18 Experience-Based Restaurants You Should Visit At Least Once

Admit it. You're tired of pretending to be excited about yet another picnic and movie night. Oh look, a chandelier...zzz. And, floating on a pond while trying to eat by the light of the moon? Why? Also, basic theme restaurants, jam-packed with alien knick knack knockoffs from eBay? E.T. phone us home.

We don't want the same old sleepy story. We want our pulse to quicken, our imagination to explode into a million colors, and the world to light up like we've never witnessed it before. It's that bucket list, second-to-none, one-in-a-million, unbelievable, chance-of-a-lifetime stuff that we crave. These are the culinary encounters of your dreams. But, you're gonna have to get off your sofa for these thrills.

We're going global with the most brilliantly engineered — and freakin' delicious — restaurant experiences, ever. Make a toast in an ancient cave, shock your "psycho taste" to life, grab apps in the stratosphere, and dine with the dead. Fasten your seatbelts, because we'll try anything once!

Ristorante Grotta Palazzese, Puglia, Italy

Spelunking, but make it fine dining. At the stunning cliffside Ristorante Grotta Palazzese in Puglia, Italy, you get all of the stalactites with none of the, um, guano. Featuring spacious seating with just enough light for an intimate meal, the breezy salt air and crashing waves of the Adriatic Sea only serve to heighten the drama and romance.

This place is pure magic, whether you're proposing to the love of your life, or you just came for the vibe. For the curious, the cave –formerly known as the Grotta di Palazzo – has been a welcome respite for generations of travelers, even the first known cave revelers back in 1783. If they could only see it now — way less Black Death, and way more Beluga caviar.

Enjoy a bounty of fresh seafood straight from the sea, as well as the finest cuts of Fassona beef, native to the Piedmont area of northwestern Italy. Beautiful fava bean and eggplant entrées serve the vegetarian set like royalty, as well. But, promise you won't leave without sampling the most luxurious espresso martini tiramisù. 

Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai, China

If you're easily bored by barely using your senses while eating a meal, you're about to smell what Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, is cooking. The menu at this secret location in Shanghai, China, features 20 courses, invented for a lucky handful of guests, with each of your senses fully accounted for, and delighted to the max. They call it your "psycho taste." 

Each dish, even if it's merely a sip of tea, is paired with lights, sounds, and visuals meant to move you, open your mind, and even offer a thrill. At the delight of the chef's inspiration, you might be served a cheese salad, while listening to a harpsichord, and watching wheat fields blowing in the wind on what once was a blank wall. Or perhaps you'll be launched into space with rocket-like visuals, and serenaded by Frank Sinatra singing "Fly Me To The Moon."

As much as this might appear to be all smoke and mirrors — literally — Chef Pairet's French-inspired menu has earned him 3 Michelin Stars. Not too shabby for a place with no address. (Hint: start at Pairet's other place, Mr. & Mrs. Bund, and enjoy the ride from there.)

Northern Lights Bar at the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel, Iceland

Sometimes it's the jaw-dropping beauty of the cosmos that really gets your pulse racing. And, on a clear night from October through April, you'll get the chance to witness one of the 7 Wonders of the World, from the comfort of the Northern Lights Bar at the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel, just outside Reykjavik, Iceland.

The astonishing Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, could instantly turn anyone into a bona fide stargazer. Even better, the hotel is situated in the perfect spot to commune with nature — y'know, as you soak in a pool full of minerals from the nearby hot springs. Is there something electric in the air? A seemingly spiritual energy? Maybe the neighboring volcano has something to do with it.

Powered by the Silfra Restaurant inside the hotel, the bar menu features a modern spin on local Nordic cuisine. With dishes that change as fast as the weather, and celebrating Iceland's gastronomic heritage, you might find double-smoked lamb, scallops, langoustine, and baked white cheese with tomato jam, nuts, and herb crisps for dessert.

