Honestly, Legoland has never been on my personal Bucket List. I’m not a huge amusement park girl (even Disneyland doesn’t do it for me), but I knew the boys (all three of them!) would love a weekend in the building block capital of the world. So when a deal came up on Plumdistrict, I jumped. Two nights at the Grand Pacific Palisades (on the Legoland California campus in Carlsbad) and two-day park hopper passes … all at about half the price we’d usually pay for a weekend at the resort. Here’s my take as a mama of two boys as I learned the ins-and-outs of the Legoland adventure.
Good to know:
Check the calendar. Legoland is closed Tues/Wed throughout the winter months. We knew this well in advance, but there were lots of angry parents showing up at the gates on Tuesday assuming the park would be open. If you do happen to arrive on a dark day, just head over the Sea Life Aquarium. It’s open even when the park is closed and was surprisingly awesome despite some lackluster reviews I’d read online. (Lots of interactive exhibits … tastefully designed … perfect size for small legs … and still lots of Legos – everywhere you look.)
Wait until they’re 36 (inches). There are a few rides at Legoland that smaller monsters will enjoy, but most require kids to be at least 36 inches tall (and 40-42 for the larger roller coasters). If you’re taking two kids of different ages, make sure you take another adult with you in case one kid has to wait on the bench until the ride is over.
BYOF. Some parks don’t allow you to bring your own food, but Legoland is cool with it. Save yourself some way overpriced water, juice and sandwiches by packing your own.
Allow 2 days, especially if you have kids under 4. The park isn’t overwhelming large, but we definitely started skipping attractions in the late afternoon to get through it all (the park closes @ 5 p.m.). If you really want to 1) enjoy it, 2) not stress, and 3) shop for Legos without screaming at your kids to hurry up, plan for at least some Legoland fun on Day 2.
Get ready to get active. One of the coolest things about Legoland (in my opinion) is that the rides were all super interactive, forcing you to pedal your way over a roller coaster, pull your way up a rope, or drive your own car around a racetrack. This is not a sit-back-and-enjoy kind of park. You’ll get a workout on every single ride.
Beware the sales pitch. The Grand Pacific Palisades resort is a timeshare and came with some prompt pressure to attend a sales session as soon as we arrived. (Literally – we didn’t even have our room key, and they were already trying to pressure us to listen to their pitch.) Though the resort itself was nice, this really rubbed us the wrong way. (“Um – do you not see that I’m holding a hungry/screaming 2-year-old right now, and that my 4-year-old is trying to throw himself head first into the pool???”) Not the most parent-friendly situation in my opinion. They did upgrade us to a two-bedroom villa, however, so I can’t complain too much about service overall.
No matter what you do – don’t overplay the Star Wars card! I knew there was a Star Wars component at Legoland, but I didn’t realize it was just a display of Lego-ized Star Wars characters and space ships. Oops! Don’t get me wrong – the displays were cool – but I had definitely told my sons there’d be rides and interactive Star Wars exhibits. Get it straight, mamas! Or your kids will be as disappointed as mine.
Last but not least: do your best to get a bargain. A hopper pass is $82 a pop for kids 3-12, and even more for grown ups (i.e. Legoland is NOT a cheap way to spend the day). Try to find a deal in advance if you know what’s good for you.