We are truly a Lego family. My husband has lego kits stashed as birthday presents for our kids for the next several years. So it was no surprise that a trip to Legoland on our southern California vacation was going to happen within the first 24 hours we were down there.
I have learned to be skeptical of theme parks, based on our last trip to Disneyland. My oldest was petrified of the walking characters and my youngest one didn’t want to go on any rides. Luckily there were enough shows and parades to distract them, but what would Legoland offer other than rides? If you have young kids, Legoland has lots to offer and doesn’t need to rely on the flashy parades or light-studded shows. Where Disneyland can be over-the-top energy (and crowds), Legoland downplays the glitz. It offers enough fun to fill a day, but not to the point where it is meltdown-overwhelming. Now for older kids, admittedly, this may be a let-down. But for the crowd who are looking for great playtime, not necessarily to be entertained, this is a theme park that stands out.
There are countless theme parks whose rides are about getting the screams. Here, many of the rides are incredibly mellow and yet fun. My 5-year-old’s favorite was when he got to drive a lego car. He received a complimentary drivers license which he proudly pulled out of his pocket throughout the entire day. (Note: you must be at least 3 yrs old for that particular ride. Most others are based on height, 34″ being the minimum.) My youngest loved driving the lego boat. Twice at the end of the ride he ran back toward the line before we had completely gotten out of the boats. Luckily on a weekday in January, the lines were not long.
Long lines can dampen a fun day. Legoland has taken a few approaches. Most noticeably, there are tables complete with legos placed near the lines, so the kids can play while the parents save their spot in line. Brilliant! Secondly, there are life-sized displays also strategically placed where kids can touch them or watch them make music. While the older kid drives his lego car, the younger sibling who isn’t tall enough yet can mosey over to this lego art and play around. Kid-sized lego art was abundant near the eatery we chose. Knowing kids rarely sit down for a full meal, I thought this was good enticement to have the little one at least explore things nearby as the adult tries to complete his/her meal.
I was surprised at the number of rides where either you control the levers (for example making your helicopter go up or down), you are encouraged to pedal (even when the ride propels you regardless of the pedals), or you are coached to pull yourself up a rope (though the ride will gradually lift you up regardless). I believe the boat ride mentioned earlier was so fun to my son because he had complete control of the steering. There is a fire truck ride where you even need cooperation from each of the four riders. Two take steering wheels while two must pump a bar up and down to get the fire truck to move. One ride even includes interaction for the spectators. The riders are in a pirate type ship squirting water at other boats (and beyond). There are also a few water squirters accessible to spectators, so they get the chance to squirt water to each boat as it passes. I am used to theme parks where you sit down, a bar comes over your lap, and you just watch as the ride takes off. Legoland has a whole different approach.
Everywhere you look, there are incredible things built from Legos. From larger than life people to miniature cities, I am amazed and inspired at the creativity of those who design these displays. For example, Miniland offers a tour of seven regions of the United States including New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Sections representing these cities are built to a scale of 20:1. Now seriously, if someone can design and put together monuments that look like those in our nation’s capitol, surely I can put something together that somewhat resembles a house. Or a car. Generally I try to stay away from creating space ships, which is mostly what my boys request I try to make. I don’t want to give away to them too early that I am so spatially impaired. But looking at everything around me - the crocodiles placed in the boat ride, the lego dog using the fire hydrant - even I am inspired to step up my game. Besides the artwork made by the professionals, there are places within the park where legos are placed and kids are encouraged to just build with what’s there. What a great way to both engage and unwind.
I read on the window of a hot dog stand: “Gluten free buns available at request”. Could I dare dream that there might be quality food at a theme park? Our lunch stop was at the Fun Town Market Restaurant. This was a large dining area with several choices for food. One end had a kids meal which had the typical options. For us more fussy parents there included a salad bar, a make-to-order stir fry station (you can easily hold the sauce), Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, and an assortment of baked goods or ice-cream for dessert. I know for some, food allergies can be a real concern. You can even check out a dietary needs page on the Legoland website which lists options for those who need gluten-free meals, which environments are nut free, etc. Meal prices are still what you usually see at a theme park, but at least the food is good.
As impressed as I am with this park, I think it will be a long time before we visit again in part because of the price of tickets. An adult ticket is $67, and tickets for kids (3-12) and seniors (60+) are $57. For a family of 2 adults and 2 kids, that’s $250 just to enter the park. We haven’t even talked about food, souvenirs, drinks, etc. That said, you can find coupons in various places. (Entertainment Book offers $5 off, Family Magazine and local media run occasional offers.) AAA members can receive a 10% discount. The best deal is to get tickets from Costco – AND there is one right in Carlsbad. There adults tickets are $55 and kids/seniors are $48.50.
I followed the advice of Bridget Smith who knows Legoland well. If you have younger kids, she suggested starting on the left side of the park, right around Fun Town and moving clockwise. If you have older kids, you may want to approach the park beginning on the right side. If you plan to visit Legoland you should check out her site, or even purchase her Legoland Guidebook.
Another tip I have learned is that if you are looking for rare lego parts within the park, you can enter free of charge as long as you leave the park within an hour.
Directly next door to Legoland is the new Sea Life Aquarium. I will be writing about our experience there on a later post.
Note: I received complimentary park passes, however this post is based solely on my own experience.