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The Best Pop-Up Museums and Experiential Art Exhibits to Visit With Kids in 2019

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Meow Wolf, Photo by Kate Russell Meow Wolf, Photo by Kate Russell

From ice cream and pizza to selfies and digital worlds of wonder, interactive, Instagramable pop-up museums and experiential art exhibits are the hottest trend on the cultural landscape right now. A rebellion against the "quiet reflection" and "look but don't touch" mantras of traditional museums, these immersive experiences invite guest participation, interaction and, of course, photos!, providing a new, exciting avenue to introduce kids to art (and oversized food items, apparently).

Ranging from superficial fun to more serious artistic endeavors, we've rounded up our top picks for the hottest interactive pop-ups, immersive exhibitions, and experiential art museums on the scene this year.

WonderWorld, NYC
This immersive pop-up launched its NYC experience in 2018, moved on to LA's famed Hollywood Boulevard this past spring, and is now temporarily docked back in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood. Guests are invited to "experience a world where fantasy and reality meet" in this interactive replica of Alice in Wonderland that is designed specifically as a phantasmagorical backdrop for Insta-worthy photos and videos. Jump down the rabbit hole and get your phone ready!

WonderWorld Los Angeles
Photo Courtesy of WonderWorld

Candytopia, Philadelphia (Through Jan. 2020) & Phoenix (Through Dec. 29th)
If you love candy, this sprawling Willy Wonka-style magical wonderland of edible, interactive confectionary art is sure to make both your imagination and taste buds soar. The brainchild of Jackie Sorkin, star of TLC's Candy Queen, this sweet, experiential attraction has previously 'popped up' in Santa Monica, New York City and San Francisco, and is now tantalizing sweet tooths in Atlanta and Minneapolis at the Mall of America through June 30th. Each installation includes over a dozen themed, interactive candy constructions to walk through, including the pop-up's most popular attractions from past locations, as well as new creations inspired by famous landmarks or local culture unique to each location. While guests can't actually eat the art (sorry!), they are treated to candy samples, including sours, gummies, chocolates, "nostalgic favorites," and many more sweet treats.

Candytopia
Candytopia, Photo by Joel Pitra

Egg House, Los Angeles
Prepare for an eggcellent eggventure at yet another food fantasy pop-up, the first egg-themed, multi-sensory experience coming to LA this spring after successful runs in NYC and Shanghai, China. Designed as the fantasy house of an egg named Ellis, this immersive apartment contains room after room of oversized, dream-like props for guests to climb on - from a gigantic egg carton to an eggshell garden swing and even a swimming pool. Last one in is a rotten egg!

The Egg House
Photo Courtesy of The Egg House

Color Factory, New York City (Open Run) & Houston (Opening Fall 2019)
After an uber successful eight-month run in San Francisco (at one point, the ticketing page even crashed from high demand!), this experiential art exhibit celebrating the joy of color re-opened its doors in New York City's SoHo neighborhood last fall -- and it's even bigger and better! The 20,000-square foot pop-up experience (compared to 12,000-square feet in San Fran) includes 16 new brightly-colored participatory installations by top artists and designers inspired by the "colorful moments" around New York. A surprise awaits visitors around every corner -- from a giant pool filled with 500,000 balls to wade in to a conveyor belt of colorful macarons to sample! Color Factory is also opening an installation in Houston's Upper Kirby neighborhood in fall 2019.

Color Factory
Color Factory, New York City

The Museum of Ice Cream, San Francisco (Permanent)
The OG Insta-hit that kicked off the food pop-up experience craze, the Museum of Ice Cream is now a permanent fixture in San Francisco's Union Square. The Museum invites you to "leave reality behind" as you indulge your childhood fantasies in an immersive tasting experience. Experience rainbow unicorns, a swimming pool filled with one hundred million custom-designed sprinkles, Mint Chip jungles, magical candy gardens and Cookie Carousel rides, all while tasting multiple delicious ice cream treats. YUM.

