Allison Scates, 3, front, from McKinney, Texas, jumps at the Rainbow Rain station during the grand opening of the Crayola Experience Plano, Friday, March 23, 2018, at The Shops at Willow Bend.

Allison Scates, 3, front, from McKinney, Texas, jumps at the Rainbow Rain station during the grand opening of the Crayola Experience Plano, Friday, March 23, 2018, at The Shops at Willow Bend.

David Woo/Staff Photographer

Crayola crayons have been made using the same formula since 1903, and you can watch them being made during the short Crayola Factory Theater presentation at the recently opened Crayola Experience in Plano's Shops at Willow Bend. You see the crayon-birthing process from wax to wrapper, learning interesting facts along the way. (For example, every crayon goes through a metal detector and X-ray machine before it's shipped.)

Crayola Experience

The theater is one of 22 attractions inside the Experience, and it's the only one that's not hands-on. Kids can take a selfie and have it printed out on a black-and-white coloring page at the Be a Star attraction, play in virtual Rainbow Rain, create a keepsake (car or ring) out of a crayon at the Melt & Mold station, work on themed crafts in the Paint Palette, create a swirly design using melted wax at the Drip Art station and even grab a tablet computer and use it to get through a puzzling challenge at the Adventure Lab. There are also playgrounds for tots and older kids.

Because the Experience is new, not to mention a tad pricey, I went on a fact-finding mission with my 4-year-old daughter to find out all the details kids and parents should know before they go.

Crayon factory show at a Crayola Experience center.  There are three other Crayola centers: at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, in Easton, Penn., and in Orlando.

Crayon factory show at a Crayola Experience center. There are three other Crayola centers: at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, in Easton, Penn., and in Orlando.

/Crayola

What do parents need to know about this place?

Is the Experience good for my kid, who's [blank] years old?

This is a tricky question because every kid is different. My timid preschooler loved every attraction but the Color Playground, and that's because there were bigger, louder 6- to 10-year-olds in the play structure at the time. (She preferred the smaller, quieter Toddler Town.)

Some activities might be difficult for kids younger than 3 to grasp, but I think all kids 9 or younger will like at least some of the attractions, and artistic kids (and adults) will have fun, no matter their age.

The You Design studio, where your fashion and automotive designs become animated on giant screens, was popular with the 7- to 11-year olds on my visit, while the Stomp & Play area, where you can play air hockey on a table projected onto the floor or chase moving designs, mesmerized the 4 to 8 set.

Kids play a game of air hockey in the Stomp and Play station during the grand opening of the Crayola Experience in Plano.

Kids play a game of air hockey in the Stomp and Play station during the grand opening of the Crayola Experience in Plano.

Sara Frederick Burgos/

How long should I plan to spend at Crayola Experience?

About three or four hours, according to company literature. However, my daughter wasn't ready to leave at the four-hour mark.

Do I need to bring food and drinks?

Nope. There are three spots at which you can grab a bite: the Snack Shack (think popcorn and drinks); Cafe Crayola (chicken fingers and burgers); and the Sweet Shop (fudge and ice cream). On the day of my visit, there wasn't a kids' menu posted at Cafe Crayola, but I asked about it when it was my turn at the register. The same meals that are offered for adults are offered for kids at lower prices — and they come in a take-home Crayola lunchbox.

Since re-entry is permitted on the day of your visit, you can also grab lunch in Willow Bend's food court — or even enjoy a picnic brought from home — and return for more fun when everyone's belly is full.

After you fill the kids up with food, you'll want to know about the bathroom situation: There are changing tables in the restrooms, and there is a family restroom. A nursing room is also available.

Will I need to take out a second mortgage to take my family there?

Depends on how big your family is. Tickets are not exactly cheap, but they're not Six Flags-expensive, either. At the gate, ticket prices are $20.99. (You can get a $2 discount if you buy them in advance online.) Everyone 3 years and older must have a ticket.

Is an annual pass worth the money?

If you plan to go more than once a year, the answer is yes, definitely. The annual pass is $30.99, so it's just $10 more than the regular ticket price. There are discounts for families of three and four online. The passes are also good at the other Crayola Experience locations in Minneapolis; Orlando, Fla.; and Easton, Pa.

The Crayola Experience isn't only for kids

Some nights are booked just for adults so they can have some kid-free playtime — with wine. The center has already held its first Crayola Experience After Dark event, Craft and Sip, for adults 21 and older, and the next one is set for June 1 from 7 to 10 p.m. (Register in advance online.) The evening of painting and cocktails includes time to check out all the attractions, a paint-along with an instructor, a DJ, food and drinks.

You will want all the things in the Crayola Store

I grew up in Central Florida, 30 miles or so from Disney World. As a result, I'm allergic to the tourist-trap gift shops that you find after you get off Space Mountain or Splash Mountain. (For being in a flat state, Disney really likes its mountains.) I can't stand being in them. But this one is different. The store has every Crayola product imaginable, and many you won't find anywhere else. Offerings didn't seem to be exorbitantly overpriced, but if you're going to take the kids, make sure they take their piggy bank money or you might end up in the poorhouse.

Other things you should know

You can have your kid's birthday party at the Experience. There are three dedicated party rooms, and one can be extended for more space. Find out more on the website.

The center is open 365 days a year. Really. Even on Christmas and New Year's Day.

You can buy modeling clay in the Modeling Madness experience. It comes in small packages in vending machines, with each package going for one 50-cent token; you get two free tokens upon entry.  We spent our second token at the Wrap It Up station, where you can print your name on a crayon color of your choice. Want more clay or personalized crayons? Other vending machines dispense tokens.

Park in the garage nearest to Macy's. The Experience is on the first floor of Willow Bend near Macy's.

Crayola Experience Plano is at 6121 W. Park Blvd. It's open every day of the year, but hours vary; check the online calendar. General admission is $20.99; kids 2 and younger get in free. Discounts are available online.

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