I've been to a lot of different conventions in my life: comic book conventions, book expos, Star Trek conventions. Until recently, I'd never been to a LEGO convention.
It was awesome.
Well, calling it a "convention" is sort of a misnomer. There's only one exhibitor---LEGO---and it's far more fun than your typical convention. It's more like a huge LEGO playground. Their official marketing copy actually calls it "a hands-on, educational, all-ages LEGO extravaganza." And there's certainly nothing wrong with that.
LEGO KidsFest is a traveling show that's been on tour since 2009, but it only makes seven North American stops each year. It also has a history of selling out well in advance. Therefore, if it comes anywhere near you, I highly suggest you make every effort to go.
We attended the event in Richmond, VA, which is a solid 3-hour drive for us from DC. I regret nothing.
The event is open to the public in 4.5-hour sessions, meaning your ticket allows you entry to the event for your selected window only. We were concerned that it wouldn't be enough time, but it actually turned out to be perfect. With little ones in tow, it's an overwhelming experience, and 4.5 hours is ideal.
The show floor itself is a three-acre wonderland of LEGO bricks. All of the different brands are represented in some capacity: Star Wars, City, Chima, Ninjago, Friends, Disney Princess, Super Heroes, Mindstorms, and DUPLO. Whatever you or your kids prefer, there's something here to satisfy.
There's a ton to do. Upon entry, there's a model gallery with dozens of life-size statues made entirely of LEGO bricks. Click through the gallery below to see most of them, in addition to some of the other statues scattered throughout the venue (the little Roarbot is included for size comparison purposes...and because she wanted to be in every picture)....
Highlights of LEGO KidsFest include...
Live demonstrations from master builders (which require advance registration, so get on the list first thing if you're at all interested)
Race ramps where you can build and race custom cars
Creation Nation where you can build your own creation and add it to an enormous map of the United States
The Brick Pile (there are both regular LEGO and LEGO DUPLO varieties), which is a gigantic pile of bricks that kids can literally swim around in
Monochromatic Builds, where you can let your imagination fly within the confines of a single color
Games and activities where kids can "compete" and win polybag LEGO sets
Several themed building stations where you can just build whatever you want (there were stations for Chima, Star Wars, Friends, Ninjago, City, and Mindstorms)
The Lego Retail Store and KidsFest Marketplace, which is exactly what you think it is
As you can probably guess, there's a ton to keep the kids (and adults!) busy. The giveaway polybags were a nice, unexpected touch, and the kids loved getting them.
It's not often that the term "all-ages" is 100% appropriate, but the LEGO KidsFest is one of those events to which is applies. We saw everyone from crawling babies through grandparents having a good time. There's truly something to keep everyone engaged, entertained, and happy.
Tickets are fairly pricey at $20 for kids and $22 for adults. For a family of four or more, this can be an expensive proposition for just a few hours, but I think it's a fair price for what you get in return. The polybags and other giveaways are a nice touch and might help you justify the ticket cost, but if you're fans of LEGO, then it's certainly money and time well spent.
And, to be fair, we saw a lot of people walking around with huge bags from the LEGO Marketplace for their purchases. If the sold-out capacity crowd and the mad crush in the Marketplace are any indication, most people find the costs associated with the event to be more than reasonable.
The KidsFest makes its last stop of the year in Indianapolis from November 7--9. If you're within striking distance to make a daytrip of it, we highly recommend it.
(Disclosure: We were guests of LEGO KidsFest during our visit. All opinions remain my own.)