Building Great Vacation Memories at Legoland
LEGOs had the reputation of being a “boys only” toy in my family. But last summer, my 6-year old daughter, Julianna, took a girls-only LEGO camp that inspired her inner-engineer.
So, I jumped at the chance to foster a love of STEM during a trip to LEGOLAND, in Carlsbad. The park, located about 35 miles north of San Diego, opened in 1999 and has steadily added attractions that appeal to the whole family.
What to Do
LEGO Friends Heartlake City, opened in 2015, is designed to appeal to young female engineers. Julianna took several spins on the carousel on horses that looked like giant LEGOs. The new area also has horse stables, with plenty of chances for girls to build. Our visit overlapped with a brutal heat wave, and Julianna cooled off by running through the sprinklers at the Heartlake Fountain.
Part of the fun of LEGOLAND is getting inspired by the hundreds of LEGO models, displays and figures throughout the park. Each one is built by a team of professional engineers. The figures are even given a coat of LEGO sun block to keep them in tip-top shape.
We took pictures in front of the Empire State Building and the Las Vegas Strip in Miniland USA. We strolled past Darth Vadar and the Death Star in the Star Wars section.
There’s a new Ninjago area at the park, for fans of the ninja series. The new land – based on the LEGO story of four young ninja heroes trained in the ancient martial art of Spinjitzu – features LEGO building stations, a game to test reflexes and spinners to test balance.
When your children get tired of building, there are rides to keep them entertained. The Dragon Coaster is a thrilling little ride perfect for the daring school-age child. There’s also a driving school where children can get their license.
Where to Stay
The LEGOLAND Hotel is just steps away from the entrance to the park, saving the hassles of parking and walking with tired kids. You also get early admission to the park for select rides, which is a great way of missing the lines, especially since the park has no equivalent of Disneyland’s Fastpass.
The hotel has been set up to give adults a chance to play, too. I enjoyed a drink at the bar and talk with a friend while Julianna played in the giant LEGO pirate ship in the lobby. There’s also an enormous pit of bricks in the lobby where kids can let their imaginations take over – and leave instruction books behind. Because there’s so much to do in an enclosed space, the hotel lets adults relax a bit. It was what I imagined parenting in the past must have felt like – when kids could be free to play out of the ever-watchful eyes of parents.
There are three different themed floors at the hotel. We were in the Adventure room with LEGO models of monkeys and butterflies.
Each room has a treasure chest, and when you check in you can get the clues to unlock the safe. Our chest had a sticky door, so I admit to cheating and double-checking the answers on the Web. (Just Google “LEGOLAND treasure chest.”) There were two LEGO minifigures and chocolate coins inside. Julianna traded the minis the next day for a Lisa Simpson figure. (See tips below on trading.)
There’s dance music and a strobe light in the elevator, so every trip to the lobby is a dance party.
The pool was a great place to take a break before dinner. Julianna was very comfortable in the water because the pool ranges from incredibly shallow (where even toddlers can walk) to the deep end. So kids can choose where they feel safe. You can get floaties and floating bricks (yes, you can even build in the pool!)
Where to Eat
We enjoyed the food at the Bricks Family Restaurant inside the hotel.
The buffet was set up so kids could choose their own food and plate it. But the reality was my 6-year-old still needed help getting things on her plate (rather than the floor) and getting it back to the table. We had one spill that required a clean-up crew.
The drink bar at the Skyline Café featured plenty of local beers and mixed drinks to keep adults entertained.The restaurants at the park had good healthy options of salad, teriyaki chicken bowls and plenty of fresh fruit. Unfortunately, the chocolate-dipped marshmallows and Rice Krispies treats were also at eye level for kids.
When to Go
Check the park’s calendar for closures. When we went in the fall, the water park was already shut for the season. Summer break and holidays are the busiest times at the park, so consider visiting during an off-season weekend.
Amy Ettinger is the online/social media editor for Bay Area Parent.
Tips For Building Great Memories at LEGOLAND
1. Bring a minifigure to trade or buy one in the park. Many LEGOLAND employees wear LEGO minifigures on their badges. If your kids have a minifigure they don’t want, they can ask to trade for one they like better.
2. On hot days, head to Pirate Shores and defend yourself with a water canon. There are full-body dryers for $5, if you take on too much water fire.
3. If your feet need a rest, head to the bumper boats or the Fairy Tale Brook ride.
4. You can score coupons to LEGOLAND. You can often find “buy one adult pass, get a free child’s pass” coupons in LEGO Club magazines. Coupons also are often available from PTAs or local library programs, as part of their summer reading programs. In addition, CityPASS Southern California passes provide a discount; the package deal includes one day at LEGOLAND, one day at Sea World and three days at Disneyland. Buying online from LEGOLAND in advance will also save you money.
5. Use the lockers at the front of the park to store water bottles, hand sanitizers and snacks.