitors through 16 rooms devoted to the wonder of color. You’re invited to compliment someone using color words, discover your signature color, and read wishes for the world written by NYC school children on varicolored balloons. Each room is equipped with a camera that can take a picture of you and send it to your phone: the better to post with! 251 Spring St., firstname.lastname@example.org, colorfactory.co, @colorfactoryco
The Museum of Ice Cream
Among the first of its kind, The Museum of Ice Cream enjoyed a sweet stint in Manhattan beginning in 2016. Now it’s back at a permanent location with even more space to play in. Check out the three-story slide that ends in a pool of sprinkles, and walk through a hall of ice cream scoops. There's also branded ice cream to taste and very cute MOIC merch to take home. 558 Broadway, museumoficecream.com, @museumoficecream
The Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic
Immerse yourself in a sugar rush as The Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic starts its holiday run. You'll begin inside of a Christmas tree, where guests are encouraged to pluck candy right off the walls. A scavenger hunt through Rock Center follows. Available through January 3rd. 610 Fifth Ave., magicalcandycottage.com
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
Blending elements of art, technology, architecture, and thrill, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt takes the concept of an “observation deck” to entirely new heights through its three levels of multi-sensory experiences. Look for immersive art installations on top of stunning midtown views, both day or night. (For a holiday gift they’ll always remember, check out SUMMIT’s digital gift cards for tickets to this midtown thriller!) 45 E. 42nd St., 877-682-1401, summitov.com
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions NYC is great photographic fun, as you'll be able to laugh, scream, run, take selfies, and generally do the kinds of things they don't allow in other museums. You (or your prankster friend) can even become a head on a platter. There’s also an Anti-Gravity Room, an Infinity Room (a hall of mirrors for the 21st century), and a room where you’ll walk on walls. Nothing is as it seems; it’s all illusion, and all incredible! 77 Eighth Ave., 212-645-3230, newyork.museumofillusions.us, @moi_newyork
Madame Tussauds New York
New York City is famous for its gala culture. For the first time ever, you can immerse yourself in the scene right in Times Square. The Madame Tussauds flagship holds 19 celebrities, including new and never-before-seen wax figures of Ariana Grande and P. Diddy, at the just-opened Glow Gala. Many of the figures, including RuPaul, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry, are wearing illuminated, show-stopping looks inspired by New York’s legendary Met Gala. The exhibition comes to life with state-of-the-art projection technology and dramatic lighting, choreographed to a New York City-centric soundtrack. Floral walls and neon art provide a perfect backdrop for photo ops.
The season for shivers isn't over yet. The newest immersion at Madame Tussauds is Warner Bros. Icons of Horror. Incredible wax figures are set within four highly themed, fully immersive scenes. Celebrate legends, including Pennywise and Regan from The Exorcist, in chillingly lifelike detail. If you dare. 234 W. 42nd St., nycwax.com
Brookfield Place—Winter Wanderland
Image: Fadi Kheir.
In partnership with TheSkimm, Brookfield Place presents a new activation for its 2023 holiday lineup, Winter Wanderland contains a series of larger-than-life interactive installations, including life-size holiday gift box with a throne of stacked gifts, an open-air snow globe, a LED-lit snowflake tunnel, and an interactive holiday postcard. The activation is up from November 24th through December 27th. From December 11th through the 17th, 5-6pm, visitors are invited to stop by theSkimm’s holiday cocoa and greeting card bar where they can enjoy free hot cocoa courtesy of Brookfield Place vendors Devon & Blakey and Mah Ze Dahr Bakery. 230 Vesey St., 212-978-1673, bfplny.com/event/winter-wanderland-presented-by-theskimm-x-brookfield-place-2/
The Museum of Sex
Museum of Sex's pop up exhibit Super Funland: Journey into the Erotic Carnival examines the sexual history of the carnival. An interactive exhibition of 13 erotically charged games and amusements allows visitors to lose themselves in the carnality, decadence, and joy of a reimagined carnival. You'll also pick up some history along the way, as the exhibit looks at the bacchanalian origins of the carnival in ancient Greece and Rome and its evolution in pre-industrial Europe and the “midway” of the great World’s Fairs of the 20th century. 233 Fifth Ave., 212-689-6337, museumofsex.com
Image courtesy of the Balloon Museum.
Pier 36 in the Seaport home to new arrival the Balloon Museum. Installations by artists from around the world make up the displays here; interaction is part of the fun. For your Insta feed, we'll direct you to the ball pit, inflatable lava lamps, and infinity rooms.
