Legoland California: The Complete Guide
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Discover The Best Tourist Destination for Children's
Opened in 1999, Legoland California was the first Lego theme park in the US (Now there are also Legoland parks in Florida and New York). As with other Legoland parks in the United States and around the world, the focus is on children under 12 and their families. Based on the popular toy brand and its characters, many of the attractions and other elements in the park appear to have been made from brightly colored bricks.
The heart of Legoland is Miniland U.S.A., featuring elaborate miniature dioramas all made from Lego blocks. Exhibits depict famous sites and landmarks across the country, including facsimiles of Hollywood's Chinese Theater and hanging surfers; Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39 in San Francisco; the Las Vegas Strip and its iconic casinos; the French Quarter of New Orleans; Lego versions of the White House and the Capitol building; and miniatures of the skyscrapers of New York and Central Park.
In addition to the theme park, Legoland California offers two additional gates (each requires a separate entrance). Visitors can cool off and enjoy the slides, water recreation areas and other resources at Legoland and Chima Water Park, while the Sea Life Aquarium features marine life exhibits specially designed for children.
The theme park is large and packed with things to see and experience and with two hotels on-site (which, like everything else on the property, is geared toward families with young children), Legoland California is a true tourist destination.
Legoland California Highlights
Because it is geared towards children, Legoland tours are mostly lightweight. (There are some that provide a modicum of excitement.) Rather than passive tours, many of the attractions engage visitors with interactive elements. There are even opportunities to build things with Lego pieces and accessories. Since some rides have minimum height requirements of up to 30 inches and others have no height requirements, even the youngest children will find plenty to do in the park.
At many of the attractions, children get in on the action. For example, they can drive their own miniature cars at driving school and can get a Legoland driver's license if they correctly follow the rules of the road. There is a junior driving school for children from 3 to 5 years old.
At Kid Power Tower, visitors get up and fall to the ground. In Aquazone Wave Racer, passengers must pilot their vehicles to avoid gusts of water, and at Skipper School, they can freely drive boats around a lagoon. The Fun Town Police and Fire Academy recruits visitors to rescue a burning building using fire hoses. In the high-tech Lego Ninjago the Ride, passengers use martial arts-like hand gestures to launch lightning bolts and other virtual weapons at villains.
Legoland California also offers some extreme thrills (though, the "pink joint" variety) on roller coasters like Coastersaurus, The Dragon (who travels outdoors and into a castle to take on the eponymous creature), and the Lego Technic roller coaster. There's also the Lost Kingdom Adventure interactive dark tour, a Safari Trek featuring Lego animal encounters, and Lego City: Deep Sea Adventure, an underwater journey aboard a real submarine.
Among the park's shows is the wildly fun The Lego Movie 4D A New Adventure. The 4D presentation features Emmet, Unikitty, and other characters from the hilarious film series. Other 4D programs include Lego City 4D - Officer in Chase! and Lego Ninjago: Master of the 4th Dimension.
Legoland and Chima Water Park Highlights
Legoland's water park has the usual suspects, including body slides, a treadmill slide, a family raft ride, a wave pool, and an interactive water play station with a garbage can. It also offers Pirate Reef, a target shooting boat ride where everyone gets soaked.
But the water park is also unique because, as the theme park, it offers some hands-on, interactive experiences. For the Build-A-Raft River, guests can customize their inner tubes with large Lego bricks before floating down a lazy river. In Eglor's Build-A-Boat, kids can use bricks to create a boat and then compete against other participants. At Imagination Station, visitors can use Duplo bricks to build bridges, dams, and other structures on the water.
For children, the park also offers miniature fun. At Splash Zoo, kids can play with Duplo animals, while at Duplo Splash Safari, there are sprinklers and other ways for kids to get wet and more.
