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Cryptid Grove is the game designed in the extension of Escape Room Herndon (via Omer Aru)

Escape Room Herndon is officially expanding this week with a new room near its current location in Herndon Centre.

The latest game — Cryptid Grove — will open Thursday, Feb. 15 in the company’s new Raven’s Nest Escape Room at 388 Elden Street.

Able to accommodate up to 10 players, the game is designed for customers between the ages of 10 and 75 and described as having “moderate” level of difficulty, according to the company.

“Cryptid Grove offers an intriguing experience inspired by the lore of mysterious creatures like Bigfoot and Mothman, designed to engage adventurers of all ages,” Herndon Escape Room owner Omer Aru said. “Raven’s Nest is our expanded new location in a few doors down in the same shopping center.”

Escape Room Herndon opened its doors in 2016. It decided to expand with Raven’s Nest in reponse to burgeoning demand from the community. The space will also feature a 215-square-foot party room, set to open in March, and a second game expected in late 2024.

Reservations for “Cryptid Grove” are now available online.

Omnium Circus is coming to Capital One Hall in Tysons, with a diverse cast including aerial silk artists Jen Bricker-Bauer and Dominik Bauer (courtesy Omnium)

A circus that accommodates both performers and audience members with disabilities will swing back into Tysons later this February for a new, one-day-only show.

Omnium Circus will launch its 2024 tour of the production “I’m Possible” at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) on Feb. 24. It will be the third visit to the Tysons performing arts venue for the nonprofit-run circus, which first stopped by in February 2022.

“Capital One Hall has always been a special venue for us and we are excited to bring our show and our new cast to such a welcoming audience,” Omnium Circus founder and executive director Lisa Lewis said. “We look forward to continuing the tradition of creating wonderful circus experiences for the whole family with all of the D.C. metro area!”

A former clown trained by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Lewis unveiled Omnium Circus to the world with a live-streamed show in December 2020. The circus planned to premiere in-person at Lerner Town Square at Tysons II in fall 2021, but the multi-week stay got canceled.

Instead, the circus performed live for the first time at Gallaudet University in D.C. that November before putting on a one-day show at Capital One Hall on Feb. 26, 2022.

The organization has since traveled around the country, and just last month, it collaborated with Alamo Drafthouse for interactive screenings of the musical movie “The Greatest Showman” in Arlington.

Led by Ringmaster Danette Sheppard Vaughn, the upcoming show at Capital One Hall will feature some new cast members, including D.C. resident Ermiyas Muluken as the main character, Johnny, and Deaf dancer Malik Paris in his circus debut. Patrons can also expect contortionists, acrobatics, comedy and “gravity-defying aerial acts.”

Omnium Circus presents all of its performances in English and American Sign Language. Other accommodations include ADA seating, live audio description, tactile experiences, and relaxed seating rules and a calming area for neurodiverse and sensory-sensitive audience members, according to a press release.

Tickets for the Capital One Hall show are currently on sale, starting at $39. The circus will perform in the venue’s main theater, with doors opening at 1 p.m.

The entertainment and dining venue Level99 will open at Tysons Corner Center in 2025 (courtesy Macerich Company)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) An entertainment complex that brings puzzle and video game-like challenges to life is taking over the former Old Navy at Tysons Corner Center.

Next year, Level99 will open a 40,000-square-foot playground and restaurant on the mall’s second floor adjacent to Barnes & Noble, the company jointly announced today (Tuesday) with Tysons Corner Center owner Macerich.

Old Navy was relocated to the other end of the mall near Bloomingdale’s. Its previous space — the one that will be permanently occupied by Level99 — is currently filled by the temporary Hot Wheels Champion Experience.

Originally opened in Natick, Massachusetts, in 2021, Level99 describes itself as a “first-of-its-kind destination for live-action, challenge-based entertainment, craft beverages and farm-to-table dining designed for grown-ups.”

Visitors can work together to complete various physical and mental games in “challenge rooms,” or they can compete in duels. The Tysons location will have 40 rooms that can collectively accommodate up to 600 players, along with a 300-seat taproom and scratch kitchen.

