LEGOLAND: the Adventure Continues

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Last month our family visited LEGOLAND California again. Even though we’ve been there a few times before, it felt new because it’s been three years since we went as a family, and our boys are 3 years older, so it’s like bringing new kids! We know what to expect, but that gives us the comfort to look for new experiences in this fun familiar place.

The Drive: Coming from Agoura Hills, the drive can take a while, especially in traffic, so we wait until after dinner to get on the road. This time we set out around 8pm and checked into our hotel at 11pm.

The Hotel: Sure, you can drive down to Carlsbad, spend the day at LEGOLAND, and then hop back in the car after closing, but that would just be crazy. So we like to drive down the night before, stay in a hotel, spend the next day (or two) at the park, have a nice dinner, then spend a second night. On this second evening the kids can play in the pool and we parents can relax and stretch out our sore legs. Our hotel of choice has been the Best Western Encinitas, which is far less expensive than closer lodging options, and it’s only a 15-minute drive from the park. Free continental breakfast every morning and a nice little pool with a hot tub, plus it’s right near the beach.

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The Park: LEGOLAND has expanded since we last visited in 2013, with its newest attraction, Ninjago World, still not even open when we were here this time! (It’s open now, though!)

We stopped at all of the tried and true attractions we remember from when the kids were younger, but it’s kind of hilarious to see their bigger bodies in these settings:

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Upgraded shark mouth, 2016

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Original shark mouth, 2013

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Driving School, 2016

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He fit better in 2013

We took the time to marvel at the LEGO creations, things we may not have paused to consider in earlier years when kids were rushing to the rides:

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I was delighted to discover that they have added a new section to the water park, which is CHIMA themed.

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Pro tip for the water park: you should definitely pay the extra money to rent a locker for the time you are here. This keeps your valuables safe and dry, and frees up your hands so that you can run around the water park with your kids. You are given a wristband that you scan to open the locker, so you don’t even need to find a place to carry a key.

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Among the new features at LEGOLAND is a new 4D movie, LEGO® NEXO KNIGHTS™: The Book of Creativity! But it’s not just a movie – it’s an app too! You can download it before you visit the park, and use it to locate six shields hidden throughout the Park. Interactive!

legoland nexo knights

This trip to LEGOLAND was special for me because we did it to celebrate my kids’ 9th and 11th birthdays. They are old enough now that I don’t have to worry about them running off and getting lost. They are much more patient waiting in lines, and more responsible. My 9-year-old still takes forever to pick out a souvenir (we limit each child to a $15 bill to keep this expense reasonable), so some things never change. That, plus the fact that their favorite attraction in all of the park is the Fun Town Driving School, where, without lines on a gray April day, my kids drove those cars again and again and again.

Our family’s favorite ride, collectively, has always been Pirate’s Reef, where you get absolutely drenched, but that was closed during this visit. The kids made up for it by getting soaked on Splash Battle.

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Look at those happy faces. Totally worth it.

During the summer season, LEGOLAND CA and its Water Park and SEA LIFE Aquarium are all open later and later, plus they have special events happening all the time. To check out the schedule and to learn about discount ticket options, visit their website.

As an official LEGOLAND blogger, I received two complimentary admission tickets for this trip.

Get the Inside Scoop about LEGOLAND CA Right Here!

LEGO Ice Cream Pirate at LEGOLAND

As perpetual tourists in Los Angeles since we moved here many years ago, my husband and I have traveled all around Southern California. Now that we have children, it’s much more fun, because we have 2 built-in reasons to visit kid-friendly places. I recently asked our kids what their favorite trips have been, and aside from visiting their grandparents in Connecticut and Louisiana, they both said “LEGOLAND” without hesitation.

We have been to LEGOLAND as a family several times, and the kids even went with their great-aunts a few years ago (on an awesome kid-free weekend for me and the husband!). That’s a long way from our friends who are annual pass holders at other parks and pop in every time they get a free second (what fun!) but we are a good 3-hour drive from Carlsbad so we have to reserve our trips for sports-free weekends! With two active boys, our family doesn’t have a ton of those!

So why LEGOLAND? Well, it’s everyone’s favorite because:

The visitors are nice. Since the whole park is themed for kids and LEGO lovers, you’re less likely to have adults visiting without kids. And kids tend to make adults behave better.

The rides aren’t too scary. Even though my boys are getting older, they are still shy about braving the big thrill rides of other parks.

It’s not too big. Even with the water park, the SEA LIFE Aquarium, and LEGOLAND itself, a family can still go at a leisurely pace and have a great time without being overwhelmed.

