Hello fun seekers. We're not ordered to be at home anymore, but with the coronavirus still spreading in L.A., and no vaccine yet, you might not want to go out just because you can. Also, not everything has been allowed to reopen.
These past months have been filled with unprecedented changes and stresses, but it's still OK to take a break and have a good time, even if it's just for a few minutes. You deserve it. And we want to help.
Below are some ways to feel like you're virtually out there, without leaving your jammies. Be moved by priceless museum art, cut the line on the world's most exciting theme park rides, and try to puzzle your way out of some enigmatic escape rooms. That last one's almost like a metaphor.
We made something for you: a virtual theme park!
Dim the lights, secure your lap restraints, and behold the ridethrough videos from the hottest theme park rides in Southern California, around the world, and even back in time.
First up is the biggest ride-related public service we can provide -- a turn on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Even the most avid parkgoers had trouble experiencing this one before COVID struck. Get hyped for actually riding it whenever you feel safe doing so.
STAR WARS: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE
The opportunity to traipse around a star destroyer is so popular and epic that Disney had to design an entire new virtual queue system, and getting a spot has meant being inside the park at 8 a.m. and hitting a button on an app at the exact right moment. And even then, it might be a full day before you board. Forget all that and live your Star Wars life with a holographic Rey, Kylo Ren coming after you with his crossguard lightsaber, and absolutely no line.
JURASSIC WORLD — THE RIDE
Welcome... to Jurassic World. It's one of Universal Studios' newest attractions, while also being an update of a classic. Jurassic Park kept reopening after dinosaur attacks, so while we wait for things to reopen after a virus, you can experience a different kind of life-threatening thrill.
With temperatures already hitting the 90s, we're longing for the experience of Splash Mountain. Get a spray bottle to spritz yourself, while hoping that an animatronic fox doesn't start talking about marrying your dad.
Waterworld didn't get global warming exactly right, but the live show is so good that it will make you want to see the widely derided movie. Whether you choose to create your own in-home Splash Zone and/or have a plane land in your living room is up to you.
RADIATOR SPRINGS RACERS
We're spending less time in our cars, so here's your chance to spend more time in Cars. Set up a fan to recreate the feeling of wind in your hair during the racing part. But wait, why limit ourselves to Southern California? This is a virtual theme park, and we can put whatever we want in it. Let's go!
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: BATTLE FOR THE SUNKEN TREASURE
The Chinese market doesn't have the nostalgic love for the classic Disney ride, knowing the franchise largely from the hit Johnny Depp films. So when Disney had a chance to create a new Pirates ride for Shanghai Disneyland, they used the movies as a model of what moments to include, as well as using the latest theme park tech to kick our ride up to the next level -- while still holding onto that dog with the jail cell keys. You can watch some English translations of the dialogue here.
FLIGHT OF PASSAGE
We're still not sure why they're developing four new Avatar movies, but we are sure that people love this Avatar ride from Florida's Animal Kingdom. Join the Na'vi for an epic flight and remember why this was once the biggest movie ofall time.
HAGRID'S MAGICAL CREATURES MOTORBIKE ADVENTURE
Sure, there's a Harry Potter rollercoaster for all ages here in SoCal -- but Florida's ride is for those ready to solemnly swear that they're up to no good, with animatronic animals, a portion that goes backwards, and speeds that will make your clothes and your face ripple.
THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF SPIDER-MAN
The Marvel land set to open in SoCal is on hold for a sec thanks to the pandemic, but this Spider-Man attraction at Universal Studios Orlando came first. It's an impressive 3-D ride at Universal's Islands of Adventure, featuring a comic-book-come-to-life aesthetic reminiscent of the '90s Spider-Man cartoon.
TRON LIGHTCYCLE POWER RUN
Back to Shanghai for one that's on its way to Disney World, but not scheduled for those of us in California. Tron seems like the perfect world for a virtual ride. Get ready to go reeeeeeal fast, without as much of a threat of losing your lunch.
Hopefully we can go back outside before October, but you can get your chills now via this international take on the Haunted Mansion, offering a distinctly Chinese take on spirits.
Everyone's feeling separated at the moment, so go on an adventure with the adorable alien that popularized the idea of phoning home.
THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE
This show took you on a journey through Hollywood history, featuring films from different studios. But it's been lost as Disney has gone extra hard on the Disney in their rides, making way for a new Mickey & Minnie-themed attraction.
MIAMI VICE ACTION SPECTACULAR
Sure, the live Waterworld show's great, but where are the pastel suits?! Check out Universal's earlier live show, based on the ultimate '80s dudes with the kind of stubble also caused by coronavirus lockdowns.
MISSION TO MARS
There aren't a lot of great videos available of the original Mission To Mars, given video technology of the time and the dark setting -- but one ambitious theme park fan has developed a CGI re-creation for you to experience. Virtual reality still has a ways to go, but here's the closest you're going to get to this theme park experience of yesteryear.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Time to jump in the Delorean and come back home. Our own timeline went a different way, but here's your chance to get in one of those hovercars we never got.
We also got sneak peeks of Disneyland's upcoming "Avengers Campus" Marvel-themed land, as well as Universal Studios' Secret Life of Pets attraction, just before everything shut down. Their openings have been delayed, but you can still get an inside look before you get to see them in person... someday.
Here is an option for when you're seeking a more interactive experience, but perhaps something besides the constant tending of your Animal Crossing gardens: escape rooms.
This particular type of entertainment has been shut down since they require going through narrow passageways and touching things while running back and forth in close proximity. But some local locations have opted to create virtual experiences.
We tried out Escape Room L.A.'s Escape From Planet X, and found the experience of exploring an alien planet on Zoom a nice way of connecting with friends beyond another video call happy hour.
Check out that and other virtual L.A. escape room options here:
- The Curse of the Dark Raven (Escape Room L.A.)
- Escape From Planet X (Escape Room L.A.)
- The Lost Pyramid (Escape Room L.A.)
- Miss Jezebel (60out) -- adult-oriented
- Nautilus (60out)
In the start-stop-start-pause of reopening, some museums have opened in limited capacities, then closed again. Either way, you may not feel safe going back yet.
Until then, you can check out our preview of what you'll find at the Motion Picture Academy's upcoming museum. Its opening has been delayed by coronavirus, but you can also take a look at photos from the hard-hat tour we took of the facility as construction was being completed.
If you're looking for more family-friendly fun, check out these lists of museums appropriate for all ages.
And here's where you can find some of the most iconic L.A. museums bringing some version of their offerings to the Web for your socially distanced viewing/learning/experiencing pleasure:
- The Getty Museum
- The Grammy Museum
- LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
- MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art)
- Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County
- Norton Simon Museum
- Petersen Automotive Museum
- Skirball Cultural Center
Image Credit (top): Chava Sanchez/LAist