Even though we live only 90 minutes away from Legoland in Carlsbad, it has taken us years to finally get there. My son isn’t a lego fanatic, so we weren’t pushed to make the trip. I regret now that it took us so long to get there. Being annual passport holders at Disney just up the road, we know the amusement park thing well. Don’t think of Legoland as a rival of Disneyland, but as a totally different entity that needs to be enjoyed in addition to the larger parks up the road.
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Where to Stay
The first question in planning a visit to Legoland is where to stay. In reality there are two options if you want to be right in the action, the Legoland Hotel and the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. For a first time visit, we would highly recommend staying at the Legoland Hotel. It will make the experience even more memorable and exciting for your kids. If you have been before and your kids aren’t bugging you to stay there again, you could stay at the Sheraton which is still within walking distance to the park. During off season the rates are comparable when you factor in meals, with the Sheraton being a bit more economical.
If you do stay at the Legoland Hotel, let your kids choose which room they want – Adventure, Pirate or Friends themed, arrive as early as you can to enjoy the fun pool and treasure hunt around the hotel. Be prepared to let them stay up late to enjoy all the hotel has to offer. Don’t spoil the surprise, but get ready for the awesome disco dance party elevators! An added bonus to staying at the Legoland Hotel is that all guests get to enter the park 30 minutes early, which is a great time to get your bearings and buy your minifigures for trading.
Even if you do not stay at the Legoland Hotel, you are welcome to join in the festivities in the lobby to give your kids a taste of the fun. Enjoy nightly lego building competitions, group led activities, dance parties and more.
How Many Days?
The answer to how long you should spend at Legoland depends on what time of year you go and your kids interest level. During shoulder season or off peak days, you will easily be able to ride every ride, some more than once on a day visit. You will also have time to pop into the aquarium before heading out for the day. During those times, staying a second day might be overkill unless the water parks are open. During the peak season however, crowds are high and lines are long, so a two day visit is more beneficial.
Legoland often has deals on purchasing one day and getting the second for free or cheaper. Keep an eye out for these throughout the year.
What to Bring
When visiting Legoland, there are a few things that you need to consider bringing in advance. Swimsuits is the first. Regardless of whether you plan to visit the waterpark or not, there are several water play areas that kids will want to enjoy. Bring swimsuits or a change of clothes for when they get soaked.
Another thing that you need to prepare for in advance is to bring a minifigure. Kids get super into the idea of trading their mini lego figures with the staff at the park. Bring a few that you made especially to trade (at the Lego store) or some that you have extras of. Otherwise plan to spend some time at the park making minifigures to trade. My son struggled to find ones that he would trade, so we made sure to bring super generic ones that are found all over.
Water and snacks are imperative to bring. There does not seem to be as many snack and drink stands around the park like we are used to at Disneyland. We had a fill of snacks and refillable water bottles in our bag and they came in very handy, especially while waiting in lines.
If you are any bit of a germaphob, then brings lots of wipes and hand sanitizer! There are piles of legos for the kids to play with all over the hotel and the park, none of which looked to have been cleaned in a long time.
Download the Legoland App before arrival. The shops in Legoland often have specials related to having the app on your phone, it will help you navigate your way around the park and provides easy access to the Reserve N’ Ride feature which allows you to get your place in line for rides with long lines.
One of the great things about Legoland is that once your kid is 36 inches or taller, most of the rides are open to them. There are also plenty of things to do for kids who are under the age of 2, which makes this a great first amusement park for smaller kids. With the absence of scary rides or figures roaming the park, even kids who are a bit more sensitive to scary things will have a great time here.
If your main focus is rides, here are our favorites and the ones you should make sure to hit up. Otherwise enjoy pottering around, playing at the many lego stations, checking out shows and the sights along the way. Don’t forget to spend some time in MiniLand USA with amazing lego sculptures of some of America’s greatest cities.
Lego Ninjago Ride
Get your arm muscles ready to throw some discs and help your ninja friends defeat the evil dragon. All ages and sizes will have fun on this 4D interactive ride where you use your own body to play along. For some smaller children not used to 3D, some of the scenes could be a bit scary. Hit this ride up first or else use the Legoland App to Reserve N’ Ride later.
Lego Technic Coaster
If your little one likes a little heart thumping scare, don’t miss this short roller coaster. With one large drop off, the rest is easy riding. Lines go slowly here, so again go early or plan to to reserve a ride for later.
