We visited Legoland California in the off-season, a Sunday in October. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the crowds were minimal, and lines for the rides were practically nonexistent; our average wait time was 5-10 minutes, and some rides had no line at all.
This amusement park caters to a younger crowd than most, in my opinion, but I think it’s actually geared best for the 5 to 10 year-old range. The “better” rides (read: faster and scarier) have a minimum height of 42 inches (average for a 5-year old) and the park sticks to them. I saw several children who got the “close but no cigar” treatment- if they didn’t meet the ride’s height requirement, they didn’t ride.
Legoland’s website lists very specifically their requirements, however, so just do your homework before a visit and there won’t be any surprises. (They’ve got a neat interactive map that shows all the rides and lets you click in for information on them. Here’s an example page for the unexpectedly stomach-dropping Lego Technic Coaster.)
My kids, aged 7 and 9, loved this park. They were old enough go on all the rides, and to appreciate the work that went into the many creations (having built countless models themselves) – but still young enough to be delighted by it all.
Our favorites differed- my son loved the Splash Battle- you ride in a ship equipped with a water cannon that allows you to shoot at (and be shot by) other riders. Prepare to get wet on this one- you can also be squirted by bystanders via the conveniently located spectator cannons. My daughter’s competitive nature was satisfied by the Fun Town Fire and Police Academy, which pits four families against each other in a race. But we all loved The Dragon – which is a roller coaster that starts with a tour of a medieval Lego castle, and a silly little ride called the Beetle Bounce. I didn’t see a single person, including some pretty tough-looking grumps, come off this ride wearing a frown. You cannot help but laugh your way through it. Another fun stop for all of us was the Build and Test room, where you each create your own Lego vehicles and then race them to see who reigns supreme.
We ate at the Garden Restaurant, which is billed as one for “the health conscious diner” (it offers gluten-free and vegetarian options, and they had some fairly decent fare; salads, turkey sandwiches, and fresh fruit. Expect it to cost about $50 for a family of four.
Legoland also offers a water park (we did not visit it- we chose the aquarium) which you can read about here. The water park offers rides and attractions for both younger and older kids, cabana rentals, and on-site food options. (No outside food or drink is permitted.)
The Sealife Carlsbad Aquarium was also included in our admission; it’s a pretty educational and interactive experience, including Lego models into an exploration of the ocean. As frequent aquarium visitors, we liked the amusement section of the park better. But here’s a schedule of feeding times at the aquarium, one of the neatest things to see when visiting.
We spent about 5 hours in Legoland, and felt that we had covered things pretty thoroughly. No need for a second day- but if you’re planning a visit, Legoland is putting in an on-site hotel in 2013. You can read more about their plans here.
One more tip: we had subscribed to the Lego Club Magazine (www.legoclub.com) which includes some pretty great coupons… We used “one free child admission per paying adult”, which saved us about $150.
Next: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and the Downtown Disney District