For the past few years, I’ve attended Toy Fair in New York and come away with nothing but good things to say about it. However, Toy Fair is a trade-only event, accessible only to industry professionals, corporate buyers, and press. It’s not open to the general public, and kids aren’t allowed. Which is a shame – and superbly ironic, considering it’s a convention center full of toys.
Last year, however, was the first year that Play Fair arrived in the same space to fill the void. Play Fair is “a public celebration of play and entertainment for all ages [that] brings new and beloved toy and pop culture brands together under one roof for an interactive and fun-filled live event open to families, fans, and media.”
This year’s event will be held at the Javits Center in Manhattan on November 4-5 (tickets available now – Use discount code ROARBOTS to save $5 of your tickets!). If you’ll be in the region and have some time, I highly recommend checking it out.
Another February, another Toy Fair New York. This year was a bit of a whirlwind for me, and I actually had a different focus than in years past. That meant I got to chat with a lot of different companies and learn about a lot of great new products – many of which I’ll focus on over the next few months both here and at GeekDad.
But I still made time to visit some of my favorite booths. And today, I’m here to help with a walkthrough of the Playmates booth. In previous years, Playmates has been all about the Ninja Turtles – almost to the detriment of everything else. Their booth was very green.
But not so this year! In addition to a very healthy TMNT line, Playmates has also added Ben 10 (for the newly rebooted show), Voltron: Legendary Defender, and the upcoming Nickelodeon show Mysticons.
For whatever reason, at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, I kept crossing paths with Kevin Smith and Greg Grunberg. I ran into Greg at an after-party sponsored by Scholastic (since he has a new graphic novel out with them). The two appeared together at Kevin’s Hall H panel on Saturday night (where Kevin told an amazing story about his experience following the Star Wars panel at last year’s show). And they were both promoting–and filming!–their new show on AMC called Geeking Out.
In a nutshell, Geeking Out takes a timely look at pop culture through a fanboy lens and features talk, celebrity interviews, and the kind of off-the-cuff segments and humor you probably associate with Kevin Smith. Basically, Kevin and Greg take advantage of their impressive contact lists and access to give viewers a “behind the scenes” look at unique events, and they strive to have honest, unfiltered conversations with their guests.
The first episode, which aired a couple weeks ago immediately following SDCC, featured some footage from the Star Trek Beyond premiere and impromptu conversations they recorded at the con. The show returns to AMC on Sunday, August 14 at 11 pm ET/PT with all-new episodes.
The National Week of Making was a few weeks back in June, and the event coincided with the National Maker Faire here in Washington, DC. The White House even joined in the fun, and President Obama called for a nation of makers. It was a pretty big deal.
In case you missed it, or in case you’d like to celebrate the Maker Movement every day, LEGO is answering that call and continuing the celebration with a national prototyping challenge. The contest is called “Are You a LEGO Maker?” and LEGO is providing “prototyping kits” to 50 makers (age 13 and up) so they can make working version of their own inventions.
Last week, we had the joy of attending another Day out with Thomas event at the Strasburg Rail Road outside of Lancaster, PA. (To read about our previous visit, when Percy made his grand debut, click here.)
Not much has changed since last year, so our review of the event and offerings still mostly hold true. The biggest difference is that rides on Thomas and Percy are sold separately now. Thomas trains (22-minute trips) depart every 30 minutes and alternate with 12-minute Percy rides.
In addition to the train rides through beautiful central Pennsylvania farmland, there are still photo ops (with Thomas, Percy, and Sir Topham Hatt), temporary tattoos, Thomas video screenings, storytimes, and more Thomas train tables than should be legally allowed in one place.
Here’s the second in my Toy Fair 2015 booth overviews. Check out the overview of the Bandai booth here (hint: there are lots of Power Rangers). Also check out my Toy Fair coverage over on GeekDad: my Top 10 Highlights of Toy Fair and my take on a couple of this year’s Toy of the Year Award Winners.
Today, let’s take a look around the Playmates booth, which had more Ninja Turtles than I’ve ever seen assembled in one place. Seriously, I didn’t count, but there must’ve been close to a googolplex of turtles.
Apparently, Playmates has gone all in with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they produce almost nothing else at this point. There was a small section of the booth devoted to a preschool doll line, but absolutely everything else was TMNT.
Toy Fair has come and gone. There were lots of announcements, lots of excitement, and lots of toys. I already covered it a bit over on GeekDad. Take a look at my Top 10 Highlights of Toy Fair or my view on a couple of this year’s Toy of the Year Award Winners, which were announced at Toy Fair.
I wanted to devote a couple posts here to some of the amazing booths at Toy Fair. Toy Fair is, first and foremost, a marketing and sales event. Therefore, if you’re a toy company, it’s in your interest to set up a booth that’s flashy and impressive.
One of those jaw-dropping booths at this year’s event was the Bandai booth. It was overrun with Power Rangers, big and small. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest Power Rangers fan (that honor might go to my son at the moment), but even I was impressed with their setup.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is already one of the prettiest theme parks in the country, so it doesn’t really take much to make it truly spectacular. Millions of sparkly Christmas lights and decorations?
Yep, that’ll do it.
From late November through the end of the year (check calendar here), the park transforms into Christmas Town. Everything is draped in lights and other decorations, shops turn into Christmas stores, and all of the shows switch to different holiday-themed shows, among other changes.
On the surface, these are all remarkable changes that really beautify the park and put you in the ol’ holiday spirit. But are all of the changes good? Is the event worth it? Let’s dig a little deeper.
