We just made our first visit to Legoland in California and now I am back and full of all sorts of tips for you!
My children are aged 5 and 6 and both are girls so I will share our experiences. My girls are interested in Legos and play with them occasionally but I wouldn’t say they are super fanatics. We still had fun without being huge Lego fans- so I would totally recommend this park to anyone- not just Lego fanatics.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT LEGOLAND
First I just want to say that I was warned repeatedly that Legoland is not the cleanest amusement park. I asked for feedback from readers before we left and heard over and over that the park is just not very nice. We went on our trip expecting something like a Fair or Carnival.
This is just my opinion but to really enjoy Legoland I think you need to understand it is not Disneyland. Legoland is much smaller and I didn’t find it quite as clean- however I didn’t think it was a dirty park by any means (and I am a fussy person about cleanliness). The attractions had a little built up grime and spiderwebs and just needed a good spring cleaning. I was really looking though and I think some people might not even notice (for sure your small kids won’t notice.) I really only found some grime on the models on the boat tour (they have very cool Lego builds of the Taj Mahal and Sydney Opera House and other cool landmarks) and the Aquarium and the mini city could have used a dusting off. Otherwise we found the park to be very clean and nice.
The advantage to Legoland is that I found it was less overwhelming then Disney can be. The lines were WAY shorter and the park is no where near as crowded. They do have a cool water park and we loved the roller coaster but just note you won’t find the huge, crazy rides at Legoland. You won’t find the huge rides but the great thing is that we probably spent a max of 15 minutes in line though for the top rides at peak time. Oh and Legoland has legos set up for the kiddos to play while the parents wait! If you have small children they might be afraid of some of the larger rides at Disney anyway so this is a great option for smaller children.
The second important bit of information is that Legoland is comprised of (3) sections- the amusement park, the Sea Life Aquarium and the Water Park. You will need to buy tickets for just the amusement park or spend a little more and get access to all 3 areas- (more on tickets in just a bit).
Another important thing to note is that the park is open from 10am until 6pm.* We did the entire park in one day and we were going from basically open until they start pushing you out the gates. We felt that was sufficient time to go on our favorite rides a few times, spend time at the Water park and the aquarium, sit down for lunch and basically not have a big frantic race to get to everything.
We probably could have used one more hour to shop for souvenirs and spend a little more time in the mini city. I think one more day would have been too long at the park but again just my opinion for our family. Had we arrived at 9am and not had the brutal wait at the onset, we probably could have fit almost everything in. If you have a child that might be fascinated with the Lego statues and such, one day might not be enough to see the entire park.
Oh and I had read reviews from people indicating that Legoland simply doesn’t have the ability to get people through lines like Disney does. The staff is slow or the process is slow but I did find that to absolutely be the case. I found the staff to be friendly and helpful for sure but we decided to upgrade our tickets to go into the waterpark when we arrived around 10am and it seriously took like an hour. It really started the day off on the wrong foot and we only had about 5 or 6 people in front of us. (I later discovered that I think we could have upgraded the tickets right at the water park area with no lines at all- lesson learned.) The staff was extremely friendly though- they gladly took bags, sunglasses, drinks etc… to hold for you while you were on a ride. Very helpful.
Also we did arrive right at 10am when the park got flooded with people so that could have been why the wait was so long. To actually get into the park was no issue at all- we zipped through.
*Oh and one last important thing– the rides open at 10am. I would recommend getting there earlier- maybe 9 or 9:30 so you can get tickets sorted out, get some photos etc… and then you are off and running at 10am. If I could do it again I would have arrived at 9am. You can see the opening hours of operation for the dates you are planning to visit here. It looks like they are open as late as 8pm on some dates and then if you look at the top in red it indicates the park opens at 9am and select rides start at 9:30 (despite the actual calendar stating 10am so go figure on that one.)
