Weeks before I check out a preview of The Happy Place, a multi-roomed, interactive installation filled with cheery tableaus my sister already had tickets.
I prefer finding happiness on a long hike or at the bottom of a pasta bowl rather than a carefully curated experience, but at my sister’s insistence — she wanted more photos with her daughter — I obliged.
But if a place like this with an adult-sized ball pit and a room of 40,000 fake flowers, could make my cynical heart grow three times bigger before I return with my sister and niece, then mission accomplished.
Opening on Nov. 1 and running until New Year’s Day at the former PawsWay building on the Harbourfront, The Happy Place’s mission is to provide an hour or so of frivolity (and Instagram-friendly photo ops) to visitors during the dreary and grey lull between Halloween and the last week of December.
Jared Paul, an entertainment producer started The Happy Place a year ago in Los Angeles. His company is responsible for happiness-inducing acts such as the New Kids on the Block and the Dancing With The Stars Live! tour. After popping up in L.A. and Chicago, The Happy Place has landed in Toronto.
“It’s challenging being a dad and explaining the challenges that the world is going through,” says Paul. “I just want something positive I can do with my kids, something to be bursting with happiness, and that’s why we picked the theme of expressing happiness in different ways. What I love is that people of all ages seem to enjoy it.”
Jared created The Happy Place with a dozen or so rooms plus smaller photo-ops around the large building with various interpretations of what makes people happy. There’s an upside-down room where furniture is bolted on the ceiling, another room lined with cookie wallpaper that smells like baked goods, and what will probably be the most popular, a giant snowglobe that visitors walk into to get lost in a flurry of paper confetti. On the second floor, a cafe serves rainbow foods — pretzel bites with a rainbow-coloured dip, a s’mores tart with colourful marshmallows and a grilled cheese that reveals multicoloured mozzarella strings when pulled apart. There’s also a charity lemonade stand and proceeds will be given to local charities during the Toronto run.
Similar interactive exhibits perfectly curated for the Instagram generation have gained traction in recent years. The Museum of Ice Cream was a runway hit in New York two years ago — influencers and celebrities posed for photos in its pool of plastic sprinkles.The U.S.-based Color Factory, an interactive exhibit that “celebrates the discovery, serendipity and generosity of colour” included rooms of kaleidoscopic colours. And Instagram feeds across Toronto were flooded with selfies at Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit, when it passed through this city last spring.
At The Happy Place, I did a cannonball into the ball pit like a five-year old dropped off at the Ikea play area, lounged in a bathtub surrounded by bright yellow rubber duckies and stepped into the life-sized snow globe where paper confetti went down my shirt.
While this isn’t exactly my idea of happiness, I do look forward to returning with my niece who will surely go bonkers at this giant playground, or at least be happy for my sister who is bound to get a quiet evening after her daughter tires herself out.
The rooms might not make me happy, but seeing my family’s smiling faces enjoying themselves will.
The Happy Place runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 1 at 245 Queens Quay W. Tickets can be purchased in advance on HappyPlace.me and start at $32.50 (prices go up to $39.50 on weekends). Children four and under get in free.