Lifestyle

A New Immersive Museum Brings the Northern Lights and Interactive Cartoon Animals to Las Vegas

Art and technology come together on the Strip, and it will be televised.

Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

Everything falls under the banner of entertainment in Las Vegas-food, sports, gambling, and, to an increasingly noticeable degree, art. While museums and galleries are in relatively short supply compared to other cities, Vegas is welcoming a wave of “immersive” exhibits that repackage art, ingenuity, and creativity into tourist attractions, building a bubble that’s bound to burst but, for now, continues to expand rapidly.

With that in mind, Arte Museum is doing its best to earn your attention and maybe even your affection, arriving in the Western Hemisphere for the first time after drawing more than 6 million visitors to five Asian locations. The two-story space spans 30,000 square feet at 63, a new complex on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue that’s already home to yet another immersive attraction (the Museum of Illusions) and the steaks, seafood, and cocktails of Ocean Prime.

The name combines the first two letters of “art” and “technology” (and happens to be the Spanish word for art), adding up to an appropriate summation of what the concept is all about. Arte Museum is a series of interconnected exhibits, 13 to 15 at any time, featuring computer-generated images and animation, projection mapping, and ample use of infinity mirrors with subtle scents and atmospheric music by acclaimed South Korean composer Jang Young-gyu.

The futuristic presentations are balanced with inspiration from nature’s beauty in the everyday world. For example, one of the best moments is a digital beach with waves rolling under your feet and the glow of the Northern Lights overhead. For a great photo op, sit on the floor against the rushing waters and point your camera toward the wall-length mirror on the opposite side of the room.

Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

“The theme of the museum is eternal nature,” Arte Museum founder Sean Lee said. “We found that people, regardless of nationality, enjoy and appreciate this kind of content, so we decided to expand globally.”

Lee and parent company d’strict launched the first Arte Museum on South Korea’s Jeju Island just three years ago, offering an environment of imagination and serenity in a world struggling to overcome a global pandemic. Their success followed another project, WAVE, in Seoul’s Coex K-Pop Square. Billed as the largest atmospheric illusion in the world, the outdoor public art piece illustrates a series of crashing 3D-like waves inside what appears to be a 163-foot-long glass tank with videos quickly going viral on social media.

You’ll see a more modest, flatter version of WAVE in Las Vegas with water breaking against a digital screen along one side of a darkened room. While Arte Museum is a visual spectacle, it also effectively sets a tone, matching deep colors against low lighting to offer a sense of decompression just steps away from the chaos of the Las Vegas Strip. Walking from room to room, guests will experience imagery and atmospherics based on flowers, forestry, waterfalls, sunsets, and jungles. An area dubbed Night Safari provides the most charming moment of interactivity with cartoon-like animals roaming the surrounding walls with the power of projection mapping. Use a set of crayons to color or write between the outline of a fox, elephant, or zebra on a piece of paper, have it scanned, and watch your creation come to life, entering the frame and walking among the herd.

Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

“The company has about 300 employees and about a third of them, more than 100 people, are creators,” Marketing & Communications Manager Jae Kim said. “So all of the content is generated in house.”

The good thing about computer-generated content: It can always evolve. Up to 40 percent is customized for Vegas and expected to rotate every six months or so. The Garden is a room that offers the most flexibility, currently alternating between an animated art gallery (featuring works from impressionism to symbolism by the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Claude Monet, and Gustav Klimt) and local imagery inspired by the Southwest desert and lights of Las Vegas. An elevated platform in the center is a nice place to soak it all in at one time.

The self-guided tour winds down at the Tea Bar lounge for non-alcoholic drinks like a Caramel Latte, Golden Black Milk Tea, or kid-friendly Strawberry Milk Tea. They’re served in interactive cups that generate the image of a plum blossom on your table. Each drink is $7 on the spot or $5 when included in advance with a general admission ticket.

Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum
Photo courtesy of Arte Museum

Arte Museum already has three locations in South Korea (with a fourth on the way), two in China, and a Middle East debut taking shape in Dubai. Las Vegas marks an aggressive entry into the US market, with expansions in the works for Santa Monica, Chicago, and possibly New York. A touring version has also been discussed. Yet if all goes according to plan, the Arte Museum in Las Vegas will be the busiest and most popular, living up to its promise with a $25 million investment.

However, the competition is incredibly fierce right now. The Sphere changed the game for this kind of stuff and alternatives like Illuminarium at AREA15 and FlyOver at Showcase Mall are stretching the limits of what’s possible with ultra-high-definition screens. Can Arte Museum keep up? “We’re always going to stay on top of our game in terms of technology and what the general public wants to see in combining art and technology.” Kim confirmed.

It’s best to bring an open mind and see what the experience is all about for yourself. After operating in soft-opening mode throughout the month, Arte Museum celebrates an official grand opening on November 29. Tickets begin at $55 and are available online with discounts for kids, seniors, and the military.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†TikTok,¬†Twitter,¬†Facebook,¬†Pinterest, and¬†YouTube.

Rob Kachelriess¬†is a full-time freelance writer who covers travel, dining, entertainment, and other fun stuff for Thrillist. He’s based in Las Vegas but enjoys exploring destinations throughout the world, especially in the Southwest United States. Otherwise, he’s happy to hang out at home with his wife Mary and their family of doggies. Follow him on Twitter¬†@rkachelriess.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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