Lego Imagine Nation Tour 2016

A week ago, the Lego Imagine Nation Tour came to Montreal.  We debated whether or not to take the kiddo for numerous reasons.  Cost, logistics, timing and sensory overload were all factors in the debate, but we decided it was something the kiddo would absolutely enjoy. And we were so right!

Learn Lego history and building tricks from a Master Builder (or MB in training)
Learn Lego history and building tricks from a Master Builder (or MB in training)

We purchased tickets ahead of time at a discounted price for the Sunday event from 9AM to 1PM. There was a choice from Friday evening to Sunday evening of 4 hour slots you could attend and were limited within those time slots.  Meaning if your kiddo (ours included) could play for more than 4 hours of Legos at a time, you needed to mentally prepare yourself to have an exit plan!  I completely understood the logistics of having these time slots.  As the event is so hands-on, the time slot allocation made sure the event could handle a large number of attendees spread out during the day. While it was a very busy event, we were able to get spots at the stations with minimal wait times.  Had this been an all day event, I can imagine the amount of chaos that would ensue!  We did see most areas that were of interest of the kiddo and took all 4 hours with somewhat minimal sensory intervention so I think the amount of time was sufficient to see it all.  Just don’t ask the kiddo’s opinion!

Lots of amazing lego builds on display that were fully photo ready!
Lots of amazing lego builds on display that were fully photo ready!

There were a lot of comments online regarding the pricing and timing of the event.  With a general admission price ($28.50) for all ages, many had reservations on spending so much for a family and understandably so.  The kiddo adores the Lego store and we can spend hours in there playing for free.  The value of the event to us was that he would be able to experience the other Lego sets and bricks that were not available to play with in store and he did not have.  We explained ahead of time that the bricks were for everyone to play and we would not be able to take them home.  This was…ok?  Well we prepped him and we did not have too much of a battle not taking the bricks.  The event had a few giveaways; a couple mini model sets in 2 of the experiences and some brochures/magazines.  It would have been nice to have a gift bag set up with all of the items available once you left perhaps, as we were unable to get one of the giveaways with the kiddo not able to stay in line (more on that later).  Perhaps some tour specific merchandise would have been nice, true convention style, like shirts or even pay per pound of the brick models the kids were building?  In any case, I personally felt the cost was balanced with the experience.  We stayed for the full 4 hours and got to see most of the areas and we all had a great time building and playing.  Given the Legoland prices were triple the cost and the kiddo enjoyed building more than the rides there (not to mention the extra costs for travel to Florida), the value of the event did match to costs to us.

At the tour, the attendees had the opportunity to play in 13 themed experiences.  I read the list online prior to the event, however its really hard to imagine what the would be like without seeing them as they are very hands on.  We of course had our favorites that I will go into later in this post!  These were spread out as stations across the convention floor.  They had multiple building stations within each area and were fairly well planned as to alleviate foot traffic and have people flow through the areas.  You can see a map of the convention floor here.

Watch your step!
Watch your step!

Brick Pit: Huge area with a massive amount of brick to build to your heart’s content!  Like light to a moth…  We had been to Legoland earlier in the year and this was the kiddo’s favorite and most memorable part of the hotel.  He would have spent the whole time here if we let him.  I tried to save for a midway point because of this!  I liked that there was plenty of parental seating around the pit (and in the other experience stations for that matter) as it gave parents a chance for a break.  Well if at all possible, most parents were in on the fun too.

Test your building skills against a rolling wrecking ball!
Test your building skills against a rolling wrecking ball!

Master Builder Lab: Learn Lego history and building tricks from a Master Builder (or Master Builder in training like we did).  Very well done show and so cool to meet 1 of the 8 Master Builders in the world!  You were sent to the “test lab” after to test your new trick by putting your build up against a rolling weighted ball!  Ours passed the test if you were wondering 🙂
Build a Bridge Challenge: Compete against 8 other groups to build a Lego bridge that can withstand over 100 kg of weight!  We wanted to do this challenge but the kiddo was getting hungry for a snack.  The speaker noise and stress of watching the bridges hold the weights made him overstimulated so we left the line early.  That and it was placed right next to the brick pit, which was near impossible to leave.  So we had to make a food exit!

Like the other experiences, you could display your finished models in a central table for all to see!
Like the other experiences, you could display your finished models in a central table for all to see!

The following experiences had building stations specific to the lines of each, with specialized colors and bricks that matched the theme.  This was a great way for everyone to try the products.

Minecraft: So we knew ahead of time the Minecraft area would be the favorite among the rest.  Kiddo loves all that is Minecraft and has a set at home.  We saved this to the absolute last knowing we wouldn’t be able to see much else if it was near the beginning.  It was so fun to see his enthusiasm for the Minecraft specific blocks! 

Two building areas for the mini builders
Two building areas for the mini builders

Dupl0: Kiddo is borderline between the Duplo and the standard brick sizes.  For quick fun builds, he goes to his Duplo box and for sturdier creative ones he works with regular sized bricks.  That said, he actually really enjoyed the Duplo area.  The entrance area had many pint-sized tables for building with lots of helpers working and interacting with the kiddos.  The second area had a fun animation and building area that was not on when we were there.  We walked by later on and the kiddo wanted to stay but we were on the way to a much needed food break.  It was a great area for the smaller children to play.

 

 

Uploading our dojo and testing out our moves!
Uploading our dojo and testing out our moves!
Scanning and uploading your creation into the game!
Scanning and uploading your creation into the game!

