The 10 Best Pop-Up Events

Skift Take

Pop-up events grab attention. Creative and unique often trumps expensive. Check out these 10 awesome, and largely replicable, pop ups.

Every pop-up event is unique and serves a different purpose and audience. There are pop-up parties, stores, and dining experiences. The pop ups listed below were not only successful, but wildly inventive (at the time they were hosted), and top audience pleasers. With the exception of the ice hotel, they’re all relatively easy to pull off.


The following dining events set the stage for pop-up expectations from unexpected locations to innovative experiences. Guests who dined at these pop-up events will have a hard time going back to run-of-the-mill restaurants.

Best in Freshness


Photo credit: Courtesy of Outstanding in the Field

There’s a strong push today to eat cleaner, less-processed foods. The farm-fresh movement and sustainability are tops on most superstar chefs’ lists. One organization, Outstanding in the Field, looks to bring diners closer to the food they’re consuming, literally. In 2015, they hosted 84 dinners in more than 30 field locations. Again, literally in the field. No, we’re not overusing that word as a cool, yet unnecessary part of speech. Outstanding in the Field creates a dining experience where foodies enjoy a scrumptious repast amidst veggies or other natural surroundings. It’s about enjoying the freshness of the food, the verdant environs, and the company of people who enjoy the dining experience as much as you do.

Pro Tip: Mother Nature offers some of the loveliest backdrops but she is a fickle hostess so make sure you have a back-up plan.

Best Food with a Cause

The Culinary Institute of America is known for its pop-up dining experiences. At Pangea in New York City, the students served up a menu addressing the concerns of how we’ll feed the planet in future generations. The event focused on conscious dining and innovative dishes like edamame salsa and other plant-based courses.

Pro Tip: Audiences want to give back and feel good about what they’re doing. They’ll pay more for that privilege.

Best Internet Sensation


If you spend any time on the internet, you undoubtedly saw the dining event of a table hoisted high into the air from a crane. Dinner in the Sky hosts events all over the world and provides an amazing experience. The only question is could you keep your food down at that height?

Pro Tip: Offer something no one else is doing but make sure your insurance covers your innovation.

Best Intrigue

Some venues are lucky. They just sound exotic, like dinner in the Maldives. That alone would sell most people on this pop up. At the Six Senses Laamu, guests sign up for a personalized pop-up dinner. The catch is when they sign up they have no idea where or what it will be. The morning of the event, guests receive an invitation revealing the secret location and mystery fare. Past examples include feasting on Mediterranean food blindfolded in a wine cellar and dining on fish and chips amidst a lush garden.

Pro Tip: Everything’s better with a little mystery.

Stores and Other Merchants

These examples changed the buying behavior of many of the lucky people who stumbled across them.

Coolest Pop Up Ever


Photo credit: Courtesy of ICEHOTEL

This first one isn’t exactly a store but it is one of the first pop-up experiences to receive large-scale notoriety – the original ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. Similar locations have popped up anywhere temperatures dip below freezing for large periods of time. This structure is both a hotel and an art exhibit in one. It’s built anew every year in November and lasts until about April. Each year artists create different rooms and decorations. The hotel is never the same year-to-year, making it the ultimate pop-up.

Pro Tip: Bring in an element of fantasy but keep it real for those who need a break. The ICEHOTEL has warm (traditional) and cold rooms because they recognized as cool as an ice bed is some people will get tired of the novelty.

Most Nostalgic Pop Up

Before the movie premier of Where the Wild Things Are, the planners set up a pop-up store in Hollywood to sell memorabilia. The store resembled a nest with one corner dedicated to a towering blanket fort. Even the mannequins had horns. Who wouldn’t enjoy shopping in something that cozy and fun?

Pro Tip: Use nostalgia as a way to connect to your audience.

The Cutest Pop Up Ever

Have you ever purchased a toy for your dog only to have him/her seem more interested in the packaging than the item? This next pop-up event used technology to ensure pets and owners were happy with purchases. Bark & Co, the company that makes BarkBox opened a dog shop in New York for a week in June of 2016. The dogs were given RFID-enabled vests to track what they played with most. Owners could view and purchase directly from the event’s mobile app. Check out the cuteness, if you can handle it.

Pro Tip: Use technology to make sharing, buying, and subscribing effortless.

Parties and Events

These fabulous pop ups are sure to get your creative juices flowing.

Food and Stories

While this event could easily have made our dining section, it’s much more than just food. Food Hall in Johannesburg, South Africa is a quarterly pop-up dining experience that brings together a diverse group of people to share interesting stories over great food. Sometimes there’s a theme and it’s always located in a hip, interesting venue. The group is intimate because conversation is as much the goal as the tastings.

Pro Tip: Bring people together for the experience. Choose seating and settings that are conducive to conversation.

Best (Almost) Reality

Not all “events” are conferences or parties. Some events revolve around daily life. Like this very creative example. London-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy wanted to show passers-by what it was like to work there. All I can say is that it looks a lot more fun than my office. Graphic artist Emily Forgot transformed the front window into a cartoonish space. Employees took turns working “on set” for a few weeks and if you weren’t in London and wanted to watch, you could tune into the agency’s website that was live-casting it via webcam.

Pro Tip:  People love behind-the-scenes action. Sharing glimpses into what makes an event can be wildly successful, especially if you’re willing to not take yourself too seriously.

Most Unusual Cross-sell


Chefs will tell you presentation in food is almost as important as taste. The color of your foods and plates can make something more or less appealing. That’s the only connection I can think of between Pantone (yes, that Pantone color company) and its pop-up Pantone Café in Monaco. No, Pantone isn’t going into food, this pop-up merely creates a visual statement and lots of Instagram opportunities.

Pro Tip:  If you want to replicate its success, create something picture worthy at your event and let attendees handle the word-of-mouth marketing.

In Conclusion

These pop-up events weren’t the most expensive, and none of them involved fireworks or flights to the moon. But what they did have was something you could replicate fairly easily, and most within a smaller budget (again, ICEHOTEL not included, but it’s so cool we had to add it to the list. And, yes, pun horribly intended.)

What pop-up events would you add to this list?