FieldTrip-Jan16-1Brick-tastic outings for Lego obsessed kids (and grown-ups) in PDX

I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Legos.

Let’s start with the hate: Man, does it ever bite to step on one of those little, sharp-edged pieces when you’re barefoot. And boy oh boy, do those bricks ever multiply — are they breeding in the middle of the night? At my house, we’re plumb out of space to display all of my kids’ latest creations. And then, even the most ardent Lego fan can’t deny the creeping commercialization of some of the newer lines and the pink/purple wasteland in which the marketed-to-girls Lego Friends dwell.

Now for the love: When a kid gets into a groove with Legos and brings you the hybrid robot/airplane/Ferris wheel they’ve constructed from the bin of random bricks, you can almost feel your heart constricting with pride. Loose Legos are fantastic for open-ended creative play; the boxed sets are great for teaching kids about patience and perseverance. Plus, that earworm song from The Lego Movie (you know the one I mean) is pure catchiness in a three-minute package.

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But every so often, the charm of your at-home Lego bin starts to fade. That’s when it’s time to head to one of the many places around PDX when Lego-loving kids can get their fix with a whole new crop of bricks.

Start at the newest outpost of Bricks & Minifigs, (3040 NE Sandy Boulevard) the Canby-based new-and-used Lego shop that’s grown into a national franchise. My son and I spent a good 45 minutes poking around the store, ogling all the rare models and hard-to-find minifigs. Staff are happy to take down some of the rare models so you can get a closer look (we happily peered at the now-discontinued Dumbledore’s Office from the Lego Harry Potter line, complete with a magical moving staircase.)

Lovingly labeled Lego creations at the Sellwood-Moreland library.
Lovingly labeled Lego creations at the Sellwood-Moreland library.

Up at the front of the store are three long tables filled with bins of loose bulk Legos available by the bag. Savvy brick-hunters were pawing through them, looking for rare pieces or perhaps in search of needed bricks that had gone missing. Kids, meanwhile, got busy building, hopping between tables in search of more pieces, and happily comparing creations. They have a table reserved just for building mini-figs — for $4, kids can personalize the head, torso, legs and accessories. Pro tip: There are handy containers of Purell placed strategically all around the store. Definitely use one on your way out the door.

Libraries all around the metro area offer Lego-building times — think of it like happy hour for little brick fans, minus the cocktails, of course. What’s great about these are the free, non commercial, communal nature of the events. Librarians dump out huge bins of (well-sanitized) Legos on sheets on the floor, and kids can paw through, trade with each other, give advice on creations and even team up. Caregivers can build, too, or just hang out, offer encouragement and chat with each other.

We hit the Sellwood-Moreland library branch (every other Monday, from 3:30 pm-4:30 pm) and were charmed by the low-key vibe and the fact that at the end, kids don’t have to dismantle their creations. Instead, librarians have thoughtfully provided display space, and a card for each kid to fill out with their name, age and a little about their creation.

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Lego meet-ups are also offered at Gregory Heights, Kenton, Gresham, Northwest, Woodstock, Troutdale, Central and Fairview-Columbia branches of the Multnomah County library. Pro tip: Show up early for the Lego builds at the Hollywood Library, also every-other-Monday from 3:30 pm-4:30 pm; it’s so popular that tickets are available 30 minutes in advance of the building time. Lego-building times are also offered at libraries in Washington, Clackamas and Clark Counties; check websites for branches and time.

Showing off finished creations — submarines! — at The Lego Store.
Showing off finished creations — submarines! — at The Lego Store.

For Lego fanatics, the Lego Store at Washington Square Mall in Tigard is about as close to perfection as you can get without getting on a plane to San Diego County (home, of course, to Legoland California.) True insiders know that once a month the store holds “mini-model” builds — kids get to build a model at the store and take it home, for free. Pro tip: Check their website to figure out when sign-ups open. I did it at 9 am sharp about three weeks in advance, on the day that registration opened, and most of the spots were already filled.

On the day we visited, the build was a mini-submarine, with about 30 pieces. Our 7-year-old buddy figured it out in three minutes flat; it took my meticulous daughter a good 10 to 15 minutes, with an assist or two from the helpful staff member. The presence of master builder staffers makes this a good choice for kids who have recently graduated from Duplos and are just learning how to follow instructions in a more complicated set.

After you’re done with the build, the store has plenty of cool models on display, plus the latest boxed sets for kids to covet, Lego-themed gifts you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the metro area, a tempting build-a-minifig kiosk and loose Legos for builders, with stations for both big and little kids. Be forewarned that it is tough to get out of there without being cajoled into buying something; I was sorely tempted by the model of the White House from the Lego Architecture line, but managed to leave with only the much smaller-scale Space Needle kit instead.

Julia Silverman
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