And to be honest, I thought our time there would simply be about checking it off the list of things to see in Oslo. Proof we had really seen and done it all.

My appreciation and enjoyment of the experience was magnified ten-fold by seeing it through the eyes of my kids. No, they have little sense of modern architecture or the cultural significance of places like this. But what they do notice is just as important.

"Mom, this roof is a giant slide! Can we race up it?" 

And there I go, admiring the building's fine lines and head-tilting angles. "Of course! Let's see if we can get all the way to the top!" I said (a challenge had proven successful to combating tired little legs the day before at Vigeland Sculpture Park).

Kudos to Little Arrow, who at 19 months covered every square foot of that roof on his own two feet for well over an hour. Who needs playgrounds when you have enormous slanted roofs to explore?

"Mom, it's so white. It almost hurts my eyes!" 

And then I begin to appreciate the contrast between the deep evergreen forests to my left, beyond the grit of the Oslo city streets, and the blue of the water to my right. What a brilliant color choice for this building.

"Dad! Look how big those boats are!" 

And then I realize that the Oslo Opera House is more than a center for the performing arts. Its location makes it Oslo's calling card. It's the Sydney Opera House, it's the Statue of Liberty, it's the welcoming point for all who voyage here.

"We get to run around!" 

Indeed. Where else do you get free reign of a roof this incredible? In the heart of a city, with busy streets and trams zipping past, opportunities to run free and kick up your heels are special, even to adults.

As special as the Oslo Opera House itself.