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Inside the Magical World of Miami’s Unicorn Factory

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m standing on a sidewalk in Wynwood waiting to enter another world. When the doors open, girls in polka dots and rainbow stripes, armed with cameras and adorned with unicorn horns, enter to the pumping music of Ariana Grande and Cardi B. The first thing we see is a unicorn made entirely of flowers. People immediately start posing. Chairs covered with fuzzy pink and purple pillows sit beside tables that tastefully display unicorn-themed magazines. The patterned walls remind me of pink clouds or bubble bath. Bunches of balloons encircle the ceiling.

Welcome to Unicorn Factory, where everything is dreamy, colorful, and covered in glitter. It’s a place to embrace your inner child while snagging that perfect Instagram shot. The pop-up immersive space, which opens today, was conceived by Michelle Kulikov and Julia Stein, who decided to turn an empty warehouse into a destination. They worked with Suki Jaafar of BySuki, and Serena Spadaro and Joana Villacreses of the floral design company Oh My Garden, What the Flower, to bring that vision to life. All of the installations and artwork inside, from paintings to balloon art to graffiti, were made by Miami artists.

Once you walk through a shimmery curtain into the rooms beyond the entrance, you’ll find a curated wonderland tailor-made for photo ops. In a room painted like a minigolf course in Candy Land, you can use a putter shaped like a rainbow to guide pink and red golf balls into the hole (or you can just pose looking as though you’re about to do that). You can don heart-shaped glasses in a fantasy casino, where the poker chips are purple and a rainbow arch rises from clouds dotted with fake money (plus there’s a wind machine so your hair will blow just the right way). There’s a misty enchanted forest with a unicorn swing and cotton candy clouds hanging from the ceiling. There’s what looks like a unicorn-themed Barbie dream house, complete with a play kitchen, gumball machines and a wall of disco balls. In a ball pit styled to look like one of those claw machines you find in arcades, kids jump and tumble through the bright colors. A long black hallway painted with neon graffiti urges guests to “Own your dreams” and "Be a voice, not an echo.”

The industrial setting feels true to the “factory” part of the name, but unicorns aren’t the primary feature of every room. (If anything, I sometimes found myself wanting more of them — though don’t worry, there are plenty for you to hug, pet, climb on and gaze at.) Things aren't neatly sequenced here, but these unicorns do seem pretty into hip-hop: If you wanted to make a music video featuring the magical creatures, you’d find everything you need in here, between “making it rain” in the casino, a purple throne surrounded by crowns and coins, and the famous rappers painted floor-to-ceiling on the walls of the bathroom — which also features rainbow unicorn toilet paper, of course.

Each room is like a movie set, or a stage waiting for characters to animate it. There are ample whimsical details — the unicorn-themed playing cards, the toy rabbits and squirrels perched around the edges of the forest, the wall decorated with rainbow slinkies and giant lollipops — and the rooms also beg for participation. Some of them feel like a frame without its centerpiece.

So eventually, I kick off my shoes and spend a few minutes frolicking in the ball pit. I swing on the swing. I pick up a small pink unicorn that’s been knocked onto the floor and pet it gently as I place it back on top of its couch. I can’t help it. Content creation may be the name of the game, but for me, the best parts of the exhibit are the ones that make me feel like a kid again, even if only for a moment.

Unicorn Factory. 2600 NW Fifth Ave., Miami; unicornfactorymia.com. Tickets cost $38. 

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