The laser shows at the Pacific Science Center's Laser Dome are not a series of straight, bright lines of light pulsing to the beat of the music in a thick fog of smoke. They aren't a preprogrammed display that the employees turn on and forget about. They are nothing like the iTunes visualizer.

The spectacle is surprisingly dynamic and creative. From Laser Outkast to Laser Gorillaz to Laser Journey, these live events require the hand of a laser artist at the controls who's watching the show—and gauging crowd reaction as it goes. Shows shift based on the artist and the audience; you're encouraged to clap and cheer for whatever amuses or excites you, helping to guide the visuals the artist decides to use. As for the music, what you're hearing is 15,000 watts of digital sound inside the world's largest and longest-operating domed laser theater—at 80 feet in diameter and 40 years, respectively.

After entering the theater and lying down—the best spots are on the floor, although there are also seats—all that's visible is a gigantic dome ceiling whose surface is made up of thousands of triangles and diamonds in cream-colored fabric. About a minute before the show starts (especially if you're high), the shapes might move just outside your peripheral vision, like an optical illusion. Then the lights go down, you can't see the ceiling anymore, and the dome fills with colors and shapes and patterns.

Each song is its own tiny universe. Each track has individualized aesthetics. Occasionally they'll throw in plot development, recurring characters, and symbolism; the detailed digital animation and sweeping visual effects feel more like a movie than a light show. The way that the theater curves around and encompasses your entire field of vision (side note: wear contacts, not glasses) makes everything outside of the dome impossible and foreign, too far away to comprehend.


On Friday and Saturday nights, tickets are $10.50, and on Thursday, which is "Cheap Date Night," they're $7 apiece. The matinees (offered only on weekends) are geared toward people visiting the Pacific Science Center for the day, so laser show entry is lumped in with admission and costs $22.75. If there's something you can only express in laser writing, displaying a personalized message of 25 characters or less during a public show costs $50. And you can rent out the dome for private parties and events.

Laser Outkast

Thurs at 8 pm

Shake it, as it were, like a Polaroid picture (or, more accurately, lie there motionless like a sessile waster at a laser show on a Thursday night) and enjoy hits by Outkast.

Laser EDM

Thurs at 9:15 pm

Imagine the blinking, moving colors in this EDM concert like "gloving" but on a gigantic scale. It's more impressive (even missing the fancy little finger tricks).

Laser Daft Punk

Fri—Sat at 8 pm

Everybody sing: "I'm on my back to get lasers..." Note: The laser effects will be vastly more enjoyable if you remove your helmet.

Laser Floyd: DSOTM

Fri—Sat at 9:15 pm

If you absolutely insist on listening to The Dark Side of the Moon, you should at least have the decency to do it at a laser dome.

Laser Monsters of Rock

Fri—Sat at 10:30 pm

Lie down and jam out to hard rock (like "Crazy Train," "Dream On," and "You Shook Me All Night Long") at the Science Center's newest laser show, which opened April 1.

Laser Floyd: The Wall

Fri—Sat at midnight

One thing you can definitely say about Pink Floyd's 1979 double concept album: It's moderately more enjoyable than oral surgery (comfortably numb or not), though the double bill with The Dark Side of the Moon makes one wonder.

Laser Beatles

Sat—Sun at 12:30 pm

Best music ever made plus lasers. What more do you want, a foot rub?

Laser Michael Jackson

Sat—Sun at 1:15 pm, Sun at 8 pm

Not a hologram from your nightmares but a celebration of MJ's music accompanied by contemporaneous technology.

Laser Journey: Don't Stop Believing

Sat—Sun at 2:15 pm

Everybody, a wise man once sang, wants a thrill. On weekend afternoons, the movie never ends. Nor does the wheel in the sky stop turning. You see where I'm going with this...

Laser Guardians: Awesome Mix Tape

Sat—Sun at 3:15 pm

In the middle of the afternoon, lie back and soak up the soundtrack to Marvel's hit film Guardians of the Galaxy, featuring artists including David Bowie, the Runaways, the Jackson 5, Raspberries, and Blue Swede.

Laser Gorillaz

Sun at 9:15 pm

See Pacific Science Center's laser-filled take on the virtual band Gorillaz (known for their own digital animations) every Sunday night.