Color Factory opened in New York in August 2018, originally intended as a short pop-up experience, following a successful first run in San Francisco. Color Factory was founded by Oh Happy Day! blogger Jordan Ferney, artist Leah Rosenberg, and designer Erin Jang. Fast-forward nearly a year, and there’s no sign of interest in the attraction tailing off, so it’s looking like the space will become permanent. Having originally checked out their launch in a whirl of buzz and excitement, the New York Family team finally got around to bringing our kiddos down to Color Factory’s 20,000 square foot space in SoHo to get the full experience.
When you book a ticket for Color Factory, you are assigned a specific time slot, and you can arrive any time up to 15 minutes before your scheduled time and hang out in the pleasant lobby area (complete with delicious mochi ball ice-creams in a variety of flavors). Sweet treats are a definite theme of Color Factory, so expect your children to inhale their week’s allowance of sugar in a single visit.
Once you’ve checked in, you are guided into a little theater where you sit and watch a very brief instructional video, the main point of which seems to be to drill the point that Color Factory is one-directional, meaning that once you have left a particular room, you cannot re-enter it. The video is only about three minutes long, so it’s not overly tortuous.
After watching the video, you sign up via an iPad to receive a keycard with a scannable QR code on the back which you use throughout the exhibit to operate the photo machines. You receive the photos that are taken through the photo machines directly to the email address you used to sign up with. After this “admin” is out of the way, you process through a series of 15 rooms, all with different installations and activities inside them. Some of the rooms have accompanying delicious snacks, like macarons by bakery Mille Feuille, in the colors of New York City (including “taxi” yellow and “Manhattan Bridge blue), raspberry soda and blue ice cream! Some activities are pure fun, like batting around big metallic balloons, with school children’s wishes on, that are being blown around by fans, and some are more thoughtful.
At one stage, you are assigned a partner (or you can choose who you came with!) and sit opposite them but behind a glass screen, where you’re asked via a headset to consider the colors of their clothing, hair and eyes, and to do a line drawing of them. Many of the rooms are collaborations with local artists, and there are also two “sponsored” rooms by Gymboree and Maybelline. The sponsorships aren’t jarring however, and there’s no product placement.
The culmination of the visit is an interactive flow-chart quiz where you walk through a room printed with questions on the floor, to discover the color that represents your unique personality. My kids (aged six and eight years old) found the questions a bit hard to navigate. For example, “Are your fears mostly rational or irrational?”. So they needed a little help on that! Once you’ve reached the end of the flow chart, you use your keycard to open one of three doors to three tiny rooms (with doors on both sides) and you see the name of your color displayed on a screen in front of you. Mine was “Quantum Puddle”, which was a shade of blue. You then had to wait while the machine took three photos of you with a colored background. Once released from the little room, you go into a hallway space where you can pull out more information about different colors. This was super-engaging and thoughtful, but unfortunately my kids had spotted the EPIC BALL PIT, and were off.
The Ball Pit is the site of a million instagrammed moments, and was referred to by our guide as “iconic”. It’s really hard to get a sense for the scale of it by looking at pictures, but just know that it is enormous. And very, very blue. In fact, Color Factory matched the blue color to a Pantone swatch of the New York sky on a cloudless, summer day! Germophobes, rest assured, the ball pool is also very, very clean. The balls are all cleaned “lightly” on a daily basis, and a deep clean is done once a week. The balls are also anti-microbial, which I think just means they’re plastic so wipe-clean, but either way, good to know.
If you have tiny ones, the ball pool is going to give you a little bit of anxiety on a busy day, as my six and eight year olds promptly totally disappeared below the surface of the pool, so I waded in after them to keep an eye on them. Make sure you hold onto your jewelry and take sunglasses off your head, as apparently a lot of things disappear into the mass of balls! All wedding rings have so far been returned, and thankfully there has never been a potty accident… yet.
We spent quite a while in the ball pool snapping pictures, and it is actually quite restful in there. Once you’ve had your fill of wobbling about, your final treat is a scoop of blue ice cream which matches the color of the balls. You can also choose a “free” surprise gift, and I was thrilled with my “A New York Palette” postcard by artist Roz Chast, featuring colors such as “Schmutz” and “Crushed Hopes” and then you head through the gift shop, and out back into the real world again.
Make sure you don’t let the activity end there! Pick up the Color Factory map, to check out all the hidden installations and collabs Color Factory has set up around the neighborhood. You won’t want to miss this, especially if you want to extend the fun into a full morning or afternoon.
All the Practical Details
First things first — you MUST buy tickets online before your visit. You can’t buy them at the door, and weekends and public holidays can book up a couple of weeks in advance, so forward-planning is a must. You wouldn’t want to be turned away! You can’t bring a stroller into the exhibit itself, but you can check it at Color Factory’s coat check.
In terms of age suitability, we’d recommend Color Factory for ages 4 years old and upwards, as while littler ones will be entertained by some of the rooms, most of the activities are geared towards slightly older kids. It takes around one hour to go around the experience, but you can extend the fun by picking up one of Color Factory’s printed maps of the neighborhood which show walkable color-themed attractions and hidden installations, including an awesome jukebox that looks like an apartment building’s doorbell.
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Tickets for Color Factory are $38 per person, with children under two years old entering for free.