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Child’s Play: Adult Night at LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Off Campus | December 9, 2014

“I want the disco ball to turn on!” I heard someone complain as we waited in line for the Merlin’s Apprentice ride at LEGOLAND Discovery Center. He shook the gate—only six people could ride at a time, and he was clearly impatient.

“Guys, we should have gone to the Somerville Theater tonight,” he added. “They have better beer.”

Last Wednesday night, a different sort of patron filled LEGOLAND—and while the two TIE fighter pilots were part of the merriment, they weren’t the main attraction. No, it was Star Wars-themed Adult Night, and we seemed to be the youngest ones there.

Adult nights at children’s attractions have been gaining traction lately. In late July, New York’s American Museum of Natural History hosted its first adults-only sleepover. Tickets, which ran $375, sold out in three hours. The museum has recently announced four more such events in the next six months, which will include champagne receptions, performances by a jazz trio, flashlight tours of the exhibit halls, and free reign for wandering after the cots have been set out.

Closer to home, in April the Boston Children’s Museum transformed into the Boston Grown Up’s Museum for one night, offering wine and beer, throw-back candies, and access to the exhibits for guests over 21. The event was such a success that the museum put together another iteration, this time ‘80s themed, over the summer.

But neither the AMNH nor the BCM operates on the level of LEGOLAND’s Discovery Centers, each of which hosts an 18+ night once per month. The eleven centers are located in five countries on three continents, with six in the continental United States. Each offers rides, 4D cinemas, and plenty of LEGOs to play with—but on a smaller scale than the theme parks located in California and Florida. Boston’s Discovery Center opened in Somerville’s Assembly Row shopping center this past May.

As a rule, the indoor kids’ attractions do not allow adults inside unless accompanied by an under-12. Once per month, though, that changes, and Somerville’s Adult Night is the most popular in the world, pulling in double the visitors of any other Legoland Discovery Center.

Ian Coffey, the center’s master model builder, calls the nights “his baby.” Coffey left a job at the New York State Senate when he won the position at LEGOLAND in a two-day LEGO building competition at the Boston Public Library in January.

Now, his work consists of constructing new features and models, but also ensuring the success of the Discovery Center’s special programming, including adult nights. He’s very involved: On Wednesday during the event, he was the moving target during a game of ‘soft brick toss.’ Read: patrons were throwing oversized foam LEGO bricks at him as he scrambled all over the play-place area.

“[Adult nights are] our legacy,” he explained. “It’s our thing to kind of build into what we want to foster.”

As a result, the Somerville Discovery Center’s adult nights are filled with “fun activities to keep [patrons] engaged,” from raffles to costume contests. Past themes include adventure (“like Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean”), carnival, beach, and more. And, of course, the most important part is the bar, supplying the Coronas and Bud Lights everyone carried throughout the two rides, movie theater, miniature replica of Boston, and general play space.

“I’m a 27-year-old; I’ve been to college a few years ago,” Coffey explains. “So I said, ‘Why not have a bar here?’ That’s what everyone wants.”

One other aspect that separates Boston’s audience from that of the other LEGOLANDs, Coffey said, is the large college student population. While there, I noticed that the audience skewed late-20s, early-30s, but it seemed like the sort of Wednesday night adventure my peers would enjoy.

“We’re trying to breach into the college market, because we know that Boston has a lot of colleges around,” Coffey explained, promising more activities for young adults as the center establishes itself. But it won’t come during normal business hours, as the center will remain primarily dedicated to the 3-10 year old market.

Besides, would you really want to go without the beer?

Header photo by Gracie McKenzie.