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Thursday 26 December 2019

Camp Christmas

If you've been following along for a while you'll know that I'm a big fan of pop up experiences. Color Factory, Museum of Ice Cream, Candytopia... they've all been some of our favorite experiences over the past few years. I'm also a big fan of Christmas displays. The giant gingerbread house at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, the drive through Christmas in Color displays in Utah and Colorado, the stunning Blossoms of Light at Denver Botanic Gardens... so much festive fun. 

So when I heard about Camp Christmas, a pop up "immersive extravaganza" that merges these two together, I just knew that we had to go check it out. We headed to Camp Christmas on Christmas Eve and it was everything I hoped it would be - plus more!

Here's a look at our visit to Camp Christmas...

Upon entering Camp Christmas our first stop was the Santa Bar. I bought hot chocolates for the kids and a spiked hot chocolate (with peppermint vodka) for myself. The bar has a great range of tasty holiday themed drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. While outside food and drinks are not allowed in Camp Christmas, visitors are welcome to carry their drinks from the Santa Bar (and the Beach Bar further inside) around the exhibit. Plenty of trash cans are provided along the way so disposing of your empty cup is easy peasy.

After a little break to warm up with our hot chocolates we made our way inside the main part of the exhibit. Now, if you're wondering just what Camp Christmas is all about, you're about to find out. More than just a display of twinkling lights and Christmas trees, Camp Christmas tells the story of Christmas celebrations and traditions throughout the years. The exhibit starts with Ancient Rome and Saturnalia, a pagan celebration with which Christmas shares many traditions. The exhibit then skips ahead hundreds of years to various eras including the Renaissance, Baroque, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Mid Century, eighties and through to today. Along the way there are exhibits about Christmas in various cultures and countries, lots of tree based puns (the kids loved working these out), and a lot of selfie opportunities. And, of course, lots of twinkling lights and Christmas trees!

Unlike other pop ups we've visited, Camp Christmas is not one way like an Ikea store! This meant that if one area was busy we could skip it and come back later. We could time travel from the baroque era to the crazy atomic 60s, or from the 80s to the art deco designs of the 20s and 30s. This also made the treasure hunt in the guide book a little easier. Upon entry we were given Camp Christmas Field Guide booklets. These explain each of the exhibit areas, provide a map, and include a treasure hunt that involves collecting stamps at various points throughout the exhibit space. The kids enjoyed tracking down the stamps as we made our way through the exhibits. 

Trying to choose a favorite part of Camp Christmas was no easy task. I'm a big fan of  Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Mid-Century Modern style, so these areas all appealed to me, but the opulence of the Baroque display was amazing - if not my style at all. The kids definitely enjoyed the Santa's Cabin area. Here we posed for pics in Santa's sleigh, added our names to the naughty and nice lists (Ava's appeared right at the top of the naughty list!), and learned strange facts, like that KFC is a popular Christmas meal in Japan. Who knew? Well, apparently Ava knew, but the rest of (who aren't as obsessed with Japanese culture as Ava) were a little confused by the KFC bucket on display at first!

Let's just pretend that that fake chicken drumstick wasn't really in Mathilde's mouth, okay?

The kids would most likely list the candy inspired Sugar Disco as their other favorite part of the exhibit. Here we found a giant Christmas tree made of large pieces of candy (or rather, pieces that look like candy). We also found a candy maker hard at work creating large candy pieces similar to those on the tree.

This area also included a cute alicorn (a winged unicorn, for those of you over the age of 9) that sparkled gold when photographed with a flash. My camera doesn't have a flash, but luckily my phone does so you can see what a difference it made. Amazing, right?

The Sugar Disco area was also where we first noticed the pun trees - despite having walked past quite a few! We then made it our mission to find all the other pun trees and work them all out. Can you tell what they are from the pictures?

Did you work them out? Gum tree, palm tree (made of super creepy doll hands!), wintry, puppetry, pear (pair) tree, chemistry. Ha! Ok, that last one was a little tricky to see in my pic due to the overly bright pink lighting freaking my camera out. It's made up of test tubes, beakers and tubing.

Speaking of pink, the Atomic area (where the "chemistry" was located) was the pinkest place ever with pink trees, pink couches, pink walls, pink horses, pink artworks... Pink, pink, pink! In fact, it reminded me of the Madonna Inn. If you're not familiar with the Madonna Inn, you can check out our visit here.

Ok, that was eye-hurtingly pink! Let's look at something less pink - but just as over the top! The Baroque area was as over the top as you could possibly imagine. A gilded reindeer, featuring incredibly ornate antlers, pulling a sleigh met us as we entered this area. The fine lady seated in the sleigh was possibly even more ornate than the reindeer with her towering floral headpiece. Gilded mirrors lined the walls creating reflections of the twinkling lights that fill the room. A little more subdued, but still very festive, was the nearby deer and shiny Christmas trees. This was much more to my liking and reminded me of the metallic Christmas tree and deer ornaments that my grandparents had when I was a kid.

The Art Deco area was one of my favorites with its Egyptian motifs and geometric mirrors. The Art Nouveau and Victorian areas were located nearby and featured plenty of reindeer, vintage Santas and postcards to take home - although the kids agreed that they all thought the Victorian designs on the postcards were creepy!

I loved the nostalgia of the ornaments and Christmas knick-knacks on display in the Mid-Century area. Is it weird to feel nostalgic for decorations that came well before you were born? I guess, just like the metallic deer above, they remind me of decorations from my Grandparents' homes. Also, I can totally relate to the exhausted mama in the Norman Rockwell painting! Ha!

One of our favorite trees in the entire exhibit had to be the giant tree made out of all kinds of lights - mostly types that you wouldn't normally find on a Christmas tree. Lava lamps, flashing stop lights, police lights, flood lights, glowing light sticks (light sabers, perhaps?)... These were intermingled with classic Christmas lights and made for the most amazing, and incredibly bright, Christmas tree.

The last exhibit, right before entering the gift shop, is one that may look familiar to anyone who has ever flown into Denver. This piece is a sparkly replica of the "Blue Mustang", AKA "Blucifer", sculpture that greets visitors to Denver International Airport with its glowing red eyes. Not really Christmas related, but a nice Colorado reference - and the perfect spot for one last selfie before exiting!

Camp Christmas was such a fun experience and I'm excited to say that even though Christmas is now over (how did that happen?) the holiday fun is here to stay a little longer.

Camp Christmas is located at The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace, 2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, and runs through January 5th 2020.

Timed entry is available in 15 minute time slots from 10am to 10pm. Once you're inside you can stay as long or as little as you like. We spent a little over an hour exploring the displays.

Tickets vary in price from $12 to $18 depending on the time and date. Children ages 2 and under enter for free. Tickets may be available at the door, but it's best to purchase in advance online to avoid disappointment should your chosen time sell out.

Tickets can be purchased at https://www.denvercenter.org/tickets-events/camp-christmas/

We had such a fun time at Camp Christmas and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it comes back again next year!

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