Review: Legoland Atlanta

Baby Girl had the day off school on Friday, so we made the junket over to Atlanta to explore Legoland. I love to take advantage of kid-centric places when everyone else is at school, given my allergy to crowds and my abiding fear of Lego fanboy stampedes.

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The first thing you should know about the woman writing this review is she is not a rich woman but this trip was a spendy affair. But an annual trip to Legoland? I’m down.

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The second thing you should know about the woman writing this review (in addition to her strange allergies, fears and poverty) is that she’s going to step up on her soapbox about violent toys and children. But then later she’s going to be put to shame, so, haha. You get the last laugh at her expense.

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Legoland ATL is about a 2 hour drive from where we live in E. Tennessee. Of course not including the obligatory trip to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal, which my kids didn’t even know what it was called. That made me proud. That pride is now deflated because I think they can now recognize a Happy Meal in a line-up. Shoot.

Legoland is located in a very posh mall in and around Buckhead, GA. The mall is 3 stories of opulence, and the cars on display in the mall are Porsches and Bentleys. In other words, I felt sort of underdressed in my Old Navy swag. But no matter, I was here for the blocks.

Tickets
Tickets are $19/adult
$15/child
2 and under are free.
Buy tickets online for some savings.
Memberships are available for $50/person.

The first attraction is a lego factory where the children learn how Legos are made. Very interactive and cute. The man leading the tour is known as Professor Brick-Brack. He is a learned scholar in Legology, obviously.
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After the factory tour, you are ushered into the second attraction about which I am here to warn you. It is a ride much like through a haunted house at an amusement park. This ride is pee-your-pants scary for a 5 and 3 year-old. Dark and deathly. What’s more, upon boarding the ride, the staff instruct the kids, “Here is your weapon.” Because it’s kind of like a laser tag ride where they point their little shooters at targets in order to save the princess. Really? Here’s your weapon? Legos are made in Denmark. Denmark, you are better than this! Violent is not who you are!

After you are set free from the ride of the deathly hallows, you walk through a serene replication of Atlanta built entirely with Legos. This is pure awesome and I totally geeked out.
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Finally, you are released into an enormous play area which includes:
– an enormous jungle gym like they have at Chuck E. Cheese-type establishments (tip: bring socks for your littles, as my little hippies were excluded from this)
– a cafe (didn’t try)
– a Duplo block area for wee babes
– a soft Lego stacking area
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– wicked cool car ramps
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– a princess play — complete with karaoke
– a stamping instruction room
– another ride that is not scary but totally awesome that makes kids pump their bicycle legs
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– a movie theatre
The movie lasts 10 minutes, is 4D and we watched it twice, so amazing was its cinematic feature.
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Finally, of course, you cannot exit Legoland without paying a vi$it to the gift $hoppe, whereby we shook the Lego dust off our feet and bid adieu, promising to come back in a year or so.

We had a great time, except for that ghoulish ride that encouraged warfare. Parents should not condone the use of such weaponry. Further, they should not buy $8 foam swords for their children in the gift shoppe. It gives these impressionable ones all the wrong ideas.

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Strange pilgrimage

A couple of weeks ago, our scooter had died its ninth death and we were back to being a one-car family so we all dropped Loverpants off at work. I didn’t have a plan and with a full day ahead in the company of two children who would gladly hook their veins up to the Netflix drip for hours, I needed to take them somewhere.

Loverpants’ office is south of where we live, so we just sort of kept driving south. I ran one of those desperate ambiguous searches on the GPS, and every local attraction we had covered, thoroughly, with ample proof from the gift shops.

Up popped “Depot Railroad Museum,” a mere 30 mile drive in Stevenson, Alabama. Because, unknown town in the deep South that celebrates a heritage of the railways?  That might be really fun, or scary, but no way could it be boring.

We got off the exit in Stevenson and I can’t explain the questions I was trying to reconcile while my children went uncharacteristically quiet in the backseat. When abject poverty is thrust in front of you, you might do what I do which is be absolutely overcome with curiosity and denial.  When I come across places in America that have not only been forgotten but battered and left behind like an old dog, I am as interested in the story here as I am wanting to wish it away, wanting to refuse to believe that people in my own country, people who are my neighbors to the south are pushed this far to the margins. We are not talking just the occasional busted sofa on the porch but whole roofs collapsed and trailer park after poorly tended trailer park with signs that children, maybe even many children, live there.

