Four new Times Square attractions offer a variety of immersive experiences

Megan McDonough, The Washington Post Jul 2, 2018   Just when you thought Times Square had it all—monster LED billboards, Broadway shows, roaming cartoon mascots, a grown man crooning in his underwear—four new themed attractions have opened near Manhattan’s main tourist drag, all vying for your attention, selfies and dollars. While the Big Apple is known for its cultural landmarks—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to name a few—these pricey newcomers hope to cash in on the city’s record numbers of visitors with immersive and interactive exhibits, engaging and educational virtual displays and, yes, loads of Instagrammable content. But which, if any, are worth the cost of admission? I spent two afternoons crisscrossing midtown Manhattan to find out. Thankfully, all four sites are within a dozen blocks of each other and each takes two hours, at most, to explore.   NFL EXPERIENCE TIMES SQUARE The “Monday Night Football” jingle is playing on a loop in the lobby, pumping me up like a rookie before gametime. OK, ESPN, I’m ready for some football. Opened last December by the National Football League, in partnership with Cirque du Soleil, this $40 million, 40,000-square-foot attraction isn’t a football museum so much as a tribute to the sports juggernaut and its 32 teams. Fans on the first floor flock to a sea of memorabilia, which includes jerseys, signs, helmets and some questionable fan headgear. (I’m looking at you, Buffalo Bills wing heads.) While the display text is mostly promotional and pithy, I did learn some things, such as the fact that the citizens of Green Bay, Wisconsin, have the only community-owned major professional team in the nation — the Packers. The fictional Rod Tidwell jersey in the Arizona Cardinals section — a tribute to the “Jerry Maguire” character — prompted me to whisper a quiet but impassioned “Show me the money!” Farther on, I was ushered into a mammoth “4-D” theater. It felt even larger when I noticed that there were only two other thrill-seekers in the 185-seat cinema. Despite its billing as a “thrill-ride,” I found the 10-minute training film overhyped and underwhelming. Save for a special weather event at the close of the movie, which I won’t give away, the booming audios and jostling seats were unremarkable. After the film, we were escorted to the second level and invited to test our skills against virtual pros through drills that include blocking, passing and jumping challenges. If you’re like me and quickly discover you can’t throw a spiral to save your life, have no fear: You’ll still wind up at the Super Bowl. The last level is the champions’ floor, where you can ogle sparkly Super Bowl rings, experience a virtual Gatorade dunk (sans mess) with the help of visual effects and pose with a Lombardi Trophy replica. On the way out, I was tempted to treat myself to a stadium snack, such as the Arizona Cardinals’ Pump Fake, a deep-fried Cap’n Crunch-coated burger topped with bacon bits, banana chips and caramel sauce. (The exhibit rotates different signature dishes from the 32 stadiums daily.) In the end, I decided to skip it. I didn’t want to ruin my new training camp body. While fair-weather fans might do better saving their dollars for an in-person game, sports enthusiasts will enjoy this overpriced football fantasyland. It’s a lot like the country’s most popular sports league: loud, stimulating, engaging and, at times, a bit full of itself.   To go: 20 Times Square 646-863-0088 nflexperience.com       Read more, here: napavalleyregister.com