Chicago

Sony Just Opened a VR Theme Park and Speakeasy Outside Chicago

Step into the worlds of Uncharted, Ghostbusters, Jumanji, and more.

Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.

It’s tough to get out of the city when a world of culture and entertainment is at your fingertips, but Sony is betting big on the suburbs of Chicago with its opening of Wonderverse, a 45,000-square-foot venue that brings the studio’s most popular movies, TV shows, and video games to life.

Located less than 20 miles west of the city in Oakbrook Mall, Wonderverse is Sony’s first immersive experience in the world. Uncharted, Ghostbusters, Jumanji, Bad Boys, and Zombieland are just some of the titles coming to life in the form of virtual reality, interactive installations, themed dining experiences, and exclusive merch.”Oakbrook was chosen for several reasons,” said Jeffrey Godsick, EVP of Global Partnerships and Brand Management and Head of Location Based Entertainment at Sony Pictures. “It’s one of the top malls in the country and the space with its high ceilings allows us to create something spectacular.”

Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.

There’s the Ghostbusters Virtual Reality Academy, with two very different virtual reality experiences. In the Arena, expect to suit up and get armed with proton packs in order to outsmart mischievous spirits and join forces with fellow trainees to capture ghosts while standing. Blitz uses one-of-a-kind tech to put guests in the driver’s seat of an ectomobile-turned-hovercraft, where they compete to see who’s the fastest, most skillful driver in a high-speed race with realistic bumps and turns.

To challenge your brain, there’s three different Uncharted-themed escape rooms that drop guests right onto the movie sets Mark Wahlberg and Tom Holland navigated for hidden treasure. Guests can choose to do one as a standalone activity or all three for a connected storyline. There’s the Bad Boys Racing Club where guests ride through a high-speed chase through Miami on racing simulators and Zombieland bumper cars. In between all the different immersive activities is a playground of classic arcade games. When the need to rest and refuel before jumping back into the action hits, visit The Commissary, the casual yet surprisingly upscale on-site restaurant by Chef Scott Donaldson, where everything is made from scratch on-site.

Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.

Expect burgers, fries, salads, and chili, but keep an eye for more elevated fare tucked alongside comfort food staples. There’s a Brooklyn-style chicken parmesan sandwich served in a tomato vodka sauce and topped with pecorino cheese and fresh mozzarella on a toasted baguette. There’s a butternut squash steak sprinkled with pepitas and garnished with gremolata, an Italian condiment made of parsley, garlic and lemon zest (one of many options that are meat and dairy-free). And for meat lovers, the jerk pork tacos garnished with pickled pineapple relish and island cream sauce alongside sweet fried plantains and island rice is a standout.

The dessert selection is where it gets thrown back to Sony Pictures. “My Weakness Is Cake,” is Kevin Hart’s line in the new Jumanji. It’s also the name for a chocolate mousse fudge cake that’s served with a salted caramel ganache and chocolate mirror glaze. It’s sold by the slice or as a whole. The “Bad Boys Coffee Break” is a plate of ricotta donuts on a bed of mocha mousse, dusted with cinnamon sugar and salted sweet cream foam. Milkshakes, a chocolate waffle taco, s’mores, and a banana cream butter cake with dulce de leche ice cream are also on the menu.

Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.
Courtesy of Wonderverse, Inc.

A full bar selection (including mocktails) is available courtesy of the Commissary Bar helmed by mixologist Jane Danger. The selection of specialty cocktails pays homage to popular pictures from Sony that didn’t make the cut for the interactive entertainment picture. There’s You Had Me at Hello, a vodka lychee ginger beer and St. Germain concoction for all the Jerry Maguire fans. Wax On Wax Off has a beachy, West Coast vibe to it with its Malibu base mixed with honey, lime and coconut-similar to the location of Mr. Miyagi’s LA lessons in The Karate Kid. And the You Can’t Handle The Truth, a mango whiskey cocktail you can actually picture Jack Nicholson drinking while on the set of A Few Good Men.

But if you want a more grown-up vibe and the chance to escape the crowds, look for The Ghost Trap, a speakeasy-style bar that isn’t too hard to find (you just have to know to look for it). Tucked away from the arcade noise is the cozy watering hole that seats no more than 60 people at a time. With its high ceilings, leather bound books on the shelves and paintings decorating the walls, you’d think you’d stumble on a professor’s study. Take a closer look and you’ll see that might be the case if the professor in question was a fan of the supernatural. Slimer, the not-so-friendly-phantom from Ghostbusters zings around the walls and is one of the biggest clues that the bar is a tribute to one of Sony’s most successful franchises. Easter eggs are hidden throughout and include a copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide, the encyclopedia on all-things-supernatural used by the 1984 movie’s protagonists, schematic drawings of the proton pack and a haunted card catalog that holds relics from ghostbusting adventures.

Wonderverse opened to the public January 11, 2024 and is located at 100 Oakbrook Center, Oakbrook, IL just above the L.L. Bean on level one. It is free to enter, includes a store with merchandise not found anywhere else in the world and attractions range from $6-$35 per person. Visitors are encouraged to book their experiences upon arrival since they can sell out and are not sold online. Guests younger than 16 must be chaperoned by an adult at least 21 years of age. Guests younger than 21 years old, will not be admitted after 7 pm because Wonderverse becomes an adult-only experience at 8 pm every night of the week. For more info visit WonderverseChicago.com.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Ximena N. Beltran Quan Kiu is a Thrillist contributor.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.