I search myself. Like the simple explanation for all of this is tucked away inside of me and I can look at the boarded up windows of businesses and not only understand it, but explain it away. Just as I did when my mom drove us to St. Augustine’s hunger center once a month and we served the same people month after months for years, oftentimes people wearing the same clothes, and the same long, tired faces. My childhood assessment had this poverty thing all boiled down, tied up neat with a bow. The world, this city, this church just needed more food and more jobs helps and more people who cared, and maybe a few more mops to scrub all the dirt from the floors. Nevermind the systemic forces of addiction, recidivism, violence and abuse that cycle through generations and plow plow plow through communities whose voices are muffled, whose housing is redeveloped, whose very existence is terribly inconvenient to someone like me, someone who wants so badly to reduce this down to something of an aphorism so that it doesn’t make me feel so dang uncomfortable.

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I want to teach my children that uncomfortable is rarely a negative, and so often it is the only feeling that prompts real and sustainable change.

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The railroad museum in Stevenson, Alabama was hilarious and beautiful and impossible to capture. It resides right next to train tracks and a historic hotel (now function hall) that rattle and shake as the train passes by.

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Stevenson, Alabama shook me up, too. The Main Street is a wide boulevard whereby one could shoot a canon in the middle of the day and not fear for hitting anyone or anything, save for the occasional delivery truck to the lone furniture store. Up and down the side streets are decrepit houses, rusted out trucks parked on lawns. I want to know more and I want to unknow what I already knew.

Our trip to Alabama was the last day before school began for Baby Girl. I had hoped to have done something significant that would sparkle in her memory like a well-crafted scrapbook page. Instead, we took a tour of what was effectively the dusty high school yearbook of Stevenson High School, class of 1919.

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Then I thought, I really hope my kids remember this day, and not necessarily in a good way (“Wow, Mom was such a nutter! She took us on the craziest field trips!”) or bad way (“Wow. Mom was such a nutter. She took us on the craziest field trips.”) I just want them to remember that they had fun and ate junk food with their mom when they were little, but also that they explored and asked questions and did the unexpected, but not the insignificant.

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Over the weekend Baby Girl said, “I really want to go back to that place in Alabama where we explored. We should go back and see that train museum sometime.”

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Camp Joe Joe’s in #CHA

Last week our little lady was quite trepidatious as Tuesday approached because she was headed to “Art Camp.” She wouldn’t know anyone. It was on the other part of town. And she’d never been before.

We had confidence, based on the high reviews of our friends at Cobblestone Rue who sent their daughters there last year, that Art Camp, aka Camp Joe Joe’s was going to rock our girl’s socks off.

We were not mistaken.

We picked her up on Tuesday afternoon and she literally dove into the car yelling, BEST ART CAMP EVERRRR! Her confidence was a mile high and her enjoyment of all the activities was superlative.

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The camp takes place for 3 days, from 9a-12p at the Clay Pot on the Northshore (which I call NoSho to be cool…so join me in the pool of cool and start saying it. Propagate it, baby. Ready? On three: 1-2-3, NoSho! Yeah, wanna be startin’ sumthin’….). The Clay Pot is just such a funky and fabulous little shop of home decore and floral arrangements. I want to move in and learn the ways of the festive mason jar arrangement.

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The counselors all seemed genuinely tickled about spending their mornings with exuberant young’ns and tweens. Counselor Nikki was a fan favorite of our girl’s.

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As for the camp’s namesake and fearless leader Joe Jumper, the man is a cartoon. I really think he just walked out of an Archie comic book and opened up an interior design shop and appointed himself Captain Fun of the art camp scene. His enthusiasm for teaching children to love art and make uber cool things at an hour in the day when most folks haven’t even drained their coffee mug is just really admirable.

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Our girl and our little man can’t wait for next summer when they can both go.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the memories and the masterpieces. Thanks, Camp Joe-Joe!

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P.S. Don’t forget to enter the Easy Canvas Prints giveaway!

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