- ICE! featuring Frosty the Snowman
- Where: Gaylord National, National Harbor, MD
- What: part of the annual Christmas on the Potomac events
- When: Now through January 4, 2015
The annual Christmas on the Potomac events at the Gaylord National and National Harbor (just outside of DC) have become a family tradition with us. We’ve been every year (except one) since our oldest was born. We missed last year.
The reason why we skipped it last year is because we felt the ICE! attraction was getting smaller and more expensive every year. Plus, we had grown tired of the DreamWorks (Shrek) themes.
This year, I’m happy to say, ICE! is once again a must-do (if only because of nostalgia)! It’s themed to the classic Rankin Bass animated special Frosty the Snowman, and the sculptures are incredible!
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.
This past weekend was New York Comic-Con. To say there were a lot of people there is an understatement. There were an estimated 150,000+ people, which officially makes it bigger than San Diego Comic-Con—the granddaddy of all cons.
With that many people, there was undoubtedly a lot of great cosplay. I didn’t get pictures of nearly as many costumes as I would have liked. But I did manage to round up some of the great ones.
There are certain events in the DC region that we absolutely make a point to visit every year. The Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD, is one of these events. It runs every weekend from the end of August through most of October, which means the weather is usually glorious.
Generally considered to be the second largest Renaissance Festival in the United States, the Maryland fair is held in a permanent village called Revel Grove. This lends the fair an air of realism and…well…permanence that would be missing if the village were temporarily constructed for just one season.
This year, the festival brought to life the year 1521, King Henry VIII, and Queen Katherine of Aragon. For a few hours on the weekend, it really feels like 16th century England has come to life. Just a tad cleaner. And less plague-y.
If you’ve never been to a Renaissance fair, want to go to one, or are just curious. Here’s a few of our best shots from this year’s excursion….
Now here’s an event we’ve been looking forward to. The LEGO KidsFest will be held from October 3-5 at the Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, VA.
The show floor is an astounding three acres of LEGO awesomeness and will include a LEGO Model Museum, a Master Builder Academy, Race Ramps, Creation Nation, Construction Zone, a retail store, and the tantalizingly named Big Brick Pile.
Exhibits and activities will represent the wide variety of LEGO lines–Star Wars, Super Heroes, Ninjago, Mindstorms, Friends, Disney Princess, and Duplo–so there’s sure to be something for everyone, regardless of age or ability.
Richmond will be the tour’s second-to-last stop for 2014 (it moves on to Indianapolis next), and I can tell you that we’re waiting for this one with baited breath.
LEGO KidsFest tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for children, and they can be purchased online at legokidsfest.com.
Click this link and enter to win two tickets to the opening night session (4-8:30 pm) on Friday, Oct 3! Good luck, and thanks for playing!
The Library of Congress National Book Festival is one of the best events in Washington, DC. It’s a Mecca for book nerds that also happens to be a fantastic event for kids.
This year marks the 14th year of the festival (that was originally founded by Laura Bush) but the first year that it won’t be held outdoors on the National Mall. Having the festival on the Mall was always a mixed bag. On the one hand, the location can’t be beat. Checking out your favorite authors in the shadow of the Smithsonian and Washington Monument is just awesome.
However, you also have to compete with the weather. Sometimes it rains. More often than not, it’s just ungodly hot and humid (this is DC, after all). This year, the event will be held indoors at the Washington Convention Center. Ahh, air conditioning.
OK, this isn’t really kids’ stuff, but it’s my blog, and I want to share. Every year in late April, the Sierra Club and a whole gaggle of amazing volunteers sponsor and put on the One-Day Hike. The 100k hike goes along the C&O Canal towpath from Georgetown in DC (the southern end) to Harper’s Ferry. The 50k version starts halfway up the same trail, at White’s Ferry, and ends at the same place.
This past Saturday (April 26) was the 2014 event. I’ve attempted the 100k twice before but unfortunately had to drop out both times. The first time was at 35 miles (blisters) and the second time was at 42 miles (exhaustion). This year, I finished!
Since today is the day that registration opens up to the general public for the 2015 Walt Disney World marathon in January, I thought I’d take this opportunity to report on one of the best aspects of any runDisney event: the kids’ races.
Disney bills the 5k as a “family-friendly fun run,” but 3.1 miles is still a heckuva distance for the littlest ones among us. In response, they’ve set up the kids’ runs, which have a “race” for every member of the family–right down to babies crawling in the diaper dash.
We happened to be in Orlando and at Walt Disney World last October during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Timed to coincide with that event is the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. We couldn’t resist signing the kids up for a race and checking out what runDisney has to offer our youngest athletes.
This past Saturday was The Big Build at the National Building Museum in DC. We’re big fans of the museum, but we’ve never been to this annual event. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be adding it to our regular late summer/early fall rotation. We had an awesome time. Definitely recommended.
This coming weekend, September 21-22, has a ton of exciting events in and around Washington, DC. Where are the Roarbots going?
On Saturday, we’re headed to the National Building Museum for The Big Build, which runs from 10-4. We’ve never been (though the ‘Bots are huge fans of the Building Museum), but I’ve heard great things about the event, and it promises to be a good time.
On Sunday, it’s time once again for the National Book Festival. Kevin Henkes (who’s there on Saturday afternoon), Mark Teague, Fred Chao, and Susan Cooper are some of the many authors we’ll be hunting down. Plus, all those PBS characters!
Stories for both events coming next week…. Continue reading