April 21st, 2010
"I defer to your Euro superiority," I told Claus by phone, after my first trip to LEGOland. LEGOs are a Danish invention, and the first LEGOland was built in the toy factory's hometown of Billund, Denmark. I wanted to visit it when we went to Denmark last fall, but it was winter and therefore closed. The 128-acre Carlsbad, California theme park is my first exposure to LEGOland.
LEGOs, by the way, got their name from the Danish sentence "leg godt," which means "play well."
He laughed. "Why do you like it?"
I like that the games and rides seem more interactive. I like that it is geared towards little kids ages two to 12, so my child really enjoyed her brief time there.
We only did six rides plus a walk through Miniland USA, which is a massive replica of various American regions or cultural landmarks, of course all done in LEGOs. The line for most of the rides was comparable to the Disney parks - about half an hour for one ride.
Still, LEGOland seemed to have a more relaxed atmosphere, which reminded me of the European vibe I've experienced. I like to have a relaxed time.
Olivia had her first roller coaster ride with Coastersaurus. She did not like it, but she didn't cry. She did what she does with scary rides and buried her head in my side. After we got off she told me she didn't like it. Luckily, it was brief.
She also skippered her first boat in Skipper School. You sit in an electric powered boat and you are really steering it through a small course! I didn't realize it wasn't on a track, until Olivia pointed us backwards. I think that's so cute. I also think the park was smartly designed, because a lot of the lines are under the shade of canopies, and this particular ride had a little waiting area for the children to play - with LEGOs, of course - while the adults stood in line. Brilliant.
Her cousin Carson was old enough to qualify for the Volvo Junior Driving School (3-5 years). Unlike Disneyland's Autopia, where you sit with an adult and get funneled down a track, the children actually sit alone in an electric powered car and can steer themselves around a track. That was fun to watch.
Speaking of Volvo, I've heard that Volvos get VIP parking at Legoland, because Volvo is a big sponsor. We were not driving a Volvo, but maybe you should if you can get your hands on one. The parking is crazy. In fact, the line into LEGOland starts not too far after you get off the freeway exit!
There was a little car ride in which the car was on a track, but Olivia got to pretend she was driving. That's the Safari Trek, and she loved it. It was a pretty popular one, judging by the line.
If you go in the warm weather, take a bathing suit. The kids will go crazy for Water Works, which is a big area with fountains to run through and water guns to squirt. Actually, LEGOland Water Park is slated to open in June 2010. I bet that'll be a hit in hot Carlsbad.
SEA LIFE AQUARIUM at the LEGOland California Resort
Sea Life Aquarium sits right next to LEGOland, making it easy to just walk over and enjoy a cool underwater experience. You can go nose to nose with a variety of sea critters at this interactive guide to life in the ocean.
I like that it also focuses on conservation, "helping safeguard our seas and their inhabitants for the future," according to its website.
It has several touch pools, LEGO stations, and LEGO sculptures decorating most of the tanks. Everything feels accessible and engaging- you aren't just looking, you're doing.
This was a great place to sit out the heat of high noon, and I think two to four hours would be a good amount of time to spend. Honestly, the LEGO table and the touch pools could have easily held Olivia's attention for at least an hour, but we kept rushing the kids from room to room to make sure we saw everything and still squeeze in half a day at LEGOland.
At the end, there's a FANTASTIC cafe to sit and have lunch. The prices are reasonable, and more importantly for me, the food choices were healthy, while there weren't any lines to select or buy the food, or find a table. It was awesome. I had just come off three days at the Disney parks and I was very happy to eat at the Ocean Journey Cafe.
When I do this again, I am seriously considering staying at the adjacent hotel so that I don't have to deal with traffic in the morning. And I am definitely allocating one day a piece to each park; the half day we gave to LEGOland and Sea Life Aquarium was way too little.
People have asked me which park I favor. I honestly don't know, since I didn't spend enough time in the last three parks to really get a true flavor. If pressed, I want to say I like Disneyland as the sentimental favorite, but I think Olivia likes LEGOland.
But you know what? This needs more research. I'm already planning my return.
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