The Crayola Experience is one of those museums we’ve been dying to check out forever, but it was just so…out of the way. It’s located in Easton, PA, which is about an hour and half north of Philadelphia and west of New York.
In truth, it’s not near much else, so the chance that you’d make it quick add-on side trip while visiting someplace else is slim. However, we took a roundabout route up to New York on a recent trip with the express purpose of checking this place out.
And I’m glad we did. It’s pretty outstanding.
Why Easton? It’s the birthplace of Crayola crayons, and there’s still a factory nearby. In fact, most Crayola crayons are still made in the United States. Crayola today makes markers, colored pencils, and all manner of arts and crafts. I’m sure you know who they are.
The Crayola Experience is mostly dedicated to what started it all: crayons.
I have to admit, there’s an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that imprinted itself on me years ago. It was a segment on the inside a crayon factory and how crayons are made. As a little kid, I was fascinated, and that segment stuck with me. So, now—30-some years later with my own kids—I got a little taste of how it really happens.
The museum spans four floors and 60,000 square feet of artsy goodness. If you’ve got kids with even the smallest creative or imaginative bone in their bodies, they’ll eat this place up.
Upon entering, everyone is given three special tokens that can be used in various vending machines throughout the exhibits. Some are just that—vending machines that dispense special crayons, markers, or modeling clay. However, some offer a glimpse of the magic behind the scenes.
Here, you can type in any name you want, and it’ll print you a Crayola wrapper with that name as the color. You can then affix the wrapper to a blank crayon to make your very own customizable crayon.
Ever wanted the chance to name a crayon color? Done. Want a crayon with your or your kid’s name on it? Done. Want to give a crayon a dirty name? Um…well, I guess you could do that, but I wouldn’t recommend it. This place is very family-friendly.
Inside these machines, you can watch a marker get assembled from (almost) scratch. Choose your color, marvel as the ink gets injected, and then watch as the rest of the housing is snapped together. Finally, your brand-new marker pops out. Give it a little while for the ink to blend and make its way down to the tip, and you’ve got yourself a marker!
If you want to get more than three things from these machines—fear not! There are other machines that will happily take your money in return for more tokens.
The upper floors include a lot of hands-on spaces where kids can paint with melted crayon wax, melt crayon wax into special shapes, or let their creative juices run wild with an endless supply of crafts.
There’s a digital space where kids can doodle on a tablet and then bring their art “to life” on a huge projected surface. And there’s the Water Works, where my son inextricably spent the better part of an hour.
It’s a working canal with locks, ramps, and bridges you can open and close. Kids are given a crayon shaped boat, and they have to get it from one end to the other. I’m not kidding; he did this like six times.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of the museum is the Crayon Factory, where visitors get to see a live demonstration of how crayons are made. It’s not a factory floor mass producing the colors of the rainbow, but you do get to see the actual machines and how they work together to create crayons.
In addition to all of this, there’s also two-story indoor playground and an enormous Crayola store (of course).
The Crayola Experience might be out of the way, but it’s well worth a visit. If you’re in Philadelphia, New York, or anywhere else in the area and have at least half a day to spare, you can’t go wrong with the trip to Easton, PA. Highly recommended.
General admission tickets are $15.99 online ($17.99 at the door) for both kids and adults. Buy tickets here.
It also looks like they’re opening a second location in Orlando (surprise, surprise) in the summer of 2015. It remains to be seen if that location will have enough to offer to make it worth the time for a vacationing family (when there’s so much else to do in the area), but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.