Another very important thing to note is that technically the policy at the park is no outside food or drink. I always pack food at these types of places because park food can be really expensive and not the best choices nutritionally. I was nervous about packing bags of food and having to toss it all out at the gate so this time I just packed waters. Apparently the rule is no outside food and drink but from what I saw they totally don’t enforce that rule. Person after person walked right up with coolers and bags of food and there was no problem at all. The kid in front of me at the ticket booth was actually eating from a large bag of chips and walked right past security- I asked and was told they never enforce the rule of no food so there you go.
If you do decide to buy food at the park- I have good news. There are some places that actually served good food. One thing I love about the San Diego area is that the healthy choices are so readily available. We ate at the Garden Restaurant which serves sandwiches and salads. We got yummy freshly made sandwiches (me and my husband) and they included potato chips. The kids shared a children’s meal which was PB&J and that came with Honest Juice and chips. The total for all 3 of us (without drinks for the adults) was about $30. The restaurant has a pretty view overlooking a few of the rides so it is a great spot to regroup and rest for a few minutes.
This is my terrible and out of focus picture but at least you get an idea. If you don’t want a full meal, there was a little stand in the front of the park near the gift shop that looked wonderful. I saw lots of fresh fruit, little salads, coffee and more. Perfect options to snack on while you are waiting for rides.
The park is best known for these yummy apple fries:
We had a late lunch and waited until about 5pm to get the Apple Fries and the lines were crazy long. These are very good though- sort of like an apple flavored churro with whipped cream. We got one container for all 4 of us to share and that was enough (although my kids probably wouldn’t agree.)
A lot of the rides for smaller children were too small for my just turned 5 year old. I thought the rides would have been better suited to a 2-3 year old as some felt pretty slow. At the park you need to be 42 inches tall to get into most of the better rides and my little girl just barely hits 42 inches so we got lucky that she was able to do everything. If she had been a little shorter I think she would have not enjoyed herself nearly as much. You can see the various rides and the height requirements here. Both my 5 and 6 year olds had a great time on many of the rides but I noticed it was mostly the rides with the 42 inch height requirement that they enjoyed the most.
There is a log ride at Legoland that looked really fun. We were party poopers though because people were getting completely drenched and we decided to skip it and stay dry. I wish we hadn’t because it looked like a lot of fun! I recommend grabbing those poncho things that are inexpensive before your trip so you don’t miss out on this fun ride.
There are lots of other rides that weren’t hugely memorable but I thought they were very pleasant and really allow for quality time with your kids.
This boat ride I can’t remember the name of but my girls enjoyed it- I had my foot on the gas with my 6 year trying to be sure we beat Daddy and my 5 year old (we did beat them by the end- booyah!)
And this one I went on with my girls and I remember laughing so hard! You squirt your gun at strangers in other boats and all three of us had a great time. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time and the children loved this one. Also I want to mention the details at Legoland once again– see the Shark at the bottom left there? There are just so many details to see all over the place!
We thought the roller coaster at Legoland was very fun and we went on that about 3 times. If you want more details on the rides I found some You Tube videos that will basically take you along on each one here.
You probably want to get started on your top rides as the lines are shortest at the beginning of the day. We also found the lines to be fairly short in the early afternoon (I am guessing some visitors left for nap time and such). Legoland has a lot more to offer then just rides though- they have a few pretty neat playgrounds for the kids. They also have a factory tour (we missed it) but you can apparently buy Lego bricks by the lb there). They have Adventurer’s Club too which we missed but I heard good reviews. So really open yourself up to everything Legoland has to offer because it is much more then just rides and roller coasters.
Even if your children aren’t huge on Legos- the things that they build with Legos are just incredible and absolutely worth exploring.
So we are from Northern California where it can get to be very hot. Whenever I go to San Diego I am always surprised at how cold it is (same with San Francisco). We went to Legoland in June and it was blazing hot in most parts of California except San Diego was a nice mild temperature. This was lovely except that the water park was freezing. The kids were so excited to go inside and we had figured a good part of the day would be spent there. We found some awesome water slides, wave pools, splash pads and adorable swings in the splash pads for babies plus a pretty cool build a raft river.