The challenges vary from room to room, from obstacle courses to a life-sized version of “Rock Band” and “ninja training” for a battle against a samurai, according to Level99.

“Level99 offers mental, physical, communication and skill challenges in an open-world format for guests to discover and explore,” said Level99 CEO Matt DuPlessie, a former Disney engineer and owner of the production company, Box Fort, that designed Level99. “…We look forward to welcoming residents and visitors from the D.C. area to discover all that Level99 has to offer.”

The original Level99 drew over 400,000 guests in 2023 and recently expanded with 10 new rooms, according to Patch. The company also launched a second location in Providence, Rhode Island, last week.

Operated by Night Shift Brewing Kitchen & Tap, a Boston-based brewery, the restaurants serve beer hall-style food, including pizza, wagyu burgers and fries. Drinks include craft beer and cocktails. Level99 wasn’t immediately available to confirm whether the Tysons venue will have the same operator and menu.

Following the December opening of the toy store/entertainment experience Camp, the addition of Level99 continues Tysons Corner Center’s push into the realm of interactive retail.

A market study released last summer by the Tysons Community Alliance suggested the area needs more entertainment options — such as the virtual reality gaming venue Sandbox VR, which opened on Dec. 22 in The Boro — to meet demand as its population grows.

“Level99 created an impressive, innovative way for adults to have a memorable experience at its first space in the Boston area, and we know our active, sophisticated Tysons Corner guests will enjoy exploring all that Level99 has to offer,” Eric Bunyan, Macerich’s senior vice president of leasing for the east region, said. “It’s a great complement to our existing tenant base.”

Level99 is scheduled to launch in Tysons in 2025. More immediately, Tysons Corner Center is expected to open the clothing stores Khaadi and Mango this year after adding Rothy’s just last week.

Cryptid Grove is the game designed in the extension of Escape Room Herndon (via Omer Aru)

Escape Room Herndon is venturing into new territory as it prepares to open an expansion of its existing space in Herndon Centre.

Omer Aru, the owner of the business, says the location on Elden Street is expected to open sometime around Jan. 1.

The new space had previously been expected to open this past fall, but Aru says it took more time than expected to receive the necessary approvals from Fairfax County for the expansion. Building the game itself also took several months.

“We expected it to take about 4-5 months, but we thought we would have gotten started in early summer,” Aru told FFXnow. “Instead, it wasn’t until late August that we started building the game.  All our props are custom-made by our very small team, so those take time as well.”

The game “Cryptid Grove” is based on various “wonderful creatures of lore,” according to Aru.

“The players will get to explore a gift shop for Cryptids situated inside a national park created just for these creatures to relax and be themselves,” he said. “It will be a fun light-hearted game good for all adventures young and old.”

The new room is just a few doors down from Escape Room Herndon’s current location at 406 Elden Street. Current rooms include an 8-bit Escape, Maritime Mutiny, Magician’s Workshop, and The Grave Robber’s Dilemma.

While Herndon is its flagship location, the company also has escape rooms in Richmond and Arlington.

Hot Wheels Champion Experience will open at Tysons Corner Center on Dec. 15 (courtesy Mattel and SEE Touring Exhibitions)

Mattel is ready to hit the gas pedal on its new Hot Wheels Champion Experience in Tysons.

The interactive exhibit will open to patrons at Tysons Corner Center at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Friday), a week later than previously anticipated. It’s located on the mall’s second floor in the former Old Navy space next to Barnes and Noble.

The temporary, 16,000-square-foot pop-up will combine physical and virtual environments to enable visitors to design, drive and race Hot Wheels vehicles “without headsets, goggles, or other equipment,” according to a press release.

To bring Hot Wheels to life, Mattel partnered with SEE Touring Exhibitions Inc., a themed entertainment provider that also brought a Sistine Chapel exhibit to Tysons in 2021. The companies say the concept responds to a demand for interactive events in retail as an alternative to “passive consumption.”

“We recognize the importance of spending quality time together during the holidays,” Mattel and SEE Touring Exhibitions said. “Hot Wheels Champion Experience provides an opportunity for families to come together, regardless of their age, to enjoy a shared, nostalgic, and thrilling experience.”

