Mar 14 2012
As soon as we announced our California trip to our children, our 8-year-old had only one request: Legoland.
Legoland theme parks are a whole lot more than the Lego store and play area at Mall of America. Legoland comes complete with rides and shows, but also has an array of impressive Lego block creations thrown in for good measure. Since I’d already been to Legoland Florida and knew that it met its target market of 2- to 12-year-olds very well, I agreed that it would be a good stop for our family with kids ages 6-11. It did not disappoint.
We arrived at the park bright and early and had time to get our tickets before the gates opened. There was a group of people waiting to get in on a February Friday morning, but not large crowds like at the San Diego Zoo.
It was our first time in the park, so we chose the let’s-see-what-we-find approach and headed to the left. First stop was Coastersaurus and it was a hit with everyone. The ride isn’t long, so they let us go around twice before boarding the next group.
From there, we wandered through the park and rode on almost all the rides that were open. We took a few minutes to see how Legos are made, and enjoyed the interactive musical fountain.
As is Legoland’s style, Lego creatures and people are part of the landscape.
The Volvo driving school allows kids to drive on “real” roads with lanes and stop lights in little Lego cars. At the end, they earn a paper drivers license.
For lunch, we tried the Brickolini restaurant with its variety of pizza and pasta. The portions were large, leading my husband and me to wish we’d split an entree. Kids meals were on the spendy side at $6.99 but included a souvenir cup that could be refilled in the park (which stocks Coke products) for $.99.
We’re not big souvenir spenders on vacation, but we’d promised the kids they could each get a minifigure at Legoland. They opted for the prepackaged minifigures ($2 for series 5 closeouts, $3 for the new series 6) instead of making their own (3 for $10), and gladly accepted the clerk’s offer of a scissors so they could cut the bag open and build their minifigures on the spot. Trading the minifigures was also part of the fun, although many “model citizens” (staff) did not have minifigures on their name tags.
Wandering around Legoland California was low-key. If we found a ride, we went on it, with 20 minutes being our longest wait. We walked through Miniland and oohed and aahed at the variety of Lego buildings and details there, and the new Star Wars section of Miniland was a hit with our family. The narrated boat ride gave us an up-close look at more of Miniland.
We got to Legoland at 10 a.m. and stayed until park closing at 5 p.m. Looking back now, it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what we did for those seven hours, but I do know that we enjoyed the entire time. The rides and such aren’t as memorable as those at, for example, Disneyland, but the day was filled with fun and more than one child begged to repeat a ride or two.
What I do remember clearly is that we wished we’d had another full day at the park. Our tickets included admission to the adjacent SeaLife Aquarium, and we didn’t have time to step foot in there. We didn’t see any of the shows at Legoland, or sign up for any of the building sessions and workshops, and the waterpark was closed. And despite our children’s begging, we didn’t get to repeat any rides.
For those visiting southern California with pre-teen kids, Legoland is worth a stop. With the ability to add a second day for $15, first-time visitors should consider this option if they can spend the extra time.
Our day at Legoland California was a happy day. Older kids might miss the excitement of bigger thrill rides, but for younger, or ride-timid kids, Legoland hits the mark perfectly.
Legoland California Tips
- The rides are “pink-knuckle” rides, and most are tame enough for young children.
- There’s a Duplo play zone for the youngest visitors, and family restrooms are plentiful.
- Keep your eyes open for Lego creations in unexpected parts of the landscape.
- There are a variety of ticket prices and combination options. Pick the one that’s right for your family.
- Sign up for the free Lego Club magazine for your children well ahead of your trip. It often includes coupons such as free child’s admission with purchase of an adult ticket.
- I thought the food was on the expensive side, but the portions were large. Try sharing a meal. There are health-conscious choices available.
- A 20-oz. bottle from the Coke machine is $3.35. Consider the $.99 kids-cup refills instead.
- Be sure to try the Granny’s Apple Fries, a unique Legoland favorite.
- If a Model Citizen has a minifigure on his or her nametag, it’s fair game for trading. Just ask.
- Though there’s lots to do in the park, it’s quite compactly laid out, so getting from one side to the other for to reach a specific restaurant or ride is not out of the question.
- General parking is $12. If you drive a Volvo, you get a better spot than everyone else.
- Legoland is in Carlsbad, California. From downtown San Diego, it’s about 45 minutes north, and from Anaheim, 60-90 minutes south.
Disclosure: Our family was provided with four media preview tickets to visit Legoland.