Albany Institute of History & Arts Family Festival and LEGO® Building Challenge

Hey! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent yesterday with family, too, and we really enjoyed the weather. The grown-ups spent all day and into the night around an outdoor fire pit drinking wine and continuing to eat too much, while the cousins  constructed a tree fort/pirate ship. Pretty ideal.

Today I went to the Albany Institute of History & Art for their Gift Fair and Family Festival. I was a judge for their Saturday afternoon LEGO® Building Challenge. Last year was the first year, I think, that they combined the Gift Fair and Family Festival, and this year was the first that they’ve tried the building challenge. It seemed like a smashing success to me, and the event continues tomorrow. I think just about any family would enjoy it. But why, you ask?

Not a competition piece: this is a re-enactment of Lego creativity by me because this afternoon I was too busy attempting to determine which structures deserved which award to take photos myself.

Well first, it’s all free.  The permanent exhibitions, if you’ve never seen them, include an assortment of stuff, including sculptures, Hudson River School paintings, colonial artifacts, and the kid-pleasing mummy. One of the current temporary exhibitions is Kid Stuff: Great Toys From Our Childhood, and there are plenty of hands-on opportunities, like playing with cars on a track, pushing a slinky down the stairs, and playing with Legos in the exhibit space. There’s also the enclosed permanent kid-friendly space. Registration for tomorrow’s building challenge has closed, but you can get on a waiting list in case registrants don’t show up, and even if you don’t compete, you can check out a couple of cool Lego demonstrations in the competition space (in fact, if you avoid the 1-3 pm challenge time, your child will hardly know that they’re missing it).

Finally, the gift fair means some great shopping. Their gift shop is always great shopping (I am a sucker for a museum shop, and it’s a good one), and for the event, the space is fairly crowded with vendors. That’s where I have to throw in the “just about any family would enjoy it” disclaimer. Because if you have a fast-moving and handsy toddler or preschooler, it will be too stressful for you. There are just too many lovely, lovely things. Come instead during the week, when the vendors have left and the exhibit space will be quieter so no one will be driven crazy when your child won’t stop playing with the cars.

I brought M along, and she browsed while I judged the builders. She really enjoyed walking around on her own like a grown-up through the galleries. I slipped her some money for the  Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for sale, but little did I know that she’d brought her own cash along. Most of the vendors were very friendly and kind to her, and she ended up getting some paper creations from a nice lady from Stacey.

M purchased this paper barrette while I was off judging. "Lovely," I said. "But please don't wear it in the rain."

We had a great time, and I hope it becomes an annual event.


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