The little inner tubes have Legos on the sides so you can build something while you float! Now the kids and my husband went onto the water slides and in the river and such for about 30 minutes. I was busy looking around and taking photos and stuff. They came back and they were ready to go- what?!
My girls will stay at a waterpark for basically as long as I let them so this was a huge surprise. My husband said that the water was OK when you were totally submerged but if you came out to get in line for the water slides or whatever it was freezing cold. My 5 year old’s little lips were literally turning blue so we just showered them off, changed and that was the end of the water park. Lots of other people were in the water so this was just our experience but I do want to mention that you want to pack towels and warm clothes for your trip- even in June! Oh and the schools in Southern California get out much later then schools in other parts of the country so that was a huge bonus to keep the crowds down.
School was still in session during our trip in mid June.
Oh and at the Chima WaterPark area if you do plan to hunker down for most of the day, you can rent a private cabana. The cabanas are nice to have for a family-they are fairly spacious and the price is $130 for the entire day or $80 for a partial day. The cabana is 10×10 and has 2 lounge chairs, 2 seating chairs, towels, a full size locker and a little table with Duplo blocks. It will completely enclose with plastic curtain things so this might be a great option if you have little children that might need naps.
Side comment: I don’t want to sound like a grump but the Legos for play kind of grossed me out. They didn’t look very clean to me- as you might expect with tons of kids grabbing them all day. You might bring hand sanitzer for your littles if you are a grump too :).
I was not terribly impressed with the aquarium. It was small, cramped and this felt like the dirtiest part of the park to me. I think it is worth walking through and my girls did enjoy it but if you have larger aquariums at home, you might not want to spend the extra money to go to Sea Life. I did find a nice little cafe with a coffee bar at the end of Sea Life so that was a nice bonus and then at the end they had a little pond where the kids can touch a few marine life creatures. My girls loved that.
The shows at Disney are usually fantastic but you can’t really compare Disney to Legoland. My wonderful husband took our girls into one of the 3D shows and I sneaked away to check out the inside of the Legoland hotel. It is literally feet away from the entrance to the park and there is a nice little lobby with a small play structure inside for the kiddos. Littles around 2-3 would be in heaven.
There is a little bar inside the lobby and I parked myself down and charged my phone for a few minutes and saw many parents enjoying a beer or glass of wine as the kiddos played. There were fantastic balloon people (what are they called?) and face painters and such wandering the lobby. Apparently the hotel has quite a bit of activities for the kiddos all during the day and at night if you are planning to stay on the property.
Back to the shows… my husband gave it a thumbs down and the girls said it was just OK and they were ready to move on. But on a positive note, we always wait in line for Disney shows and at Legoland the kids walked right up as it was about to start and got right in!
So technically the park closes at 6pm but the gift store will stay open later. We thought we were super clever to wait until 6pm and hit the store. Terrible idea. Terrible, terrible idea. The entire park had the same thought and that store was crazy! It was like Walmart on Black Friday and I had to throw some elbows to get my Batgirl Lego keychain souvenir. They had lots of other Lego things but honestly we couldn’t see through the swarms of people to really do any shopping. On a completely serious note the store really was a zoo and as you might guess a trillion people were trying to push gigantic strollers through the store- just a total mess.
I was so stressed out that the kids would get lost it was not worth it at all. This was just at the very end of the day though- you could shop at the start or during the day and not have any issues. I think you could probably sit down at 6pm and wait about 30 minutes for the initial crowds to leave and have a much better experience. I would for sure hit the stores at some point during the day- they have so many fun things you won’t find elsewhere.
I do want to say some of the artists around the park are remarkable. My favorite thing was the guy that makes your name into that flowery script. We weren’t allowed to take photos of any of these things but seriously that guy was awesome! They can turn the letters of your child’s name into super heroes, Lego guys, princesses…. I couldn’t decide which Princess was prettier (Elsa, no Merida, no Rapunzel, no Ariel… and the Super Hero ones were just amazing too.) I believe it was something like $40 for 5 letters but check it out if you go. Really lovely work!
If you buy things in the park as you wander you can have it all sent up to the front gates to pick up at the end of the day.
