By: Scott S. Smith and Sandra Wells, and Christian Smith

As 3-D and virtual reality technologies have begun to influence entertainment and education, the Southern California area has been a leader in providing remarkably immersive experiences. These were some we really enjoyed recently.

WisdomeLA uses 360° domes and special filming and projection techniques to create mind-blowing experiences as you lie on beanbags on the floor, without even the need for 3D glasses. This immersive art park has many special events, so just go for whatever is on (we loved the one with a live band playing the Beatles’ psychedelic-era hits, such as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “I am the Walrus,” “Yellow Submarine,” etc.).
But you are not likely ever to see a transcendent vision like those created by the technical wizards of the Mystic Universe domes, no matter the program playing when you visit. “Yogi’s Journey” took us into ascending realms, from demonic hells to increasingly glorious levels of the heavens. Another carried us into dimensions filled with exotic animals and women dancing in ecstasy to divine music. There was a third dome where one could be guided through a special-effects meditation to generate the kundalini energy to move up the spine, according to Indian tradition. And there are also lots of nooks where a smartphone QR code can immerse you in 3D art. Leave your theology at home and let WisdomeLA take you on a sober trip that will return you to the mundane world after a life-changing spiritual experience.

Dreamscape in the Westfield Century City mall is by far the most advanced in creating an imagined reality that you can participate in, appropriately clothed for the adventure (via a backpack and helmet that even make you appear to your partner like a different being). All are very good, but our favorite so far is Alien Zoo, which takes you to another planet’s menagerie where you interact with all kinds of very strange creatures, even being able to pet them. You are in a group, whether walking or on a moving platform, so there is never any confusion and it’s a truly miraculous experience.
Nearly as fun was Dragon Flight, co-created with Dreamworks, which helped make flying on the back of your own dragon comfortable and thrilling. A close third for us was the Blu Deep Rescue, in which you seem to be cruising alongside whales to be able help them. The Curse of the Lost Pearl Magic Projector Adventure took a bit more effort for us during the pandemic, when we had to experience it without a group. The first time we got lost and weren’t certain where hard reality was when it came to taking the next step, so our guide had to coach us (Sandra also didn’t care for the roller coaster at the end). The second time Scott and Chris enjoyed it, but this is probably best for the more adventurous–it is very popular with teens, but the less adventurous might find it too exciting.
We haven’t experienced the latest, MIB: First Assignment derived from the Men in Black film franchise. There is clearly something for everyone at Dreamscape and you should get there before everyone else does.

IMAX 3-D at the California Science Center is in downtown L.A.’s Exposition Park off of Figueroa St. If you haven’t been to IMAX in recent years, you’ll be amazed at how its films have technically advanced and the experience has been super-charged by their cutting-edge 3-D for all at this location). “Under the Sea” explores the magical creatures of the deep ocean floor, while “Secret of the Universe” reveals the mysteries of dark energy, dark matter, and other dimensions in perhaps two of the best IMAX adventures ever made. We did not see “Journey to Space,” advertised as an imaginative trip to Mars, but whatever is playing, IMAX will deliver an educational and entertaining experience.
And while you’re there, take advantage of the Science Center itself, which offers a hands-on, interactive, and fun education for children of all ages, covering everything from life in different environments to the space shuttle program (the last Endeavour is there). Who knew that jelly fish and kelp could be so interesting?

Museum of Dream Space has locations on Hollywood Blvd. (just east of Highland), inside the Beverly Center near Beverly Hills, and in our suburb of Las Vegas. The Hollywood-Highland one is where most visitors and families would want to go because of all the adjacent things to do, such as the Chinese Theater handprints of the stars, the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Guinness World Records Museum, and the (overrated) Museum of Illusions. Parking is not easy to find, so plan to walk a few blocks. The room nearest the entrance of the Hollywood one was really dazzling, with mirrors on the walls, floor, and ceiling, filled with multi-colored light bulbs that have different kinds of activity inside. Other spaces use a variety of moving lasers, lighting, and videos of nature, mushrooms, and other phenomena to stimulate a sober psychedelic experience (those who indulge would probably find it helpful if they had a glass of wine or a bit of CBD in advance). Bring a pillow to sit on and stay a while.

Immersive Van Gogh We had the impression from ads that this was like walking through the artist’s paintings. What followed was a projection of Van Gogh’s works in a torrent of images that bring the audience into the artist’s life and creative experience, accompanied by truly majestic classical music. This French production was created by Massimilano Siccardi a few years ago and has been seen by millions. It runs through March 20 in Hollywood and you should run to it while you can. March 24 begins the one about Frida

Immersive Monet, Klimt, and Banksy are offered by Feverup in the Los Angeles area (the first two in Montebello, the latter in Culver City). We went to Monet in Dec. (Klimt was scheduled to start in Jan.), which started with an educational gallery on his career, enhanced by QR codes. The second section was immersive, projecting ever-changing images of the artist’s work on giant screens on all four walls. But it is absolutely worth paying the small extra fee for the final, virtual reality experience (free with the VIP pass that includes a poster), 15-minutes using 3-D goggles that truly take you inside the paintings. For families there is also a separate Dinos Alive