If you were lucky enough to get tickets to the sold out Saturday sessions of LEGO KidsFest at the Kentucky Exposition Center, read this before you go. As of Friday night, there are still tickets left for Session I (9:00 am-1:30 pm) and Session II (3:00-7:30 pm) on Sunday, April 7, so go here to purchase them. This Friday night I took my eight year-old son and my six and three year-old daughters to the wildly popular touring LEGO event, and we left happy and exhausted. We also picked up a few pointers along the way, so I'll share them with you now so that your weekend visit is as fantastic as possible.
- Go to the LEGO KidsFest website to familiarize yourself (and your kids) with what to expect once you enter the North Wing of the Expo Center. It can be overwhelming when you first walk in. What should we do first? Should we stand in that long line for Chima or just join in some free-play LEGO building? Pick your "must sees" for each child, and come up with a basic game plan for your 4 1/2 hour session.
- Parking is $8. So just add that to the LEGO tab.
- Be prepared for some long lines. This could change day-to-day, but on Friday night the most popular event looked like the Master Builder Academy. (You must sign up for this event; it's the only event that is ticketed.) The Chima event was also packed. (What's Chima? It's a new show on Cartoon Network; apparently every boy in Kentuckiana over the age of seven already knows about it.) After seeing the long lines, my second grader decided to move on to some of the more free-flowing areas. My heart swelled with joy.
- He did, however, insist that we stand in line to play the new wii U game, LEGO City Undercover. Forty minutes standing in line to play a wii game? It wasn't my highlight of the night, but he did have fun trying out a new videogame.
- Food is available. Ehrler's ice cream wisely has a stand right outside the wii U event, so it's a terrific bribe for little sisters who have to stand in an agonizing line waiting for their big brother. I also saw a Papa Murphy's pizza concession stand.
- My kids' favorite moments seemed to be the unstructured ones; that is, the areas marked by giant buckets and piles of bricks and creative free play. There are areas (with no lines) for building LEGO construction figures, LEGO City models, a pinktastickly girly Friends area, race cars, and more. The art gallery is also a fun chance to see kids' creativity in play. I spied quite a few LEGO masterpieces honoring the Final Four-bound UofL Cardinals.
- The giant LEGO Brick Pile is super cool. A staffer was literally shoveling thousands of bricks with a huge snow shovel, delighting giggling kids who couldn't wait to be buried in LEGO bricks. My kids played in this area for a long time, sometimes just pretending they were in snow or sand, but stopping at times to make a little LEGO creation amidst the total chaos.
- Okay, okay, the thought of hundreds of grimy hands rifling through all these LEGO bricks did give me the heebie jeebies. But in case you forget your antibacterial gel, there are industrial-sized pumps of gel at nearly every station. Phew.
- There are lots of photo opportunities—the Brick Pile and the Model Museum are real stunners—so be sure to bring your camera.
- Yes, there is a retail shop. From the number of bright yellow LEGO bags I saw parents hauling around, they must have an incredible selection. I gave myself a pat on the back for leaving Kidsfest without a visit to the store. After viewing the buckets of Legos of all shapes and sizes at the many popular free-play stations, I am considering dumping all my son's LEGOs in some giant storage bins and charging strangers $20 to come create something unique. LEGO Kidsfest is not a cheap event, but if you have a LEGO lover in your family, I doubt you will leave disappointed. And it's cheaper than going to LEGOland.
Photos: courtesy of Anna Frye