Bats swoop and dive over an African savanna in “Wild: A Safari Experience” at Illuminarium. (Photos by Collin Kelley)

Want to get up close with elephants, lions and giraffes on an African safari? How about taking a walk on the moon? Or maybe sip a cocktail inside a Rousseau painting? All of that will possible this July when Illuminarium Experiences opens on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail.

Using the most advanced projection, sound, and augmented reality technology for a “cinematic immersion” into different worlds, the 30,000 square foot attraction will be located inside Poncey-Highland’s Common Ground development, also home to New Realm Brewing and TWO urban licks, and just a short walk to Ponce City Market.

Illuminarium CEO Alan Greenberg

CEO Alan Greenberg – the former publisher of Esquire magazine and founder of Avenues: The World School, among other global endeavors – feels like he’s got a tiger by the tail with what will soon be an international entertainment company. More Illiuminariums are coming to Las Vegas, Miami, and Asia soon, but Greenberg said Atlanta was the perfect place to launch and be the company’s world headquarters.

“We originally planned to open in New York City, but I love the vibe of Atlanta, so we decided to open ‘off-Broadway,’” Greenberg said. “We looked around the Georgia Aquarium for a space, but nothing was big enough. When we saw this space at Common Ground, we knew it was the perfect place to start.”

That “perfect place” contains 30,000 square feet of space and soaring 22-foot ceilings. The main “spectacle” – as Greenberg calls it – will be projected inside an 8,000 square foot room where visitors are completely surrounded by a massive 360×360 canvas projecting images so clear you might be inclined to step back as a lion jumps from its rocky perch. As a herd of elephants approaches, you’ll feel them coming thanks to haptics in the floor. When you’re strolling across the surface of the moon, be sure to look down: your feet will be leaving tracks and kicking up clouds of dust. Sounds and even scents will also take visitors deeper into the experience.

Walking with the exotic animals in “Wild: A Safari Experience.”

Greenberg said he was inspired by the Atelier des Lumières in Paris and Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Room” installations, and even the original immersive experience, Atlanta’s own Cyclorama.

When Illuminarium opens this summer, the premiere spectacle will be “Wild: A Safari Experience” created by partner Radical Media during three trips to Africa. The films were shot in 8K, so the resolution is startling in its clarity. Take a selfie for Instagram and it will look like you’re on a grassy savanna in Kenya as a murmuration of bats swoops and dives among the acacia trees. Kids are sure to be thrilled and awed by the experience, and Greenberg said there will be special field trip opportunities for kindergartners through high schoolers.

Early next year, “Spacewalk” will zoom guests out into our solar system and beyond to see the comets of the Kuiper belt, the celestial wonder of stellar Nebula, and for a stroll across the red surface of Mars. Greenberg said a new spectacle will be introduced around every six months.

Walking on the moon in “Space Walk,” which will debut in 2022.

At night, a smaller theater will be transformed into what Greenberg calls “the coolest bar in Atlanta” with the same capabilities to transport visitors anywhere. At Illuminarium After Dark, you’ll be able to sip a glass of wine and dine on a small plate on a Tokyo street or deep inside a lush forest or amid undulating jellyfish. There will also be an outdoor patio overlooking the BeltLine serving up food and drinks while you wait your turn or to wind down after the experience.

An ever-changing retail shop will feature the usual key chains, magnets, and mugs, but also artisan goods made by crafters from around the world, including Africa for the premiere of “Wild.”

Illuminarium has also partnered with global conservation organization, WildArk, to work collaboratively with local partners and communities to protect prioritized wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystems around the world. Greenberg said the company will donate a portion of all ticket and merchandising revenue annually to WildArk.

Swimming with jellyfish will be one of the themes at Illuminarium After Dark.

With $60 million in investment capital, Greenberg has assembled a team of global partners. Along with Radical Media producing content, Greenberg has assembled a team of partners that include Legends, which operates more than 150 venues and attractions around the world including The View from The Shard in London and the One World Trade Center observatory; award-winning architecture and design firm Rockwell Group; and Panasonic, which is developing new technology for Illuminarium to test in its “lab space” also located on the BeltLine.

Leading a tour of the still under construction space in mid-April, Greenberg predicted Illuminarium will be “one of Atlanta’s greatest attractions” and draw families from around the southeast to see it. He said parking for the attraction in the densely packed Poncey-Highland area would be handled with shuttles, off-site parking, and plans to utilize a 2,000 square foot parking deck at New City’s Fourth Ward project (future home of Mailchimp) across the BeltLine.

“There needs to be more to do in Atlanta, and we’re going to bring people the world and beyond,” Greenberg said.

Tickets, which will range in price from $30 to $40, will be available in early May at illuminarium.com.

And if you’re looking for some immersive experiences right now, be sure to check out Intown’s preview of the ongoing “Sistine Chapel” exhibition and the upcoming “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” at this link.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.