I'll come clean here: My six-year-old is not your biggest Lego fan. She has some bricks, but I can't remember the last time she played with them.
But I had a media pass to cover Lego KidsFest, which opened in Raleigh on Friday, and when I asked her if she wanted to tag along, she jumped up and down and yelled yes. I wasn't exactly sure what she'd think about it when we went to the Friday evening session. Four hours into our visit, I had to drag her away.
Sure, we built things. We marveled at the life-sized Lego models. And she even laid down in the giant pile of bricks and tried to swim in them. But what she really liked most about the event was being part of the spectacle - participating in the group builds; competing in contests; and learning and creating with all the other kids, who have obviously spent a lot of time with Lego.
Lego KidsFest continues through Sunday. There are two 4.5-hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday at the downtown Raleigh Convention Center. They run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. each day. The event's website says that ticket availability for Saturday is limited. If you want to go Saturday, it might be best to buy your tickets online before you go. Tickets are $18 for kids ages 3 to 17 and $20 for adults. Click here for details and tickets. Lego KidsFest comes to Raleigh
If you go, here were our favorite spots:
1. The big brick pile. We saw it untouched at about three feet deep and 20 feet long. Within an hour, it was spread out, but still deep. Kids crawled through it or tried to bury each other in it. We didn't spend a lot of time building here, but, like many other kids, my daughter just liked moving through it. It's a lot of brick.
2. Creation Nation. This group build lets visitors help create a giant map of the United States. You get a blank green baseplate to build on. Once you're done building on it, it's added to the giant blank map, which is filled in over the course of the weekend. We added our own baseplates to the mix (requesting Indiana and Texas, where relatives live), but that wasn't the highlight of the activity for my daughter. Instead, we returned throughout the course of the evening to see what others had created. And it was impressive - skyscrapers, crosses, farms, houses, the Hatteras Lighthouse and other landmarks.
3. The Lego Activity Area. Here you'll find a collection of competitions and games. Kids team up to compete in the activities, which include a relay race and the construction of towers or bridges. It was great to see groups of kids, complete strangers just minutes before, team up to compete. My daughter competed in a couple of them and we watched several more.
4. Monochromatic builds: When I first read about these areas, which feature bricks of a single color, I didn't think we'd spend much time in them. What's so alluring about building with one single color? I was wrong. This is actually where my daughter spent most of her time building.
5. Mystery Mural: Like a giant paint-by-numbers picture, here visitors help to create murals that will be completed over the weekend. You stick the right color bricks on the baseplate and then place your piece on the mural. Like the giant map, my daughter wanted to check back here from time to time to see how things were going.
6. Lego Games: Like the monochromatic build, I figured we wouldn't be spending a lot of time playing board games at Lego KidsFest. Was I wrong. When we got to the section, a KidsFest staffer sat down and played a round of Minotaurus, a game that's played kind of like the board game Sorry, with us. My daughter and I ended up playing two more rounds before we got up. The Lego board game area is tucked in one corner, perhaps intentionally, away from the hub and constant clatter of bricks. After three hours of walking the span of the convention center, it was a welcome and fun break.
7. Lego Challenge. My daughter participated in a challenge to see who could build the most Lego people. Everybody left a winner, getting a package of Lego bricks.
By the middle of Friday's session, I started to notice some longish lines, though we didn't stand in any one line more than 10 minutes. And as you will usually find at venues such as this, the food prices were steep. We opted to split a giant $3 cookie instead of springing for an $8 slice of pizza.
While my daughter moved from one area to the next, I was reminded that these sorts of events are a lot more fun when you just get in there and play with your kids. And for more than four hours on Friday, that's exactly what I did.
I know everybody's experience at an event like this is different. I'd love to hear what others thought about it.