Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
October 9, 2012
Last Saturday we spent a day at Legoland Windsor for my little girl’s 9th birthday and both our girls had such a blast that they even started plotting an entire week around Christmas time (that’s not going to happen.) Since we are die-hard Lego fans at home, build Lego robots and have Lego Star Wars sets, we planned this Lego day out to enjoy crazy Lego constructions as well as theme park rides. Here are a few tips I gleaned from organizing this day. I hope they’ll help you make the most of your future Legoland experience.
Photo gallery – click to enlarge:
Buy your tickets early
Had we been more organized, we would have visited the park on my little girl’s real birthday weekend the week before. However we didn’t realize we could save up to 25% on admission prices by buying tickets online 7 days prior and with adult prices at 44 pounds per pop, 25% off is totally worth it. So we rescheduled our visit to 7 days later and got a nice 25% discount off the entry price.
Get there early
We left west London by car at 9.15am and got out of the car in the Legoland parking lot at 10.10am. The parking lot was already starting to get packed and traffic jams were forming on the approach drive. We followed the suggested Legoland alternative itinerary (it was well signed) and saved a good 15 minutes of bad traffic. We got inside the park as it opened its doors, just in time for the action to begin.
Reserve Q-Bots ahead of time
What are Q-Bots? They are ridiculously expensive small pagers that you reserve to get fast entries on popular rides. You pay extra to cut lines. It sucks that Q-Bots are not free like the Disneyland FastPass system but they also apply to a majority of the rides which is nice. Since we wanted to make the most of our day, we reserved a Q-Bot Express for the 4 of us and shelled out more for the Q-Bot Express (40 pounds per pop, yes) than for the entrance tickets. Crazy! Had there been no lines, I would have really felt this was a waste of money – fortunately there were lines and we were able to get into every single ride in less than 8 minutes after booking. Not bad when most lines showed 20 to 60 minutes wait time, some as long as 75 minutes.
Pack your own picnic
Seriously, what’s with the Food & Drink department of theme parks? I mean – the photo of a kids’ meal on the Legoland website is a pouch of artificial fruit juice, deep-fried something (might be fish) and fries – chips. And news commentators wonder about child obesity rates? You know there’s this Jamie Oliver guy, he’s got really good ideas on feeding kids a nutritious meal and I don’t think it starts with deep fry-this or ice cream-that. Try packing your own picnic.
Besides the fact that Legoland food is basically junk food, it’s expensive. Therefore in the spirit of thriftiness and good nutrition, we packed for our girls cured meats, cherry tomatoes, apples and big pretzels – and supplemented with a plate of the grilled chicken at the Knights Table Rotisserie Chicken. The chicken was not unforgettable but it was OK. Oh, we also brought in our water bottles and a thermos of hot tea (that would be for me).
Keep the Legoland map handy
Legoland is planned out like a snake that starts at the top of the hill where the entrance is and loops around the hill opening up on various mini-parks all the way to the Legoland Hotel by the lake. All in all, it’s roughly 60 rides or activities and you could easily lose your way. Keep the map close at hand! Especially if you need to locate the next ride for your Q-Bot.
Respect your children’s likes and dislikes
We started the day with the Lego Star Wars Miniland and it was super fun to see the Star Wars scenes recreated in gazillions of miniature Lego bricks, some with lights, automated robots and the movies’ soundtracks. From there we jumped inside a Spinning Spider and went on to the Dragon ride inside the castle. That’s where things got tricky. My 7-year old got out of the dragon ride with one request – she didn’t want any more roller-coasters. “I don’t like roller coasters, mom! I’ll go if I have to but I don’t like them.” I looked at my Legoland map – dang, a lot of the fun rides looked like they involved roller-coasters. “I want more roller coasters,” countered my 9-year old who’s a roller-coaster enthusiast. As you can imagine, that was tricky news so early in the day. What to do? From there on I stayed with my 7-year old on mellower rides and my husband went with my 9-year old on wilder rides. Fine with me.
Now you may think that’s over-reacting but consider this. Throughout the day I saw 3 kids cry their lungs out because parents were dragging – physically dragging – them on rides they didn’t want to do. The kids were scared s***less and the parents still pulled them on rides they wanted to do insisting it would be “fun.” Well it wasn’t fun. They cried. They screamed. These were pretty unhappy kids. As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t go on another roller coaster. I’ve seen a few. What mattered most was making my girls happy. And they were, as we continued with the underwater Atlantis voyage, the Egyptian Laser Raiders and the Dino Safari to name a few.
Check the shows scheduled on your visit day
Shows at Legoland? You bet. We had a blast watching the stunt show The Pirates of Skeleton Bay and it was a welcome break in our day. At last 30 minutes of sitting down without carving our way through crowds of people – sweet! All around us the kids laughed their hearts out and both kids and adults alike gasped at the acrobatics of the daredevil actors who plunged from the top of a lighthouse into the waters below. Not only was it a fun show but a good opportunity to drink a cup of tea and eat some snacks.
Save some time for MiniLand
Initially all my girls wanted to do was rides, and more rides, rides but at the end of the day, MiniLand was probably one of their favorite parts of the park. That, and hosing down people on the Viking River Splash. Like the miniature theme park Madurodam in The Hague, MiniLand is a series of amazing miniature scenes from Europe and the US but it’s built with a lot of Lego bricks – more than 40 million Lego bricks in fact. The overall effect is quite dreamy as you feel like Gulliver walking through Lilliput. Along the miniature scenes we found castles, cities, sports stadiums, space launching stations, iconic architecture of other countries and transport hubs. The transportation scenes are particularly fun because they’re motorized. For my 7-year old, the highlight of the day was being able to remotely “drive” a motorized boat in one of the harbors.
Get your parking ticket early
We left before 2 hours the park closed so didn’t have to get in line to pay our parking ticket at vending machines but apparently long lines are one of the staples of the parking payment. Either you buy you parking stub online before or right when you arrive. The quicker you’re out, the better.
Hope you have a fabulous time at Legoland!