Christmastime is here — and in L.A., that means it’s time for a seasonally appropriate pop-up. We’ve got Fa La Land in downtown L.A., a fun-for-the-whole-family pop-up giving you as much Santa-y, North Pole goodness as you can take.
Well, as much as you can take through about seven rooms of holiday joy — not the biggest pop-up, but the kind of place you can take a kid without worrying so much about a weary tantrum (from either kids or adults).
You start outside being greeted by an elf, who leads you through the doors to a giant Fa La Land sign giving you your first selfie opportunity, along with some merry props to pose with. To move beyond that opener, you’ve got to answer some Christmas trivia — but no need to worry, they’re easy for anyone who can remember the most basic details from holiday songs you’ve heard your entire life.
Then you enter a North Pole main street of sorts, with Mrs. Claus eager to greet you. One of the things that sets Fa La Land apart is the commitment of their actors — when we had our own experience there, she was in it, offering chitchat about what Santa’s up to and sharing charming Christmas tales. Those excited actors can be a bit much — there’s only one room in the whole experience where you can take a breath between meeting characters — but they’re trying to give you that good holiday stuff.
Mrs. Claus guides you through a variety of interactive experiences. These include making a wish in a (somehow not iced over) wishing well, writing a letter to Santa, and more. After you’re done in this room, you’re given the choice to enter either a Nice door or a Naughty door — whether you’re fully honest and can look Mrs. Claus in the eyes when you say you’ve been nice is up to you.
In your next room, you’ll meet a hyperactive elf. This is where you can get your picture taken with more elves on shelves than you can shake a candy cane at, check out a countdown clock letting you know how long you have left until Christmas, and spin a wheel making a determination about whether you were actually naughty or nice. You’ll even get the chance to write your name on the respective list.
When you’re ready, your elf has a golden ticket for you that entitles you to a special gift from Santa at the end. You get to choose between three different stamps for your golden ticket, which determine which (small) gift Santa will have for you.
The next room is one of the most visually spectacular, sending you walking down a path surrounded by neon Christmas trees and (non-real) animal friends in their branches. Recommendation (courtesy of our elf): set your phone to video mode as you go through for a psychedelic kaleidoscope of holiday faux-nature.
Next up is a trip to “Candyfornia,” where you’ll find clouds raining gumdrops, lollipop trees, a giant candy necklace, and more sugary sweet decor.
There’s also ball pit. Ball pits can be a bit disconcerting to the germophobic, but this one comes with hand sanitizer for when you get out. Even Justin Timberlake went for a dive:
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You’re almost at the end — it’s time for Fa La Fest, a room evoking Coachella with techno Christmas remixes playing.
On one side of the room is a shadowbox mistletoe opportunity for you to get a shadow photo kissing your Christmas cutie, and on the other is a lit-up dance floor with hula hoops to remind you of how you can’t hula hoop any more. (Your hula hoop mileage may vary.)
Finally! It’s time for Santa! This portion of the experience was the one that got the most backed up with other patrons during our visit — but isn’t Santa worth waiting for? You can tell Santa what you want for Christmas, which will almost certainly not be what he gives you, but it’s fun to share with Santa anyway right?
You can also get in his sleigh, with a moving background helping you to simulate the feeling that you’re on a midnight ride with the man in red. Get a video taken of your experience before — as with any great pop-up experience — exiting through the gift shop.
Fa La Land is open through Christmas Day at Row DTLA. Tickets are $37, with children under 3 free — reserve your timed entry ticket here.
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