Lost Kingdom Adventure
This was one of my son’s favorite rides during our visit. It’s similar to a ride he loves at Disneyland in that each rider has their own ‘gun’ to shoot targets throughout the ride. This is definitely a keeper and one that kids will want to ride over and over again.
Another cute roller coaster that is much slower and less scary than the Technic Coaster. However, lines are super slow, so be prepared to wait a while. Workers told us the ride is 2 minutes and 30 seconds, but it feels like it’s over in a flash.
This water soaking ride is a blast, but be prepared to get soaked. You won’t get soaked by your fellow riders, rather by curious and revengeful bystanders shooting water canons at you as you slowly glide by. And trust me, after you have been soaked, the first thing you will do is head over to the cannons to spray more unsuspecting riders.
This is one of the best rides for kids to enjoy on their own. There are two different rides depending on the age of your kids. For kids 6 and up, they will go on their own track in lego cars. Spend a few minutes watching the other cars go so your kids can get a handle on how to operate them. It can be a bit tricky for new drivers. Parental Note: Get out your wallets.. Your kids will insist on having their Legoland drivers license, which is $15.
My son got a taste of driving boats during our visit to Copenhagen’s amazing Tivoli Gardens theme park, so he was excited to try it again here. Kids can’t really go wrong steering the boat through the course. If they go in circles, no harm, let them enjoy being their own commander for once.
This is another fun kiddie roller coaster. No big drops or fast moves, but getting to go around twice will keep the littles excited. This is a perfect first roller coaster for kids who just aren’t sure about it all.
My son loved this little boat ride through the ‘woods’ while checking out the lego figures depicted from several fairytales. It’s a calm mellow ride that will be enjoyed by all ages.
Besides the awesome rides above, there are a ton of things to do that are not ride related. The great thing about Legoland is that it provides a great deal of places for kids to just be kids, while the parents can be parents and relax (or look at their phones for a minute!). Below are some of the special things we think you should check out when your kids need some play time.
Water Play Areas
In both Fun Town and Pirate Shores there are places for kids to play in the water, without going to the actual water park. Find a seat, relax and let the littles have fun splashing about for a while. There are places to change clothes as well as stand up dryers if you need to dry off quickly.
Build & Test Area
This area in Imagination Zone is somewhere you can get stuck for a long time. Kids can build their own cars and test them on a variety of ramps. There is also a duplo play area for the smaller ones. Sit back and enjoy letting the kids play. (And bring out those wipes when you are done!)
Castle Hill Hideaway Playground
This is an amazing playground for kids of all ages. Climbing rope ladders, sliding down dark curvy slides and running wild is just some of what they will get up to here. Sit outside of the gates and enjoy some famous apple fries while the kiddos get out some energy.
This is a little hidden, which means it’s not always packed! Soft play area for the toddlers and big lego blocks for the kids to play with. There is also a little train here that the kids love to ride on.
A cute little area where the kids can go on a hunt looking for the treasure keys.
A kids favorite! Kids grab soft balls and head in to shoot them at each other.
Lego Factory Tour
This is an interactive self guided tour through the making of legos. Press some buttons, see demo’s and try your hand at stamping faces on lego heads.
Dig Those Dinos
This is a great place to let the kids just be kids for a while and enjoy digging for dino bones. Parents can sit on the side and relax for a minute.
Fun Town Stage Show
This is a fun and cute fire academy show that kids will love to see over and over again.
Food & Other Info
There aren’t a ton of places to eat it seemed, but the places on offer actually served good food! For something mellow and super kid friendly, head to the Fun Town Market Restaurant where kids can get their own goodie bag (peanut butter sandwiches, chicken fingers, etc) and parents can eat a salad, pasta or other made to order dishes. Check out the app in advance for an idea of the different types of food on offer. It feels daunting to have to go all the way across the park for lunch, so try to plan your route and dining options in advance to make the most of your day and tired feet.
These do not seem as plentiful as you might think in a children’s park, so make sure you stop in when you see one. Note, there are no mirrors in any of the restrooms. Also, the cleanliness levels of the bathrooms were lacking a bit on our visit, so be prepared for a mess towards the end of the day.
Park hours are much shorter at Legoland than Disneyland, so arrive on time to make the most of your day. Also, remember to check their website in advance, especially during off peak seasons as they are not always open.
And lastly, remember to have fun! Prepare in advance as much as you can so that you and your children can get the most out of your day with minimal fuss.
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