Where to Eat
It's designed for kids 12 and under, but Legoland California has options to appeal to parents (and kids with more sophisticated palates). Of course, there are burgers, mac n cheese, and pizza. But there are also banh mi sandwiches, spicy rice and pasta dishes, porchetta, and pesto chicken salad on the menu. A good option is Knight's Smokehouse BBQ, featuring pulled pork, beef brisket, and other delicacies cooked on-site in a wood-burning smoker. Craft beer is also available to those 21 and older.
For treats, Legoland offers ice cream, churros, popcorn and other traditional dishes from the park. Grandma's Apple Fries, one of the park's most unique and exclusive items, features Grandma's apple slices wrapped in cinnamon sugar and vanilla cream.
Day passes are available to the park. Children up to 3 years old do not pay; everyone else pays the same price. Legoland often sells discounted advance tickets online at its official website. Sometimes they also offer 2-day discounted tickets on their website.
Separate ticket required for Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland and Chima Water Park. Visitors can purchase a la carte tickets to the aquarium, but to enter the water park, you must first have a theme park pass. (The entrance to the water park is inside the theme park). Generally, there are packages available that include Legoland park and one or both attractions. The resort also generally offers hotel packages that include accommodation at their on-site properties and passes to the park, water park, and aquarium.
Legoland offers annual passes, which come in a variety of tiers. The higher tiers, which cost more, include added perks like aquarium and water park admission, fewer blackouts, and free parking.
Where to stay
Legoland California offers two on-site properties: Legoland Hotel and Legoland Castle Hotel. The rooms, which come in a variety of configurations, have Lego-inspired themes, including Lego Ninjago and pirates at the Legoland Hotel, and knights and dragons at the Castle Hotel. Both properties offer easy access to the park, water park and aquarium, as well as swimming pools, recreation areas and other amenities. Breakfast is included at the Legoland Hotel.
The best time to visit
The theme park and the aquarium are open all year. The water park is open every day in June, July and August, as well as some days in March, April, May, and generally on weekends only in September and October.
Crowds tend to be largest in March and early April during spring break, June and July during summer, and late December during the holidays. If you want to avoid crowds, the less frequent periods are late January, mid-August, September and early December.
Legoland California is located in Carlsbad, California at One Legoland Drive. The complex is about 30 minutes from San Diego. On the I-5 freeway, take the Cannon Road exit. Nearby airports include San Diego (SAN) and Los Angeles International (LAX). There is also a smaller airport nearby, Carlsbad.
Tips for visiting
- You may want to visit during the fall, when the crowds are usually quite light and the park hosts its Halloween event, Brick-or-Treat. The intrepid event includes special shows, trick-or-treating stations, costume contests, and character encounters.
- Although the audience is most intense during the holidays (especially late December), Legoland decorates its rooms with Lego-themed decorations. It also offers a Christmas light show, seasonal treats, and live music.
- Go San Diego offers passes that include discounted admission to Legoland California (as well as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, and other area attractions). Options include: the All Inclusive pass, which offers unlimited access to the number of attractions you want to visit for a specified number of days; or the Build Your Own pass, which offers discounted prices on specific attractions.
- The regular CityPASS program includes Legoland California in its program. In the past, CityPASS charged a price for the Southern California pass and offered entry to Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo, in addition to Legoland.
- The San Diego Tourism Authority offers the San Diego Fab 4 combo offering. The discounted pass includes admission to Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
- Take advantage of early admission. Guests of Legoland hotels can enter the park before the general public.
- If you visit during a particularly busy period, you may want to consider purchasing Reserve N Ride, Legoland's line reduction program. It comes in three varieties, all of which allow visitors to make travel reservations and skip the lines; the more you pay, the less time you will have to wait before embarking on tours.
- Download the Legoland mobile app before your visit. Offers resources to help you plan your visit, as well as to enjoy your experiences in the park. The app can be used to purchase tickets, find out about tour wait times, access deals and discounts, view showtimes, and much more.
- If you have young children who don't meet height requirements, take advantage of the park's parent exchange program. All members of your family can wait in line together and parents can switch places when they travel and stay with their children without having to go back in line.
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