ENCINITAS — What’s love got to do with it? Everything, if you’re visiting the first-ever pop-up museum to hit North County.
The Museum of What “Love Tour” launched on Valentine’s Day, a fitting starting point for an experience that’s all about the contemplation of — and interaction with — love.
From love locks in faux Paris, scented cherry blossoms beckoning participants to a picnic, a kissing booth and more, guests have opportunities to get creative and take lots of Instagram-worthy photos.
But it’s not just romantic love on display at the 16,000-square-foot space at 220 North El Camino Real in Encinitas. The pop-up’s 21 sensory exhibits provide entertainment appropriate for the whole family, including fake flamingos that can go for a walk and the Love Nest with its pit of pink balls perfect for plunging into.
The museum’s founders, married couple Ann Delaney and Kyle Hill, tapped their experiences as wedding and event planners for inspiration in creating the museum.
Delaney and Hill are La Costa residents with two young children who wanted the exhibits to be interactive, sensory and family-friendly.
In launching the pop-up, Delaney said she was motivated by the idea that “people don’t want tangible things as much as they want experiences,” she said.
She’s been pleasantly surprised by guests’ interactions with the exhibits, noting how some attendees have re-enacted scenes from “Bird Box,” the Sandra Bullock movie on Netflix that’s received much buzz. “As they say, art is in the eye of the beholder,” Delaney remarked about the role-playing.
She and Hill sketched everything out with pen and paper as they envisioned how to incorporate features from weddings, like a wish tree, and design other exhibits that would evoke love, happiness, kindness and gratitude. In addition to their own handiwork, they hired a muralist to paint the sets and an artist to build a sand castle.
The sand castle got toppled over, however, demonstrating the pitfalls of an interactive museum. All was certainly not lost, though. As Delaney pointed out, guests can still play in the sand at the beach of sorts and build their own castles together.
On Presidents’ Day, Billy Gonzalez and Clair Zimmermann posed in the Paris exhibit, with its paper lanterns and Eiffel Tower. When asked if they were on a date, Gonzalez said with a smile, “We’re always on a date.”
The Rancho Bernardo couple have been together for three years and found out about the pop-up on social media. As for the meaning of love, Zimmermann told The Coast News, “It’s the bliss of being able to enjoy life with someone else.”
Over at the love letters wall, notes can be written or read. One tucked into a heart-adorned envelope stated, “Dear Baby C — We can’t wait to meet you in October! XOXO, Mom + Dad.”
Another message addressed to a future husband warned, “Don’t get on my nerves and wash the dishes, please. Love you.”
Nine-year-old Ava Mendoza strolled around the museum with her mother, who heard about the pop-up from a friend. Ava shared that her favorite exhibit was the Love Nest ball pit, which she returned to for a second splash of pink fun.
The pop-up will be available at least through March 15, with the possibility of extending a short while beyond that. More than 3,000 people visited the museum during its opening weekend, a turnout that pleased Delaney.
The museum might go on tour, with Orange County tentatively targeted as the second stop. Perhaps next year the founders will try a different theme, Delaney shared.
Tickets for the Museum of What “Love Tour” are sold online for time slots every half hour, but guests can stay as long as they want. Adult fares are $24 each, while children ages 4 to 12 are $15. Children under age 3 enter for free.
To get more information or purchase tickets, visit www.museumofwhat.com.