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New York Comic Con’s WESTWORLD Experience Takes You to a New Reality

New York Comic Con’s WESTWORLD Experience Takes You to a New Reality

New York City is a bustling, noisy place on any given day, but when you add the chaos of Comic Con that goes double. If you’re looking for an escape from the show floor and overcrowded bars in the vicinity of the Javits Center, why not step away and have a drink at the Mariposa Saloon? The old-timey bar will look familiar to fans of HBO’s Westworld, and it’s just one part of the surreal experience—if you can manage to find it.

When I arrived at Westworld: The Experience last night with other members of the press, I had no idea what to expect. The invite had been purposefully vague, and several of us were ushered into a building where it was immediately clear that we weren’t in NYC anymore. The area was sterile, sharp angles, and clean design, with lit display cases showing off an array of guns and costumes from the show. More unnerving than the Wild West-era weapons were the Hosts, also dressed in white, just staring at us. Some never spoke, and the ones who did never broke character.

My name was called after a few minutes; it was time for my “appointment.” With no idea what to expect, I followed the Host into a small room. Another woman was waiting to ask me a series of questions like “What percentage of your dreams would you say are nightmares?” Some of the queries caught me off guard, but I answered as best I could, and then she served up an analysis of my personality that was eerily accurate. When the interview was done, I was directed to two cowboy hats hanging on the wall—one light, one dark. The woman told me that she could see me in the white hat, but maybe I’d like to stop carrying the world’s troubles on my shoulders and take the black one. I did.

After a quick elevator ascent, the scene had changed completely. We were in Mariposa Saloon, or at least a damn good replica. Bartenders had replaced the hosts, the lights were dim, and an automatic piano belted out classic rock hits like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Paint it Black.” We were served three drinks (strong ones, I might add; this is a 21-and-over event): a delightfully pink sherry punch, a “Blue Blazer” whiskey cocktail that was literally set on fire, and a “milk punch” made with coffee and cream. The Blue Blazer was my favorite, but I’m not about to try that fire trick at home.

The entire experience took about 30 minutes, and it was a fun escape created with amazing attention to detail. On top of imbibing in a few boozy beverages, attendees might also be treated to teasers from Westworld’s upcoming second season—if they can dig deeper into the event’s secrets.

I’m not at liberty to say where Westworld: The Experience is, but I can tell you that an appointment desk will pop up in a different location near the Javits Center each morning of the convention at 9 a.m. You’ll need an NYCC badge and your ID to book a first-come, first-served meeting in Westworld, and today’s slots filled up in about half an hour. If you’re hoping to get in later this weekend, the Westworld Twitter account may give you hints on how to find your way.

It may not be quite the artificial consciousness Westworld provides its inhabitants in the show, but this experience was an effective way to shut out the real world for a little while. And I kept the hat.

Images: HBO

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