Dinner in the Sky, Worldwide

Strap in! It's official; Dinner on the ground is over. We want our apps served with a dash of fear-of-heights. Dinner in the Sky takes world-class service and launches it into the stratosphere (with you very much along for the ride), dishing up high-flying memories from 150 feet in the air.

After you arrive at your restaurant in the sky — suspended via crane — you'll soon settle in for an unforgettable multi-course meal. If you're someone who constantly drops your fork on the floor at restaurants, stay strong. And, of course, hang onto your phone for those selfies. As far as the bathroom situation? If you really gotta go, the whole platform will be lowered, and the rest of your seating will take place on terra firma. And, no whizzing off the platform, people, we're tryin' to keep it classy.

Menus are just as exciting as the view, and change frequently, depending on the location, the event, and who's coming for dinner. Past experiences have featured cured salmon gravlax, Black Angus beef tartare, a signature craft cocktail, catch of the day with citrus and fennel, Angus beef cheeks cooked for 24 hours, butternut squash Wellington, dark chocolate cremeux, Limoncello sorbet, and coffee. Let's just say you won't come back to Earth hungry.

Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

If you love giraffes, but wished they lived inside with us, like humans, the elegantly appointed Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya, is the closest you can get to actually having a pet with a really, really long neck, and lips made for sloppy-kissing your face. Get up close and personal with a tribe of Rothchild's giraffes — a species that has been classified as endangered. It'll be easy because they live in a sanctuary on the property, where they are bred to populate the wild. Update: They're also in danger of maybe being smuggled home with us, but, shhh. (Still working on the logistics.)

The absolute highlight here is breakfast with the G's, where they pop their heads through the open windows, to check for snacks. Regarding the hotel's policy, there's no sharing your brioche french toast with these guys, no matter how cute they look. The giraffes munch on their own natural pellets you can feed them, and they're banned from sampling any of your human food. The idea is to maintain tranquility in the animals' environment, as well as keep up their good health.

For you, a carefully crafted feast awaits. Breakfast typically features fried or scrambled eggs with sausage, bacon, beans, tomatoes or hash browns, eggs Benedict, omelets, avocado toast, and french toast. You'll enjoy the bounty, complemented by all-giraffe-everything, including giraffe plates, utensils, linens, pitchers, pillows, and photos.

Treepod Dining at Soneva Kiri, Thailand

Remember that treehouse you had as a kid, with the splinters, and the bees hanging around it? The one where you got high on Doritos and Mountain Dew, and then called someone on the "phone" that was just two soup cans connected by string? ...Yeah, this isn't that.

The Soneva Kiri Eco-Resort, on the relatively non-touristy island of Koh Kood in Thailand, offers a decidedly elevated dining experience. Take a seat in your private bamboo pod — which is then hoisted just above the rainforest canopy — and take in the view of the Gulf of Thailand as you wait for your server. By the way, he'll be right with you, zip-lining in with your amuse-bouche. The curious monkeys you see observing you do not work there — no matter what they would have you believe.

The golden hour, just before sunset, will be a sure bet for reservations with the best photo ops. But, you'll also want to focus on the dinner spread because it's a truly beautiful offering of fresh and local Thai favorites, from the resort's garden, to the sea. Whatever meal you enjoy atop the trees, you'll probably taste a local favorite superfruit called kashikeyo, which is a beloved O.G. from the Maldives.

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the Conrad, Maldives

When Pitbull famously waxed poetic with the lyrics, "Every day above ground is a great day, remember that," for his 2014 hit "Time of Our Lives," he definitely wasn't thinking about how great it is to crack open a lobster tail 5 meters below sea level, completely surrounded by sharks. Don't worry, you won't get wet.

The Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at the luxury Conrad resort on the Maldives' Rangali Island serves up a first-of-its-kind fine dining experience that celebrates the serene, infinite magic of the Indian Ocean. It's been operating for nearly 20 years (just in case you were wondering about how those acrylic walls are holding up). 

