When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than escaping into a novel. There was something so magical about allowing my imagination to take over, to feel like I was stepping into a portal into a magical world.
That sense of wonder is harder to come by as an adult. But as Willy Wonka once beckoned, come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Which world, you ask?
Stepping through the doors at the east side art installation is like you’re stepping into your very own choose-your-own-adventure novel. Within Otherworld, visitors are able to have whatever kind of experience they want by exploring at their own pace, choosing which puzzles they’d like to solve and which rooms they want to enter.
Immersive art isn’t a new concept, but Otherworld seems like one of those places that shouldn’t exist and the fact that it does makes it feel fresh and exciting.
Located in a former strip mall, the area around Otherworld has a sense of decay. The shuttered storefronts and immense vastness of the empty parking lot set the stage for the narrative within.
Your presence in Otherworld is under the pretense that you’re a beta tester for a futuristic VR company. Those virtual reality worlds have begun to seep out into the corners of Otherworld.
This colorful, intriguing, 30,000+ square foot world was created by Jordan Renda. Renda got his start in haunted houses and escape rooms before launching Otherworld. There’s a natural evolution there for Otherworld. The experience isn’t scary, but there is that same feeling of never knowing exactly what will be around the next corner.
Otherworld is full of secrets and puzzles. Over 40 artists have contributed to the immersive experience, including fabricators, muralists, sculptors, animators, and more. Each of these artists has worked to create a one-of-a-kind world made up of over 40 rooms of colorful, thought-provoking experiences for visitors.
Once you get checked in as a “beta tester”, you are free to explore the many rooms, hallways, nooks, and crannies throughout Otherworld. From broken-down labs to seemingly endless rooms, you’ll walk (and sometimes crawl) through this fantastical world.
The story of Otherworld itself is something that deserves to be experienced without spoilers, so I won’t go into too much detail about it. However, there are a few things I can’t help but mention.
The tree at the center of Otherworld is by far one of the most eye-catching parts of the whole place. It’s also a good place to venture out and discover new rooms, as it feels like almost all paths through Otherworld lead there.
I also fell in love with what I affectionately called the “super cool light tube room”. That’s not the official name by any means, but trust me, once you see it, you’ll understand.
Your visit to Otherworld will take about an hour. Of course, you can go through much faster than that, but if you want to take advantage of the fully immersive aspect, it’s best to take your time.
Clues are hidden in each room, and they aren’t always obvious. Some lead to interactive games, others are just enjoyable little mysteries to solve along your way.
When I visited, I was in awe of the level of detail. There were times when I genuinely had to push myself to figure out what exactly the interactive portions of Otherworld meant, which became sort of an adventure in itself.
What’s next for Otherworld?
Back in 2021, Otherworld announced that they would be expanding, adding an additional 26,000 square feet for new rooms and a music venue. But those plans have yet to come to fruition, due to issues with lease agreements with the property owner.
Renda explained to Columbus Business First that one of the main priorities for Otherworld is getting into a space in Columbus that they own, where they can expand and take the future of the immersive experience into their own hands.
While the Columbus expansion may be on hold, Otherworld is venturing out into another city. Philadelphia will host a second Otherworld location in a 45,000-square-foot space that will feature 55 rooms of the trippy, beautiful art Otherworld has become known for.
People already traveled to Columbus to visit Otherworld, so expanding to a popular destination like Philadelphia just made sense.
“There’s plenty of other institutions in Philly that people could justify not only coming in for us but checking out all the other stuff the city has to offer,” Renda told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At both the Columbus and Philadelphia locations, new rooms are added every year, to keep the experience fresh for returning visitors.
Here in Columbus, the venue frequently holds small concerts, offering an incredibly unique stage for artists to perform and attendees to enjoy.
What To Know Before You Visit
Tickets to Otherworld are $30 for adults, $25 for Seniors and Military, and $20 for kids. If you’d like to have a small discount, consider visiting Monday through Friday before 5 p.m., when adult tickets are $25.
Although your tickets aren’t refundable, you will be able to reschedule for another time and date of your choice if you aren’t able to make it.
As I mentioned earlier, you should plan to give yourself at least one hour to work your way through Otherworld. You can take even longer if you’re not ready to leave the immersive experience, but you will need to adhere to the starting time that you choose when booking your tickets.
Bringing the kids along isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged. Kids under 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult while moving through the installation.
Otherworld Columbus is located at 5819 Chantry Dr, Columbus OH 43232. There’s an abundance of free parking available. Otherworld’s close proximity to I-70 means you’re only about nine miles from Downtown Columbus, so you won’t have to go too far if you’re feeling like checking out some of the best restaurants in town.
For more info or to start planning your visit to Otherworld, you can visit otherworldohio.com.