Attractions include augmented reality rooms, a monster truck competition, a game where participants can defend Hot Wheels City from monsters, and Hot Wheels Central, where patrons can track how they’re performing on the various challenges and collect digital memorabilia.

Some exclusive clothes, toys and other merchandise will also be available.

Tickets for 90-minute time slots are currently on sale, starting at $32 for teens and adults and $25 for children. An end date for the experience hasn’t been announced yet, but the ticket vendor currently shows available dates through Feb. 25.

Hot Wheels is rolling into Tysons Corner Center one week after the arrival of CAMP, a toy and entertainment retailer whose new, permanent store is currently accompanied by an interactive, “Encanto”-themed experience. Disney Encanto X Camp opened on Friday, Dec. 8 and appears to be sold out for the rest of this year.

Sandbox VR, a full-body virtual reality gaming venue, will open at The Boro in Tysons on Dec. 22 (courtesy Sandbox VR)

Zombies, pirates and other virtual characters are about to be unleashed on Tysons, just in time for Christmas.

Sandbox VR will launch its new virtual reality gaming experience at 1656 Silver Hill Drive in The Boro with a grand opening on Dec. 22. This is the first Virginia location for the San Francisco-based startup, which has expanded to over 40 sites across North America, Asia and Europe since introducing itself to the world in 2019.

“We are thrilled to open our very first Virginia location and The Boro — with its robust lineup of entertainment options — is the perfect home,” Sandbox VR founder and CEO Steve Zhao said. “We can’t wait to introduce the McLean community to our world-class VR experiences and give residents and visitors alike the opportunity to experience a whole new reality.”

Initially anticipated this summer, the 7,508-square-foot venue will feature four private rooms known as “holodecks” that can each accommodate up to six players at a time. Players get a headset, haptic vest, a backpack, and wrist and ankle sensors that enable them to interact with each other in a fully immersive virtual world.

Pre-opening booking is now available at a discount of $39 per guest through Dec. 21. Admission is typically $50 to $55 per player, according to Sandbox VR’s website.

Games available at the Tysons location will include “Deadwood Valley” (zombies), “Deadwood Mansion” (haunted house), “Curse of Davy Jones” (pirates), the fantasy world “Seekers of the Shard: Dragonfire,” a sci-fi adventure “Amber Sky 2088,” the gladitorial “Unbound Fighting League,” and ones based on “Star Trek: Discovery” and the dystopian Korean show “Squid Game.”

Sandbox VR will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends.

The virtual reality concept’s arrival continues a trend toward interactive entertainment in Tysons, as the area seeks to diversify its retail offerings to draw in visitors and support a growing residential population. Tysons Corner Center in particular has become a regular destination for pop-up “experiences,” such as the “Encanto”-themed show that opened today (Friday) and a Hot Wheels attraction coming next week.

The primary entertainment option at The Boro right now is the ShowPlace Icon movie theater.

“The Meridian Group is excited to officially welcome Sandbox VR to The Boro,” said Charlie Schwieger, vice president of asset management at TMG, the property owner and developer. “This tech-driven, immersive and social experience will be an entertainment destination for visitors of all ages. It’s the perfect addition to The Boro’s experiential retail lineup, restaurants and family-friendly entertainment options.”

Next year, The Boro will see the arrival of The Trillium Tysons, a senior living community currently under construction. The high-rise apartment building constitutes the first block of the neighborhood’s second phase, a 9.37-acre expansion that will include 40,000 square feet of retail space and more than 800 residential units.

A train pulls into the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

If Fairfax County were to get a casino, state Sen. Dave Marsden would prefer to see it in Tysons, not Reston, as has reportedly been proposed.

The prospect of a casino has drawn strong pushback from both residents and some elected officials, but Marsden argues that the county needs to consider all options to diversify its commercial tax base, as the office market continues to lag in the pandemic’s wake.

While Tysons has gotten more residents over the past decade, the area’s generally commercial makeup and four Metro stations would make it “the ideal place” for an entertainment district that could include a casino, Marsden says.

