You may have seen Jackie Sorkin, the Hollywood Candy Queen, on any number of television morning shows or reality food programs. Or you may have heard about it when she launched the Hollywood Candy Queens Kingdom in Asia in 2013. It was an interactive museum full of candy replicas of a variety of iconic artworks. The domestic version of this experience is Candytopia, and the Atlanta pop-up near Lenox Square in Buckhead runs from now through the first weekend in June. Each city’s Candytopia is a little bit different, so ours has some funny nods to Ray Charles, the Braves, the Real Housewives, and peaches. Tickets are $28 for adults and $20 for kids age 4 to 12.
For most, this will provoke immediate associations with Willy Wonka, or at least the board game Candyland. As a matter of philosophy, those associations are entirely correct. This is a space where kids can touch a bunch of clever artwork, run around and scream with delight, and let their creative imaginations run wild. It’s also Instagram heaven for a date night and totally fine if you have no kiddos to justify the adventure. No matter your age, those who work at Candytopia are prepared to pump you up and convince you that this will be totally awesome if you just go with it. There are some solid surprises that will thoroughly delight, and the white and blue jumpsuit clad staff is full of enthusiasm for their task. The staff seems mostly comprised of fun-loving aspiring actors who can offer genuine smiles.
Candytopia is worth the money, but what exactly do you get? Well, as the time slot on your ticket approaches, get in line behind the pink velvet ropes. When the doors open and they let in your group of fifty or so people, you’ll meet some staffers to give you the rundown. You’ll also meet a six-foot tall dragon made of jellybeans and have a chance to grab some pink and blue saltwater taffy. Each room is like this—a couple of staffers, a trunk full of candy, some works of art, and some interactive elements. The staffers suggest things you can do in their room and are happy to help you take photos. Without giving too much away, interactive elements include a slide, giant beach balls, things that give off sounds and smells, and obstacles to the next room.
And of course, there’s a giant pit full of marshmallows. They’re not real ones; they’re white foam shaped like marshmallows and they are sanitized every night. The kids messing around in there are so cute, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a half dozen middle aged, suburban moms lying around in a marshmallow pit. They look happy, like they’re at the beach or something. For all its upbeat effects, Candytopia is an oddly relaxing place. It does have that contemplative museum quality, even or perhaps especially when you’re pausing to stick your head into a giant shark’s mouth or you’ve just been hit by a blast of rainbow confetti from a flying pig’s butt.
Let’s also talk about the nitty-gritty of the parenting logistics. The free parking deck is great. The experience can be done in about an hour and if you really got into every single aspect of the place it may stretch closer to two hours. The line for the marshmallow pit moves quickly and you get seven minutes in the pit. Candytopia has a total of about a dozen well-staffed rooms and you won’t have to watch your kids too closely. If your kid has sensory issues related to sound, touch, or crowds, the experience will be moderately challenging, but there is plenty of space everywhere for you to step aside and calm down. There were several tiny babies, all strapped to their parents rather than in strollers. There were two girls celebrating a very sweet 16th birthday. All the trunks full of grab-and-go candy have individual wrappers and are clearly labeled with relevant allergens or other pertinent dietary info. Bring a little sack to collect that candy for later, or halfway through you can buy a bottled water for two bucks. There’s a gift shop at the end, full of both candy and gear.
When you exit, you will realize your face hurts from smiling so much. I can think of no better cure for the late winter blues and no better distraction from regular grownup stuff than Candytopia.
Candytopia continues through June 2 at 3535 Peachtree Road. For tickets and information, visit Candytopia.com.