Summer is in sight, and if you’ve got kids, you’re sweating like it’s a late August heat wave. School will be out, and what are you going to do to occupy the void? And stay on budget? Maybe you’ve got a vacation planned or camping trip, but what else? Fear not, I have good news. Opening this week at Westfield Century City is CAMP, a New York-based family experience company known for interactivity and a reimagination of the toy store.
The 7,000-square-foot second-floor location is CAMP’s West Coast first outpost. It’s part toy store and part activity experience. The opening season’s signature theme is Base CAMP, an immersive summer camp-themed experience in which kids can go from cabin to cabin, participate in arts & crafts, sports, dance, and theater, all while making new friends.
The adventure begins, like any good journey, in the canteen. Here, you’ll find a charming toy store – not the sort with aisle after aisle of mostly junk on the shelves and on the floor, but more of a boutique-type space with stylish toys adorning the walls of the well-lit open room and a near-life-size safari-type jeep in the center, which your kid will definitely want to “drive.”
But the real fun is behind the magic door, a wall in the back of the store that opens (a la a Prohibition-era speakeasy), revealing a hidden path beyond. Here, you’ll find a secret world that feels miles away. The first stop in this enchanted realm is a child’s-size RV, fully equipped with a play kitchen, gamified table, and activity books and crayons on the picnic table.
My little one’s favorite amenity is the Barbie-themed Disco Cabin. Glittering sequined walls can be made pink or aqua blue with the stroke of a hand, and shimmer in the disco lights. The floor is lined with pillows, which come in handy when someone comes zipping down the slide from another room. And tucked away in the back is the hidden teepee, with a pink shag rug, a plush campfire set, lanterns, and barbie camp toys.
Kids are in good hands here among CAMP’s counselors. There is a youthful energy among the counselors, who seem to be having as much fun as the CAMPers. Counselor Sheila played Barbies with my 3-year-old for what would’ve felt like hours to a ran-ragged parent. And playing with toys is a great way to see what your child connects with on a trial basis. It’s also fun to watch how they play when they’ve forgotten that you’re around, or that you still exist.
Another popular element of Base CAMP is the ol’ swimming hole. It sure looks real. I watched as kids hesitantly walked to the edge of the little wooden-like pier – which is actually a piano! – and stand curiously at the edge of the “pond,” which is painted, lit and set-designed to perfection.
Meanwhile, the Splatter Room is every child’s opportunity to release their inner Jackson Pollock. Start with a 16-inch blank canvas and watch your tyke attack it with color. Voila! A masterpiece. There are also craft classes, with cool things to make, as well as story time readings.
As much as this feels like a pop-up experience, it’s for real. It’s a brick-and-mortar and is here to stay. And that’s good because your kid is definitely going to be hounding you to come back for more. And why not? Summer is long. There are, of course, four seasons planned, each with its own theme.
To keep up with the latest CAMP news, you can follow them at @campstores.