There was a frozen Captain America outside the Javits Center on Valentine’s Day Weekend. It took people a minute to realize it was an ice sculpture, it was so cold. But the trip to the Javits Center was mercifully brief for my family and I, and we were about to enter the Play Fair.
The first thing you see after you’re all checked in and walked through the line at Play Fair is the Lego exhibition. It was front and center once you enter, and there would be no escaping it, not that you’d really want to. City Dads love Lego!
My son, Liam, is almost 3 years old, but he knows what Lego is. He’d been excited to play with them ever since he was told where we were going, and he called out joyfully to them when he saw the exhibit at Play Fair.
Lego had a nice set up, with long table-bins filled with the eponymous bricks, ramps to race your custom built coupes down, Duplo for the younger ones, and even custom-designed Lego stationary at one booth.
But as awesome as Lego was, they were but the first act. Batman v Superman’s Batmobile sat glowering in the background, and it had a magnetic pull on everyone. The DC Comics booth also featured attractions such as a shooting game, a photo op wearing Batman’s cowl with a movie background behind you, and a colorful display from DC’s new franchise, Superhero Girls, complete with capes given away to kids. City Dads love superheroes!
Toward the back of the hall, Berg Toys had set up a Cart Racing track. Immediately popular, children could mount a pedal-cart and race each other for a lap around the course.
Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends were well represented, with Thomas himself performing live shows for children.
Not that my boy much cared for the live shows. Once he saw their tables set up with trains, buildings, and tracks, that was it, he was good for the day.
Thomas wasn’t the only children’s celebrity there by far. The Nickelodeon television network provided a full lineup of stars for kids to pose with including the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob Squarepants. Other favorites appearing included Peppa Pig, the Paw Patrol, and Dora the Explorer.
Characters weren’t just limited to the younger set, either. The Empire Saber Guild was on hand, dressed in Jedi robes, and demonstrating lightsaber techniques. City Dads love Star Wars!
Not to be outdone, the Mandalorian Mercs were on hand as well, providing a game for kids and parents to face off with the deadly Rancor Beast!
City Dads are a savvy bunch. We know our way around urban environments, and we generally know how events like Play Fair go. They start out relatively quietly, so an early arrival time is key to full enjoyment of the exhibitions.
Within an hour of our arrival, the hall was full to the brim. You could not actually move down some aisles it was so crowded. Unfortunately, that meant if you were attending with a younger child, like we were, it was not a question of if your kid would get overwhelmed and throw a tantrum, but when. Add in a dash of not being able to keep every single train from the Thomas exhibit and you’ll get a nuclear meltdown.
That’s why City Dads hit events like Play Fair with a game plan. Don’t get caught up at the first thing you see, take a walk around first, and scope out the sure-to-be-popular attractions. Lego looks awesome, but it can wait. Instead, race the carts around the track, battle it out in the Nerf Arena, and check the schedule to know when to show up ahead of time for the character/show/demonstration you want.
Once the Play Fair crowd gets too thick, that’s when you go play Lego. Let the newbies wait in the long lines for attractions you’ve already done. That’s how City Dads do it, and that’s how you should too.
Play Fair is a loud, crowded, noisy event, and yeah, it can overwhelm the young ones. But it’s relatively easy to pull off to the side when that happens if you can’t make it to the quiet room provided. And if you have an older child, there should be no huge problems. As long as you have a plan, Play Fair is all fun and nothing to be scared of.
Well. Almost nothing …
All photos: Chad R. MacDonald