One of the worst parts of the holiday season is the annual holiday break – it means that we’ve planning to do about keeping the children busy, and dealing with the fact that the Monster is quite, quite used to his regular routine. While he did spend a couple of days at Schools Out at the JCC (which I still absolutely love), we elected not to send him on the days that they were doing field trips, just to not torture their staff.
So instead, we tortured ourselves, and decided to plan a field trip to the Crayola Experience.
(Disclosure – I was not compensated for this review. My wife bought passes on a deals site.)
When we first thought about the idea of going to the Crayola Experience, it was mostly in the vein of “this sounds interesting and neat, and the kids’ll probably dig it”. We don’t get to do a lot of things, mostly due to our schedules – my wife and I are more over-scheduled than the children – and while there’s definitely the opportunity when school’s not in the way, it means having to figure out what’ll fit into that space. In this case, a day trip during the vacation simply meant my taking a day off of work to handle this…
So for starters – Easton is further from our home than we thought. (That’s on us.) Going to the Crayola experience required hours in the car, and we’re fortunate enough to have a minivan to keep them busy on the way, so they hardly noticed that the ride back was longer due to traffic.
Parking for the Crayola Experience is alright. Easton’s a cute little town on the Delaware River, and there are two parking garages that are a reasonable walk from the place – one’s right across the street, and the other’s about a block away. It was a little more unpleasant due to the weather, as it was cold and a little blustery that day, but all-in-all, I’ve few enough complaints about it. The parking rates aren’t horrible, and I imagine that if you’re there early enough in the morning, you can find street parking that’s still a bit cheaper.
The Crayola Experience itself is a four-story building in the heart of Easton, with activities on each of the upper three floors, with a store, coat-room/lockers and ticket counter on the first floor. Our first impression of the building, when we arrived at about 12:30 PM, was that it was very crowded (which you’d expect over a school break) and that we were very glad that we’d bought tickets in advance, which let us skip one of the two lines.
A ticket ($20 in person, $17 online in advance, with reasonably affordable annual passes if you’re local) buys you admission to the experience, a bag to carry whatever goodies you get while wandering around the place, and two tokens that you can use on some of the activities to purchase items like modeling clay or a custom-labeled crayon, with additional tokens are available for purchase within the facility. From there, you go up the stairs or ride an elevator up to the activities. Throughout the ‘experience’, there are numerous art-related things that your children can do, from melting a crayon to create spin-art, to melting a crayon into a mold, to working with modeling clay or getting custom coloring sheets made that they can work on. For children who are very artsy and into that kind of thing, it’s fantastic, though I’d argue that most of these are also activities that you could, conceivably, do at home if you had the willingness and inventiveness to do so.
Now, as I mentioned, it was very crowded. The building’s not very spacious, and we were there over a break, which led to very long lines for many of the activities, especially the time-consuming ones that involved melting crayons. I’ll be honest, though, and say that I can’t imagine how the building wouldn’t be crowded, save perhaps if you visited on a weekday when school is in session. Every guide that my wife read recommended allocating three to four hours, and I’d normally agree with that, save for the way kids were packed into the place. Our kids burned out in about two and a half hours (which is good, because we were burned out after that too).
In terms of the sensory side – the Monster seemed to be okay with the whole thing, wearing his headphones. It is very loud with that many people, and there’s a lot of visual stimuli to distract children with such issues. The one bathroom I took him into had an air-dryer, so that’s another little complication, and he dealt with it so-so before we’d headed on our way home.
But honestly, I’m not sure – even with how much he likes crayons and art – that it was really his cup of tea, and I don’t know that I’d recommend it for others. It’s certainly interesting enough for a few hours if you can time it early enough in the day to avoid some of the crowds, but otherwise, unless your child’s really into crayons and art, I’d steer clear.