There are only a couple of locations across the country. The Plano, Texas Crayola Experience opened up this spring in Willow Bend Mall. I have a friend who recently went and recommended it. Fun for the whole family! she said. Like me, she is raising a teen, a tween, and a toddler. If her family enjoyed it then mine would as well. Suddenly there were ads and commercials everywhere. It’s the hot new thing! I quickly scheduled a trip for my family, unable to resist. And as soon as we arrived in the parking lot and saw the sign my two year old could hardly contain his glee.
The Crayola Experience is just that: an experience. There is a lot to see and a lot to do.
When you enter you receive a Crayola bag with two tokens. The tokens you can use to name your very own crayon and/or to purchase some model magic. It’s up to you. The plastic bag is to hold all your treasures from the day. You’ll be grateful for that!
Name and Wrap your own crayon is a fun station that is easy enough for literally anyone to do, and as customizable as you want. Start by selecting your crayon color and inserting your token. Then you can choose which symbol you’d like and what you’d like to name your crayon. (Or not. My 2-year old pushed all the buttons himself, and chose no letters.) After you hit print you’ve got a label and a crayon. Nearby is a station that helps you wrap the label on the crayon. Voila! Your very own custom-named crayon. Very fun.
The Model Magic station, the other option for your tokens, is even easier. It’s a vending machine! Insert your token, select your color, and retrieve from the bottom. Now you’re set to play at the nearby tables or slip your model magic in your bag for later.
Do you like colouring pages?
In addition to several stations where you can just sit and colour to your heart’s content, you can even create a colouring page featuring yourself! Again it’s ridiculously easy and a lot of fun.
I spent a lot of time in the toddler area where my youngest could climb and slide without being trampled by the school aged children. That’s also where I found the giant Lite Brite.
A Lite Brite was one of the earliest toys I remember having. I played with it for hours! My children (all three) really enjoyed it as well. Maybe I’ll have to find one again.
Around the corner from the Lite Brite (and the rest of the toddler section) you find big pieces of chalk and an entire world awaiting your creative impulses. This is what it looked like at the beginning of the day:
This is what it looked like three hours later:
The employees didn’t wait until the end of the day to wash it down, they had to wipe it down midday so the children arriving later in the day had somewhere to leave their marks.
My big boys stood in line to mold crayon wax into different shapes while I chased little brother around the toddler area.
We all met up at the Crayola Theatre to learn more about the Crayola Factory. I expected it to be a film, but in addition to that there were in-person demonstrations. (And everyone left with a crayon whose creation was demonstrated to us from start to finish.) My youngest sat through the whole half hour presentation!
There were more stations that I wanted to explore, including the Drip Art and Melted Art stations. I was also curious about the Imagination Lab. Everywhere we looked there was something else to do. In addition to the formal stations there were tables everywhere for crafting and colouring.
Unfortunately everywhere we looked there were throngs of people as well. As much fun as it was -and it was very fun!- the crowds definitely made it challenging. I’m pretty sure every day care in Dallas was on a field trip the day we went. They were loud, they were crazy, and many of the children (and adults!) demonstrated rather poor behavior. The line for the mold making was 45 minutes when my boys went. As cool as the rest of the stations appeared, neither of the boys was willing to do another line like that again.
(Note: I took all of my good photos at the very beginning of our day, with the exception of the chalk station which was cleared out so the workers could clean. I’ve also learned the art of angles so as to avoid strangers in my photos as much as possible. It’s easier than getting them to sign a waiver to be on my blog, haha.)
Even when we took a break to refuel at the Crayola Cafe (kids meals in adorable lunch boxes! How could I resist?) we faced long waits as they were short-staffed that day. I tried to keep it fun and remind my boys that Disneyland had long lines too, and they were Disneyland pros. They reminded me that Disneyland was neither indoors, nor in such close quarters. My children did well and they enjoyed the day, but if they had sensory issues the crowds and the lights and the open-concept would likely have been too much. If your children have sensory issues I would suggest calling before a visit to identify a less-overwhelming time.
The Crayola Experience in Texas is brand new. I suspect it’ll be crowded for a long time. If you go during the summer I would suggest going on a weekend where the child to adult ratio is more favourable. Perhaps you still won’t be able to do everything you want, but you’ll have a fighting chance. There’s a lot to do, though, so you may find yourself leaving with a list of what to do “next time.” (That’s not necessarily a bad thing.) It’s an entire day’s adventure geared toward creativity! No batteries required. That, my friends, is a very good thing.