Who doesn’t like candy, right? So, there was no way that I was going to pass up an opportunity to preview Candytopia, the candy-coated adventure that “popped up” in Philly last week.
During the past month, I had been seeing ads for it all over the place. To be honest, I didn’t know what Candytopia was, only that I saw photos of people looking like they were having the time of their life, as they swam in pools of marshmallows and licked gigantic lollipops!
The opening of Candytopia Philadelphia coincided with the opening of the new Fashion District that replaced The Gallery at Market East. So, going to Candytopia was like getting a double header, and enabled me to check out both new places in one shot.
The Fashion District, unveiled by developer PREIT, has been touted as being unlike anything that has ever been in our area. Stretching along and below Market, between Eighth and 10th streets, the Fashion District will offer mainstream discount shops like Eddie Bauer, American Eagle Outfitters and Francesca’s, plus other entertainment and venues that offer “experiences,” rather than "things" for purchase. Various performance venues will focus on local artists and space for influencer-friendly pop-ups, like Candytopia.
Called a pioneer in “retail-tainment,” the new Fashion District opened just in time to be the host venue for fall Philly Fashion Week this week. Last Thursday night, there was a lot of energy there. The music was pumping and people were strolling through to visit some new spots and to catch a glimpse of things to come, since some spots in the Fashion District mall were not open yet.
But, it was the preview of Candytopia that was the big attraction Thursday night. The candy-sweet popup was going to officially open to the public the following day.
Candytopia features more than one dozen rooms on two levels, with larger-than-life interactive art installations and full sensory experiences inspired by pure, sugary bliss. Prior to its Philly debut, Candytopia had already made its popup appearance in a few other cities. A press release says it amassed a huge following in those cities, among guests of all ages and A-list celebrities.
Now, I have to tell you, I was one of those guests of “all ages,” which I found out, in reality, translated into being one of the oldest people there. Although it says “for all ages,” I definitely would recommend it to the younger crowd, or at least to anyone of any age, who considers taking selfies and photos of themselves as entertainment, as that’s really what I found out that Candytopia is all about. The Candytopia concept definitely is one built around the social media culture of today. Other than having Instagram fun, there really isn’t much of anything else interactive to do there.
Truthfully, I had a difficult time, at first, to understand how a place could be all about just providing unique opportunities for Instragram photos. After I adjusted to this novel concept, I began to find it somewhat interesting to see the extent to which people went to get perfect, very cool photos.
The staff at Candytopia is very friendly. They welcome guests into the confectionery wonderland, telling them that each room contains some kind of candy and the object is to locate it and help themselves. Finding and eating the candy during the tour was highly encouraged. Guests are treated to candy samples throughout the entire experience, including sours and gummies, chocolate treats, nostalgic favorites, and more. My daughter, whom I took as my guest, gushed, “This is fun—it’s like adult trick-or-treating!”
The amiable staff also helped guests download the Candytopia app to enhance their photos and overall experience there, as well as aided them in optimizing each photo opportunity by showing guests how to pose and suggesting the angles to aim their cameras. Some even asked guests for their phones and took the shots for them.
The press release said that the marshmallowy mini-theme park launched in 2018 in Santa Monica, California and has traveled coast to coast, attracting long lines and sold-out crowds. Candytopia has quickly expanded nationwide with past runs in San Francisco, New York City, Minneapolis-St. Paul at Mall of America and Atlanta. Locations are currently operating in Houston and Philadelphia.
Candytopia Philadelphia features the most popular attractions from its past locations including the marshmallow pit filled with over 250,000 foam marshmallows; an underwater-themed wonderland with fantastical candy covered sea creatures; a rainbow-filled room with flying unicorn pigs and confetti explosions galore, along with many more sweet surprises.
Candytopia Philadelphia also features new elements inspired by local culture and landmarks unique to the location that will thrill locals and visitors alike. Exclusive to the city of brotherly love location are unique Philly elements that include a candy-covered replica of the Liberty Bell, a tribute to Rocky, a candy portrait of Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the iconic LOVE sculpture and more.
Candytopia is a peek inside the sweet and inspiring world of famed global candy artist, Jackie Sorkin. Candytopia was created in partnership with her co-founders, events and production design expert Zac Hartog, CEO of ZH Productions, and retail veteran John Goodman.
I imagine Candytopia will be a “go-to” place for everyone who places a high priority on fun social media photos. When I told one of my sons that I had been there and tried to describe what it was all about, he had an interesting reaction. He said, “Oh, it sounds like the modern version of a Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Remember how we used to go in them and take photos with all the wax celebrities?”
Hmmm… I hadn’t thought of it like that, but he had a point. Candytopia actually was the same concept as the wax museums-- providing "fun" photo ops. However, the modern version is way more colorful, has many more special effects and the backdrops are made out of candy, not wax. His comment made me more open-minded about the pop-up. I was thinking only Millennials and younger would flock to Candytopia, but I guess my generation, the ones who got a kick out of posing with wax figures, will enjoy it too. I don’t think I got as much joy out of it as my millennial daughter did, but when all was said and done, I did find it unique, interesting and somewhat fun. I had the confetti in my hair, car and purse for days afterward to prove it!
It was probably the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like I was inside Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory or walking around a life-sized Candyland game board. After going through and marveling at creative and colorful sculptures of sea horses, whimsical unicorn pigs with confetti flying out of their butts, alligators and fox made out of candy corn, exotic Egyptian figures, jellybean paintings and life-sized statues built out of candy, we found ourselves in the final room, the Candytopia gift shop. That’s when I truly felt I was in a museum because, don’t they always end up sending you through a gift shop on the way to the exit? Only, this gift shop had candy-- lots and lots of it.
I exited the Fashion District that night, feeling a little vain, with a phone loaded with candy-themed photos of myself-- lasting proof of a successful visit to Candytopia!
IF YOU GO: Candytopia Philadelphia is at The Fashion District Mall, 901 Market St. #1150, Philadelphia. Hours are Monday - Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Like all pop up venues, you have to get moving, if you want to go, because Candytopia will only be here for a limited four month run and will close on January 5, 2020. Tickets, which must be purchased online, are sold for timed slots, because of high demand. Cost is $28 for adults; $20 for kids 4-12; and free for kids under 3. To purchase tickets, visit candytopia.com/.