It’s been in Southern California since 1999, but until yesterday I’d never made it to Legoland California, nor had my children. Even though we’re all fans of Lego and the many amazing — and pricey — construction kits they offer. Heck, if you look very closely at my computer bag, you’ll see I have a Lego minifig Indiana Jones keychain helping ward off evil spirits (though one of his arms, the one with his signature whip, of course, fell off a long time ago. Sorry Indy!)
The reputation of Legoland is that it’s aimed at the toddler set, that it’s an amusement park that’s great if you have a 5yo or thereabouts in your entourage, but older kids and adults? That’s where Disneyland or SeaWorld San Diego take over. Still, the opportunity arose for us to explore Legoland California so we decided to drive up to Carlsbad, about 30min north of San Diego, and explore.
And to our surprise, we had quite a good time. Now, to be fair, it was hot, it was busy (one ride we skipped after learning it was a 2hr queue) and yes, there’s definitely a lot aimed at the younger set. But there was also a lot that was fun for older kids and adults too.
The Lego theme itself is super fun, starting with the just-opened Legoland Hotel at the front entrance:
We started on the extraordinarily benign kiddie ride “Fairy Tale Brook”, where I was a bit surprised to learn that Prince Charming apparently now has an iPhone, as you can see:
This leads to all sorts of questions about what kind of apps he’d have, whether he’s a big fan of the Clock app and its multiple alarms (get it?) and so on. We had plenty of time to think about that as the ride slowly wound around a park-like brook with little Lego scenarios tied loosely to Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. Quite cute.
Next we walked past – but decided not to line up – for the really neat looking “Volvo Driving School”. Very cool idea, actually, a fun way to teach kids the rules of the road on a mini-city layout:
Can you see the real person in the red sweatshirt? Makes me wonder if employees have nightmares about lifesize Lego characters coming to life and flinging pieces at them.
Oh, and $0.10 hot dogs? Yeah, that wasn’t representative of the price of food at Legoland. Let’s just say that it’s typical amusement park pricing for Southern California (that is, two kids ‘hot dog’ meals, a salad and a plate of fried veggies w/ chicken cost $50) and leave it at that.
One of the rides we enjoyed the most, once we got into the spirit of things, was “Fun Town Police and Fire Academy”, where you enter a life-size Lego fire truck or police car, pump a lever up and down for locomotion, then use water spray to put out the fire or knock over the bad guy. Surprisingly amusing:
What was the most fun was watching these otherwise mellow Dads go all super-competitive on this particular attraction. I mean, pushing their kids out of the way and really putting their back into the pumping so that their little Lego car would get to the other end of the track first. The kids were allowed to do the water spray (see pic, above) but making those cars go to the other end? That was all competitive Dads and, to a lesser extent, Moms. Quite amusing.
For me, the most impressive part of Legoland California was Miniland USA, where the trademark Lego reproductions of famous locations takes on a more local flavor, including this portion of Pier 39 in San Francisco:
That was all amazing, but where I really enjoyed seeing the result of the Lego Master Builders and their assembly efforts was in the Star Wars area. Yes, seeing these iconic scenes from the movies as scale Lego models was pretty darn neat.
Check it out:
I then got into a debate with this tall dude about who was whose father.
I dunno, he kept saying “I am your father” but I’m skeptical.
Then again, we were both in black:
In addition to the rides and gift shops, there are also lots of carnival games to part us fools from our money, and part us they did as I let my kids reaffirm that most of ’em are much harder to win than they look.
This one involves you having to climb all the way up the ladder without it flipping around and dropping you off:
Did we win the ridiculously large, hard-to-travel-with stuffie? Thankfully, no. Instead, just a small troop of little stuffies came home with us, including two Angry Birds and one unicorn pillow pet.
On our way out, rather tired, we swung through the Sealife Aquarium at Legoland and were impressed with the beautiful theming, but when compared to the sprawl of Legoland, it felt like it was, a big two story building with fish. Possibly worth going to and similar in feel to aquariums like the Denver Aquarium (a solid “B-” on my global aquarium scale, with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Baltimore’s National Aquarium scoring an “A” by comparison), but not at the end of a day of lines, heat, people and fun at Legoland. At that point, I just wanted to sit down and relax.
Overall, we had a good time at Legoland California. My kids particularly enjoyed the Technic Coaster and the Pirate Reef flume ride (they got off completely soaked. You’ve been warned!) and I think my favorite part was all the Star Wars miniatures Still, at almost $100/person for admission and typically expensive park food plus a separate fee for each “boardwalk attraction”, along with $15 for parking, it proved an expensive adventure. But as an alternative to Disneyland, etc, that’s more aimed for little ones? I’d definitely recommend it and even more so if you have a Lego fan in the house!
Disclaimer: Legoland California supplied us with four park admissions in return for this writeup. Helpful, but we still covered our own parking, food, amusements, etc.