Oct 17 2011
LEGOLAND Florida is now open in Winter Haven, Florida, and at less than an hour’s drive from Orlando, it offers another option for families who enjoy central Florida’s theme parks.
The word “Lego” comes from the Danish “play well,” and families with young children can certainly play well at Legoland Florida. The park’s target audience is families with children ages 2-12, and younger children will indeed enjoy the rides, shows, and attractions in the park. I spent two days at Legoland Florida and still didn’t get a chance to do everything, so there’s plenty to do in the park, and Legoland Florida does well at reaching its target market.
I rode on nearly every ride I was allowed to, so I’ll give a rundown of several areas of the park. I’ll share plenty of photos, but if you want to see more, jump over to my Flickr page.
Legoland Florida is broken up into several different areas, each with its own look and feel. We’ll start at The Beginning (it’s a very good place to start), where The Big Shop, the Market Restaurant, and Guest Services are located.
The Big Shop is the park’s main store, and contains a good representation of the lines sold in the park, though not everything. If you’re shopping at the end of your day, it’s easy enough to move between the shops located near the entrance (Garden Shop, Studio Store, Big Shop) in looking for that perfect souvenir or gift, but there’s also a store at Driving School on the other end of the park that contains some extra Lego City items. If you can allow an hour for transport, purchases from elsewhere in the park can be taken to Guest Services for you to pick up at the end of your day. There’s no cost for this service.
The Lego Factory is found as you enter Fun Town, and it’s worth a few minutes to stop in and watch the short but cute video about how Lego bricks are made, and then to walk through a small factory demonstration area. At the end of the “tour,” kids might get a souvenir brick to take home. The shop at the Lego Factory is where you can buy Legos by the pound, choosing the shapes and colors you need to build your next masterpiece.
Fun Town is also where you’ll find the Studio Store, which focuses on Lego products that are movie and TV-related, such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Cars.
Near the entrance to Fun Town, don’t miss the short walkway to Island in the Sky, a ride from back in the Cypress Gardens days that slowly goes up in the air and rotates to give a birds’-eye view of the park and surrounding area. It’s not fast or scary, and you’ll sit back far enough from the railing and mesh that it shouldn’t scare even those who aren’t fond of heights.
The double-decker carousel is another historic part of the park, and if you like carousels, it’s worth a ride, albeit it short (five or six times around) and without carousel music.
Several more shops find their home in Fun Town, including the Minifigure Market, where you can make tiny Lego creations and keep them, or trade them with park employees (called “model citizens”) throughout your day at Legoland. There’s also a candy shop and a girl-themed gift shop, where you can find some Lego Belville sets. My girls liked getting some Lego sets that include pink bricks.
The Fun Town Theater shows 4-D movies in a large, air-conditioned theater with comfortable theater seats. There are currently three different films being shown throughout the day, and at 20-30 minutes long, offer a nice break that will keep even young kids entertained.
Next to the theater, the Pizza & Pasta buffet is an all-you-can eat food option that features pizza, pasta, and a salad bar.
Perhaps the most famous Legoland food item is found right next to the carousel. Granny’s Apple Fries are flour-coated, deep-fried apples sticks that are then coated with cinnamon and sugar and served with whipped cream. A $4.99 order is large enough to share, and they taste almost like apple pie, amusement-park style. Those who are less adventurous can simply purchase a Granny Smith apple if they prefer.
Bearing right from Fun Town, Duplo Village is next. Like Duplo blocks, Duplo Village is designed for the youngest of park visitors, with tot-sized rides and play areas.
Then it’s on to Lego Kingdoms, where I found my favorite ride, The Dragon. This smooth and not-too-scary roller coaster starts out with a pleasant indoor ride through rooms filled with Lego creations before heading outside for the coaster part. I’m not much of a roller coaster fan, but I really liked this one. It’s one of the few rides I went on twice.
Kingdoms also has a castle-themed shop and Castle Burgers, the Royal Joust, a just-for-kids track ride, Merlin’s Challenge, a round-and-round ride, and The Forestman’s Adventure, a climb-and-play playground.
Next up: Land of Adventure, which transports visitors through the Lost Kingdom Adventure, a target-shooting, points-gathering ride (hint: look for the cobra), and the Safari Trek, where Lego zebras and elephants blend in with the slow-moving safari vehicles.
Beetle Bounce has adult-sized seats so parents can ride with kids as they bounce up and down on the tower, and Coastersaurus is the only wooden roller coaster in the Legoland park system.
Kids will like Pharaoh’s Revenge, where they can shoot foam balls at each other.
