Pubs, clubs and boozy backdrops have traditionally fulfilled everyone's idea of escapism. But for those who find the dinner/movie combo too old-school, there is a new way to test your skills on a Friday evening that goes beyond social niceties. Ever wanted to experience a zombie apocalypse? Or learn how forensics analyze blood spatter to determine the weapon used in a crime scene? Forget binging on Netflix shows to get the gory details, we mean business.
With a combination of augmented, artificial and virtual reality, on top of some truly talented (read: twisted) set designers, London’s immersive experiences are some of the best in the world. So here you have it, our top ten picks of the most thrilling immersive experiences in London that will blow your mind - figuratively speaking of course. Take a look.
10 Crime Scene At The Natural History Museum
There’s murder afoot and you’re responsible - for finding the killer. It’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it and if you’ve got £60 to blow, the privilege could be yours. For one exclusive night a month, the Natural History Museum opens its doors after dark to a number of eager sleuths, its artifact-lined corridors transformed into a crime scene and laboratory extraordinaire.
The case is this: two bodies have been found, another two staff members are missing in suspicious circumstances and a priceless gem has been pinched. In order to solve this brazen breach, you choose between analyzing blood spatters to understand the killer’s weapon, maggots to crack the time of death or fingerprints to identify suspects. Working alongside real police officers, forensics experts and crime specialists, you’ll have to come up with a conclusion based on the evidence you uncover.
9 Alcotraz - The Prison Experience
In Alcotraz, there’s only one verdict. No plea bargain; you’re always guilty. Designed into a makeshift prison, you’ll have to slip into your orange jumpsuit, take note of your inmate number and accept the sentence that comes with being a hardened criminal. Clyde Cassidy, the prison’s most wanted liquor smuggler is in on things with the crooked guards, so get on their good side and they’ll help you run contraband booze inside the joint.
There are plenty of law-fearing cocktails in it for your troubles. The one person you do need to avoid is the Warden - he’s pretty jaded and damned convinced you’re scum. Perhaps it’s the guilty thrill that comes with bending the rules, but you’re in for a wild time.
8 CityDash - Fire Hazard Games
The clue’s in the name, as this immersive experience is definitely one for the more spirited sprinters in your friend group. Divided into groups who compete against one another, you’re given a map of a specific area in London, a smartphone app and one simple aim: track down cryptic clues and get as many points as you can. Complicating matters are the patrols bent on taking you down. Outwit or outrun them, the choice is yours - but let them get close enough to read the digits on your shirt, you lose points.
This makes for a manic, frenzied race across London’s busiest neighborhoods as you try to solve as many puzzles as you can in an hour - all the while being hunted. But if you’ve got pure speed and your wits about you, you can put up one hell of a fight.
7 CoLabTheatre - Hostage
If you’ve ever been just a little bit paranoid about the government watching your every move through the lens of technology, this experience proves your suspicions aren’t unfounded.
You’ll start your night by receiving a phone call from an unknown number, then, armed with walkie talkies and headphones, your mission is to infiltrate a secret government base to save one of your own. The evening will descend into madness from there, and you’ll get a terrifying taste of just how effective spyware can be. Word to the wise: wear flat shoes, especially if you’ve never broken into abandoned buildings before - it takes grit.
6 The Zombie Bunker
There are three conditions to you becoming a member of the EPIC assault team, after which you’re trained in weaponry and combat against the undead. You have to be physically fit, emotionally sound and ready to take orders. They’ll even make you sign a disclaimer to prove their point. But once you’ve signed your life over, the fun can begin.
Beloved show The Walking Dead is all about the existential struggle, overcoming the doom and gloom that comes with a zombie apocalypse. This full-on immersive experience will show you what the series can’t: it really is fun to kill zombies.
5 The War Of The Worlds
This sci-fi experience takes place in a 22,000 square foot warehouse, divided into a total of 10 rooms which uses virtual reality and multi-sensory technology to whisk you back to Victorian England. Only the world as you know it has been overrun and invaded - by Martians.
It’s a retelling of George Wells’ most famous novel, the major difference being that the fourth wall is decidedly broken, purposefully smashed to pieces actually. With the help of VR, every step you take, from boarding a ship to talking to holograms - feels and looks real.
4 The Jewel Of The Empire
The year is 1937, the British Empire is at the height of all its glory, and archaeologist Dr. Errol Earhart has uncovered his greatest find yet: the world’s most priceless diamond. Only it can’t stay in London - and neither can you. Collect your ticket at Peddler Street Station and board the Murdér Express, all stations to the opulent Von Cleethorpes estate.
It won’t be smooth sailing though - where’s the fun in that? In true Agatha Christie style, the diamond will go missing, bodies will surface and there’ll be a race against time to catch the killer. All the while you tuck into an extravagant 3 course meal. Beware though - everyone’s a suspect, even you.
3 The Wolf Of Wall Street
Jordan Belfort, despite his fraud and money laundering convictions, pulled through pretty nicely. One movie, two memoirs and countless self-help books later, the world’s not done with glorifying his lavish lifestyle pre-prison era. The Wolf of Wall Street is now an immersive theater experience, set across four floors of a secret London location.
Participants can choose to fulfill one of two roles; crooked Wall Street trader or FBI investigator. We suggest you consider carefully, as one defines the other. Dress code is 90s American office attire, and you’ll have free range of the set which includes a restaurant, several bars and several ‘super cars’ to ogle. If you’ve ever wanted to let your hair down and indulge in a little hedonistic behavior, this is the place to do it. Just be warned, the FBI are watching. Note: don’t bring your folks.
2 Sherlock, The Game Is Now
If the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street failed to fill the detective-sized hole in your heart, you can swallow your disappointment - we’ve got just the trick for you.
Moriarty is back, Sherlock is out of the country, and thanks to your most recent induction into The Network, it’s down to you to solve the mystery and deduct your way out of the vaults. The set involves a mixture of escape rooms, immersive sets and cryptic puzzlers you and your team have to figure out in under an hour. Elementary.
1 Aladdin And The Feast Of Wonders
The labyrinthine Vaults, located underneath Waterloo Station, are pretty otherworldly by themselves. But visit them when they’re decked out in Aladdin-themed sets for this thrilling pantomime, and they’re cold-cut spectacular.
The premise is pretty wacky: the Emperor is dead and so his daughter, the princess, reckons it’s high time to choose a suitor to take over the throne. As one of the finest citizens of Pantoworld, you’ve been invited to attend the Royal Feast of Wonders as a potential suitor for the princess. Join Aladdin’s exotic posse for an evening of extravagance, and if you’ve got nerve, talent and a flair for the whimsical, the throne could be yours. If none of these fit into your idea of a fun Saturday night, then we don’t know what does.