Museum of Ice Cream
The Museum of Ice Cream, San Francisco, Photo by Katie Gibbs

The Foodie Space (Next Location TBD)
Billed as the "serial foodie photo-taker's wildest dream come true," The Foodie Space features over-sized, interactive food-themed installations all hand made by local artists with the single aim of satisfying society's obsession with social media and #foodporn. From huge pizza slices to lounge on to giant noodle cups and Chinese take-out containers to climb inside to the makings for human sushi rolls, The Foodie Space's debut run at the former Pasadena Museum of California Art was a huge hit. We don't know where they are heading next, but keep tabs on their website to find out!

HAPPY PLACE, Las Vegas & Philadelphia (Through February 2020)
Surround yourself with all things HAPPY at this massive, multi-sensory pop-up experience filled with one-of-a-kind, larger than life installations all aimed at curating Insta-worthy moments and putting a big fat smile on your face for all of those selfies you are certain to take. Highlights include dancing in the middle of the world's largest indoor Confetti Dome and posing inside HAPPY PLACE's signature rubber ducky bathtub. After selling out its original run in Los Angeles in November 2017, they decided to take the happiness on tour and visit cities all around the world. Save 31% off tickets to HAPPY PLACE Philadelphia and 41% off tickets to HAPPY PLACE Las Vegas located at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

wndr museum, Chicago
Featuring a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror Room, this experiential museum in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood invites guests to "step into a space that reveals the wonders of the world around us." Originally opened as a temporary pop-up, due to the overwhelming reception the museum has received since opening (welcoming over 150,000 visitors in only five months!), wndr recently announced their conversion to permanent status. The Museum's initial set of 19 immersive, walk-through exhibits will be periodically refreshed, though some crowd favorites, like Kusama's Infinity Mirror Room, will remain.

Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, Las Vegas (2019), Denver (2020), Washington, D.C. (2022)
This arts and entertainment collective based in Santa Fe, New Mexico creates immersive and interactive art installations that "transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration." They launched their first permanent installation, House of Eternal Return, in Santa Fe in March 2016, a 20,000-square foot Victorian house formerly inhabited by the Selig family who mysteriously disappeared one night after conducting a forbidden experiment. Guests are invited to choose their own path through this wildly imaginative, multidimensional mystery house filled with dozens of rooms, secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and mesmerizing interactive art exhibits. The House of Eternal Return also features a children's Learning Center which hosts workshops and special events, as well as FREE Open Studio hours where kids can make their own art. Meow Wolf is opening three new exhibition spaces in the coming years in Las Vegas (2019), Denver (2020) and Washington, D.C. (2022). They are also partnering with Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park to bring a new attraction, Kaleidoscope, to Denver in 2019, the first ever immersive, artist-driven dark ride. 

Meow Wolf, Photo by Kate Russell
Meow Wolf, Photo by Kate Russell

ARTECHOUSE, Washington, D.C., Miami, NYC 
A first-of-its-kind innovative digital art gallery dedicated to showcasing large-scale experiential and immersive installations, ARTECHOUSE (Art + Tech + House) opened its first location in Washington, D.C. in June 2017 and has since expanded to Miami and is set to open its newest gallery in New York City this year. Curated from cutting-edge digital artists from all over the world, ARTECHOUSE's rotating exhibitions harness the power of innovative digital tools, artificial intelligence (A.I.), responsive technology, and real-time data processing to create an interactive, participatory creative experience.

ARTECHOUSE New Nature by Marpi Washington, D.C.
New Nature by Marpi at ARTECHOUSE D.C.

Nature Obscura, Museum of Outdoor Arts (Indoor Space), Englewood, CO (Through December 29th)
Part art museum, part augmented reality experience, Natura Obscura is made up of six different nature-based installations that combine art, sculpture, and cutting-edge digital technologies to take visitors on a multi-sensory, self-guided exploration through a surrealist, dreamlike forest filled with woodland creatures and hidden messages. Designed for all ages, guests are given a blacklight flashlight upon arrival for a fantastical scavenger hunt through the woods.

Nature Obscura

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