There’s a brand new experience in town that allows big kids and parents to experience the sea in all its glory from the safety of the Natural History Museum. TheBlu: Encounter, An Underwater VR Experience is a deep-sea adventure that will blow you away with the realism of experiencing a close encounter with exotic creatures of the sea. Get the scoop on how you and your little Ariel can virtually go “under the sea.”

It’s Kind of Like Taking a Plane
It feels like check in at the airport: when you arrive at TheBlu, check in for your time slot (you’ll need advance reservations) and the friendly museum attendant will give you a small device which explains the equipment you will be wearing and how the whole process works. Instead of the boring airport waiting room, once you’ve checked in however, you sit back on the comfy chairs in the cool, darkened waiting area and enjoy big screen images of sea turtles and sea jellies swimming by.

The kids can stretch their legs and have a look at the collection of real sea creatures preserved in bottles. Feast your eyes upon eerily real cuttlefish, long-nosed butterfly fish, and spiny lobster to pass the time.

Pod People
TheBlu: Encounter has 7 “pod” areas. Your whole group can go into a pod together. (There’s a convenient small bench for anyone who wants to stay with thier group, but not take part.) To start, you put on a mask and earphones and are hooked up to a device that creates a virtual world around you. The trained associate explains what you will see, what the boundaries and limitations of the experience are, and a little bit of what to expect, so you won’t be startled.

Those with claustrophobia take heed! The mask might make the wearer feel slightly dizzy at first, but the sensation passes quickly. (This is why the experience is for kids 10 & up.) When the earphones are placed on your head, the virtual world is complete. You’re given a sensor to use as a “hand” to touch things and also a flashlight to illuminate the darkest depths of the sea.

Darling It’s Better, Down Where It’s Wetter
Blue descends upon you and suddenly you are in Neptune’s Kingdom. Clouds of silvery fish swim all around you and you are immersed in a marine wonderland. It’s breathtaking and transporting for kids and parents alike. (Seriously, if your kids are too young for this experience, consider making this a date night outing!)

Stand on the wreck of an old ship and be drawn into a virtual field of delicate sea jellies. Have a tête-à-tête with the largest creature on the planet, a Blue Whale, whose eye is as big as your head. Pat sea urchins and watch them react to your touch. It is the closest you will get to the experience of scuba diving without ever getting wet.

How’d They Do That?
TheBlu: Encounter was created by WEVR and enlisted the help of a multitude of experts in the fields of visual effects and interactive design. Director Jake Rowell of Superman and Andy Jones, an avatar animation expert, worked together to create this super cool and achingly realistic adventure. The detail is incredible, from the minute elements of the actual sea creatures, to the lighting, shadows, and textures. It is a truly awe-inspiring experience.

The 411
TheBlu: Encounter is for kids aged 10 years & up because the Virtual Reality is incredibly realistic and may be frightening for younger children. So leave the wee ones with a sitter and bring your bigger kids along. For safety reasons, children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Though the whole adventure is only 6 minutes long, the experience will stay with you a lifetime.

Advance timed tickets are required so call now or reserve online.  Tickets are $10 ($8 for members). Non-Members $10. TheBlu: Encounter is only in Los Angeles through April 28 so don’t waste a moment in booking your times.

The Natural History Museum
900 Exposition Blvd.
Exposition Park
213-763-3466
Online: nhm.org/site/explore-exhibits/special-exhibits/vr

Have you ever experienced the wonders of VR?  We’d love to hear about it in the comment section!

—written and photos by Elizabeth Kate