Ninjago: In this area, you build a ninja dojo out of Ninjago pieces.  We don’t have any of these sets so they were fun to play with.  After you lined up to upload your creation in a cool 3D scanner setup to play in a game.  This was a highlight in the tour and the game experience was also repeated in Friends, Nexo Nights and Elves.  Kiddo and Bittydad had fun trying out their ninja moves on the big screen!  Each build group had 60 seconds of game time to play.  The line up here was longer than the other experiences, so I would recommend getting to these areas early in the visit.
Friends: Here we were inspired to build houses to scan into a car driving game, similar to Ninjago.  Kiddo loves the pink and purple color scheme so he built a really cool teleport tower and water treatment plant!  The game wasn’t as responsive as the Ninjago gym but he had a great time regardless.
Nexo Nights: The participants were invited to use a square base plate to make a shield.  This could be put up on the “Wall of Heros” Display for all to see.  Then you could go to a themed area to play a game based on the Nexo Nights sets.  We actually did not have enough time to go to this area unfortunately!  It was the first area on the left as you entered the convention floor, but we went the other direction, so this was to be our last experience.  Next time!  But fair warning, it was a very busy experience likely due to the game.  So should be prioritized early in the event if you want to see it.
Elves: This area also had a scanned game element, where you built a portal to scan into the game.  It was next to the Lego pit, so we were quickly moved past this area to play in the pit instead.

Creating with 1x1 Bricks
Creating with 1×1 Bricks
Adding his mountain under Pika
Adding his mountain under Pikachu!

Club Cool Creations: Here building tables were set up with 1×1 bricks to build whatever you like!  After you could add your creation to the wall and view other work.  We saw this area fairly early on so not many were on the wall yet.
Lego City: I’m not sure why I don’t have many pictures of this experience because it was one of the favorites!  Here you were offered different car parts that you use to build a race car.  Then there were ramps set up at the end of the station that you could use to race other car builders.  We had a very cool monster truck set up but the front spikes cause way too much friction on the tires!
Star Wars: We did not build anything with the star wars bricks, but did view the table of creations which was pretty awesome.  Similar to Minecraft, attendees were invited to build star wars ships and place them on the center table with the other Rebel Fighter ships.  I wish we had a bit more time to go back to the areas to view the end of the day creations.
Video Games: “See all your favorite LEGO® characters come to life in awesome video games.”  The kiddo didn’t have much interest in the area, but there seemed to always be line ups.  If this is something you want to do, I suggest to arrive here early or late.

Bean bags and cartoons to help the kiddos chill
Bean bags and cartoons to help the kiddos chill.

So with a sensory sensitive kiddo, I had a lot of reservations about an event such as this.  Large groups and noise do intimidate him, however I also recall how well he did at Legoland earlier this year.  I think because he has such a big interest in Lego and building, there was so much to peak his interest and helped him overcome/cope with a lot of his sensory limitations.  He was really in great form for the tour, interacting with other children and the staff, very much enjoying the day.  That said it was still a lot and we watched his body language in anticipation for what he may need.  As the event for us ran during snack and lunch times, I had packed a lunch bag accordingly.  If I could offer the organizer any suggestion, it would be to incorporate more quiet areas for downtime for the more sensory sensitive.  More food options within the convention site would have also been nice, so more time could be spent playing and less work trying to get Lego-happy kiddos out of the event to eat!  Knowing it would be a battle to have him take a break from the fun, I put in his most favorite treats and bribed him with cookies from the vendor.  It worked but not effectively, there was still potential meltdown possibilities.  Looking back, I think I would have packed noise canceling earphones to help him with the noise.  There was a Teletoon area that served as a rest stop towards the middle of the convention floor.  I wish the area was bigger and perhaps more to the side of the event so that it would be quieter and more relaxing.

 

My Tips for Future Tours Attendees:

  • Buy tickets well ahead of the event. In Montreal you could purchase tickets 10 days prior to the event at a discount.
  • Get there early, like 30 minutes before the event opens.  The line was already huge by the time we arrived but the way they had it set up in Montreal was so tickets were checked well before the lineup to the doors.  This way when the doors opened there was no stagnation and everyone entered at opening.
  • You get a time slot card to attend the Master Builder Lab, so see if you can secure something mid-way through the event.  We did this first and missed prime early hour building at the popular areas.
  • The areas that had the most wait times are the ones you should attack first if you are looking to maximize your time.  These are the ones that have slower rotation through the experience, therefore causing a line up.  I think these were the 3D scanned video games (Ninjago, Friends, Elves and Nexo Nights) and the Build a Bridge Challenge.  The Video Games experience had a line as well for similar reasons.
  • In Montreal there was a small area for snacks and seating.  Pack a lunch or prepare to buy a small meal in the event.  You could leave and come back to find food, but that takes away from valuable tour time.  And trust me on this, you will have a huge battle trying to convince your little to leave.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and use often!  There were lots of hands playing!
  • The staff at the event areis very helpful and interactive with the kiddos.  Do say hi and thanks, great opportunity for the kids to practice their conversation skills!
  • Save the last 30 minutes or so (if possible) to walk back through the experiences to view the builds.  You will see some as you tour throughout the event but would be a fun way to end the day.

Information on the Lego Imagine Nation Tour can be found at the tour website or Facebook page  The Tour continues in:

 

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