We’d been itching for a day trip outside of the city and the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania seemed to fit the bill. It looked to be an easy hour and a half drive from Manhattan and it had recently reopened just after Memorial Day following a three-month renovation by the same design teams that worked their magic at Coca-Cola World and LEGOLAND. Game on.
Charlie, Vivi, and Jack all seemed to really enjoy themselves—no easy feat when trying to equitably entertain an eight-, six-, and four-year-old. One of them, when asked a couple of days ago about their favorite outing of the summer to date, offered up the Crayola Experience without missing a beat. For me, though, the Crayola Experience, with all due respect to The New York Times Magazine, fell squarely on my Meh List—not hot, not not, just meh.
We started our day at the Crayola Experience at the top on the fourth floor with the intention of winding our way eventually back down to the first floor. We began with Meltdown, where the kids could use all different colors of melted crayon wax to paint. I hoped that the exhibit name was not a harbinger of doom for the rest of the day (Meltdown!) and found myself wondering how I could repurpose that long-forgotten fondue set wedding gift stashed God-knows-where in our apartment to try this at home. Because that is the kind of exceedingly crafty, creative, melted-crayon-wax-painting mama I am. Riiiiiiiiiiight.
Next on the fourth floor was the Drip Art area, which made me sort of all misty for the spin art of my early 1980’s childhood, except this used—you guessed it--melted crayon wax instead of paint. Using the Drip Art machine wasn’t rocket science, but it had been awhile since I’d done any art-spinning (spin-arting?). Lots of equally out-of-1980’s-Spin-Art-practice parents and their little children on the verge of meltdowns (meltdown meltdowns, as in tantrum meltdowns, not whimsical Crayola melted-crayon-wax meltdowns) were milling about, all of us looking a bit sheepish at our lack of proper Drip Art machine know-how with nary a Crayola employee in sight to keep things moving along. The third exhibit on the fourth floor, the Crayon Clinic, was not operating, but that was just fine by me. Our brochure gushed that at the Crayon Clinic, you could “watch your favorite crayon color melt into a Crayola Experience keepsake!,” but I was thinking, “Enough with the melted crayon wax already and let’s move on. Did you know that you can melt your own old crayons? At home? For free? In your never-used fondue set that you got for your wedding?”
The two-story Color Playground dominated the third floor. Surrounded by a chalk floor and white draw-onable (I took great creative license there and made that word up) animals, the playground boasted an obstacle course, bridge, and slides and like all indoor play spaces, was crowded and frenetic and very, very screamy (I might have made that word up, too, because I’m a writer and I can do that). Time seemed to slow down and stop in the Color Playground and I kicked myself for leaving my book in the car and wondered if I would be arrested if I left my screamy children with their screamy peers to slip out of the Color Playground area to retrieve it. Instead, I pulled my reluctant children out of the playground and dragged them to the Crayon Factory, a live theater show with an expert Crayonologist (I didn’t make that one up—the Crayola Experience copywriters did) and two animated Crayola crayons teaching and showing how crayons are made. It was packed too full of people for us to get in and we had to postpone until later.
In the meantime, we stopped by an area called Water Works, an 85-foot water attraction where kids could maneuver and splash crayon-shaped plastic boats around and whose relevance to crayons was completely lost on me. We hit Doodle in the Dark, an interactive dark room where the kids could doodle with glow-in-the-dark markers on light-up boards. Cool in concept, but not in practice as once one person drew on a board, an employee had to come around and wipe it off with a rag and Windex and wait for it to dry before anyone else could use it, which created a backlog and was frankly kind of buzzkill.
We did finally make it to the Crayola Factory show, which was the highlight of the day for me with all of its random factoids about crayon production and retro 1970’s Crayola television commercials (“Crayola Crayons: They work on brains, not batteries”). Next up was Wrap It Up!, where kids could create and personalize their own Crayola color labels. Except that I couldn’t quite wrap the label perfectly around Vivi’s crayon and she pitched a fit. At this point in the day, I was really starting to limp along to the finish line and can’t even begin to tell you about the remaining exhibits, including Art Alive, Marker Mania, and Modeling Madness, which have all kind of blurred together in my mind.
There are a lot of summer days to fill with an eight-, six-, and four-year-old and although I am fine with the fact that we filled one of them with the Crayola Experience, I don’t think it warrants a return trip. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to head out to the store and pick up some Sterno to fire up the fondue pot, which I’m still looking for, to get this melted crayon wax show on the road.
Crayola Experience, 30 Centre Square, Easton, PA 18042, (610) 515-8000, crayolaexperience.com, Hours: vary depending on the time of year, but on the weekday we were there in June, the hours were 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (check calendar on website for details and changes); Admission: $15.99 for adults and children over the age of 2 ($14.99 if you book in advance online); discounts for seniors and military personnel.
- Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
- The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers