Exploring Legoland Florida
If your kids enjoy building with legos, then the Legoland theme parks have no doubt come across your radar screen. Florida Culture recently had a chance to visit the latest addition to the Legoland family, the Winter Haven, Fla.-based Legoland Florida. The park is located on the former site of the long-time Florida attraction Cypress Gardens, which still maintains a botanical garden adjacent to the park.
The 150-acre park opened in mid-October and is touted in the company’s press releases as the first major theme park to open in the United States in 10 years. It’s also the biggest of the Legoland parks, which are located in California, Canada, Germany and Denmark. Legoland also owns a few other themed attractions, such as SeaLife Aquarium, Legoland Discovery Center, and incongruently, Madame Tussauds.
Legoland Florida will open a water park in summer 2012.
When we arrived at Legoland Florida on a day where the Florida tourism bureau surely paid off Mother Nature for such perfect weather, we were struck by its colorfulness. As you leave the parking lot and walk toward admission, a colorful “Welcome” sign and arch lure children to pose for pictures (but no climbing on the Welcome letters, please). There’s also a large red dinosaur (made of legos, of course), a lego sculpture of children playing, and a lego figure who poses with children for pictures.
That colorful theme continues not only throughout the parks’ 50 rides and games and shows but also the various other lego figures scattered through the parks, ranging from lego tourists to camels in the Land of Adventure area to a large Albert Einstein figure in the Imagination Zone.
Another striking thing about Legoland is how it caters to the younger set–all of its attractions are aimed at 2 to 12 year olds. The park has a driving school sponsored by Ford that has two separate schools–one for 6 to 13 year olds and one for 3 to 5 year olds. So, if you think junior will excel one day at Nascar, you can get him (or her) started early.
Here are a few more tips to help you plan your visit to Legoland Florida.
Save Money, Have More Fun: 6 Tips for Your Visit to Legoland Florida
1. Search for online bargains when you buy your admission ticket. According to Budget Travel, you’ll usually find discounted tickets to Legoland Florida through promo code sites such as Mouse Savers. Currently, the park does not have Florida resident discounts. However, there are discounts for seniors, and you can upgrade for a second day for $15. Legoland admission for adults (13+) is $75 at the park and $68 on the park’s website and $65 for children and seniors ($60 on the park website). That compares to $85 for adults and $79 for children at Universal Studios and Magic Kingdom. Parking at Legoland Florida is $12. You can also look into savings through annual passes if you think you’ll return.
2. Plan when you’ll go and how much time you’ll spend. The park has varying hours, closing at 5 p.m. on some days and closed completely some midweek days. Check out the schedule here. Also, considering many who visit Legoland are already staying in Orlando, it’s helpful to know the park is actually about an hour from Orlando (and 50 minutes from Tampa). Legoland Florida has a roundtrip shuttle leaving from Orlando Premium Outlets-Vineland Avenue.
3. Bring extra cash. It’s no secret that we tend to spend more at amusement parks than we plan, and Legoland is no exception. Expect the kiddos to ask for drinks, snacks, games that are $4-$10, pictures that employees take of visitors, souvenir drivers licenses ($16), and, of course, lego souvenirs. Although the selection of lego toys is impressive (how could it not be?), we read online that you can buy lego sets more cheaply elsewhere. Plus, if your true interest is really only in lego souvenirs, you may want to save the price of admission and just go to the Lego store at Downtown Disney in Orlando.
4. Try Granny’s Apple Fries. Granny’s Apple Fries are warm Granny Smith apple slices dusted with cinnamon and sugar. You can dip them in whipped cream. Not long after you enter the park, there’s Market Restaurant, where the selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, and Asian food at least appears healthier than the usual theme park fare. Legoland also has your typical burger, ice cream, and pizza joints. Just FYI, if you’re a juice lover, we for some reason could not find any juice for sale at Legoland–just soda and bottled water.
5. Don’t miss Miniland. There’s plenty to take in at Legoland, but Miniland is truly an architectural marvel. You’ll find lego versions of a number of Florida cities, including Tampa, South Beach, Daytona, St. Augustine, Kennedy Space Center, and Tallahassee. Even more impressive are the lego versions of Las Vegas, Washington D.C., New York and San Francisco. Those creative folks at Lego even added sound and movement to many of the displays so you truly feel like you’re in a mini version of the cities shown.
6. Help your kids select a few choice attractions. There are several things at Legoland that lego-crazy kids could easily spend several hours on. This includes the Imagination Zone, where kids build their own cars and race them against each other. Even a lunch visit at the Market Restaurant provides kids with more legos available for play. Bottom line, let them take their time, and be prepared for lots of hands-on distrctions.