The pilgrimage is over, and we’re back in New York just in time to see the last of the falling leaves. But re-entry has been hard for The Boy, and me too, for that matter.
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
We were invited to visit central Florida for the grand opening of LEGOLAND Florida, the world’s largest LEGOLAND theme park. The Boy has fervently played with these colorful plastic bricks since he started walking. I’m not alone in believing that LEGO is a wonderfully engaging and educational plaything. I believe that LEGO has encouraged his imagination, developed his analytical skills, and provided hands-on lessons in physics, engineering, and architecture.
But in his eyes, LEGO is just his favorite hobby. I wanted this trip for him.
WHY did you go there, exactly?
Three years ago, we went to the only other LEGOLAND park in the U.S., and trekked cross-country to Carlsbad, CA. We’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to compare the parks. Remembering how much fun we had there made the anticipation almost unbearable!
Okay, what was so cool about it?
As pilgrimages go, this one was quite rewarding. I am now The Boy’s favorite parent, at least until I make him write a guest post for this blog about his experience! (This was my condition for him to be able to miss a day of school for the trip.)
I’m glad we had two full days to explore the park, because at 150 acres, LEGOLAND offers too much to do and see in just one day. Depending on the time of year, the hours of operation here may limit you to just seven hours in which to cover ten distinct sections.
MY favorite part of the park was Miniland. I loved it so much that I’ll be dedicating a separate post to it in a week or so!
Beginning at the main entrance and throughout the park, there are several hands-on areas where LEGO pieces are out and available for recharging moments of creative play. The best of these is the indoor Racers Build and Test area, where kids build vehicles of their own design, then run them down a variety of ramps to test their fortitude and speed.
We found several rides and attractions unique to LEGOLAND, and to this park in particular. I enjoyed the 360° view when we ascended 150 feet in the air on the Island in the Sky. (The Boy… not so much.) It’s the perfect vantage point to take in the entire park, as well as Lake Eloise and the green citrus orchards beyond.
The Boy’s favorite was the Aqua Zone Wave Racers, which he remembered fondly from CA. We stood in yellow jet skis and raced around a circular central dock, while steering to avoid (or in his case, hit head on), fountains shooting water 15 feet into the air.
Since he’s now a “tween,” The Boy isn’t free-flowing with praise and enthusiasm. So it took me by surprise when I heard him exclaim “Awesome!” during the water ski show in Pirate’s Cove. During “The Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty,” the brave Imperial Soldiers fight Brickbeard the Pirate, who has captured Miranda Valentina.
The ski stunts are impressive, and the cast engages the audience in water cannon play and pirate talk. Here’s a short clip:
I can’t wait to bring my niece and nephew here. LEGOLAND excels in catering to the pre-school set, more so than any other theme park we have visited. DUPLO Village is an entire section dedicated to children five and under, with indoor and outdoor play spaces. There are also multi-level playgrounds and play spaces in the Land of Adventure and LEGO Kingdom sections for them to burn off energy. This park is not just about riding rides and watching shows.
Other points we enjoyed and appreciated:
▪ Finding LEGO sculpture in the least expected places, like the sailors caught in nets hanging from the rafters on the Boating School dock. Discovering them was like finding “hidden Mickeys” at Disney World.
▪ The Minifigure Market, a gift shop solely dedicated to the tiny LEGO figurines which have become affordable collectibles. The Boy was fixated on finding a boxer, and eventually got one. Park employees, or “Model Citizens,” attach them to their name badges and will trade with you.
▪ The cool comfort of the Fun Town Theater, which shows three different 4-D movies, complete with water, snow, and wind effects.
▪ The food options throughout the park are affordable (as theme parks go) and generally healthy (e.g. trans-fat free). You can easily find fruit cups, yogurt, and other kid-friendly options. But I also must give a well-deserved “shout out” for Granny’s Apple Fries, a LEGOLAND specialty.
This isn’t the healthiest way to eat an apple, but it IS one hundred ways to delicious! Dusted with cinnamon sugar and serve with a side of whipped cream, one $4.99 order was enough for the both of us (although we did both get grabby toward the bottom of the cup.)
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
If you (it’s okay to be a grown-up brickhead) or your kids love LEGO, then this park is an absolute 10. If you’ve never seen a LEGO before in your life, some of the thrilling bits will be lost on you. But you’ll still love it!
Skip it if your kids are in their teens, because there’s not enough for them to merit the relatively hefty price of admission.
Hey you! Go BIG!:
One LEGOLAND Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
Disclaimer: Our visit was sponsored by LEGOLAND.