Three truths, zero lies: I am someone whose preferred form of edible sugar is baked goods, and whose Keystone State roots heretofore led her to believe Hershey's Chocolate World was the only worthwhile attraction devoted to confections. But I loved Candytopia—and it’s not because I was so smitten with the plethora of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities (although that was pretty cool, too).
Located at the Marq'E Entertainment Center off the Katy Freeway, Houston's latest pop-up experience is part candy installation and part Wonka-esque factory, an edible fantasy on overdrive. Upon entering you are greeted by enthusiastic attendants, all of whom are eager to guide you through the different areas and won’t judge you too harshly for taking large handfuls of free samples along the way. (Pro tip: Bring a plastic bag to store all those gratis Lindt truffles, Pixie Sticks, salt water taffy, etc.)
I could have spent an entire hour in the very first room examining the series of intricate sculptures constructed entirely out of Jelly Belly beans (my favorite was a massive dragon named Penelope). Yet the momentum of the crowd and the promise of more candy propelled me forward through a tunnel of inflated cushions, whose metaphorical resemblance to the canal was not lost on anyone, at least in my party.
We were then ejected into a large, lollipop-themed space with interactive displays like a swing and video booth. After taking approximately 1,000 selfies and innumerable licks of our Tootsie Roll pops, we wound our way through rooms boasting more jelly bean artwork, including a portrait of Cardi B and an impressive recreation of Munch’s The Scream.
Then there were glitter explosions, a hallway of mirrors, and massive, inflated beach balls that one savvy visitor used to recreate the famous sculpture of Atlas. By the time we reached the grand finale, a giant pit filled with (fake) marshmallows, I was on a high fueled not by the free gummy bears but by the joy that comes from being unapologetically silly with close friends in a magical space. As we did the backstroke through the mallow pool and struggled to set up coordinated boomerang shots, I giggled so much, I almost barfed.
And that, my friends, is my definition of a good time.
Candytopia is in Houston through Sept. 29 (though dates may change); tickets, which are $28 for adults and $20 for kids ages 4-12, are available online.