Have "the slime of your life" at Sloomoo Institute, a pop up sensory playground. Activate your senses of touch, sound, and scent through endless vats of slime waiting to be played with. There's also an immersive ASMR tunnel. a glow-in-the-dark cove, an EEG machine to show your brain “on slime,” and a 150-foot long DIY bar where you can design your dream slime. 475 Broadway, sloomooinstitute.com
Part ride. Part museum. All New York. Soar over the city at RiseNY, a three-part, one-of-a-kind experience new to Manhattan. Step back in time to 1904 as you visit NYC’s very first subway station at City Hall and watch an immersive film by documentarian Ric Burns, voiced by actor Jeff Goldblum, which showcases how NYC became the crossroads of the world. From there you can journey through seven exhibits including Fashion, Music, Movies, and more. After excellent photo ops, you'll take flight on a first-ever soaring ride and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Big Apple icons. 160 W. 45th St., 601-228-2201, riseny.co
The Museum of Broadway
Photo: Monique Carboni.
The city’s newest destination is The Museum of Broadway in Times Square. This interactive, experiential museum journeys from the birth of Broadway to the present day, including a sneak peek behind the curtain into the making of a Broadway show. Costumes, props, rare photos, and videos are all on display.
Trolls x CAMP
CAMP, the family experience company known for its shop/play hybrids, is launching a magical new space at its Fifth Avenue flagship. Trolls x CAMP coincides with the Trolls Band Together movie release. Starting November 17th, step through the store's Magic Door for dancing, glitter, video game play, photo ops, Mr. Dinkles’ Sparkle Spa, and live performances. Tickets start at $39. 110 Fifth Ave., 917-997-0439, camp.com
The first-ever immersive destination exploring cannabis is now open in SoHo. THC NYC provides a multi-sensory journey through 10 exhibitions spanning art, music, fashion, and more. 427 Broadway, thcnyc.com
American Museum of Natural History
Photo: Iwan Baan.
The Natural History Museum's long-awaited Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation has opened to the public. In addition to stunning architecture, there's also a permanent butterfly vivarium, an insectarium dedicated to the most diverse group of creatures on the planet, and the immersive experience Invisible Worlds, pictured here. The exhibition lets you explore networks of life at all scales, including several invisible to the human eye. You'll become part of the story as your movements influence the projections around you. The range of experiences is amazing, including satellite networks, the human brain, interactions in Central Park, jellyfish, the Brazilian rainforest, and a humpback whale. 415 Columbus Ave., 212-769-5100 amnh.org
Fun, Interactive Pop Up Museums in NYC
Small is Beautiful: Miniature Art Universe
Concerto for Piano Peeler, 2017, by Vincent Bal.
Think small. Very small. A new pop up gathers together a crop of internet artists who are putting ingenious slants on size. Reconnect with a childhood fascination with small-scale universes—and maybe introduce little eyes to fresh ways of seeing—at NYC's Small is Beautiful: Miniature Art Exhibition. (The artwork, which got its start as a movement on social media, is in places so small you'll use a magnifying glass.) Open Tuesdays through Sundays. Thru December 31st, 2023. 718 Broadway, smallisbeautifulart.com/nyc
The Climate Museum Pop UP
Photo: Sari Goodfriend.
The Climate Museum’s new exhibition, The End of Fossil Fuel, is now open in SoHo. The show explores the roots of the current crisis while also sharing the stories of victories by climate justice communities. A 45-foot mural by award-winning artist R. Gregory Christie envisions a just future. There's also a sticker wall, where visitors can commit to action. The exhibition and its related programming are all free. Open Wednesdays through Sundays 1-6pm. 105 Wooster St., 917-551-6670, climatemuseum.org
The Friends Experience
Step inside the world of Friends! With two floors of immersive experiences, The Friends Experience is the ultimate outing for fans of the beloved TV series. Pose on the iconic orange couch, sit at Monica and Rachel’s kitchen table, kick back and relax in Joey and Chandler’s comfy chairs, and so much more. At this flagship NYC location fans can also buy coffee and pastries at the grab & go cafe in Central Perk. 130 E. 23rd St., friendstheexperience.com
Cricket’s Candy Creations
Cricket's Candy Creations is a Hudson Square pop-up that lets kids get messy with their favorite medium: candy. There's a Candy Kitchen with Silly Sushi and Bogus Burgers, a place to make a Tasty Trinket, edible slime (it comes in three flavors, Birthday Cake, Gummy Bear, and Candy Slime), a Chocolate Chamber, Lollipop Lounge, and much more. 200 Hudson St., cricketscandy.com
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