We found a great place to stay. Instead of staying at the hotel on site (which is something we dream of doing one day!) we stay at the Best Western Encinitas, which is right near the beach and the groovy town of Encinitas. There is a small pool and hot tub, and continental breakfast every morning. It’s reasonably priced and only a short drive from LEGOLAND.

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If you are planning a trip to LEGOLAND, keep your eyes on this site and social media channels, because I’m excited to say that Agoura Hills Mom is an official LEGOLAND insider! I’ll get first looks at new features and promotions from the park and I will share them here!

LEGOLAND California and Water Park

Our family first visited LEGOLAND California in the summer of 2009, right after their Sealife Aquarium opened, but before the water park opened. The kids were little then, oh so little. Didn’t seem like it at the time. Any age your kids are, they seem to be getting so big. But we visited again earlier this month – over four years later – and the differences were remarkable:

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Our boys are now 8 and 6, approaching the upper end of the age range of children who would still consider a day (or two) at LEGOLAND fun, young enough that they still enjoy the wonder of Miniland, can spend an hour building cars out of LEGOs to race in the derby, and are not at all concerned about looking “cool.” To take advantage of their all-too-short youth, we visited the park again and this time spent an extra half day at the water park (open weekends through October 2013 and then closed until next spring).

Overall:

We had a fabulous time. As I had suspected, my boys aren’t too old for LEGOLAND. In fact, they’re just right. They scampered off to the rides with no fear, no height restrictions, and no running away and getting lost in the crowds, either. We visited on a school day (but not for them – it was that random LVUSD “fall break”) when it was a little bit overcast at first. The park was never crowded, and we barely had to wait in any lines. Score!

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A few things we hadn’t done before:

X-wing Fighter – this full size fighter ship from Star Wars is the biggest LEGO sculpture ever made. It sits inside its own special tent, and as we walked up I said “Wow…” and so did many other adults. The kids just ran right toward it, unaware of how SUPER COOL it is.

Miniland – we had never taken the time to wander through Miniland and we were delighted by the little cities and buildings and yes, the scenes from all the Star Wars movies.

The Ride of Insanity – The Knights’ Tournament (in above photo upper right) – either it wasn’t here the last time we came, or the kids just weren’t big enough. Now they are big and brave enough but we had to go on it with them. A robot claw tosses you up in the air and spins you and swings you. It’s insane. Luckily you can choose your level of insanity, and even level 2 was too much for me. I guess I am a wuss. The kids loved it.

LEGOLAND is showing its age, though. I noticed that some of the brick sculptures are looking faded. A few of the water features had garbage floating in them. There were cobwebs in the corners. It made me a little bit sad to notice this passage of time, and I hope that those sculptures are scheduled for some facelifts, and that maybe some regular maintenance was scheduled for Friday night.

instruments in duplo village

Water Park: the LEGOLAND Water Park is situated at the northwest corner of the park. You can only get into it as part of your admission to the main park, but it’s an extra fee. We ended up coming back the second day which required an add-on of a 2-day pass, but that only cost $15 per ticket. It was a good move though because the next day was sunny and hot. Perfect!

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A few things that make this water park great for families:

Lockers: for $7 you can get a small locker for the day, big enough for your backpack, keys, wallet, and phone. The “key” is a wristband with a sensor in it that opens and locks the door. You don’t have to remove it to ride the slides or splash in the pool.

The park is small – just three waterslides, a lazy river, a big wading pool with water features, and a miniature version of all of those things for younger children. While that means you won’t need to spend a long time there, it’s great for keeping track of your kids. We lost track of one of ours when he got on the lazy river ahead of us, so have a family meeting ahead of time and decide on a place where you all meet if you get separated.

There are plenty of chairs where you can stake your claim with a towel and your flip flops, but not much shade. There are clean restrooms and changing rooms and plenty of working showers for rinsing off. The snack bar is small but has the requisite hot weather fare, including slushie drinks which are a big hit with my kids.
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The best feature of the LEGOLAND/Water Park combo is the access to Pirate Reef, our family’s favorite ride over BOTH parks. It’s a simple log flume ride but you’re in a wide boat, and there’s only one drop, but it’s a big one:

We went on this ride, not knowing truly how wet we would get, early on our first day, in street clothes. Luckily we all dried off quickly, but it was key to be a good sport about it! At the Water Park, you can enter and exit the ride from a special opening, and there is a separate line for Water Park people. Riding Pirate Reef in a swimsuit is a MUCH better way!

In another post I’ll write about where we stayed and dined. We have done this trip three times now, and we have our favorites. Until then, here’s another flashback, this time to 2010:

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For a limited time kids get into LEGOLAND CA free with a paid adult ticket. Visit this website to get the link and the offer code. I received two free passes to facilitate this review, plus I used this deal to get two more tickets.