Cheating suggests activity that is engaged in for instant gratification despite its immorality. In the case of diets, this usually happens when a person on a journey toward better health decides they’ve had enough salads, grilled chicken breasts or cups of wheatgrass, and would just like to remember the taste of pizza, a jelly donut or a chocolate shake that doesn’t come from Slimfast. Dietary cheating is one of the less sinful varieties of cheating, yet it does come with a small cost — unless we’re talking about a trip to Cheat Day Land at Irvine Spectrum.
Cheat Day Land is a museum of guilty food-themed photo shoot sets. Guests book appointments for $20-$38, depending on the day/promotion (children 4 and younger get in free). For the cost of admission, they get a 60-90 minute guided tour through the facility’s several dozen exhibits and installations. Those exhibits range in dynamics from painted vignettes coupled with relevant props to wholly immersive sets. The common thread through all of the set-ups is decadent food scenarios executed in a fun, cartoonish manner.
For Irvine Weekly’s visit to Cheat Day Land, manager Savanah Arjil provided us with a guided tour. As we walked through, Arjil identified the various props that accompanied some of the displays and indicated some choice photographic angles, as she does with other guests. At the end of the tour, the crème de la crème was a mountain made of sweets; technically, the mountain was on the floor so that guests could pose safely on it and then be photographed via an angled mirror that provides the illusion of great height. Following the tour’s conclusion, guests are offered an actual treat — perhaps to compensate their stomachs after having been surrounded by larger-than-life sweets for the previous hour or so.
After my tour, I spoke with one of the Cheat Day Land owners about the history of the business. Rubí Rymenmy, her sister Yolanda Reyes and brothers Nick Reyes, Manuel Reyes and Enrique Reyes, have been running fitness programs for several years. Those programs run the gamut from aerial yoga and acrobatics to belly dancing, zumba and tumbling. The inspiration for Cheat Day Land came from a visit to a museum in Tokyo, Japan, where Rymenmy saw an installation that allowed guests to climb a building; this became the inspiration for the mountain of sweets illusion that concludes the tour at Cheat Day Land.
When Rymenmy saw the exhibit, she got the ball rolling for the new business. She recalled, “I told my brothers, ‘Oh my God, this is really cool!’ and I sent them pictures and everything. They said, ‘We need to do something like this in L.A.’ So, when I came back here, I did research to find out who else is doing something like that.” Among the similar ventures Rymenmy discovered were Candytopia and The Museum of Ice Cream. Two years later, the family opened the first Cheat Day Land, in L.A. That was in October of 2018.
As for the food theme, Rymenmy said the family determined that it would be a good idea because “everybody relates to it.” She added, “[The name] Cheat Day Land came up because of The Rock [Dwayne Johnson].” The family follows The Rock’s Instagram posting because of their interest in fitness, and, through him, they were introduced to the concept of dietary cheat days. A caricature of The Rock is featured among the displays at Cheat Day Land.
As for the inspiration to open a location in Irvine, this was the result of their having been approached by Storyland Studios. Rymenmy added that there has been a lot of additional interest. She said, “I’m getting a lot of proposals from [companies in] different cities and from all over the world … everybody loves the place!” When the Irvine location opened in April, it was a major expansion. Rymenmy pointed out, “This is 30,000 square feet. The other one was something like 10,000 square feet.”
Stepping up the family business game with first the L.A. location and now the Irvine location of Cheat Day Land has enabled a challenging but rewarding introduction into a much larger playing field. Rymenmy said, “I’m super excited because it was for fun! We’ve always done events [with our fitness businesses], and we’ve been doing events at my studio for a long time; and we always sold out. [However,] our other events only [accommodated] a hundred people. … Now, it’s open to everyone to come and have fun. It’s like a big party!”
For more information on Cheat Day Land, including ticketing information, visit their website.