Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leg 3: LEGOLAND Florida

After our trip to Gainesville, we went to Orlando to go to LEGOLAND for two days. We got passes to the park and the newer water park, which was totally worth it for the times that it go too hot to be out of the water!

The forecast for the two days at LL was rain and thunderstorms... all day. Sigh. I was nervous that the boys were going to be disappointed, but we decided to make something of it and get ponchos. When we arrived, all was well on the rain front.

We went to buy the LEGO toys we knew they boys would obviously want, and while there wasn't much of a crowd: 

And then it began to pour... and pour... but hey, it's LEGOLAND! But on we went! 

When the weather let up a bit and we'd been at the regular part of the park for awhile, we headed over to the water park.

The rain ended up being a blessing because it was the relief Dean needed to be able to last for seven hours at the park that day... not to mention that the crowds were really pretty minimal because of the weather! So I really was thankful for the rain!! 

We came back the next day with my parents. The boys had a blast. Two days was wonderful because we got enough of a chance to see some things we didn't get to the first day and to re-experience things the boys loved from the previous day. :) 

The kids were happy. But cooked. It was a great two days!! 

So here are my thoughts and tips about LEGOLAND, by category:

Overall: LL was great. We *all* had fun and the boys were in heaven with the LEGO stuff everywhere. As you can see from the pictures above, the structures made from LEGOs are truly incredible. And they thought of everything, like a sleeping (LEGO) man on an actual bench at the park who was "snoring," LEGO dinosaurs that "roar," that sort of thing. 

The park is big enough that you won't get bored, but it's small enough that you don't feel completely overwhelmed. There are hands-on activities throughout where kids can build LEGO creations (and, of course, purchase them in some places of the park). 

Ages: There is a good range of activities for different ages, although Emmett was a smidge too small to do a lot of what Cole and Dean could do or would want to do. At 35", Emmetty was 1" shy of some of the attractions and rides that he liked. At 40.5"/41" (yes, they're practically the same height), Dean and Cole could go on most things that were appropriate for their ages. Even at those heights, there was very little that the boys could go on by themselves, so this was tricky if some wanted on and some wanted off. This was much easier to manage when my parents came with us the second day. 

Location: LEGOLAND Florida is in Winter Haven, which is outside of Orlando. Since we stayed in Orlando, there was about a 45- to 50-minute drive to get to LL. This was a little bit of a bummer, but the area around LL wasn't exciting enough that we would have stayed there anyway. 

At the park, there are a lot of open, sunny areas, but there are a lot of trees and inside areas as well. In other words, if you're in the blazing hot sun or the driving rain, there is still hope. They do obviously have to shut down the water features if there is lightning or thunder and some other attractions that can get slippery if there is rain.

Tickets are kind of pricey, almost to the level of a Disney park - BUT, there are coupons in various places, like the (free) LEGO Club magazine, which offers a free kid ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket. 
The cost to tack on a water park pass is minimal and we thought it was totally worth it. 
Parking costs $14 a day, unless you have a season pass, and then it's free. Parking was a breeze for us because we have a handicapped placard for Dean and so we got to park right next to the entrance! 

The cost of the food was about what you'd expect for a park (and the food was not that good anyway!).
The attractions in the park was all included except for a smattering of carnival-type games that ran between $2 and $10 to play. 

Merchandise: There are many stores throughout the park where you can buy different kinds of LEGO merchandise, including a mini-store in the LEGO Factory exhibit where you can buy LEGOs by the brick. We tried to avoid the stores after we went to two of them. :) The merchandise overall appeared to be (surprisingly) reasonably priced, so that meant souvenirs could be bought without a giant price tag looming overhead.

Customer Service and Special Needs: Everyone we interacted with at the park was very kind, enthusiastic, and helpful. We didn't really have any customer service issues, so I can't speak to their ability to troubleshoot. Also, other than using handicapped parking, we didn't really access any of their accommodations for people with special needs. We noticed "hero access" entrances to a lot of the rides/attractions, but that's about all I know. Because we were allowed to bring in our own stroller and our own food, we didn't have to worry about a wheelchair for Dean (for long distances) or about Dean's dietary needs/Cole's allergies. The staff was very patient and accommodating for Dean when he needed more time or with his quirky behavior. 

Must-Sees: Miniland USA was our favorite part. This was a series of major landmarks and buildings from cities around the U.S. (and some international cities) built in LEGO. The pictures above show just a small, small fraction of what was available. As part of Miniland, there was a Star Wars section, as you can see in the pictures above. This was our favorite part of the favorite part. :) Throughout Miniland, there are buttons that kids can push to operate certain LEGO figures that move or initiate sound effects, smoke, etc. 
Imagination Station is a part of the park where kids can build stuff with LEGOs for hours! We never ended up making it there... not even sure why! The kids were on the move. :) 
Other than that, we found fun attractions all over. I was so proud of the boys for trying new things, including getting Cole and Dean on the Coastersaurus roller coaster!
We felt that the water park was an absolute must-see. The wave pool and the lazy river with floats where you can build your own LEGO towers as you float along were faves. The giant water structure you can see above with the giant yellow pail and all the slides could entertain kids for hours. 

We would definitely go back again if given the chance. And if we lived in Florida, we would take advantage of the special season pass they have for residents (there are benefits over and above the regular season pass!). I loved that LL tied in Star Wars, dinosaurs, LEGO structures, cars, trains, a medieval theme, ancient Egypt, Duplos, pirates, gardens, and other themes to keep it fresh and new. We are big fans of LEGOLAND Florida! 

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