Entering The Rhelm At Aloha Tower

The Rhelm Adventure Theater in Aloha Tower Marketplace is an interactive discovery center, museum and theater all in one | Photo from Tannya Joaquin

Looking up at the luxury high-rises that dwarf Aloha Tower today, it’s hard to believe this 10-story lighthouse was once the tallest structure in Honolulu.

A lot has changed since 1926. “Boat Days” are long gone. Now, what once was the heart of Hawaii tourism is in need of resuscitation.

Since Chai’s Island Bistro and Hawaii Athletic Club moved out, I haven’t had a real reason to go to Aloha Tower Marketplace. No offense to Hooters or Gordon Biersch. That’s just not my cup of tea. Or should I say beer?

Lo and behold, I found a reason: The Rhelm Adventure Theater. It’s a new interactive discovery center, museum and theater rolled into one.

The mastermind behind this concept is longtime teacher and fairy tale fan Deidre Harris. She calls The Rhelm “the ultimate classroom” for children ages 4-12 because it uses “environments that engage the senses, activities that engage the mind and stories that engage the imagination.”

I went to check it out during lunchtime. It was sad to see Aloha Tower Marketplace so empty. On the plus side, parking was no problem. But it’s a virtual ghost town.

Coincidentally, The Rhelm is located across from Gordon Biersch, and children entering the theater have to defend the village against a distant cousin of ghosts-goblins.

The story begins with a dragon that has devastated the village of Wentrus. Children enter The Rhelm to help rebuild the village, with a passport to collect stamps from stations along their adventure.

From weaving a hut that was destroyed by dragons to panning for gold, there are plenty of activities for little minds to explore. They choose how they want to help. They can decode hidden messages from a wizard or power a fuse box reminiscent of a childhood favorite of mine, Lite Brite.

This is a hands-on experience families can enjoy together. That was the goal of Deidre and Jeffrey Harris. This husband-and-wife duo worked side by side for the past year to get their labor of love off the ground.

As Deidre explains, “Today, even when families are together, they’re not really together. Everyone’s on a different device.”

Jeffrey adds, “With more than 20 different activities that engage the creative intellect of both children and parents alike, we hope to bring families together in an experience they will take and continue at home.”

Read up on this family adventure at TheRhelm.com. The Rhelm is open through the end of August. Hours are Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cost is $50 for a family of four, or $14.95 for individuals for a one-hour passport into Wentrus Village, where the characters, activities and story of The Rhelm come alive.

Now, if only Hawaii Pacific University can do the same for Aloha Tower Marketplace. tjoaquin@hawaiinewsnow.com