From the outside, Katena, the giant inflatable structure in downtown Raleigh for this weekend's Artsplosure, looks like some sort of spiky space station - gray with pops of green, red and blue.
Inside, it's like a cozy blanket where New Age music guides you through a series of domes and corridors, decorated with a kaleidoscope of colors.
It's a luminarium, created by the England-based Architects of Air, which, after a several year hiatus, is back at the downtown Raleigh arts festival this weekend. Katena, which you'll find on City Plaza on Fayetteville Street, is open 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday. Tickets, which are available at the entrance, are $6 for adults and free for kids 4 and younger. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
For 25 years, Architects of Air have built these structures by hand and traveled with them around the world. Katena was built last year and made a stop in Ottawa before traveling here. It took four months to build - by hand - with plastic that's just a half a millimeter thick.
A visit inside Katena is self guided. You decide how you want to experience the space - a quick rush through or a meandering journey that includes sitting up against the walls to gaze at the colors and listen to the sound. There's no artificial light inside, it's all natural.
There are just a few rules: You'll need to take your shoes off. You can park your stroller at the door - they aren't allowed inside (but wheelchairs, walkers are canes are allowed). If you're taking kids, they ask that you bring no more than four kids per one adult.
And, though it might look like a bounce house to your kids, it isn't. There's no jumping up against the walls, running or sliding. But sitting or laying down against the walls is encouraged, said Shanti Freed, exhibition manager.
Kids love the colors, sounds and, what seems to them, I'm sure, vast corridors that loop around. Several years ago, it was a blast watching my two-year-old toddle from one space to the next, lying down every once in a while to look up.
Freed has these recommendations for parents: Take your pictures, but then put the phone down and experience it all with your kids.
"Explore light and color with your family," she said. "Engage with them. Take the opportunity."