by Character Diva
When you’re planning a trip to Disneyland, it’s easy to zero in on spending all of your time at either Disneyland or California Adventure. But there are all kinds of theme parks that have sprung up over the years trying to latch on to one of Walt Disney’s greatest ideas. Whether it’s Magic Mountain in Valencia, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City or Legoland in Carlsbad, southern California is not hurting for theme parks. So how do these theme parks compare? And are they really worth sacrificing a day from Disneyland to go and experience them? Well, in today’s post, we are going to talk about Legoland and (hopefully) answer all of your questions.
So you want to go to Legoland. My husband and kiddos (particularly my six year old daughter) are all OBSESSED with Legos. It’s been on our bucket list to do for a while, but my husband kept wanting to put it off until the kids were older. Well, seeing as my daughter is a Lego fanatic and a member of her school’s Lego Club, our last vacation back in September seemed liked the perfect time to finally experience this new theme park. I was a little nervous… we really couldn’t find a ton of information out there, and seeing as we were all Legoland newbies, we really had no idea of what to expect. So this is what we came up with….
What to Do in Legoland-
This is probably the biggest question out there. I mean yes we know it’s a theme park, and obviously there’s Legos everywhere, but what do you actually do?
Minifigure Trading- Just in case you’re new to the World of Legos, let’s start off with defining what a Minifigure is. If you don’t know what a Minifigure is, it’s those little tiny Lego people or characters you find in sets or see in Lego movies. They are the characters that you build all of those Lego brick houses and airplanes for. Now that we’ve got that’s settled, let’s move onto the Minifigure Trading.
Minifigure Trading is similar to Pin Trading in Disneyland: As long as you have authentic and complete Lego minifigures (meaning they come with a head, a torso, arms, and legs) you can trade them with any employee who happens to have a Lego Minifigure on their name tag. So basically, if you see one you like on an employee, just ask (politely) if you can trade and they will give it to you in exchange for one of yours.
There are also a couple of shops and locations around the parks that have a wider collection of Lego minifigures to exchange. (My son was able to find one of the Disney minifigures, Syndrome from The Incredibles at one of these stations, score!) If you look hard, you also might even find some minifigures sporting, “I Heart Legoland” shirts. We unfortunately ran out of minifigures to trade so didn’t get one, but I thought these ones were adorable.
Disney Diva Tip: Honestly, to me trading minifigures was probably the best part of the trip. You can either bring minifigures from home, buy some at a store or online and bring them along, or just buy them at the parks. If you do decide to buy them at the parks, it actually isn’t that expensive. We accidentally left our minifigures at home and had to buy some on the spot. I believe we paid $9.99 for three minifigures, and each minifigure came with a head, torso, legs, a hat/hair piece, and an accessory that we got to choose once we paid for them. Unless you can get minifigures for less than $3.33 a piece (which is rarely the case for Lego minifigure blind bags you’ll find at stores like Target or Walmart), I’d hold off and just buy them at Legoland. Wanting to get more bang for your buck? The hats/hair pieces and accessories (swords, buckets, ropes, etc.) do not need to be included when you trade, so you can always save those for your collection. Legos get expensive! You might as well keep them…. Also, if you see a minifigure with accessories, you can trade for that one even if the minifigure you’re trading with doesn’t have accessories.
Rides in Legoland- I’m going to be honest… the rides were okay, but not Disneyland great. In fact, I kept comparing them to Disneyland’s attractions and saying things like, “Oh, this reminds me of ______.” So in reality, they felt like cheap knock-offs that just happened to have a Lego theme to them. My four and six year olds really enjoyed them though and I don’t think they thought any less of them.
Legoland does offer something similar to Fastpasses where you can pay to get on rides earlier. They come in tier packages (paying an extra $25 per person will save you about a quarter of the time waiting in line, paying $50 will cut your wait time by about half and for $100 a person you can almost walk on everything). Personally, I don’t think there was any ride I went on that would justify me paying extra to cut down on my wait time, but I can see how this might be useful for those visiting during the peak times. We went in early September and had very minimal wait times… I don’t think we waited for any ride longer than fifteen or twenty minutes, and most of them we were on in less than five. If I were you, I’d probably save the money and spend it buying extra Minifigures to trade or grabbing an extra snack.
Entertainment in Legoland-
While we didn’t see any normal Lego Minifigures walking around, apparently there are character meet and greets. We did find the Lego Friends character, Stephanie, and we had a brief conversation with her. There is also a Lego Friends performance where Stephanie, Andrea, Mia, and all of their other friends come together and sing songs, dance, and get the audience involved in a cute show that plays multiple times throughout the day. There are also plenty of Lego sculptures you can walk around and pose with if you’re looking for a fun photo opp.
Eating in Legoland- By now, I’m sure you’ve worked up an appetite… or maybe that’s just me…. I’m always ready to eat! There aren’t really a lot of dining options in Legoland… but you can find your typical burgers, hot dogs, pizza and chicken tenders as well as a few other fancier dishes. We ended up eating lunch at a sit-down restaurant in Castle Hill called Knights’ Smokehouse BBQ. I ordered the brisket and spicy bratwurst platter and really enjoyed both. My mom and husband both ordered the Taste of Texas (which was the same as mine but also included pulled pork) and after I tried a bite of their meal, we all agreed that the cheddar jalapeno bratwurst they had both chosen had a funky taste to it. If I were you, I’d order the spicy one. Disney Diva Tip: If you’re looking for more of adult beverage, you are able to buy and drink alcohol in designated areas inside Legoland. My husband bought a beer while we were having lunch and drank it at our table.
