Best LEGO Activities in the San Francisco Bay Area
LEGO bricks, those timeless, classic, plastic building blocks, have been universally beloved by children and adults alike since their introduction in the 1940s. Even parents who spend most of their days stepping on the startlingly sharp corners of LEGOs will extol their virtues; after all, any toy that will keep kids occupied for hour after hour is an enormous boon to parents and caretakers. LEGOs are also a great learning toy, as they effectively teach spatial and mathematical concepts important in engineering and many other professions.
And needless to say, kids love LEGOs. They afford so many options for creativity, and there are innumerable types of specialty LEGOs to suit every enthusiast: pirate LEGOs, Star Wars LEGOs, robotic LEGOs, Bionicles, big LEGOs for younger children, and too many others to list. In our household, we frequent garage sales, hunting for cheap LEGOs and used LEGO sets. Then we take all the mixed pieces that we have accumulated from our hunting and try to engineer impossibly elaborate and outlandish creations. As my children get older, we are seeking ways to branch out and discover more about the opportunities for exploring LEGO construction in greater depth. As it turns out, there are many activities that focus on LEGOs. Here are some of the best in the San Francisco Bay Area, the locale we are fortunate to call home, along with a few LEGO activities that are available globally.
Play-Well TEKnologies: LEGO Activity Centers and More
Unquestionably, places that offer hands-on experiences with LEGOs are the most popular with children. The Bay Area is fortunate to have two centers, operated by Play-Well TEKnologies, that offer not only classes, summer camps, and other formal opportunities for LEGO education, but also hours where drop-in activity time is available. Play-Well is cleverly named, as the phrase ‘leg godt’, the Danish phrase from which LEGOs derived their now familiar name translates as, you guessed it, ‘play well’. Founded by a professional engineer, these centers provide access to more than a hundred thousand LEGO pieces, so no matter how many LEGOs you have collected at home, this center will impress your children and provide them with new inspiration. Additionally, the staff is very skilled and friendly, and will assist your child in selecting and constructing a project suitable for the length of time you choose to ‘drop-in’. The two San Francisco Bay Area locations are in San Anselmo (Marin), and in Pleasanton (East Bay). Play-Well offers classes at a wide variety of schools and community centers in addition to the workshops offered at their activity centers, so even if you do not live near an activity center, you may be able to find a class run by Play-Well in your neighborhood; full class schedules are available on Play-Well’s website. If you are looking for a creative idea for your child’s next birthday party, Play-Well is the perfect solution for your LEGO-crazed offspring. Play-Well will organize parties either at their activity center facilities or at your home, provide all the building materials and a project which will provide your party guests with inspiration and focus for an hour or two. Play-Well even hosts parties for adults, so perhaps you should consider Play-Well as a possibility for your next corporate training or team-building event! .
Play and Learn at Play-Well TEKnologies
Informal, drop-in hours at the Marin center are: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 pm. Pleasanton Play-Well offers drop-in play from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and between the hours of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday. The rates for drop in play at both centers currently are $9 per child per hour on weekdays and $10 per hour per child on weekends. But the best deal for those with younger LEGO lovers is the pre-school discount rate of $7 per hour for children under age 5, offered on weekdays before 1 p.m
How to Find Play-Well TEKnologies Activity Centers
The LEGO Retail Experience
The Play-Well centers offer some LEGO building toys for sale, but for a true Bay Area LEGO retail experience, you can visit the LEGO store at the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo. Not only does the store stock a wide variety of LEGO sets for sale, there is also the ‘Pick a Brick Wall’, where you can purchase bulk LEGOs in a wide variety of colors and designs, perfect for those of you whose children are at a stage in which they strongly prefer LEGOs of a single color or size. The store also features a ‘Living Room’, an interactive activity area where young enthusiasts can try out various LEGO designs before making a purchase. The store also offers two different birthday party packages, which include gift bags of LEGO pieces for each guest and special treasures for the birthday child. For school-aged children (ages 6 through 14), this LEGO store sponsors a fun event on the first Tuesday of each month. Every month, store staff will teach your child how to build a diminutive LEGO model, chosen by theme appropriate to the season, and your child is encouraged to take the model home, free of charge. Generally, the event starts at 5 p.m., and LEGO models are available while supplies last, so get there as soon as you can! General store hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is another LEGO retail store located near San Jose, at Santa Clara's Valley Fair Mall, for those of you who reside in or are visiting the South Bay Area.