Indulge your inner Little Mermaid or Poseidon, with dinner under the starfish. Past menus have featured reef lobster, sous vide beef, and chocolate and lime panna cotta. But, you can always just go for the cocktails and coral garden views, right outside the window.

Ice Restaurant at Arctic Snow Hotel, Finland

You're gonna want to bring extra Chapstick for this. Bundle your buns, Finland really went for it with the Ice Restaurant inside the Arctic Snow Hotel. Located just outside of the town of Rovaniemi — and open only from mid-December through April 1 — the entire hotel is broken down and reconstructed every year. Because, you know ... summer.

This isn't your grandma's igloo. Deep inside the sturdy snow walls, you'll find intricately crafted art made of actual snow and Arctic ice, as well as hidden ambient lighting so you'll never lose your way. Do bring your mittens and earmuffs, though. Wonderful for ice, but a little harsh on your fingers, the temperature inside the restaurant might hover around 23°F. It is, in fact, the Arctic Circle, people. Anything above zero degrees qualifies as warm and toasty.

But honestly, you'll be way too distracted by this bucket list adventure to even think about running over to the hot saunas outside. Grab a cocktail (in a glass made of ice), and settle in for a dinner that's cooked to perfection. Past offerings have included forest mushroom soup, roasted elk, seasonal vegetables, braised Arctic salmon, and creamy lingonberry-caramel bavarois. Yes, they're the same berries you find at IKEA, but this time, in their natural habitat.

The Flying Fishbone, Aruba

Maybe you're less of a freezing cold ice person and more of a warm weather, cocktail umbrella-type person. At The Flying Fishbone in Aruba, you can let the soothing waves of the Caribbean Sea gently lap at your feet, while you sip from the extensive wine list and snack to your heart's delight. Tucked into the small fishing town of Savaneta, this place is all about taking your shoes off and kicking back. Way back.

As the self-proclaimed pioneers of on-the-beach dining in Aruba, Flying Fishbone offers a variety of flavors from the sea, to the turf, and everything in between. Appetizers feature delicacies from Peruvian ceviche to tuna tataki, Pata Negra, and Escargots de Bourgogne. For your main dish, choose from lobster, scallops, duck breast, roasted lamb, and teriyaki beef tenderloin.

Of course, we have to suggest that someone at your table order the Savaneta History dish, celebrating the heritage and livelihood of many of the island locals. You get the fisherman's favorites of the day, served with vegetables, rice, and curry sauce. It's unbeatable ... well, maybe until you get to the flaming Baked Alaska for dessert.

Harvey Washbangers, College Station, Texas

At Harvey Washbangers, the thrill is in doing your laundry. Yep, laundry. Pop in a load or two while you chow down on a burger and a pint, smack dab in the middle of College Station, Texas. Since its opening in 1998, many a trendy laundry pub have followed, which only proves that drinking while laundering in public has been a long time coming.

But it's still laundry though ... Relax. You can eat here even if you don't want to show up with your stinky clothes hamper. Although that wash cycle is all part of the fun. Harvey's even claims they'll "turn your chores into cheers!" You're either in for the weirdest burger of your life, or the most fun with Tide Pods you've ever had. (Hint: It's the second thing.)

A lightboard lets you know when your wash is ready. And in the meantime, you can enjoy a solid menu of pub-style favorites. We might start by sharing the Queso del Jefe or Porkaholic cheese fries, and then hit up a Banger Burger with cheddar on sourdough. Also not to be missed are the flat-top hot dogs, classic milkshakes, and floats. Whatever you choose, it all washes up nicely with one of their many craft beers.

Labasin Waterfall Restaurant at Villa Escudero, Philippines

This is that soothing rain soundscape that you listen to in order to fall asleep, but if it were playing for a screaming crowd at Wembley Stadium. At Villa Escudero, you'll experience a working coconut plantation that's been around since the late 1800s. And, as one of the special features of the resort, you'll find a dining experience like no other.