As you enter LEGO City, the paths turn to black-topped streets at the entrance to The Big Test, a live-action show that’s enacted several times a day. From here, you can continue on to Boating School, where you steer a boat through a river; Driving School or Junior Driving School, where kids can drive their own cars and get a license at the end, and Flying School, a metal roller coaster.
Families can team up to put out “fires” at Rescue Academy, and it’s something to see the Ford Explorer made from Legos.
Then it’s off to Imagination Zone, where little builders and build and test their own Lego cars, or hoist themselves up the Kid Power Towers.
Along the shores of Lake Eloise, Pirates’ Cove is the amphitheater for the waterski show “Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty.” This 20-minute pirate-themed show includes audience interaction and some mild waterski stunts. For a bite to eat, try Cap’n Brickbeard’s Burgers.
The green bridge near Pirate’s Cove leads to the historic Cypress Gardens Botanical Gardens, where paths lead through the tranquil gardens to the famed Banyan tree and picturesque gazebo amid a wide variety of plants. Birds and butterflies also live in the gardens, making it a haven for nature-lovers. Bring some mosquito repellent if you’re going to do more than a quick walk-through, and your garden visit will be more enjoyable.
Getting back to the hustle and bustle, the Lego Technic area includes the one ride where you may get wet, the Aquazone Wave Riders. (I didn’t go on these, as they looked like they’d make me dizzy and I wanted to enjoy the rest of my day. I heard reports that they’re a lot of fun, though.)
I was really impressed with the interactivity of the Technicycle, a simple rotating ride that requires you to pedal your flyer if you want to keep it up high as opposed to simply pushing a button. I was winded by the end of the ride.
The Test Track coaster is a mad-mouse type coaster that’s a bit unnerving as you sit atop the track and make some sharp yet smooth turns.
The Lakeside Sandwich company offers breakfast refreshments in the morning and sandwiches later in the day.
So, there you have it, Legoland Florida with all of its rides and attractions.
Except . . .
I saved the best for last: Miniland.
Found in the center of the park, Miniland is composed of 30 million bricks that recreated famous American landmarks in a scaled-down Lego format. Each is extremely detailed, and the sheer number of buildings and scenes is impressive. My favorite part of the day was walking through Miniland and listening to kids as they recognized landmarks and exclaimed, “The made THAT from Legos!” There are 5258 “minilanders,” or little Lego people, who “live” in Miniland. This is the area of the park that will inspire creativity and imagination in kids, to show some of the endless projects that can be made from Lego bricks. I walked through Miniland a half-dozen times over two days, and each time I noticed something new. While the rest of Legoland Florida is fun and entertaining and just right for families with young children, Miniland is what makes it LEGOland. (These are just a few Miniland photos. Check my Flickr page for many, many more.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed this run-through of Legoland Florida. I’ll be writing a few more articles about more specific things in the park, but my overall impression is that it’s a fun and family-friendly park.
A reader asked how much of the park could be enjoyed by the entire family, and as a mom who often has to sit on the sidelines with the timid kids, or watch the little ones go on the tot rides, I understood that question completely. The parts of the park that our whole family (kids 5-10, some of whom don’t like coasters) could enjoy together are: all of the shows; the carousel; Lego Factory; Build & Test; Lost Kingdom Adventure; Beetle Bounce; Boating School; Technicycle, Rescue Academy; Safari Trek; Island in the Sky; the botanical gardens; and of course Miniland. If we saw all the shows, it would be hard for us to do all of that in a single day, so I’ll say that it’s good for whole-family fun if your kids are pre-teens.
Restrooms are plentiful and easy to find, food prices are reasonable for amusement parks, and the Lego sets in the shops are a nice alternative to the usual amusement park souvenirs. Directional signs are helpful throughout the park. Staff throughout the park are friendly and helpful, and the park is clean and bright.
Ticket prices at Legoland Florida are currently $75 for adults and $65 for children ages 3-12 and seniors 60+, but for those who can visit for more than one day (which I’d recommend), you can upgrade to a 2-day pass at Guest Services for $15/person, or buy an annual pass is $129 for adults and $99 for kids that offers unlimited visits. Legoland Florida has also partnered with some “Bed & Brick” hotels in the Orlando and Tampa areas that offer special hotel/admission packages.
The park’s regular hours are from 10-5, although extended hours may be available at certain times of year. For single-day visitors, these short hours will be a drawback, as there’s more here to see and do than can be accomplished in one day.
After showing my kids the photos I took at Legoland Florida, they’re begging to go, and if we make it to the Orlando area, it will be on our family’s list of things to do.
If you have specific questions about Legoland Florida, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Legoland Florida paid for my expenses to visit Florida for the grand opening of Legoland Florida. I chose what to write and how to share the experience with my readers.