If you have a little one that buys a Lego minifigure they can approach any staff member all day and trade figures. The staff have them on their name badges so your child will see exactly what it is. I didn’t see anyone do that all day but it could be a fun way to entertain the kids. The minifigures are also on sale for about $5 in the park.
This was a highlight I read about over and over again. I did like the Mini City area and we saved this for last – like 5:45pm because we had to get a few extra turns in on the roller coaster. There wasn’t really enough time to appreciate the city but basically it is various cities in the US recreated with Legos. You see the Brooklyn Bridge and awesome taxis and Times Square for NYC, the Vegas sign and strip the French Quarter in New Orleans and so on… Very fun and a lot of detail to see! There is a even a Subway for NYC! We probably could have spent about 45 min to an hour looking around and so you might not save this to the end like we did. It is a perfect spot to snack on your apple fries as you wander and look at all the cities. There is a lot to see in this area! If you have tiny ones that might need naps, this would be a great spot to let them nap in the stroller as I found it to be fairly quiet and relaxing.
And now for the bottom line. The ticket prices. Luckily, Legoland offers lots of promotions and discounts!
As of posting, the current pricing is $107 for an adult ticket. That includes all of the activities- Legoland, the WaterPark and the Aquarium.
A child’s ticket is $97. Legoland does offer promotions if you buy tickets online in advance. You can get bonus day admission to the park for free with those prices. So as of posting they are offering 5 days free when you pay the $107/97 ticket prices.
I think that makes the price of the park much more affordable providing you don’t mind visiting for a few days. If you only want to go to Legoland and plan to skip the waterpark and aquarium the price drops to $78- adult and $68-child and still includes the bonus 5 days.
Note these promotions typically won’t apply to walk up visitors so you do want to buy tickets in advance online.
- If you do a little digging you should be able to find Buy One Adult ticket Get One Free child ticket to Legoland. Occasionally fast food restaurants run the promotion with purchase of kid’s meals- Wendy’s, BK and McDonald’s have done it in the past.
- Last but not least, subscribe to the free Lego magazine and they also have coupons inside for Buy One Get One Free. Subscribe well in advance and you want to get the Lego magazine not Lego Jr so register a child 7+.
If nothing else you can check with your hotel and see if they have discounted tickets. I believe Costco used to sell discounted tickets too but I haven’t seen them in maybe 2 years now.
So all in all you should pay roughly $214 for a family of 4 to visit all 3 parks for one or more days. If you do have the ability to visit for a few days this works out to be very affordable in my opinion. About $50 per person for one day is really not bad either.
PS: You can shell out an extra $20 for preferred parking. That takes you right up to the gate but for our family it wasn’t really worth it. I don’t mind a bit of a walk and it really wasn’t very far at all to walk to the regular parking lot. If you might be going back and forth to the car a lot during your day it might be worthwhile to you but Legoland does have lockers to rent to hold all your stuff inside the park.
And to wrap up this long article I will say I thought it was a fun day and my children were very happy. It wasn’t as exhausting as Disneyland but we also had a much shorter day. We were in Southern California for a week and decided to just stick with the one day at Legoland. I asked my girls after the trip what they thought and both said they loved Legoland- so a win there! If the weather had been warmer for the Water park, I think that would have been a different story entirely- they probably would have spent the entire day just on the waterslides alone :).
One thing I notice and love with my children is that they notice every little detail. All sorts of things I never even see and Legoland is a great place to foster this with your children! They will point out so many little things to you and they will love all the little surprises around every corner. The great thing about this park is that it just isn’t as crowded so you are able to actually sit back and look at those details as you walk around.
I hope this helps when you are planning your Legoland Adventure! If you have been to Legoland recently, please share your experiences in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you thought!
Update- 7/2015: Our family is now planning a trip to the Orlando area and we gave the children the choice of several parks in the area to visit. The winner was Legoland! Of all the places we mentioned they both resoundingly voted for Legoland so stay tuned for a review of the Orlando trip! I can’t wait!
And if you are considering Disney, check out this article with tips to save money at Disneyland.