You’ve sailed out to the Statue of Liberty, clip-clopped around Central Park in a horse drawn carriage, traipsed about Times Square, hiked The High Line, biked the Brooklyn Bridge and meandered around many a museum. Now you are left wondering what to do on your next trip to the Big Apple. How about experiencing something that is a bit non-traditional and perhaps not quite as well-known but oh so worth your time? What exactly am I getting at you may be wondering? I am talking about heading to one of the many immersive experiences in NYC that are becoming wildly popular. Not familiar? Well then you picked the right blog to read because I am here to introduce to you today some of the more out of the box attractions that you can find in the city – from the scary and supernatural to scrumptious sweets to sky-high sights and more – check out our picks for the not-to-be-missed immersive experiences in New York City below – in no particular order.
Stranger Things: The Experience
Even if you’ve never seen a single episode – you have probably at least heard some rumblings about a little Netflix show that has captivated millions since its debut in 2016 called Stranger Things. Now fans of the series, wanna-be fans or just fans of science fiction, horror and mystery in general can take their love of the supernatural to a whole other level thanks to Stranger Things: The Experience. Located in Brooklyn this immersive journey will land you in the Upside Down where you’ll be the star in an exclusive Stranger Things “episode” where you can answer that question those of us who have seen the show often wonder – can I survive in the Upside Down? You’ll start out in the infamous Hawkins Lab where you have been selected to take part in a new study and soon embark on an interactive adventure featuring out of this world special effects and offering you a chance to play the hero as you unlock your own powers to save Hawkins. Not to fear, you won’t be alone on your mission as you’ll have your favorite characters from the show along for the ride. But that’s not all! After your adventure you’ll head to the Mix Tape area where you’ll be treated to a trip back in time to that decade we can’t seem to let go of – the 1980’s complete with some of your favorite arcade games at Palace Arcade – Centipede anyone? Should you be hungry after your heroic experience, you can grab some yummy ice cream from Scoops Ahoy or a slice of cheesy pizza at Surfer Boy Pizza. And for those of you over 21 – beer, wine and cocktails are available to calm your nerves. And of course, there is also plenty of Stanger Things merchandise available for you to take home as souvenirs of your time spent in the Upside Down. With familiar locations, plenty of fabulous photo opportunities, thrills and chills and coming in at about an hour (or longer if you want to hang out a while in the Mix Tape area) this is a super-fun experience for all – even for those of us who are just harboring nostalgia for the 80’s.
Candytopia and Museum of Ice Cream
So, I grouped the immersive experiences in NYC entries number two and three together for obvious reasons. And I must say these two are very near and dear to my heart. Are you familiar with the Candyland board game? Ever watched a movie called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Did your parents ever take you to Hershey Park (amusement park) – yes that Hershey? Well, these just happen to be some of my favorite things when I was growing up (and let’s be honest – after I grew up too). Which explains, perhaps, why these two entries landed on this list – wink, wink. In any case when I got word that there was a new immersive experience coming to New York City that revolved around candy <gulp> – my third-grade inner child let out a squeal of delight. This enchanting confection filled museum is seventeen rooms containing plenty of sweet stuff – literally – as all of the sculptures and artwork have been re-created with candy. Among them are a shark made out of gummy bears and a unicorn with a mane of licorice. As you wonder through this deliciously interactive experience, you’ll find plenty of Instagrammable photo ops, including an art gallery inspired by New York City itself, candy swings, a zip line over what looks like giant Starbursts and a marshmallow pit just begging to be jumped into. Should you be salivating just looking at all this yumminess, don’t worry – they have you covered. Although tasting the artwork is frowned upon you will find lots of sugary samples to snack on throughout your visit. So, in keeping with the sweet tooth theme, next on the list is the Museum of Ice Cream. Doesn’t matter if you like chocolate, vanilla or strawberry, or butter pecan, mint chip or peanut butter ripple – because this interactive museum is sure to have something for everyone’s taste. Billed on their website as “…inclusive environment [are] designed to inspire human connection and energize the senses to reimagine the way we experience and love ice cream” this venue tastes as delicious as its exhibits look. As you stroll through the thirteen installations you will learn all about the history of this frozen dessert with a “curriculum” that engages all of your senses in the process. Plus, along the way you’ll discover a plethora of really cool offerings including a pool filled with not water, but rainbow sprinkles (your bloggers favorite), a floating ice cream table, a three-story slide – NYC’s highest indoor slide no less – and more. But here’s the scoop – perhaps the best part of the MOIC is – drumroll please – UNLIMITED ice cream! Hey that’s as good a reason of any to sing “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
