When it comes to art, kids want it to be bold, colorful and larger-than-life. From the moment you step through the doors of the bright blue building that houses Seattle’s newest art exhibit, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, that’s what you’ll find. The oversized sunflowers that greet you at the door set the scene for this immersive art experience that was made for 21st century families. Wondering if you should visit? Here’s what you need to know.

Learn about Van Gogh

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By the time you exit the experience, you’ll have seen nearly 300 digital projections of Van Gogh’s sketches, drawings and paintings, but it all starts with learning about Van Gogh’s life, influences and recognizable technique. We recommend downloading the app to get the most out of the first few exhibit rooms. Wall placards aside, the QR codes take visitors to historical tidbits, personal notes and other intriguing facts and puts them in the palm of your hand. Plus, handing your device off to your little art lover (a.k.a. the official code scanner) gives kids a way to interact during this (mostly) static part of the experience.

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Kids will love the 3-D effects they’ll find along the way, too, like Van Gogh’s head and The Vases. When they make it to The Bedroom at Arles, they can sit in the painting and pose for parents. And if you’re wondering what the light cameras on the ground are for, they guide visitors to the perfect spot to take Insta-worthy shots.

Ignite All Your Senses

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After walking through the first few rooms, it’s time for the big show. The 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling immersive room is where families can “step into a living painting.” Beyond the visual effects that make sunflowers float to the ceiling, crabs crawl across walls and wagons mosey along haystack-lined roads, kids will love the sound effects, music and playful floor projections that draw in Van Gogh fans of all ages.

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While parents and big kids will appreciate lounging in the beach chairs listening to the narration, tots will love the freedom of the space. They can chase the floor projections darting from one spot to the next as scenes change. Tiny dancers will love strutting their stuff when the music starts and the spirit moves them. But kids may also enjoy finding a seat and marveling at the spectacle that surrounds them. We love the comfy rugs on the floor, too because they make sweet spots for tots to watch the show.

Turn Inspiration into Art

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If being surrounded by Van Gogh’s visually stunning creations has you itching to create something yourself, there’s an area to sit down and do just that beyond the immersive room. Here kids and parents can color one of Van Gogh’s famous works of art, adding their own touches. Finally! Time to sit and color with your kiddo. Crayons and hand sanitizer are the tools at your disposal. When you’re finished, project your work into a digital frame at the “Paint with Vincent” station. Kids can line up the picture, press the red button and watch their work magically appear on the screen in front of them. What a thrill! Take your artwork home or hang it on the wall for others to enjoy.

Take a Virtual Walk with Van Gogh

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The final piece of the experience is the VR presentation of “A Day in the Life of the Artist.” Once you put on the headset, you’ll be transported to the French countryside where a simple stroll turns into a learning experience. It’s a chance to hear intriguing stories behind some of Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings. The VR experience lasts 10 minutes, and is included in the VIP package. Families can also add it on day-of for $5 each. We’re guessing big kids will jump at the chance to try this out—because, VR. And if you’ve got younger kiddos with you, consider a tag team approach with your parenting partner—you definitely won’t be able to keep an eye on roaming kids with the headset on. The sets are recommended for kids ages 6 and up.

Parent Planning Tools:

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1. Plan a little over an hour, give or take, for the experience. This will give you enough time to watch the presentation in the immersion room, sit and color for a while and then dive into the VR experience, without feeling too hurried.

2. If you want to avoid the crowds (and save some money too!), get tickets for a mid-week time slot.

3. The experience is super stroller-friendly so bring one along for antsy toddlers or non-walkers. Babies in carriers are easy too. Who knows—your little bundle may even sleep through the exhibit!

4. There are lots of public parking lots in the area, including at the exhibit building. Plan to pay anywhere from $3-$10 to park and plan on a short walk, depending on where you’re able to snag a spot.

5. Remember to check out the COVID policies and cleaning protocols so you know what to expect when visiting with kids. Staying socially distant, wearing masks and hand sanitizer stations are all part of the protocol here.

Important COVID info.: Please remember to bring your proof of vaccination or negative COVID test.

Date & Hours: Mon. & Weds.-Fri., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat., Sun. & holidays, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

Cost: $41-$50/Adult, General Admission; $25-$28, Kid (4-12), General Admission; $62-$72/Adult, VIP; $42-$47/Kid (4-12), VIP; $104-$125/Family Pass (2 Adults + 2 Kids); $21-$25/Additional Family Pass Child; Discounts for students, seniors and military

1750 Occidental Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98134
Online: vangoghexpo.com/seattle

—Allison Sutcliffe, all images courtesy the writer


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