Forget about Disneyland; Peppa Pig World of Play is the happiest place on Earth. Or maybe it's the happiest place in North Texas.
A new playplace aimed at preschool-aged kids has gleefully opened at Grapevine Mills, with limited tickets available now and the official opening on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The colorful exhibit lets tiny explorers jump into the cartoon world of Peppa Pig, a popular kids' TV show.
"Someone once said to me, 'Peppa is like Beyonce, to a 4-year-old.' She's a superstar," says Ruth Irving, global brand manager for Peppa Pig World of Play. She's speaking in a British accent and seems the perfect spokeswoman for the exhibit focused on a character with the very same British accent.
The exhibit is the United States' first Peppa Pig World of Play; the first is in Shanghai. Another U.S. playplace is expected to open in Michigan. All three exhibits are far from Irving's home in London, where each exhibit is planned before it's installed across the globe.
Despite the many exhibits in Peppa's world — a romp in her treehouse, a slide in her little brother George's fort — parents won't be able to ignore the irregular honking of a car horn, beeped whenever a toddler realizes what that fun button does. Irving can hardly even hear it anymore, she jokes. And if it's possible for those toot-toot-toots to be kind of delightful, they were, because they were attached to a happy little kid, who, for once, was allowed to touch everything.
Little ones will start at Ms. Rabbit's bus, a signal, says Irving, that kids are "going on a journey." Next is a green screen where kids take a photo, but most start to squirm after they spy the big, colorful room around the corner.
Inside is a tumble of kids, riding bikes and trikes. First is Danny Dog's Garage, where one little guy patiently "filled up" his tricycle at the gas pump, then rode off.
The Sensory Garden has lots to touch, like a minky piece of fabric inside the faux chicken coop or the wood blocks kids can move to mimic a garden, growing. Most peculiar, to some, were flowers that actually smell like a bouquet if they stick their little noses near its petals.
The Sensory Garden and the movie theater are two places kids might find a calmer atmosphere among the cheery chaos, says Attraction Manager Tyron Calton. In the future, they may offer sensory-friendly days, with dimmer lights and smaller groups for kiddos who might find Peppa Pig World of Play overstimulating on a normal day.
"Amazing. This is simply amazing," mused Suzette Byers as she sat on a kid-sized couch in Peppa's playhouse. "Here I am, 56 years old. And I watch Peppa Pig, too." She skittered around with her 2-and-a-half-year-old grandson Elijah, enjoying herself just as much.
Fifteen-month-old JoLeen Gallardo was, too, playing the xylophone like a wobbly, adorable rockstar. Her dog's name is Peppa, after the pig. So, yeah: They're fans.
First-timers will find lots of deceiving areas to explore. Peppa's house is much bigger than it appears on the outside, and Rebecca Rabbit's underground adventure has unexpected tunnels. "You don't want to tell a 2-year-old where to go," Irving says, so the room has a choose-your-own-adventure feel as kids criss-crossed throughout the place, parents in tow.
Merlin Entertainments, which created the exhibit, works with "play experts" to create Peppa Pig World of Play, Irving says. The company also opened SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Center, both a short walk away inside Grapevine Mills. Those two kid attractions will open eventually in San Antonio, too, but for now, the Peppa exhibit in Grapevine is Texas' only one.
The exhibit has a "picnic area" with sandwiches and milk for sale. And for anyone who needs to go, the bathrooms have little toilet seats for little bottoms (which can be lifted up for ... larger bottoms). Eventually, two side rooms can be reserved for little-kid birthday parties.
Cue the excitement: "Definitely book in advance," Irving recommends.
Tickets to Peppa Pig World of Play start at $20 per child and go up. Discounts are available for families bringing more than one child. Adult tickets are $5 each — and, notably, adults are allowed on and in the exhibits. It's located at Grapevine Mills, 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine. Enter at Section 3, turn left and the exhibit is down on the right. peppapigworldofplay.com.