How to find the San Mateo LEGO Store
A funny and engaging new book about adults who love LEGO:
BayLUG, a LEGO Club!
Particularly for older LEGO enthusiasts, for those who take their LEGO pursuits seriously, and for those who seek a competitive LEGO experience, the Bay Area LUG (LEGO Users’ Group) is a welcome haven. The roughly two hundred members of the BayLUG meet monthly and present various LEGO-related activities and exhibits to the public. The club accepts members ages four and up, and there are special rates for families who wish to join the club; however, the majority of the club’s members are young adults, many of them employed in the engineering profession. Members are invited to participate in club-sponsored competitions, in which prizes are awarded in various age groups. Additionally, membership dues (which are reasonable, with the initial year of an individual membership costing $10 and subsequent annual renewals only $5) entitle the LEGO lover to special discounts at LEGOLAND amusement parks. BayLUG members also often trade LEGO bricks or sell them at a discount to group members, so joining the club gives you unique access to some good deals on LEGOs. Many of the group members are also passionate train hobbyists, so there are frequently many train-themed displays at shows sponsored by the BayLUG. BayLUG members frequently arrange group outings to LEGO themed events, and support each other tremendously by providing inspiration, advice, and friendly camaraderie.
Bay Area LEGO User's Group, a club for serious LEGO hobbyists of all ages. Use this link to join or check out the group's many activities.
- LEGO.com The Official Web Site of LEGO products!
Buy LEGO toys including EXO-FORCE, MINDSTORMS, LEGO Duplo, BIONICLE, Knights Kingdom, CLIKITS, LEGO TECHNIC, LEGO Racers and many more. Also, play LEGO games and build virtually with LEGOs.
- LEGO Club
Sign up here for the free LEGO Club magazine, then browse the other features available to members of the LEGO Club, including contests and activities.
- BrickLink - Unofficial LEGO Marketplace
Unofficial LEGO Marketplace. A venue for individuals and businesses from all around the world to buy and sell new, used and vintage LEGO through fixed price services.
Calling LEGO Lovers Everywhere!
If you are not a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, do not despair. There are many LEGO groups nationwide, LEGO stores in twenty three states and internationally, and many online resources for LEGO builders. As expected, LEGO’s official website offers a wealth of information, shopping, and games. When I can wrestle my computer away from my kids, who get addicted to virtually building LEGO creations on the website’s LEGO Digital Designer, I like to browse the ‘Sales and Deals’ shop, where LEGO sells overstocks or discontinued items, often marked down to forty to fifty percent of their original retail price.
On the LEGO Club website, you can obtain a free subscription to the LEGO Club Magazine, which contains LEGO inspired games, activities and comics, in addition to photographs of very impressive and inspiring models created by kids and submitted to the magazine. Sometimes, the magazine includes design instructions for selected LEGO models. The free magazine subscription is available in nine countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
And finally, for those of you searching in vain for that elusive LEGO set that you remember from your childhood, or for that one final piece you need to complete your full-scale LEGO model of the Mona Lisa, there is Bricklink, an online LEGO marketplace. Bricklink provides its users with an independent global venue for buying and selling new, used, or collectible LEGO pieces. There are currently over a hundred million items available for sale on the site, and there are also networking resources, such as forums and chat rooms. One of the site’s most unique and useful features is the ‘wanted’ list, where you can input the specifics of what you are seeking and sign up to be notified when the item becomes available. This alone can save you a lot of time searching flea markets and garage sales for those hard-to-find vintage LEGO toys.
Quality Books about LEGO Construction
My children and I have newly discovered through our recent explorations that not only can LEGO be a relaxing and inspiring individual activity, creating with LEGOs can also be a social event, leading us to form strong friendships and meet new people. The durability and strength of the fascination with LEGOs apparently follows many people from childhood all the way through adulthood. We have met several people who were inspired to pursue careers in engineering or design predominantly because of a childhood fascination with LEGOs. The exciting venues and opportunities described in this article can make explorations with LEGOs even more gratifying and enjoyable. And perhaps best of all, if you leave your house to visit one of these LEGO locales, you won’t even risk stepping barefoot on the LEGOs strewn on your own carpet at home.