The Immersive Van Gogh exhibit is a traveling show featuring huge digital versions of Van Gogh’s work with special effects and movement. The paintings come alive during the show, and it is truly as promised, an immersive, captivating experience. Here’s a look at our recent trip to see the Immersive Van Gogh experience in Charlotte North Carolina. You’ll also find a few free printables inspired by the experience a little further down the page, enjoy!
Immersive Van Gogh is in Charlotte until January 2022, then it moves on -- find your closest city on their website.
Yes, I did stand on the car to take this photo...
The "immersive" part of the show is inside, but the team at the Charlotte location did a fantastic job of adding details outside, long before you actually see the first official images. 'Even the parking lot has a touch of Van Gogh, there are huge sunflowers stenciled on the speed bumps:
There are also a handful of picnic tables outside, but do note there are not a lot of food choices here or even near by. The former factory that now houses this exhibit is pretty much on the outskirts of Charlotte, you'll need to head into the city for an actual meal. That said, there is a coffee/beverage stand inside with some packaged snacks just in case.
Exploring the Immersive Van Gogh Show in Charlotte
Once inside, it may be tempting to make a run for the show itself, but you'll miss a lot of the unique features of the Charlotte show and location. The building itself was once a Ford automobile factory, and like many former factory locations in Charlotte, retains its old brick walls and interesting floors (I saw brick, stone and even cross cut wood for flooring, all original to the factory, according the the docents I spoke with.
You can see those amazing floors here -- along with some of the Van Gogh inspired holiday decor inside the exhibit building:
While the show itself is a traveling one, and you'll be able to experience the same program in each city, the setting is different. Since this is a former Ford factory, there is a working 1923 Ford on display -- the kids were able to sit in the back, but not the front, as the car is actually still operational. Though I didn't really recognize many of the dashboard controls as functional driving parts. I can drive a manual transmission... but the buttons and gears still made no sense.
Following the car theme, there was also an amazing sunflower wall -- which upon closer inspection, was made from painted tires and hubcaps;
Immersive Van Gogh Charlotte Details
The show itself is in a darkened theater, and runs for about 35 minutes. We sat through 2 showings -- one just to revisit favorite parts and take a few photos. Starry Night and Irises were my favorites in the show, which was a surprise. I usually find the iris paintings depressing, as Van Gogh was institutionalized when he painted them, and fighting a losing battle with mental health issues.
The paintings are set to music, and many have been animated in interesting ways -- they also have isolated elements that you may have missed when viewing the paintings as a whole. Here's the Night Cafe, starting out as isolated elements:
What to Expect Inside the Immersive Van Gogh Show
Each city is a little different, but all have reflected circles on the floor for social distancing -- they look like glowing hula hoops in the photos. Some locations, like Charlotte, also have seating. There were benches, tables and chairs inside the actual show. There are no assigned seats, and we moved around a bit -- the show is all around you so looks different from different angles. We sat on the floor, on benches and walked around to get different views.
Immersive Van Gogh and Covid
The Charlotte show has a mask requirement (though this may be a city wide thing -- I also had to wear a mask in the lobby of our hotel and at the amazing South Park Mall. The seating areas are well over 6 feet apart, and the venue is selling a limited number of tickets. When we went, there were maybe a dozen other people in the exhibit, but that may vary based on the location and time you go.
Yes! Immersive Van Gogh Charlotte Has a Gift Shop!
I was hoping they would -- not only is it Christmas shopping season, but I was hoping to find some unusual pieces for myself too. Spoiler, we spent more in the gift shop than we did on the tickets, there are some very cool pieces in there!
I'm already regretting leaving these lovely teacups behind, though we did come home with journals, pins and even an umbrella!
What to Know Before you Gogh
From where to sit to what to wear, here's what to know before you visit the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit.
Reservations: You should book your tickets in advance -- there is limited space available each day. In Charlotte, mornings have the least amount of viewers, so that is when we went (there is an AM yoga class here as well).
Seating: Each city is different, some may not have seating, or may require you to sit on the floor or stand. If you have mobility issues, you should check with the venue in advance to make sure you can be comfortable during the show.
Clothing; This is an indoor, casual event, but be prepared to walk a bit and potentially sit on the floor.
Masks: Masks at our location were required, not optional, but that rule may be in other cities.
Sensory elements: This is a very sensory experience, so if you are sensitive to noise, flickering lights or lots of visuals, you will not enjoy it. I did not bring my youngest, who has autism, for this very reason. Charlotte does offer some "relaxed" viewing sessions without so many effects, but they are limited and I am not sure what other cities have to offer.
Food: There is a smallish bar area, but no actual dining, here's a look at the food area in Charlotte, but note this may be different in other locations:
Free Van Gogh Printables
Before we went, I made some cute tag books to record the trip. The girls have Instax instant cameras, so the tag books are perfect for inserting photos. I'm sharing this colorful Van Gogh themed journal here for free -- whether you visit the show or not, you can download it here.
Free Printable Van Gogh Stickers
I also ended up making a set of stickers using bits of different landscape paintings -- I cut these out on my cricut, but they can also easily be cut by hand. Just print on sticker paper and cut around the edges for a fast and easy bit of fine art for your journal or planner.
Download the free Van Gogh sticker set here:
We stayed in Charlotte overnight and had some time to explore the city (I lived there for a while about 20 years ago, it has changed a lot!). Charlotte is almost exactly one "Hamilton" from home for us-- we got almost all the way through the soundtrack on the way there.
I definitely recommend Immersive Van Gogh if you're a fan of his work -- or if you enjoy fine art in general. This digitized program was a unique experience, and both of my teen companions enjoyed it as much as I did.
Find out more about the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit here -- and see when it is coming to a city near you.