Leave your shoes somewhere else. Here, you eat with your feet dangling in the runoff water from the man-made Labasin Dam which was the country's debut hydroelectric plant. Now, you get to sit in the cascading torrent and eat at the Labasin Waterfall Restaurant. It might not be a naturally occurring structure, but the lush flora and fauna will have you feeling like you're in the middle of a wild jungle.

You'll discover a buffet of Filipino delicacies (it's done the kamayan way; eaten by hand), which you then wade to your table to enjoy. Assembling everything onto your bilao, or bamboo tray, lined with banana leaves, you might find what's called banana cue (chicken and bananas on the barbie), beautiful whole fish, rice, and a wide variety of local fruit that's positively bursting with flavor. No word on whether our favorite Filipino spaghetti will be appearing on the menu any time soon, but we can dream.

Cat Cafe Nekobiyaka, Himeji, Japan

Black cats get a bad rap. They appear as autumnal home decor, they've been marked as a harbinger of bad luck, and they're the number one sorority girl costume for Halloween. No offense to Madison's omg super cute "sexy cat" look, but the black cat rep is overdue for a makeover.

However, in Japan, black cats are thought to bring good luck. And they're often associated with wealth and good fortune. (All the U.S. black cats are booking plane tickets to Hong Kong right now.) The maneki-neko, the lucky cat with its little paw moving up and down, is saying, "Meow, hello, c'mere, there's money over here." In summary, cats are hella revered in Japan. And, you can get all the luck you can handle at the Nekobiyaka cafe.

Japan has unapologetically embraced cat cafes, but none of the others are black cat exclusive, like Nekobiyaka is. The space is decorated like an average living room, and the cats are more than ready to rumble with guests. You can order alcohol, sodas, coffee, but the main attractions are your new, very interested, furry friends. House rules: Play to your heart's content, but just don't pick them up, squeeze them, hug them, or bother them while they're taking an adorable cat nap.

Café Babo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

On the flip side of cat people, are cold-blooded lizard lovers. And, if you're into scaly, crawly things with third eyes, Café Babo in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has truly got your number. Any given day may feature snakes, turtles, salamanders, lizards, iguanas, and frogs.

Of course, you can also grab a coffee or a cold beer and maybe a noodle dish while you play with your favorite prehistoric creature. These bearded dragons and the like are fully domesticated, so there won't be any Godzilla reboots breaking out. And, yes, that even applies to the python. These fascinating pets reportedly belong to locals who formed a reptile club in Ho Chi Minh City. 

However, if you happen to max out on the lizard life, there are also tiny bunnies living at the cafe, which you are more than welcome to play with. And suddenly, we're seriously hoping those reptile terrariums have locking latches, because the bunnies are looking like a snack.

CuliAir Skydining Hot Air Balloon Restaurant, Netherlands

Remember a minute ago when we were all, "the Dinner in the Sky thing on the platform is so scary" at 150 feet in the air? Well, you're gonna need extra pants as you step into the basket of this hot air balloon restaurant. Don't look down. Wait — never mind, definitely look down. You don't want to miss a thing.

Floating along on the breeze at an altitude of anywhere from 500 to even 6,500 (gulp) feet, Dutch chef and founder Angélique Schmeinck brilliantly prepares your meal inside the actual balloon, using pulleys to cook it high above the fire, with the balloon becoming an enormous convection oven. It's crazy, but it was all her idea, and it's been a smash hit since the brand first launched in 2003. Fear not, though, a professional is actually flying the balloon.

So, what's for dinner a mile high in the sky? Let's just say this menu is pretty heavenly. Along with plenty of wine and champagne, you might be treated to a koolrabi with oyster emulsion, lobster, wild sea bass with clams, country guinea-fowl with mushrooms, and a white chocolate and passion fruit mousse drizzled with basil syrup. We promise you'll never forget that time you survived the gastronomy of the clouds.

Tsavo Lion Restaurant at Bali Safari Park, Bali

They're the kings of the jungle, but let's just be glad these lions can't pop their heads in through open windows to grab a snack. If you're craving a meal alongside wild animals in the bush, Tsavo Lion Restaurant at Bali Safari Park might just be your ticket.