“That’s becoming Fairfax County’s downtown, and we want to locate it on the Silver Line because that’s what the Silver Line was built for,” the senator told FFXnow. “…It wasn’t just to bring in commuters from Loudoun County or to get people to the airport. It was designed also to allow for higher density development: high-rise apartments and office buildings and what have you.”

Marsden, who represents parts of Burke, Centreville and Annandale in the 37th Senate District, and Del. Wren Williams (R-9) filed identical bills in January that would’ve added Fairfax County to the small list of Virginia localities authorized to consider hosting a casino.

Though the legislation was quickly withdrawn, the subject reemerged late last month when Patch reported that the developer Comstock hopes to build a casino near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, where it has been constructing the massive Reston Station neighborhood.

A member of the Senate finance committee, Marsden confirmed to FFXnow that he met with Comstock twice — once while drafting his original bill and once since then. He says he otherwise hasn’t been approached by anyone about a casino in Tysons or anywhere else in Fairfax County.

Comstock doesn’t have any properties in Tysons right now, but it pitched a redevelopment of the Koons auto dealerships at 2000 and 2050 Chain Bridge Road last year as part of the county’s site-specific plan amendment (SSPA) process. The nomination didn’t advance after county staff determined a comprehensive plan change isn’t necessary to allow mixed-use development on the site.

The developer — which donated $10,000 to Marsden’s reelection campaign on June 22, per the Virginia Public Access Project — didn’t return multiple requests for comment.

Marsden says he’s “certainly very strongly looking at” re-introducing the casino bill in the 2024 General Assembly session if he wins the election for the newly created 35th District, though it likely won’t be identical to the one introduced this year.

“I do want to talk to some of our elected folks in Fairfax County to see how they would want the bill structured, to take a look at it,” he said.

He stresses that the goal of the bill isn’t to impose a casino on the county, but rather, to give the county an option that’s currently off limits.

As a Dillon Rule state, Virginia localities only have the powers explicitly granted to them by the General Assembly, an approach that Fairfax County officials argue limits their ability to do everything from exploring different revenue sources to lowering speed limits on dangerous roads.

If Marsden’s bill gets adopted by the General Assembly, the county would be required to hold a referendum asking voters whether a casino should be permitted.

“[Comstock’s] idea for an entertainment district, I think, is a reasonable idea that the county needs to consider,” Marsden said. “Ultimately speaking, I will not make the decision as to whether Fairfax County has a casino or where it’s located, but merely give them the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.” Read More

The Hot Wheels Champion Experience is coming to Tysons Corner Center this December (courtesy Mattel)

Prepare for competing “interactive experiences” at Tysons Corner Center this winter, when the year of Mattel will continue with the worldwide debut of its Hot Wheels Champion Experience.

After making its mark on the summer box office with Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” the toy company will venture into immersive entertainment with a 16,000-square-foot exhibit and play area based on its 55-year-old model cars and race tracks.

The experience will open on Dec. 8, around the same time that the retailer Camp will unveil a new, permanent store and temporary “Encanto”-themed display at the mall.

Hot Wheels tickets are set to go on sale at noon this Thursday (Oct. 5), but those who sign up for a priority list can get access to presale tickets and pricing a day early.

“We aim to bring Hot Wheels to life in an entirely new way,” Julie Freeland, Mattel’s senior director of global location-based entertainment, said. “By combining technology, immersive design, and the unrivaled thrill of Hot Wheels, this attraction will ignite the imagination of fans and families alike.”

To develop the attraction, Mattel partnered with the traveling entertainment company SEE Touring Exhibitions, which will use an XSpace technology platform that provides immersive video projections and combines physical and digital elements to control sound, light, video and “personalized interaction,” according to a press release.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Mattel and our esteemed partners on this groundbreaking project,” SEE Touring Exhibitions CEO Martin Biallas said. “Hot Wheels has been an inspiration to countless individuals across multiple generations, and this attraction will give fans the opportunity to dive into the world of Hot Wheels in a way they’ve never experienced before. We can’t wait to see the excitement and thrill it brings to visitors.”

