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What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

My Take on LEGOLAND Florida

LEGO storeEditor’s Note: The Boy, now 13, hates when I put conditions on some of the fun writing assignments I have. But the quid pro quo for getting to visit LEGOLAND Florida again was that he had to write another post. Here’s his take:

This summer, I was lucky enough to go to LEGOLAND Florida for a second time. The first time was on the Grand Opening day, and Mom and I had to lie to my sister and tell her we were going to Czechoslovakia. This time we had tried not to mention the whole “Czechoslovakia” thing as The Girl was with us.

LEGOLAND has improved in some very large ways, as well as some smaller ways. One of the main ways it has improved is offering the VIP Experience. Being a VIP allows you to have an assistant and some free meals, as well the chance to meet a master builder. This master builder was one of three master builders on staff of LEGOLAND, and he was the builder I met last time I was there.

LEGO master builder

As a VIP, you get the Hero Access pass to go to the front of the lines, so you get to essentially cut the lines. And you get a cabana at the water park (which could be a life saver, as it was with us).  If you are going to go to the water park, this is the way to do it right.

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What’s New at the World’s Largest LEGOLAND, Winter Haven, FL

LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida

We covered a lot of ground on our trip to Florida this summer, and, finally, The Girl got the chance to visit LEGOLAND® Florida, the world’s largest LEGOLAND theme park.

Two years ago, we were invited to visit for the grand opening, but I only brought her older brother, who was the real LEGO fan…at the time. Since then, she’s almost caught up to his level of fervor for the colorful plastic bricks. She especially loves the “Friends” line just for girls.

So, our visit was successful in alleviating my motherly guilt about not bringing her the first time, but also in seeing what’s been introduced since it opened.

Editor’s Note: Check back on Friday, when The Boy will offer his own LEGOLAND review!

New LEGOLAND highlights include:

LEGO World of Chima

There’s an entirely new area of the park called the LEGO World of Chima, which complements the animated show on Cartoon Network. There are several rides and activities, the highlight being “The Quest for CHI” wet ride. You board watercraft in small groups, and battle other boats with water cannons. There’s a definite masculine vibe here, especially at the Speedorz Arena where you race rip cord LEGO vehicles.

World of Chima

World of Chima

The VIP Experience

Another new offering at LEGOLAND Florida is the VIP Experience, which we were able to experience as part of our hosted media tour. With this package, you’re escorted by a private guide, you get “Hero Access” to skip the ride lines, and you get a snack and lunch.

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THE BOY’S TAKE: LEGOLAND Florida

I knew that taking The Boy with me to the grand opening of LEGOLAND Florida last month would be worth my while, in terms of getting extra chores done around the house and all. But another condition he needed to agree to was to write his own post about his experience.

So, the following is the unedited, heartfelt review of the world’s largest LEGOLAND, from an 11-year old boy. He even took some of these photos, and decided where to place them within this post.

I especially like his use of the word “delectable” in the “Tips” section!

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LEGOLAND

The Beginning

What I liked the best and why

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World’s Largest LEGOLAND, Winter Haven, FL

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.

LEGOLAND

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.)

LEGOLAND

Who do you love more, me or Dad?

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.

Island in the Sky

Island in the Sky, overlooking Lake Eloise

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.

Aqua Zone Wave Racers

I got soaked on this one. Considering the heat, that was a good thing.

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.

Brickbeard

Brickbeard's ship in Pirate's Cove

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.

butterfly

Loved finding LEGO creations in unexpected places, like this butterfly hanging in the Garden Shop!

▪ 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.

Fries

It was a fight to the finish...

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!:

LEGOLAND Florida
One LEGOLAND Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
(877) 350-LEGO(5346)

Einstein

Picking Einstein's nose. Such a classy kid.

Disclaimer: Our visit was sponsored by LEGOLAND.

 

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PHOTO FRIDAY – World’s Largest LEGOLAND, Winter Haven, FL

We have arrived. The Boy is finding it difficult to fill his lungs with air. Maybe I’ve mentioned, he’s a bit of a LEGO freak. Those plastic bricks have covered our floors since he was three years old. I have permanent dot indentations on the bottom of my feet. (If I connect them, I can make out Orion’s Belt.)

LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida

We’re here in Winter Haven, FL, halfway between Orlando and Tampa, for the Grand Opening Celebration of LEGOLAND Florida. And we don’t know where to go first. Today, we’ll definitely hit the Ford Driving School so he can drive a LEGO car through the city streets (no tracks!). The LEGO® TECHNIC area looks promising, too.

Tomorrow we’ll be back for more. Next week, I’ll tell you all about the world’s largest LEGOLAND. If I can convince The Boy that his home is actually NOT here.

It’s just me and The Boy on this trip. It took some subterfuge to keep it from The Girl, because she would not take kindly to being left out. (It just wasn’t in the budget.) We told her that we were going to Czechoslovakia on a middle school field trip. Mainly because she can’t quite say “Czechoslovakia.”

Have you ever traveled with just one of your children? Did you have to lie to the others? Am I doomed to be immortalized in her future therapy sessions?

Disclaimer: Our visit is being sponsored by LEGOLAND.

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