Step right up! Multidisciplinary tech collective Two Bit Circus devises immersive experiences designed to thrill. No striped tents or exotic animals here; rather, visitors are whisked away to weird and wonderful sideshows elevated by virtual reality (VR) and immersive technologies.
Whether you’re defending yourself from alien swamp monsters in VR or schmoozing with resident robot bartender Gearmo del Pouro at the bar, Two Bit Circus promises a downright carnivalesque outing in downtown Los Angeles. A daring concoction of technology, engineering, and ingenuity, this redefined entertainment center is housed within in a 37,000 square-foot multiplex so imposing it’s billed as a “micro-amusement park.”
Inside, your pick of escape rooms, lounges, interactive performances, games, and food options await. VR Cabanas provide private gaming experiences for up to six people at a time, while The Midway offers “a shore-front boardwalk with a high-tech twist” featuring 21st-century iterations of classic carnival games. All in all, some 30 different VR experiences are offered within these colossal digs.
Los Angeles-based visionaries Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman helm the “band of mad scientists, roboticists, visual artists, and storytellers” behind Two Bit Circus. They collectively endeavor to “reinvent the way people play,” from souped-up arcade games to interactive Story Rooms that challenge participants to complete space missions and uncover ancient treasures before their allotted time is up.
Bushnell and Gradman are no strangers to the entertainment sphere, having worked on a number of VR and interactive tech projects for the likes of Google and Disney as engineers at the Los Angeles-based creative technology collective, Syyn Labs. They founded Two Bit Circus in 2012 to forge ahead with their own productions.
First came STEAM Carnival (STEAM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art, and math), a techy take on the traveling circus that awed audiences of all ages with steampunk inventions and interactive games. But the pair eventually decided to establish a more permanent version of STEAM, and in September 2018, Two Bit Circus unveiled the micro-amusement park.
A throwback to classic 80s games and the simpler days of circus entertainment, Two Bit Circus’ complex oozes nostalgia, but it simultaneously represents the future of communal play. Furthermore, you can transport yourself into space and explore new worlds for what Bushnell estimates will cost you less than $50 for the night.
Know Before You Go
Two Bit Circus is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Hours of operation are 5 pm to 11 pm on Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5 pm to 1 am on Fridays, 1 pm to 1 am on Saturdays, and 1 pm to 11 pm on Sundays. There’s no admission charge to enter the facility, but games and experiences come at individual costs. Visitors can put money on a Playing Card, while some performances and attractions can be paid for in cash or with a credit card. Visitors after 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays must be 18 years of age or older. All ages are welcome otherwise, though the park is not recommended in its entirety for children under 7 due to the nature of some games.