Studies show that those of us who grew up playing make-believe with action figures and miniaturized accessories are at a huge advantage. Apparently, using our imaginations and spending time in a fantasy land does wonders for the developing brain and sets us in good standing for the future. As adults, we simply don’t get the time or occasion, but if an opportunity presents itself, then you should grab it with both hands.
Barbie Dream House
One of the things I love best about the Mall of America is, funny enough, not the shopping, but the activities it offers. The month we visited there were three concurrent exhibits that we were able to tour. One of these exhibits was the Barbie Dream House Experience.
I was somewhat of a Barbie doll collector in my youth, so I jumped at the opportunity to see the exhibit. Originally started in Berlin back in 2011, the Barbie Experience in the Mall of America takes visitors on a tour of the famous blonde icon’s life-size dream home. The 30,000 square foot pink mega penthouse where Barbie lives with her dog, cat, horse and dolphin, is fitted with every luxury and mod-con that money can buy; including a huge closet with hundreds of costumes. It’s a pity they aren’t all labeled as this would have been more interesting for serious collectors.
I admit my disappointment as I assumed visitors would get to see all the 300 collectible dolls and costumes I remembered from my childhood. This exhibit, however, is geared towards the younger generation. It is heavily based on the TV show that became popular in the 90’s and follows storylines I am completely unfamiliar with – like the horse in the living room and dolphin in the toilet.
The exhibit is compiled of several interactive fun areas and provides visitors with many chances to take selfies incorporating the different props. To start the tour, you arrive in the kitchen after riding in the large elevator. There you are greeted by none other than Barbie herself. You get to bake a virtual cupcake on touchscreen pads. The kitchen is replete with drawers to pull and buttons to press and gifts from Ken. Here, some of Barbie’s old-fashioned 50’s roots show with the idea that to make your wife happy you bought her the latest mixer.
Inside the House
Following another photo-op after a brief stint in Barbie’s blue freezer (one of two places in the entire house deviating from the standard pink) you enter Barbie’s living room. The living room features a comfy sectional, fireplace, dog-house, cat-house and the horse peeking in the window. Next, you tour the Doll’s bedroom, covered in fun postcards featuring fashion drawings and Barbie’s travels. You then move on to bathroom, fitted with cosmetics, towels and the dolphin peeking out of the toilet. The bathroom is the only other room in the house that isn’t pink.
Outside the House
Next, you step onto the patio with a pink BBQ (one of two ever made in pink by Weber), a chaise lounge and a skyline that changes from daylight to night time every few minutes! Other special effects include seagulls crying and views of a sandcastle on the beach. The screen lights up at night, and you can hear the crickets from the bedroom.
From here on, the exhibit stops being a regular house tour and becomes more of a fun playground for the younger fans. Here you’ll find a walk through the icon’s closet (you can try on clothes virtually by standing in front of a mirror), a place where you can dress up and have your makeup done, a runway to practice your modeling skills and a karaoke station.
In sharp contrast to the homey kitchen, Barbie’s home also has a professional room detailing the different careers she has had over the years. What a busy gal she’s been! You’ll also see the giant “friendship” ring under which some people have chosen to propose. I found it a charming addition but felt it sent a mixed message that you can find happiness in a relationship over a career.
The exhibit is a heavenly playground for imaginative young kids, with a table for coloring, costumes for playing dress up, and a stage for performing. Overall, the exhibit provides a fun experience for the younger generation, although Barbie’s message of ‘having it all’ is a bit muddied at times.