Candytopia returns to Sweeten Houston


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When I first saw Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka sing “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination”, I was into it. The idea of ​​edible mushrooms and “you can even eat the dishes” was the trick. of dreams. My little brothers and I, and even my parents, never missed the annual TV broadcast of Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. Although my brothers were sucked into the chocolate river or declared bad eggs early on, I was a Charlie, and I thought there was a reward for being good, kind, and following the rules.

The candy man can.DEVELOP

The candy man can.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

I think I passed these beliefs on to my children, who, at 17 and 21, are now well on their way to becoming their own people. There aren’t many more opportunities to do something engaging and healthy with my adult children, so when I was invited to a media preview of the Candytopia interactive pop-up here in Houston, I thought that it could be a fun experience for a teenager, high school student, and woman of a certain age.

Even young adults need to have fun like children.DEVELOP

Even young adults need to have fun like children.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Our childish excitement was only marred by the hell that is the CityCentre parking lot. The pandemic is well and truly over in this shopping and dining destination. With the Studio Movie Grill and lunchtime shoppers, the only parking available was on the roof of the parking lot. It wouldn’t be a bad thing in and of itself without the many cars and pedestrians encountered on the way to the top.

Tick ​​Tock (Javier Neveu) shows off his acting skills as Tyler Washington stands guard.DEVELOP

Tick ​​Tock (Javier Neveu) shows off his acting skills as Tyler Washington stands guard.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Once parked, we headed for the Candytopia room. Inside, our group was greeted by two young people in white overalls. The Sugar Rush QR code was explained, rules were made (don’t eat the displays, they are lacquered) and we were encouraged to dance and shout at different times. So, what should appear to our amazed eyes? Tick ​​Tock was his name, a young man in a top hat and wig who must have been a young comedian from a nearby high school. I was impressed by his vocal qualities, having been a theater freak myself. He had great energy and relished his role and gave surprise high-fives. His wife, a little girl in a fairy outfit gave us a bit of nerve and she too seemed to live in her role.

We were taken to a room that Anglophiles like me dream of. Very much like a library in an English country house, the fake clocks on the wall also gave it a steam punk feel. We were introduced to Elfira, the great candy dragon who, unsurprisingly, was unable to muster the energy to breathe fire at us. Tick ​​Tock and his wife encouraged us to scream for more candy. We were rewarded with a clock coming down from the ceiling filled with chocolates. Fairly magical, I must say.

Dahlia Reynolds and Tina Briggs are the Mothers of Dragons.DEVELOP

Dahlia Reynolds and Tina Briggs are the Mothers of Dragons.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Then there was a room with swings, candy mushrooms, and a large anthropomorphic tree in the middle. Although resembling an oak tree with its oversized acorns, the tree also contained domes that guests could slip under and be greeted by the sounds of the jungle. There were comfy swings for lounging around, but no one really lounged around when candy was in line. We each grabbed one of the caramel apple lollipops to enjoy during the rest of the exhibit. They were quite tasty and I would have liked to have had an extra one for later.

Mother Nature in the form of a tree.DEVELOP

Mother Nature in the form of a tree.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

We walked around different rooms enjoying the bright colors and creative designs. There’s an ocean-themed underwater room with a candy shark and seahorses as well as an art exhibit featuring recognizable masterpieces like Da Vinci’s. Mona Lisa and Van Gogh Starry Night. Famous faces also hang on the walls such as the artist formerly known as Prince and, rightly so, Gene Wilder in his role as Willy Wonka. Each “painting” has a museum label with its title and a description of the candy from which the art is made, including the number of pieces. The huge Egyptian pharaoh sphinx in the center is a marvel to see.

Colored lights can hypnotize.DEVELOP

Colored lights can hypnotize.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Candytopia also allows some sensory experiences including an inflatable tunnel in which we were a little hesitant to cross. Another local reporter and I decided to let my kids go first because it felt like a tight fit and I’m a little claustrophobic. However, it was like walking through a tunnel of pillows that dilated with the movement of the body. There was also a bright, multicolored tunnel that may remind Houstonians of James Turrells’ installation at MFAH, The Light Inside, “albeit a wobbly version of it. Or should we say a” Wonka Version. “

No Candyland fantasy would be complete without the unicorns and Candytopia’s share a room with flying pigs (and farting confetti) and lots of confetti. Part of the fun is having the confetti blown to you by the staff. With electric blowers, not their mouths.

No scuba gear needed for this underwater world.DEVELOP

No scuba gear needed for this underwater world.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The final room is a marshmallow pit that certainly does not comply with COVID guidelines. My whole family is vaccinated, but I felt anxious as my grown children bask in the foam marshmallows. Sadly, this was also one of their favorite things about the exhibit and I watched in annoyance as the two sink so deep into the pit that I could barely see the tops of their heads. There’s a staff member feeding marshmallows in a hole in the wall as guests are warned to cover their ears before the unicorn’s barrel explodes. It booms pretty loud as it hurls foam marshmallows across the pit.

Everyone needs a pillow with a flying pig unicorn.DEVELOP

Everyone needs a pillow with a flying pig unicorn.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

As with any museum exhibit or interactive experience, there is a gift shop at the end. Plush unicorns, pink t-shirts, and of course candy can be purchased to remember the experience. The Sugar Rush QR code also allows attendees to upload photos staff take of them during the event and they will be emailed free of charge. Equipped with our phones, we felt we had enough pictures of ourselves and the employees always offered to take pictures for people.

When it comes to candy, some previous attendees complained that there isn’t as much as they would like. Each room has a treasure chest of various candies ranging from Candy Bracelets to Pixie Stix to Twizzlers. There are signs that say “Please take some”. If you’re a period follower like me, you probably won’t come away with a whole bunch of goodies. If you’re the “I paid for this” type, you might be doing pretty well. I would like them to give small gift bags for the loot. Instead, I had to put the candy for my son and myself in my purse. Recklessly, he put some chocolates in his jeans pocket. It didn’t go well.

What's your chocolate mood today?DEVELOP

What’s your chocolate mood today?

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Maybe a candy at the end would be a fun bonus, maybe a giant pinata. Or even a small bag of end-of-tour candy would make guests feel like they were getting their money’s worth.

Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more interaction from the staff. The young people who were working were very helpful and friendly but other than the opening team the others had little to do other than help with the photos. The start was full of energy and set the scene for an adventure. A few other characters interspersed throughout the story would continue. Maybe a posh art museum docent describing the paintings. It would be fun.

Here is the boom!DEVELOP

Here is the boom!

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Candytopia offers young and old alike to walk in a technicolor universe of magic and discovery. While little kids will appreciate it, it seems almost tailor-made for teens and older Instagram people who need a break from the chaos of the real world. As Gene Wilder sings in the movie, “I don’t know of a life that compares to the pure imagination.” Candytopia allows everyone to benefit from the conceived imagination of others as well as their own.

Candytopia Houston will run until September 6, 2021.

822, boulevard de la ville et de la campagne
Adults: $ 28
Children 4-12: $ 20
Children under 3: free

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