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Flying Dragons in Century City
August, 2021 - Issue #202

Parents of teenagers don't often hear these words: "That was so cool, Dad! Thanks!" But then it's not every day that kids get to pilot a flying dragon. Or at least simulate it.
"The mythical Viking world of Berk CAME TO LIFE
in the headset. A long dragon's neck extended in front of me. I held up my left arm to see it was covered with armor, complete with spiked cuffs."
My four teenagers expressed unanimous acclaim as we exited the Dreamscape virtual reality theater, where we successfully completed Dreamworks Dragons Flight Academy, a vignette based on the studio's "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise.
Dreamscape offers a variety of immersive VR experiences, ranging from an alien zoo to finding lost treasure in a cursed temple. Westfield Century City is the closest to Santa Clarita - Columbus, Dallas, and Dubai are your other options - and we booked a reservation, not knowing what to expect.
After checking in, a staffer escorted us to an all-black room that could be the set of a Christopher Nolan film. A ring of what appeared to be stationary minibikes surrounded an ominous black box in the center of the room. We each climbed astride our bikes - Star Wars scooter/rocking horse hybrids - and commenced strapping on the tech required to bring the digital world to life: headset with a long cord that drapes over your shoulder, speakers that clap over your ears and rubber hand pieces.
With my eyes now covered, I rocked back and forth on the bike and suddenly grew worried about motion sickness. But then the mythical Viking world of Berk came to life in the headset. A long dragon's neck extended in front of me. I held up my left arm to see it was covered with armor, complete with spiked cuffs.
Following instructions from our virtual flight instructor, we began piloting our dragons through an airborne obstacle course. The level of immersion was impressive. Lean the bike left and your dragon follows. Rear back and it gains altitude. No matter where you look, the scene maintains perspective - left, right, above, below and even behind. The edge of the screen is invisible. Other sensory experiences added to the reality, but I won't reveal any spoilers.
Westfield Century City has other offerings not found in Santa Clarita, namely Eataly. It's a grocery store like none other. Think Grand Central Market meets an Ikea of Italian foodstuffs. The result is a sensory experience to savor.
The smell of fresh basil and herbs in produce gives way to the heady tang of fresh Parmesan from the cheese case. The bakery's aroma conjures the feel of a loaf's fresh crust cracking in your hands. A briny whiff greets you from the ice-packed seafood counter. The butcher case boasts vibrant pinks and reds from ground beef and wagyu steaks thick as a dictionary. The pasta station features freshly-made pasta of every conceivable size, shape and filling. Had we not already made lunch plans, I would have indulged in a gourmet spending spree.
My 15-year-old daughter requested Joan's on Third, a cute neighborhood cafe about 3 miles away. Apparently, it's a celebrity spotting mecca. My dining choices are driven by entrees, not influencers, and the menu promised something for everyone, regardless of dietary predilection.
Upon arriving, some of us staked out cafe tables on the sidewalk while others lined up to order. That proved to be a longer wait than getting our food. A server appeared in minutes, handing me an oversize white bag. I divvied out the neatly-stacked white cartons and we each dove into our respective choices - bagel sandwiches (One vegan, one normal.), pot stickers, tarragon salad, a Chinese chicken salad and a short-rib sandwich.
The verdict? Another winner. Tarragon salad aside, everyone was so excited about their choices that they insisted on offering bites to their siblings.
From dragons to dining, the day was a complete success. Even without a celebrity sighting.
Eric Harnish resides in Castaic, where he rarely sees celebrities or dragons.

Take Flight!
Dreamscape Westfield Century City
dreamscapeimmersive.com
Eataly eataly.com
Joan's on Third joansonthird.com
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