Stop. Hold on. It's located in Asia, but it's a restaurant with an African safari theme? Yes. The name was inspired by an incident where two lions brutally attacked dozens of people in Tsavo, Kenya in 1898. The animal pair became notorious for their shocking behavior, having also eaten their victims. Considering that the Bali Safari Park is an animal sanctuary and conservation center, the Lion Restaurant is meant to honor and celebrate its African heritage. 

It's an incredible experience to see these beautiful creatures in person, whether you stay for breakfast, or stop in for dinner. The top-notch cuisine boasts influences from around the globe, but we have our eyes on some African dishes, as well as local Balinese favorites. Peri Peri Chicken, or the Spiced Lamb Stew Pot, serve up the flavors of Africa. And, you'll get a hefty helping of Bali with the Crispy Duck, the slow-cooked Sumatra Beef Rendang (stew), and the Balinese take on fried rice.

Dans le Noir, Worldwide

Also referred to as "dark" or "blind" dining, the Dans le Noir concept is all about enjoying a meal — potentially with perfect strangers — in total blackout. But, while you can no longer eat with your eyes, the event offers a wild ride for the rest of your senses.

It's actually reminiscent of a therapy that has been utilized for families of blind patients, to familiarize the seeing loved ones with the reality of the blind person's perspective. But here, you will be pushed to the very limits of what you can handle, as your imagination comes to life, before a stunning demonstration of sensory gastronomy. For the entirety of your culinary journey, you will be guided by expert servers who are blind in real life. And for the record, the bathrooms are well-lit.

Of course, it would completely ruin the fun to see the menu before you get there. But past meals have included tasty dishes like aromatic salmon filet, slow-cooked lamb, roasted seabass and risotto, cheese plates, and dark chocolate fondant. Lights out and bon appétit.

Roller Coaster Restaurant, Europe, UAE, and Kuwait

It's high time your food had a little fun of its own. You love a thrilling roller coaster corkscrew, or loop-de-loop, so why wouldn't your french fries? But, instead of taking all those spins on a full stomach, you'll be spending your meal at a table that's firmly bolted to the ground, as your order performs all of the acrobatics.

Just grab a seat, plug in your order on a touchpad, and soon your onion rings will make their way from the kitchen, all the way up to the top of the vaulted ceiling, and down their own roller coaster track, straight to your table, where they always nail the landing. And then go nuts doing it with the rest of your meal choices.

The obvious draw here is the mini Six Flags situation for your food, with a menu that features classic, family-friendly fare. Snag nachos, chicken tenders, loaded fries, burgers, curries, and plenty of desserts. Hey, this time, you're not the one launching out of the gate at 70mph and screaming your guts off. You can eat whatever you want.

Lucky Restaurant, Ahmedabad, India

At the Lucky Restaurant in Ahmedabad, India, we're making lemonade out of some, um, very dead lemons. When restaurateur, Krishnan Kutti, was tasked with developing a property that used to be an old grave site, he obviously sourced the Hollywood Rolodex of "what happens when you unearth ancient graves in movies," and left the coffins of the deceased intact. And then, he built his restaurant around them. For real. And some of the 26 graves appear in the dining area.

Take a seat next to an above-ground sarcophagus, which has been festooned with flowers that morning. A tiny guard rail keeps you from accidentally walking on top of someone's beloved. As Kutti explains, it's actually lucky (and not morbid, grotesque, or disrespectful) to eat with the dead. Well, it's at least lucky for his booming hospitality business.

While it feels a little odd to talk about food in front of the dearly departed, we pour one out for the Lucky menu. The no-less-than multiple varieties of bun maska, a buttery sweet bread, are as popular as the chai tea. And, with lots of vegetarian meal options, there are loads of Indian delicacies on hand to distract you from the mausoleum in which you're just casually chowing down on Palak Paneer. Rest in peace. Oh, also, can we get a mango juice to go?