The Good, the Rad, and the Fun at Southern California’s Theme Park for Young Children and Kids of All Ages
By Sueli Hasten
My 10-year-old son loves building with LEGOs, and he loves theme parks, so we had high expectations for our first visit to LEGOLAND California. We were thrilled that it was all we hoped for, and more.
The trip was approximately a two-hour drive from our home in Los Angeles. Our timing for a visit was great, as starting in spring 2019, the park is observing its 20th anniversary. To celebrate, the park has opened new features, like the LEGO Movie 2 Experience, the LEGO City 4D-Officer in Pursuit attraction, the LEGOLAND Express Train, and a recreated DUPLO Playtown, complete with a slide, hide and ride through and interactive play area.
Our stay in the Castle Hotel, one of the two themed hotels on the property, was a LEGO-lover’s dream. We were awed by the impeccable decorations around of the hotel, both outside the hotel – including a beautiful pool and a private entrance to the park — and the colorful and festive interiors. It’s really a LEGO paradise. Everywhere you look are images of LEGO characters, and there are play areas with bins of LEGO bricks throughout the hotel so children can play all the time.
We entered the room and were ecstatic. The bedroom had a double bed and a second small bedroom with a bunk bed and an extra bed underneath it. The bathroom, beds and decor of the room got my son’s highest recommendation, “Cool!”
In the rooms there is also a treasure chest with clues for a scavenger hunt game. To open the chest, the children must answer four questions, such as: “How many pictures of LEGOS did you see in the reception area?” “How many pictures of a LEGO queen do you see on the lobby balcony?” By solving all of the riddles, the four learn four numbers that unlock the chest, which contained a magazine and two small Legos gifts.
The evening we arrived, we went to dinner at the property, enjoying a kid-friendly meal of mac ‘n cheese, a beef dish, mashed potatoes, hot dogs, and salad, followed by a dessert of cookies and a delicious banana pudding. Then it was off to bed to rest up for a full day at the park.
The next day we woke up around 7am and headed to Castle Hotel Dragon’s Den Restaurant, which is complimentary for guests. The wait was about 20 minutes to get a table, which seemed interminable for a fidgety boy eager to get to the park, but thanks to the buffet-style service we were able to quickly enjoy a traditional American breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, brioche, sausage, two types of breakfast potatoes.
After breakfast, we headed to the park and toured the new areas of the park. One of the attractions that caught my son’s interest, Discover Adventure Explore, was in the SEA LIFE Aquarium. The attraction features a kind of submarine, where you have a tablet to “track” the treasure in the sea, besides of course, an immense aquarium with several species including many sharks, fish, starfish and stingrays.
It is also worth mentioning that in this part of the SEA LIFE Aquarium there is an interactive screen that helps children learn more about the species of animals they have there, like a modern museum of aquatic creatures.
Then we headed to some of the popular rides. One of our favorites the Fun Town Police and Fire Academy, where we had to douse a make-believe fire with hoses and compete with other guests to get our fire engine back to the start, using a pump that required us to work as team to move our fire engine. Another favorite was the Kid Power Tower, where again we had to use our strength as a team. In this case, we had to pull ourselves up on a bench using our arms, racing the other guests.
We also loved visiting the some of the very popular areas of the park, such as the Star Wars LEGO area (StarWars Miniland), the mock-up of some well-known spots in US cities such as the White House, Hollywood Sign (LEGO-wood), and the Golden Gate Bridge. We also had a great time at the new park attraction, LEGO Movie Experience, where we go to see sets that were used in scenes from the LEGO movie.
Our first trip to LEGOLAND will not be our last. As the parent of a young child, I appreciated that the majority of children there were between the ages of 2 and 12, so it is a much more child-friendly park than some of the others in Southern California. There was plenty to do, with more than 60 rides and attractions, plus shows and other attractions, not to mention the hotels, which themselves are a wonder. We learned that the park has free birthday admission for kids under 12, so we already know when we will visit next!