What are all those colorful confections blowing up your social feeds? It’s Candytopia, of course, the candy-themed interactive pop-up playground (and yes, Instagram bait) that touched down in midtown Manhattan August 15. (Tickets are on sale now — don’t wait! It’s a limited engagement.) We checked out the Wonka-licious experience; here’s what you and the kids can expect from Candytopia! (Besides cavities, of course.)
The creation of “candy artist to the stars” Jackie Sorkin in partnership with Zac Hartog, CEO of ZH Productions and retail veteran John Goodman, Candytopia arrives in New York after a successful run earlier this year in Santa Monica. (It drew sold-out crowds that included bold faced names like Drew Barrymore, Gwyneth Paltrow, James Corden, and Josh Duhamel.)
Some quick basics: Candytopia runs through November 15 and tickets must be bought in advance, for predetermined time slots. (This helps with crowd management.) Adults are $34; kids are $26, and kids three and under are free. There’s a maximum of 12 tickets, and if you have deep pockets and want to host the best birthday ever, you can host a birthday party here. (Party packages start at $2,500 an include balloons, a craft, cotton candy, and more. Click here for more info.)
Candytopia promises more than one dozen unique rooms and “larger-than-life interactive art installations inspired by pure, sugary bliss.” We’ll get to the specifics in a bit, but you can also expect candy samples throughout (they range from gummy and sour to sweet, new, and nostalgic), and the most popular tableaus from California with some fresh, custom, New York City-inspired installations. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
Pro tip: download the Candytopia app before arriving. As you move throughout the exhibit you will get an alert on your phone telling you you’re near one of the “selfie stations”, where, after you scan your phone, a photo will be taken of you and sent directly to your social media accounts. (Candytopia staff are also on hand to snap pics.)
The journey begins in a vaguely Potter-esque corridor, with shop windows filled with curiosities, a checker cab covered in candy and a resplendent pink dragon glistening with gummy scales.
Guests proceed to a large room with Wonka-esque touches (a lop-sided dresser, a wall of cuckoo clocks, dramatic lighting, etc.) There, a wacky Brit welcomes you and shows you some specimens to whet your candy whistle: a bust made entirely of candy! A candy fox! (They are cool, but really, small potatoes compared to what’s to come.)
With that, you’re off to Candytopia, which, you soon find, you have to access by pushing through the space between two giant, inflated purple…candy blobs (?) It’s intimidating at first, but fun — just be prepared to shepherd little ones through at this stage.
You emerge from the passageway and enter a holding area of sorts, with backdrops for photos, and double doors that eventually open to reveal Candytopia’s first room. It’s dominated by a large, colorful contraption, equipped with domes that make candy-inspired noises when you stand under them. (It wasn’t really working when we attended.)
Also here is Ms. Candy herself, Katy Perry, courtesy of Madame Tussaud’s ready to snap a photo with you; an area strung with mini punching bags; a hammock for the chill selfie, and the first of the many candy-coated sculptures throughout the Candytopia experience. (Each piece is accompanied by a sign that notes exactly what, and how many pieces of candy were used to make them, as well as the number of hours it took, and the total grams of sugar involved.) As you exit, a treasure chest of Tootsie Roll pops overflows with samples for the taking — the first of many candy samples at Candytopia.
Next up: a mirrored, neon rainbow passageway, that leads to a gallery of masterpieces and portraits made entirely of candy: Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Warhol’s soup cans, Prince, Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, Frida Kahlo. A massive candy Statue of Liberty is also in this gallery, as is a mirrored throne of sorts where you can sit for a pic if you like.
Now, it’s on to a deep sea experience, a deep blue room with an old school underwater explorer made of candy, and a companion of a large suspended shark. A treasure chest on the way out was loaded with classic Pixie Sticks when we attended. The accompanying sign notes, “The real treasure of Candytopia is the friends we made along the way. Also the candy.” (And the Instagram photos, of course.)
Moving forward, visitors enter a extra-technicolor, slightly surreal gallery (prominently sponsored by Trolli) with tutu-wearing candy pigs that, at the touch of a button, blow confetti out of their butts. Also: a candy unicorn, a rotating platform, more color backdrops, and of course, some Trolli candy (sweet and sour gummy straws) for the taking.
Next up: one of the simpler, but in our mind, most effective areas: a very “Chocolate Factory” environment, featuring colorful psychedelic walls and floor that create the illusion of one being sucked into a sweet whirlpool of sorts.
Also in this large gallery: a super-sized “100” swing, and two enormous Candytopia-branded “gumballs” which are also pretty fun.
On to the showstopper! The enormous (faux) marshmallow pit, which ups the ante from, say, the relatively speaking, small sprinkle pool from pop-up OG The Museum of Ice Cream. Check your shoes and other belongings in the cubbies off to the side jump right in from a platform. (Making your way through the spongy bits is actually more challenging than it looks!) If you like, you can attempt to lob marshmallows into buckets over head, or turn a wheel to transport them up a steep incline. You’ve got five minutes; make the most of it.
And with that, Candytopia comes to an end — except, of course, the gift shop, which naturally, you exit through. Create your own custom batch of mixed candy from bins on the wall, buy candy from the brands featured in the pop-up, as well as others, or pick up some rainbow/unicorn doodads or a shirt that reads “Sweet Jesus” to make your Candytopia experience complete.
photo: Sari Marissa G. via Yelp
Pro tip: If after all that candy you’re looking for some actual nourishment, head to The Pennsy Food Hall, located a half a block from Candytopia. There, you’ll find something for everyone in the family. The vendors at The Pennsy have even created a special Candytopia kid’s menu because they see you coming. Options include a mini grilled cheese, tiny chicken tenders, and the world’s greatest hot dog (Pat LaFrieda); crunchy taco kids meal (Taco Dumbo), and margherita pizza and Nutella crepe (Ribalto Mo). Vegetarian or vegan? No problem. Try something from The Little Beet or some vegan donuts and pastries from city fave The Cinnamon Snail? (ps: for more veggie-friendly eating with kids, check out the best spots for vegan and vegetarians in NYC here.)
Aug. 15 – Nov. 15
Mon. – Sat., 10 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Tickets: $34/adults; $26/kids 4- 12; free/kids three and under
145 W. 32nd St.
The Pennsy Food Hall
11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
2 Penn Plaza