Here’s more from the press release on what to expect from the Hot Wheels Champion Experience:

Hot Wheels fans of all ages will ignite their challenger spirit in this immersive experience that combines exhilarating physical and virtual interactions. Visitors will imagine, create, and experience Hot Wheels like never before and without headsets, goggles, or other equipment. Using the latest 3D multimedia projection technology, guests at Hot Wheels Champion Experience can accept the challenge and become:

  • Hot Wheels Designers: Use creativity to design their own digital Hot Wheels car, watching it come to life on an interactive screen
  • Tracker Builders: Build a custom Hot Wheels City inside an interactive Augmented Reality room
  • Ultimate Heroes: Defeat monsters and creatures taking over Hot Wheels City
  • Speed Machines: Race against the competition using physical body movements to digitally drive Hot Wheels cars
  • Smash Champs: Stunt and compete as Monster Trucks on a monster-sized projection, dodging any hazards that come their way
  • Virtual Drivers: An Augmented Reality experience, allowing guests to see themselves driving a Hot Wheels car
  • Epic Winners: Pose on the winner’s podium, celebrating your accomplishments to become a Hot Wheels Champion
  • Hot Wheels Central will also allow guests to track performance and collect digital memorabilia, videos, and tokens gathered during the experience, extending the fun past the event!

The attraction will be on the mall’s second floor next to Barnes & Nobles, a space previously filled by this summer’s Dr. Seuss Experience. It will stay at Tysons Corner Center for a limited time before moving to other locations.

Acrobatic performance in ECHOS (image via Cirque du Soleil)

The area around Tysons Galleria (8025 Galleria Drive) might be a little livelier than usual as Cirque du Soleil brings a new nature-themed show to Tysons tonight (Wednesday).

The new show, ECHO, launches tonight at 7:30 p.m. and will run every Wednesday-Sunday until Sunday, Oct. 22.

The program launched in Montreal in April but tonight marks the debut of ECHO in the United States.

“Cirque du Soleil is proud to debut its newest Big Top show, ECHO, directed by Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar,” a release said. “Washington, DC will kick off the U.S. leg of the tour on Sept. 6, 2023. This is the first time in the show’s history that the nation’s capital will host the U.S. premiere.”

The program features the usual mix of acrobatics and vocals, with a fantasy-themed storyline.

“Creation should always be at the heart of Cirque du Soleil, and one of our biggest excitement anchors itself in our ability to deliver a new show to our audience,” Mukhtar said in the release. “ECHO will push the values of connection, inspiration and the power of intention.”

Ticket prices vary by seating, ranging from $44 tonight and $64 on weekends to $199 front-row seats.

The Dr. Seuss Experience is open at Tysons Corner Center (courtesy Fever)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Time is tick-tick-ticking away to catch The Dr. Seuss Experience before it leaves Tysons Corner Center.

The pop-up attraction where kids can interact with characters and worlds out of Theodor Giesel’s classic picture books will conclude a nearly five-month stop at the mall on Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 3), Tysons Corner Center confirmed to FFXnow.

Located on the second floor next to Barnes & Noble, the pop-up launched on April 7 with nine life-sized recreations of scenes from Dr. Seuss books, including “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears a Who” and the debut of a 1,300-square-foot mirror maze inspired by the short story “The Sneetches.”

Produced by the live entertainment companies Kilburn Live and Fever, The Dr. Seuss Experience was initially slated to continue through Memorial Day, but it has stuck around, along with the “immersive” pop-up Candytopia, which opened in March.

Candytopia will remain “for a couple more months,” a Tysons Corner Center spokesperson said.

Tickets for The Dr. Seuss Experience can still be purchased online. The attraction’s typical operating hours are:

  • Wednesday: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Thursday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The pop-ups are part of a shift at shopping centers in Tysons toward “experience-based recreation,” which was identified as a gap in the local retail market by a study that the Tysons Community Alliance released on Aug. 4.

A different kind of pop-up will move into Tysons Corner Center on Sept. 1, when the online fashion store Rent the Runway will host a 25-day sample sale with clothing, bags and other items from designer brands.


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