A couple months ago, I took my nephews to LEGOLAND, California. Being a Disney aficionado, I had to go in with an open mind, knowing that this park wasn’t designed as Walt intended as one for kids of all ages – but instead literal kids. LEGOLAND is indeed aimed at almost exclusively at children. Once I accepted that fact, I enjoyed watching my nephews enjoy the park.
We went on a Saturday and although the park didn’t feel crowded, lines early in the morning were very long – sixty to ninety minutes for some of the kiddie coasters. Instead of waiting, we decided to just walk around and see what there was to see before committing to a long wait.
As indicated on the park map, there are 102 attractions in the park (that includes shops, dining, and playgrounds.) It’s a daunting task for anyone who hasn’t done their research beforehand. But the park is decorated well enough to be enjoyed even without actually riding anything.
We spotted some “Singing Rocks,” which reminded me of the gnomes from Disney’s classic 80’s fantasy film, “Return to Oz.” Amusing.
Once we came upon Fun Town, we definitely had to stop so my nephew could ride the Junior Driving School. It’s an opportunity for young kids to get behind the wheel under their own control, a unique chance for freedom from parents.
He was thrilled and it suddenly became obvious that this is what LEGOLAND California is all about.
Throughout the day, I was reminded of the fact that most of LEGOLAND’s attractions require kids to go on without their parents. I’m sure the little kids get a huge feeling of pride and self-confidence. But being a big kid at heart, this made me feel just like that time when I was 13 and told I was too big to jump in the bouncy house. Not fair!
But while parents may need to watch from the sidelines for most attractions, the smiles on kids’ faces make up for it, sort of. (I still really wanted to ride…)
The Fun Town Police and Fire Academy attraction was also fun for the boys. Families work together to power a fire truck and then shoot water cannons at “burning” buildings. There are quite a few attractions that are guest powered. One can certainly get a workout at LEGOLAND.
The Adventurer’s Club was a surprise hit for my group, adults and kids alike. It’s a walk-through of various “adventurous” environments including a Pharaoh’s Tomb and an Ice Cave. I know it sounds simple but it was actually quite charming. There were some neat effects that were triggered by interaction with park guests. My 2-year-old nephew became a bit nervous. Parents, use your judgment for the little ones.
In Pirate’s Shores, my nephew was insistent that we ride the pirate ship, an attraction called Splash Battle. You ride around on a ship with a hand-cranked water cannon shooting other ships and landlubbers armed with their own water cannons. Not wanting to be wet on a cool day, we brought ponchos. Probably overkill, but better safe than sorry.
And we definitely got plenty wet.
The attraction was cute but I didn’t quite understand why the boats hovered OVER the water rather than sailed THROUGH it. Regardless, it was a short wait and fun. This type of simple fun is another of LEGOLAND’s draws. The attractions may not be elaborate but they are enjoyable.
My favorite attraction was The Dragon, located in the Castle Hill area of the park. This is a well themed medieval area.
The ride is a combination dark ride and roller coaster. The dark ride portion was a journey through a castle where you meet knights, a wizard, and a dragon. And in its queue, there was a not-so-subtle nod to Disney’s “Fantasia.”
The Lost Kingdom Adventure is a the most high-tech of LEGOLAND’s attractions, an interactive dark ride in which guests shoot at targets – like Buzz Lightyear’s Astroblasters at Disneyland.
No trip to LEGOLAND is complete without seeing Miniland – miniature cities built entirely out of LEGO bricks. Incredible, and probably the most enjoyable area for adults who can appreciate the intricate detail worked into each sculpture, along with a great sense of humor.
And of course, Star Wars Miniland was just as impressive.
Located just next door to LEGOLAND is Sea Life Aquarium. We really enjoyed this attraction, with a lot to see and experience. The floor plan is laid out in such a way that you can easily experience everything. It’s definitely worth the price of an upgrade, especially with its LEGO touches worked in.
We had tickets to the water park but, being in Southern California, the temperature was only in the low 70s and the wind was blowing a cool ocean breeze. The park is oddly located inside LEGOLAND, requiring admission for both for access. That will have to wait for a return trip on a hotter day.
LEGOLAND California was a fun place to take my nephews, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for adults traveling alone. Of course, LEGOLAND doesn’t mind that kind of feedback as the park is designed with young kids as the target audience, encouraging families to arrive together and put children at the center of attention.
If a kid-oriented day trip sounds like a nice change from the usual jaunt to Disneyland, stop in and see the park that LEGO built. It’s just two hours away from the Mouse House.
More photos from LEGOLAND California:
(Photos by Josh Daws)