This past Sunday, after much internal debate (mostly because I was hesitant to make the long drive), Abby, Ellie, and I hit the road to Winter Haven, Florida, home to LEGOLAND!
Now, a little backstory before we dive into my thoughts on our experience…
I have wanted to visit this particular theme park even before it opened. See, the current iteration of this attraction, LEGOLAND Florida, opened in 2011. Previously, the site had been home to the historic Cypress Gardens park (1936-2009), and it was one of my biggest regrets that I never visited that park when I had a chance. I have a vague recollection of seeing a poster in the breakroom when I was a Cast Member at Epcot (2007) for discounted tickets.
But, back to LEGOLAND!
I had been going back and forth on deciding when to take the girls to the park, since I had read so many conflicting reports on how much they’d actually be able to do at their ages/sizes. Now that we’ve been, I can say that I would recommend the experience, but wanted to share our mistakes, to maximize YOUR next visit.
- BUY YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE – we didn’t have the option this visit, as I was redeeming the special “Preschool Pass” (essentially a free annual pass for 4-5 year olds), plus a Travel Agent ticket for myself (only available at the gate), but the lines were LONG at the ticket windows, and the prices are higher than what you’d purchase online in advance. Plus, there are SO many passes, it’s worth taking a minute to review what you actually want on their website, rather than trying to figure it out on-site.
- ARRIVE EARLY – with the 2 hour plus drive and our last minute decision to go that day, we definitely were off mark on this one. The park hours were 10 AM to 6 PM, and we pulled into the parking lot at noon. Pairing that with the long line at the ticket window, we didn’t step foot into the park until 12:45 PM.
- BRING EXTRA GROWN UPS (at least 14+) – I didn’t have the choice in this one, but I absolutely would recommend at least one more adult if you have little ones! Abby is 3 and 37″, and therefore was technically able to do a lot more attractions than we did, but could not go on them alone (that required at least 48″, or accompaniment with an adult). Since I had Ellie (age 1, 28″), I slowed down Abby a lot, and she didn’t even get to go on a horse on the carousel (the attendant said bench only).
- GO ON A WEEKDAY – not only did we visit on a SUNDAY, but it was a Holiday Weekend as well (President’s Day) – and while the crowds were manageable, especially compared to Disney or Universal, it was clear that the park is not used to an influx of visitors, and lines moved slowly, and staff seemed overwhelmed in restaurants/ticketing (it took 25+ minutes for us to receive our food at a quick service location).
- BUY FASTRACK – if you HAVE to go on a busy day/weekend, I’d recommend their “add on” to skip lines. It’s not cheap, but with the low ride capacity of all the attractions we experienced, it’d definitely be a useful tool if your goal was to maximize the day/#ridealltherides. We spent an average of 25-30 minutes on each of the “baby”/”tame” rides that really seemed a bit ludicrous to be waiting so long for.
Now, there were a few things that we did do “right” – haha!
- UTILIZED STANDARD PARKING ($19) – the parking lot is tiny compared to those of other Orlando-based theme parks, and even though we arrived two hours after park open, the walk from our spot to the entrance was very short. Premium parking has a $10 upcharge ($29), and is covered parking, very close to park entrance – so, if you have some cash to spare, it could be worth a splurge, but definitely not necessary.
- BROUGHT PERSONAL STROLLER – we brought our Sit n Stand stroller, which was perfect for a day in the park! Walkways are wide, stroller parking is well marked and abundant, and with the park’s surprising elevation changes (there are definite hills), it was invaluable for transporting two littles! I’d definitely recommend bringing your stroller over renting theirs (same <uncomfortable> strollers as at Disney/Universal, daily rental: $16 for single, $22/double).
- PACKED SWIMSUITS/CHANGE OF CLOTHES – we actually didn’t get a chance to play at the Splash Pad (time flies when you’re having fun!), but it was large and well-themed, and there actually is a water park on site that is open March through October.
- TOOK IT SLOW – although this contradicts one of my points about prior planning – the fact that we didn’t know the layout of the park allowed us to be surprised at various points in the day when we happened upon special play areas, or quiet places to have a snack/take a break.
In all, we had a memorable experience, and Abby is already asking to return again. We’ll be taking into account all of our lessons learned, and look forward to stepping back into the world of LEGOS again!
Have you ever been to LEGOLAND? Any tips I missed?