There I was, inappropriately dressed in blue instead of pink, hanging with parents and giddy little girls, waiting for our tour of Barbie’s full-size dream house.
A girl of the 1960s, I had grown up with Barbie. My collection included Midge and Ken and Skipper, plenty of shoes that didn’t have mates and hangers that never seemed to have little tiny dresses on them. My Barbie even had her own convertible and a theater stage (Does anyone remember that?!) So I was not missing a chance to see Barbie: The Dreamhouse Experience, the Sawgrass Mills edition in Sunrise, Florida, outside Fort Lauderdale.
Tours of Barbie’s kitchen, living room, patio, bedroom and bath — and clothes closet that only Barbie would have — take place on the hour.
Barbie herself welcomes visitors via video. The rooms, ablaze with pink in all its wondrous shades, all have little activity centers for children. Our group, led by a nice but completely unengaged tour guide, didn’t fully understand what to look for.
We missed the famous “glitterizer” in the bedroom. We wouldn’t have seen the surprise in the toilet (Porpoises! Everything is glamorous in Barbie’s world) if I hadn’t asked the tour guide about it.
There are buttons to push, video games to place, activities activated by the pink plastic bracelets we all wore. Children can style Barbie’s hair or put on make up. There are even pictures to color. How’d I miss that?! I wanted to try on all her shoes, but imagine the mess a bevy of girls would leave behind if that had been possible. Videos in many of the rooms offer a story with a clue to some activity — like discovering those porpoises. But for the most part, we were left on our own to figure it all out.
Parents in my small group took lots of pictures but weren’t aware of all the buttons, interactive games and make-believe activities. We wandered pretty passively through kitchen to living room to patio — all stylishly and smartly decorated as only Barbie would have.
I felt sorry for the kids who must have finished the tour (in a mere 20 minutes) and wondered: Is that all? That was how how I reacted. The kids, nevertheless, seemed pretty into everything and one tiny girl figured out the buttons — even if she had to jump up to reach them.
With an enthusiastic tour guide to pump up the visitors, this could be a really cool place. And you know, it was anyway. How many times does a little girl play with a Barbie dream house and wish she could go inside for real? In a gigantic mall in South Florida, her dream can come true.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman