Today, Central Florida welcomed a new Theme Park to the mix. Legoland has now officially opened it’s doors to guests. More than just a pile of glimmering plastic bricks 45 minutes west of Orlando, Legoland offers a vast array of exciting kids rides as well as a tribute to the beloved Cypress Gardens park that preceded it. The 150 acre Legoland Florida is the 5th Legoland park in the world.
I will go into detail on each land and what to expect in detail around the park, but here are some of the basics. It’s a young kids park, and that’s not a bad thing, it just is. The best way i can describe it, is Disney has a ton of kids rides, but they are still fun for adults… mostly because of the way Disney creates memories. Legoland doesn’t have that magic. They are just kids rides, but extremely enjoyable kids rides. I saw nothing but smiles. Teenagers may be too old to enjoy most of the park, so it’s for 12 and younger. Also, most rides require an adult or taller sibling if your child is 48 inches or under.
Don’t be fooled, the park is off the beaten path of I-4. Cypress Gardens was built to be close to US 27, a major north/south route a half century ago. Today, it’s a 45 minute drive from either Orlando or Tampa. On the other hand, it is all major roads, I-4 and US 27, and is very easy to find.
Ticket Prices. Legoland has a hard time justifying it’s prices to me. Ages 3-12 are $65 and 13+ are $75. Compare that to a one-day Disney pass that is $71 for 3-9 and $76 for 10+. That’s not enough of a difference to me to get people to drive out of Orlando down to Winter Haven for a day. I know I’m biased, but as much as the attractions pleasantly surprised me a Legoland, why not pay the same price for a Magic Kingdom experience? They also offer annual passes for $129/$99, the annual plus (free parking and merchandise/food discounts) for $159/$129, the senior (65+) pass good on weekdays for $85, and the lifetime pass good at all Legoland parks for $2500. Parking for cars is $12 and the operating hours are 10-5 daily.
Legoland is nothing if not interactive. And one of the amazing little treats is the Mini Figure trading with Cast Members!
There is a store to purchase and make your own Mini Figures. $9.99 gets you 3 Mini Figs where you choose the head, body, legs, headgear and accessories. You can also just build some Mini Figs and stick them on the above giant Lego guy.
You can also buy blind bag mini figs. You trade with Cast Members off their specially made Lego name tags with Mini Figs attached! A great move by Lego.
The food prices are very reasonable compared to other theme park fare. The burgers and fries are around six bucks and the pizza/pasta/salad buffet is $10.99 for adults and $6.99 for kids and includes drink. The buffet was what we sampled on our trip and I have to say it was not very good. The pasta was extremely mushy with dried sauce. The pizza was your run of the mill amusement park pizza. The best part was the salad bar where the lettuce was fresh and the toppings plentiful. There were the usual ice cream and beverage carts throughout the park. And snack stands with funnel cake and other favorites.
There is a photo package available at the end of every ride you get on. They are a bit steeply priced and in my opinion, the cameras are not in the optimal place to catch the best emotion.
Legoland souvenirs carry similar price tags as the same merchandise in competing parks. Kids can even get a Legoland Lego City Drivers License, but at $14.99, it can be easily passed up.
The greatest long term asset Legoland holds is is beauty. It’s a gorgeous place.
The homage to Cypress Gardens begins out front with a Lego Southern Belle and continues through much of the park with green areas and wonderfully landscaped gardens that are delicately infused with lego creatures.
There is also the preserved Cypress Botanical Gardens. Just walk across the bridge and be transported into the gardens of old. Children will not find this exciting, but adults will enjoy this one and only sanctuary.
There is one piece of plastic in this area, but again, its a great added touch to the landscape. A blue clad Southern Belle sits on a bench at the foot of a magnificent creek and green hill.
Other parks have character meet and greets, Legoland has Lego characters set up all over the park creating many great photo ops.
The entrance to Legoland begins with a beautiful tree-lined walkway up to the ticket booths and turnstiles. The entrance to the park is called simply “The Beginning”.
This park entrance/exit area has a coffee shop and bakery, guest services and The Big Shop. As the name implys, The Big Shop is the parks largest gift shop and is home right now to the official Grand Opening merchandise.
They have shirts, mugs, tumblers and other items. The store is also full of the latest and most popular Lego sets.
There is also plenty of other merchandise with the Legoland logo on it. Some for kids and some more stylish clothing for teens and adults.
One of the neatest items was this advent calendar Lego sets.
A lego a day at Christmas!!! That’s cool. As you turn the corner, you see, towering high above the park, one of the leftovers from the Cypress Gardens days.
Island in the Sky is a refurbished attraction that rises guests high above the treetops. Next to that is the old double-decker carousel, again from a bygone era.
The first land you will come to is Miniland USA. This area is just flat out incredible.
7 specilty lands built out of litterly millions of Legos. The first stop is Florida with NASA’s Kendedy Space Center the centerpiece.
There is a space shuttle on the launchpad with a countdown clock and spectators. The visitors center and giant Vehicle Assembly Building are also laid out. There are also plenty of sounds and motion to go along with the Legos.
A voice gives guests a “tour” of the space center and at 0:00 on the clock, the shuttle roars to life letting out steam and sounds mocking a lift off. Also a part of Florida is Key West, Miami, the Everglades, Tampa and Tallahassee.
It would take hours in Miniland to really recognize all the little vignettes spread around the cities, but my favorite was in St. Aguistine. It’s the fountain of youth.
And it’s little jokes like this that make this are truly special. Las Vegas, DC, NYC, Hollywood, SF and Pirates Cove are all represented.
All with moving vehicles and push-button interactive scenes. The mall in Washing D.C. was stunning.
And the First Family was represented in a moving motorcade.
The Land of Adventure has a wooden roller coaster called Coastersaurus.
As expected, there are Lego Dinos all around. It’s a fun kids coaster that will have a decently long queue on a busy day as it’s a short track with only one coaster. But kids were really having fun on this one. Also in The Land of Adventure is The Lost Kingdom Adventure. Think Buzz Lightyear or Men In Black, just Lego themed.
Guests shoot a lazer at targets that cause interactive elements to move as you make your way arounda a pyramid catching the bad guy. Great theming and fun interaction.
As many of us became familiar with in the Lego video games, Lego knows how to have fun with it’s products.
The Beetle Bounce takes kids about 15 feet in the are and drops them to the ground.
The Safari Trek shows off some amazing life sized Lego animals. The Giraffs alone are worth the trip around track.
Lego Kingdoms is Legoland’s answer to Fantasyland and is home to one of the most fun rides in the park.
The Dragon is an indoor/outdoor roller coaster that begins by slowly traveling through the castle which has some very well-done life size Lego vingettes. They are comical and this is one of the few attractions that needs a few rides to see it all. The coaster then takes off full speed out of the castle and around a short steel-coaster track. Don’t worry, no upside downs on any coast in Legoland.
There is also the Royal Joust. We were too big to try this one out, but it truely looked enjoyable. Kids can board Lego horses that bounce around an outdoor track.
Funtown houses a great behind the scenes Lego Factory Tour. It’s a great place to get out of the sun for a spell and kids like the idea of seeing something special. There is also a 4D theter showing different short films as specific times througout the day.
Duplo Village is for the toddlers in your family.
There is the Duplo Farm were toddlers can crawl around a farm full of Lego animals. There is also Big Rig Rally were your child can drive a Lego semi truck.
Lego Technic showcases a coaster that gives guests a great view of the entire park.
Test Track puts guests in a four seat vehicle that has many climbs and dips and twists and turns around a steel track. It is seemingly one of the longer coaster in the park and was one of my favorites. Just edgy enough for that young thrill seeker.
The Aquazone Wave Racers is a carousel over water where guests steer wave racers in circle dodging the water cannons operated by onlooking guests.
The Imagination Zone is a place for children to create and experiement. It’s a great hands on section where kids can just play instead of ride.
Lego City puts kids in the driver’s seat in one of the most interaction areas. Kids of all ages can drive or boat around interactive courses.
One of the astounding things is how “open world” many of the attractions here are. It’s not the on the rails type like the speedway at WDW.
Kids take their vehicles around tracks where others can be passed and rules of the road like traffic lights teach them how to obey the law.
There is also the Flight School coaster that hanges guests below the track. It is for sure the most thrilling coaster in the park, but still tame enough for younger ages. There is an interactive show teaching fire saftey and a varity of interactive games. There are lots of games and I saw a ton of prizes won.
Remember the water ski show at Cypress Gardens? Well, it has been taken over by Pirates!
I like how they kept the spirit of what Cypress was known for, and overlayed it with a new theme fun and exciting for kids. It really is an entertaining show that left smiles on a lot of little faces.
Overall, this place is one of the most exciting and interactive places you can take your pre-teen in Central Florida. If you want something different than the Magic Kingdom, and a place dedicated to your young child, there is no better place around. The price however will not help Legoland compete, nor will the distance. Those upset with the plastic bricks built over the gardens and coasters of old, they did more than they had to to preserve some of the legacy that came before. If your local, take your kid for a day and try it out… if you like it, you can put your one day pass toward an annual pass upgrade. I think on a normal day with normal queues, this will be a full days park to enjoy it all and take in the magnificent Miniland USA. Welcome Legoland, to the theme park capital of the world. Stay tuned all week for more photos from the park.