Happy Place, which officially opens Monday, November 20, aspires to be exactly the kind of silly, sweet, rainbow-colored escapism we need as the dark and complicated year of 2017 comes to an end. As soon as you cross the sunshine-yellow threshold, you’re immersed in brightly-decorated rooms to explore—all perfectly staged for Instagram-ready photo ops in which, even if our hearts remain distracted by the mounting sorrows of the world, our faces can at least engage in performative joy.
A timed entry ticket allows you to move at your own pace through a series of chambers, each of which is themed with a culturally-agreed-upon source of happiness. A room for birthdays and celebrations, for example, another one for romantic love, one for childhood whimsy. A darkened, glittering room offers itself as the spiritual core of the experience, decked in marigolds that evoke an amalgam of Hindu wedding garlands and Día de los Muertos altar decor.
That the largest single room in this series of universal sources of joy features a rainbow path leading the visitor to a ledge from which they can leap into a pot of gold (the “gold” is hundreds of coin-shaped plastic disks, embossed with Happy Place branding) is an unsubtle reminder of the late-capitalist fantasy in which one is, necessarily, participating. Happy Place is by its very existence a literal commodification of happiness. (Aside: The author forced a temporary closure of the pot of gold during her visit by losing a shoe to the depths of the faux-coin pit and requiring a team to excavate the coins to recover it. She recommends you consider your own footwear choices more carefully before venturing in.)
Arriving at the final chambers of the experience, Happy Place loosens up a bit on adherence to literal themes and, in so doing, these become the most delightful of the rooms. This, of course, seems to echo the greater truth that, so often, what actually makes us happy occurs outside of the societally-proscribed notion of what should make us happy. While this poignant theme is not robustly examined, there is, at least, a great deal of confetti.
In one space, the participant becomes a “confetti angel,” lying on a lighted platform covered in paper confetti, performing the classic snow-angel motion for an overhead gif-making camera. This, though, is mere prelude to the second confetti experience, a clear plastic tent with a floor made of air-blowing jets, which purports to be the largest confetti dome ever constructed. An operator stationed outside the dome controls the time an individual is allowed to be within, experiencing the confetti-swirling breeze. If you were to bribe any employee of Happy Place to allow you to linger in an installation beyond your designated time, it would be him.
Once you exit the dome, the final area is a “backyard” (it is actually indoors) with refreshment stands and a gift shop. If you’ve wanted to taste a rainbow grilled cheese sandwich, that can be done here. And then, it’s out the back door, to a vast, gritty parking lot shared with the Los Angeles Gun Club, and the harsh, often unhappy, realities of everyday life.
Tickets to Happy Place are currently on sale (General Admission, $28.50; VIP $199) and are expected to sell out, as tickets to these social-media experiences are wont to do. As images of beaming influencers in stylish ensembles posing against fun backgrounds begin to take over Instagram feeds, the FOMO frenzy is unleashed, and the cycle, as we have seen with the Museum of Ice Cream and other similar installations previous, continues.
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