Travel

Everything You Need to Know About ATL's New Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

Get tickets while you still can.

Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo
Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo
Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo

Whether you’re a certified art buff, a kid in grade school, or a legal-age Atlantan who only ends up at the High Museum of Art when there’s cocktails involved, you probably feel all too familiar with Vincent van Gogh. But no matter which of those categories you exist in, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience will make you feel more engaged with one of the most gifted, troubled, and celebrated artists of all time.

The insanely popular experience currently has exhibitions across America-including cities such as New York, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. to name a few-and throughout Europe, and this summer, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience made its way to Atlanta. Organized by Exhibition Hub and Fever, the virtual reality and video-based exhibit has been selling out tickets with ease over the past several weeks, so I recently paid it a visit to see what all the hype was about.

Going into it, I didn’t know much of what to expect. Prior to my visit, I had only seen pictures of people wearing VR headsets and shots of the admittedly breathtaking projection room. As a result, I was under the impression that it would be more of a passive, sit-down viewing experience rather than a more traditional museum exhibition, but there’s much more to it than that.

My trip to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience consisted of four parts: an intriguing walk-through of Vincent van Gogh’s life and artistry, an awe-inspiring 360 video projection experience, a goofy-slightly less impressive-DIY arts and crafts session, and a stunning virtual reality simulation.

As someone who has visited the Louvre several days in a row, I was hoping that there would be a traditional museum aspect to the Van Gogh exhibit, and my prayers were immediately answered after checking in at the front desk. From a timeline of Van Gogh’s life, explanations about the repetitive nature of his work, a graphic highlighting the lack of commercial success during his lifetime, there was a huge amount of information and vibrant imagery positioned across the walls. The walk-through section primarily consists of two large rooms, and although it wasn’t long, per se, it served as an excellent primer. Whether it was about Van Gogh’s infamous self-mutilation of his ear or his life in an asylum in Southern France, the insightful wall text was an ideal precursor to the main attraction: the 360º digital projection room.

Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo
Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo
Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo

Walking into the projection room, it was clear that the pictures didn’t do this part of the Van Gogh attraction justice.The exhibit’s website wasn’t lying when it said the experience is like stepping into a Van Gogh painting. Every inch of that sprawling room was lit with Van Gogh’s artwork, and there were people sitting on benches, lying down on rugs, and sitting against the walls-all gazing intently at the magnificent display. Most of the information that was included in the wall text in the first part of the exhibit was now being creatively displayed through aesthetically pleasing video projections.

After witnessing things like Van Gogh’s tendency to paint damn-near identical works of art over and over from a brand new perspective in the projection, I headed over to the next part of the exhibit-the arts & crafts room. This kid-friendly section of the Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is essentially a coloring book station, but honestly, I wasn’t mad at it. Instead of just leaving the attraction after that stunning projection presentation, I got to channel my creativity and fresh inspiration by picking up a blank version of one of Van Gogh’s paintings and coloring it in. Starry Night, Sunflowers, The Bedroom, and Café Terrace were all available to choose from, and while my coloring job on Café Terrace wasn’t worth showing anyone, there was the option for guests to upload their work for everyone else to see.

I was far more excited for the final part of my visit than figuring out how to put my remedial artwork on display, so I moved on to the virtual reality experience. After handing me a cloth eye mask, an attendant helped me put on a headset and started the virtual reality experience. Without giving too much away about it, the VR simulation is flat-out beautiful. It features a Vincent van Gogh-narrated journey through the French countryside, and throughout the VR experience, you get to marvel at Van Gogh’s ability to find inspiration in the mundane and beauty in the world around him. It was a stunning way to end an already incredible experience, and after walking out and receiving my complimentary Starry Night poster, I could without a doubt say that Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is absolutely worth it.

Here is everything you need to know before heading over to Pullman Yards to check it out for yourself.

Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo
Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo
Courtesy of Van Gogh Expo

When is the exhibit open?

Since opening in Atlanta in May, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has been making itself as accessible as possible by remaining open throughout most of the week and during the weekends. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, its hours are from 10 am to 9 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, it is open from 9 am to 10 pm.

Where is the exhibit located?

The Van Gogh exhibit is located in the Kirkwood neighborhood at Pullman Yards Building 1, the historic core of Atlanta’s Pratt-Pullman District. Hourly parking is available onsite for $5 per hour through ParkMobile, so make sure you have that app already installed before you pull up.

How long does the experience typically last?

The Van Gogh attraction may not look like much on paper, but it is definitely a time-consuming experience. Expect to spend at least an hour at the exhibit, and if you’re not the fastest reader, it’ll probably end up being closer to a 75-minute trip. With that said, there’s a lot of knowledge to soak up at Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, so take your time.

Are there food or drinks available on-site?

There are no food or drinks available indoors at the Van Gogh experience, but there are vendors located outside of the attraction. During my visit, Golda Kombucha was one of the local businesses who were offering refreshments, and I was able to take home cans of its delicious Botanical Cream Soda and Hibiscus Blood Orange Kombuchas. In addition to Golda, there were also booths where you could order alcoholic beverages like beer and cocktails.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Yes, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is wheelchair accessible! Furthermore, to ensure that all visitors are as safe as possible given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, masks are mandatory within the experience for everyone.

How do I buy tickets?

Available via Fever, each ticket will grant you entry to the exhibition and online access to The Van Gogh Studio. Standard tickets are $35.40 for adults, $24.50 for children ages 4 to 12, and $26.70 for students, seniors, and military. VIP tickets-which include the VR experience and a complimentary poster-are priced at $52.30 for adults and $41.40 for children. The first thing that you’ll likely notice when going to buy tickets is that this exhibit sells out really fast, so just keep in mind that you may have to plan your visit a couple of weeks (and maybe even a month) out in advance.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram at @roshrisky.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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