New York City’s newest observation deck is not just a fabulous way to view the city from dizzying heights – it’s also an immersive experience unlike no other that can be broken down into four parts. First there is Air. Air is a multi-floor walk-through art event complete with mirrored floors and ceilings that – along with floor to ceiling windows – immediately has visitors turned almost upside down – but in the most exciting of ways. Trying to figure out if what you are looking at is actually on a floor above or below you or is simply a reflection of the floor you are currently standing on is just as breathtaking as the views you will be treated to of the island of Manhattan, its surrounding waters and the landscapes well beyond including its surrounding boroughs. Needless to say, sunglasses are a must on sunny days – but don’t’ despair if you forgot yours – you can borrow a funky pair provided by the venue. Perhaps the coolest part of Air (and your blogger’s personal favorite) is a room filled with oh so shiny silver balloons that float above and below you every step of the way just begging you to swat and kick them around as the light dances off of them making for quite a magical scene. Created by famed artist Kenzo Digital, this is certainly not your grandparent’s art exhibit! Next up is Levitation. Levitation consists of a transparent skybox that invites you in to stand upon a glass floor hovering 1,000 feet above Midtown Manhattan – hence the name. It’s also got an onsite photographer ready to snap pictures that you can purchase at the end of your visit. Needless to say, this part of SUMMIT is not for the faint of heart. And neither is the next experience SUMMIT offers up – pun intended – Ascent. Ascent is perhaps the glass elevator to end all glass elevators, as this one takes you up to the highest part of the One Vanderbilt – on the outside of the skyscraper. It also comes complete with a glass floor making for more Instagrammable photo ops. It really is a wild experience watching the cars below get smaller as you go higher and offers quite a unique perspective on the dreaded NYC traffic. Last, but certainly not least is SUMMIT’s food and beverage venue, Après. Look, you’re probably going to have worked up an appetite from this exhilarating experience – or need a drink depending on how you feel about heights but no worries – if hunger and / or thirst strike you can just head to Après – located conveniently both before and after you take that open of a kind elevator ride. This bar and café offers lite bites, sweets and specialty crafted cocktails and comes complete with an outdoor open-air area as well as an indoor dining section – both with those magnificent NYC views.
In the past I have visited both Disneyland and Disney World and fell in love with an attraction that they both offer called Soarin’ Around the World. Imagine my delight when I read that my beloved New York City was getting a similar attraction this year. RiseNY, a brand-new experience that opened in March of 2022, takes the views that all of New York City’s observation decks, helicopter tours and rooftop bars boast to new heights – pun intended. Not only will you get a bird’s eye view of New York City from high above it – you’ll be soaring across it as well thanks to the Big Apple’s first flight simulation ride. What can you expect? Your RiseNY escapade starts out with a fascinating film by Ric Burns, an award-winning documentarian. The “theater” is cleverly designed as a subway station from which you will “depart” to view the rise of Manhattan from its humble beginnings to present day – with an emphasis on Times Square – which fits into the overriding theme of the attraction. On your way to said location to ring in 1957 you’ll wander through a series of galleries – each representing a different part of what makes NYC the captivating city it is, including music, fashion, theater and even skylines. Along your journey you’ll have an opportunity to ring the New York Stock Exchange bell, sit at the kitchen table in The Honeymooner’s kitchen, grab a seat on the Friends couch, meet Oscar the Grouch, hang out on The Tonight Show set, step out onto the Statue of Liberty torch and much, much more. And the grand finale? Strapped in a seat thirty feet in the air with your legs dangling as you fly above all five boroughs, at certain times this flight simulation ride (the first in Manhattan) will have you feeling higher than the tallest building in NYC and at other times like you are walking the city’s sidewalks. And thanks to mists of water, blowing wind and familiar scents you’ll feel like you are actually right there in the thick of it all. It’s such a cool ride that you’ll want to experience it again – and with the VIP ticket you can do just that as it allows you to take a second ride. Not only that but you’ll get priority access for both the immersive theater and the ride, flexible entry time and one FREE surprise piece of merchandise plus 20% off any other merchandise. Their tagline – Part ride. Part Museum. All New York. – sums RiseNY up beautifully and their location in the heart of Times Square makes it a perfect way to start off your NYC adventure!
Just when you think that you have seen it all in New York City, right? As far as immersive experiences go – I would say that the immersive experiences in NYC would give any other major U.S. city a run for their money. And this is just five of them folks. There are plenty more where these came from – stay tuned for a future blog post about more of these unique, imaginative and oh so fun types of experiences. Ready to hit some of them up? Well, you’re in luck because we have a fabulous team of destination experts that can help you with admission to these amazing adventures – as well as accommodations, private tours, transfers and more – so much more that I would say that the crew at Beyond Times Square would give any other luxury tour operator a run for their money as well. So, do yourself a favor and reach out to them to help you plan a luxury New York City vacation complete with one or all five of these incredible experiences plus anything else your heart desires!