We ordered kids’ meals for our kids, but honestly, besides drinking their drinks, I don’t think they really touched them. Part of it might have been because they’re picky eaters (though generally they’re fine with chicken strips and fries). Part of it might have just been the novelty of being in a new theme park… but for the price tag those chicken strips and fries cost, it was definitely painful to see that food sit uneaten. If you have really small children, you might want to pack something to munch on (or hit a drive-thru before or after you go) or at least consider having your children split a meal.
If you’re looking for a snack, I read online that Granny’s Apple Fries were a very popular choice. I ordered those and they were good. They were basically apple slices rolled in cinnamon and sugar and then served with a dollop of whipped cream to act as a dipping sauce. Not necessarily anything overly impressive, but we did enjoy them and there was enough for all of us to share. You can find them over at Castle Hill.
Theming in Legoland- The theming in Legoland is fantastic. There are Legos and minifigures everywhere and the detail is incredible, particularly in the Miniland USA area. My kids weren’t quite as fascinated with the sculptures as much as the adults were, but they still enjoyed walking around (as well as seeing them on the ferry boat ride that is similar to Disneyland’s Storybookland Canals).
The SEA LIFE Aquarium in Legoland- If you have a hopper pass one of the options you can choose to take advantage of is The SEA LIFE Aquarium. It is located off to the side of Legoland, but you can enter from inside Legoland as well. The aquarium houses all kinds of marine life and does have a touch pool. Disney Diva Tip: Make sure you look into the different tanks carefully. You might find some minifigures swimming along too and even some Disney recreations too. There are also ten stations along the way where you can learn about different marine life as well as receive a stamp in a map (found at the entrance of SEA LIFE while you’re watching the introductory movie). If you collect all ten stamps at each of the stops, you can receive a free paper headband of a minifigure wearing scuba gear in the giftshop.
The Waterpark in Legoland- Unfortunately, we did not check out the waterpark this trip (we figured our kids were too young and didn’t want to have to be hauling their intertubes and our own around). This does look incredible though (and again, there is lots of Lego theming). For more information on the waterpark, click here.
Souvenirs in Legoland- By far the most obvious souvenir is the Minifigures mentioned above. You can also buy actual Lego sets there, but these are generally the same sets you can find at your local Wal-Mart, Target, Toysrus, or other store, or track down on Lego.com. They also have traditional souvenirs liked pressed pennies, souvenir photos, and photo gifts. My mom ended up buying one of our ride photos with her, my husband and two of our kids that was printed on Legos and you could assemble or disassemble it like a puzzle.
Saving Money at Legoland- Now that we’ve talked about all the ways you can spend money, let’s talk about ways you can save some! The easiest place to save money is actually on tickets. Legoland offers all kinds of ways to get into the parks for a reduced price… some options include returning a second day for an extra $5 (this usually includes a hopper pass to check out the aquarium or waterpark as well). You can also find 3 day hopper passes at Costco for around $99 (and sometimes even less)! And if you live in southern California or visit it often enough to make it worth your while, an annual membership can be very reasonable (and significantly cheaper than Disney’s annual passes.) If you subscribe to the Lego magazine (for free) or buy Lego movie tickets or happy meals from McDonald’s, you also can get codes for a “Free Child’s Ticket with Any Paying Adult”. This is usually in the form of a hopper pass, but it’s great for those of you who want to explore the aquarium or the waterpark and if you are traveling with children, it’s usually the cheapest option you will find. You can also sometimes find hotel package deals or deals for other southern California attractions that might be a better fit for your family depending on what you would like to experience. Disney Diva Tip: To find out current promotions, we recommend talking to a travel agent (their services are free) and we recommend using Patricia Payne from All for Dreams Travel.
Age Recommendations for Legoland- I honestly wouldn’t go until your child was at least four and if you wanted to go to the water park, I’d probably hold off until they were able to carry their own intertube (but that’s just me not wanting to haul extra stuff while trying to wrangle my children as well). Some of the rides not only had height requirements, but age requirements as well (this age usually being four.) While Legoland does have a section for children under the age of two and there are usually areas for them to play near the thrill rides if they have to wait for older (or at least taller) family members to return, for me, I just found it rather limiting. The good news is children two and under are free, so at least you’re not paying for their admission, but just keep in mind that unless you’re only going with babies or toddlers, you’re going to spend a lot of time climbing on Lego-like structures or digging for dinosaur bones in a sandbox.
Size of the Park- Compared to Disneyland, Legoland is SMALL! Legoland does have an app which seemed pretty user-friendly, and I did try to use it, but honestly, the park was so small that I ended up just relying on the map and made our way around that way.
Unless you were doing the waterpark and aquarium too, you could probably do everything in one day. Two tops. There is definitely a lot of detail and hard work that goes into making all of these magnificent Lego structures, but unless you are a complete Lego fanatic or have an amazing deal, I’d probably only devote one vacation day to Legoland.
How it Compares Overall to Disneyland– Overall, I would probably go back to Legoland again, though if I did, I would definitely stay on-property. (We had about an hour drive and with traffic, you never know how long it will take… plus, the theming of the hotel looks amazing!) Disney Diva Tip: As an added bonus of staying on-property, you can usually get in earlier, and they also occasionally have special promotions such as extra days or free goodies!
My mom and husband described it as a pricier version of Disneyland (if you can believe that), but if you do decide to go for multiple days, there is definitely a lot of potential savings. As mentioned above, I probably wouldn’t take kids younger than four (and possibly wait til they’re older if you want to go to the waterpark), but I would make sure to plan on bringing Minifigures or buying a bunch to trade while you’re there. The crowds were a lot less and the lines generally much shorter (even for the bigger thrill rides) so that was nice.
I will say it was a cute park… Definitely worth checking out if you love Legos, but at least for me, if you have to pick between Disneyland or Legoland, I’d go with Disney all the way.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever been to Legoland California or any of the other theme parks in southern California? Share your experiences in the comments below!