We often get asked our thoughts on LEGOLAND. Until last year none of us had been there. First thing to note is that San Diego is about an hour and a half drive (to two hours) from Anaheim. If you are flying to Anaheim you would fly into John Wayne or LAX. To get to San Diego, you would rent a car and drive or you can take a bus, uber, that sort of thing.
Last August my son (6 at at the time) and I went on a special trip, just the two of us, to LEGOLAND. It was the last week of August and my husband found an amazing deal to stay in the actual hotel. This is a great week to go if you are looking for a bargain. Schools are back in session for a lot of the USA (Canadians typically don’t start school until September) so not only was it less expensive, the line ups were really low! The only down side to that is that the new part of the water park was closed (I couldn’t get a straight answer from employees but one lady said they don’t open it on slow days. Not cool).
As part of our “mystery” road trip this summer, my husband and I also took the girls for two days. It was a fun way to get a break from our “Nature Trip” and we hadn’t done it before. Our girls were the absolute perfect ages (5, 8 and 11). You can read about our adventures here.
Tickets and Hotel
I used my Air Miles (perk for being Canadian) to get a bunch of our tickets for free, and so it was a very inexpensive couple of days for us. We stayed at a really lovely motel. It had the best free breakfast I’ve had (we’re talking sausage breakfast burritos!) and a lovely pool, good room and a safe neighbourhood. It was the Quality Inn Encinitas. I recommend it highly. It was very reasonable, and under a 10 minute drive.
We got two day tickets with water park. After such a busy week and a half, it was super nice to be in one hotel for 3 nights. That was a lot of time for LEGOLAND, but it was nice that we didn’t feel like we had to rush in any way. The water park on hot days are really a bonus.
Regarding tickets, do the leg work to find discounts. One option is obviously the SoCal CityPASS. But I found coupon codes online that worked great. It was definitely a pain, because I even tried calling them a few times, and their customer service just wasn’t there (but lets face it, it’s not Disney). No matter what extension I tried, I never got an actual person. I eventually had to email and they responded very vaguely and with little help.
We took a picture of the tickets. We find this is smart in case they are lost or get wet. Also here’s a sign by the door for their strictly enforced “cooler policy”.
Last year the new LEGOLAND Castle Hotel wasn’t built yet. We stayed in the original LEGOLAND Hotel which was amazing. The best part is that the park is steps from the hotel which makes it super convenient to come and go from the park.
When you book your stay in the LEGOLAND Hotel you get to pick which themed room you would like. Adventure, Pirate, Kingdom, LEGO NINJAGO or LEGO Friends. We stayed in the Adventure room and it didn’t disappoint. It was basically Indiana Jones themed. Once you check in, you will find a locked vault in your room with a key code decipher sheet. You have to hunt all over the hotel to find the answer to 4 questions which will give you the code you need to open the vault. Inside there was a bunch of LEGO for my son to play with, including a little LEGO man.
Just like Disney has pin traders, in LEGOLAND they trade LEGO men! So he was able to take the one he got in the vault and trade it for one in the park. You can find traders at any of the vendors and some employees have lanyards with LEGO men to trade as well. Every day that we stayed there was another LEGO set inside. Really fun detail.
Your stay includes a buffet breakfast which was amazing. There was an omelette station, and more options than I can even remember to say; Kid friendly choices, healthy choices, unhealthy choices, they had it all. They even had a soft serve ice cream machine. You aren’t living if you don’t have a bowl of soft serve vanilla topped with fruit loops (because, breakfast). Having a big breakfast helped us stay full until mid afternoon, which I liked.
The pool was probably one of my sons favorite parts. They had giant floating LEGO pieces so he could build something in the pool. They had staff that was there running games and entertainment which I loved. Being there without his sister or cousins, there was only so much I could do to keep him entertained. This gave him something fun to do, which I didn’t mind because I got to chill!
The lobby had a giant castle made of LEGO with huge bins of LEGO for the kids to play and create with. They had different shows and entertainment going on there as well which was fun. I think hands down our favourite part about the hotel was the elevator! As soon as the door shut, the lights went down, the disco ball lit up and music started pumping. Everyone would dance and have fun. It was great!
We drove in with our car. (We just had to walk 15 feet to the main gate…hehehe.) And let me say, similarly to Knott’s Berry Farm (although at least it was clearly marked) it was a gong show. They had lights on indicating that booths were open, and then they weren’t, so cars had to merge back into the lines. Get there early. Park as close as you can (we parked really far away the first day because it wasn’t clear).
Once in the line up, they will scan your tickets. This is one thing Disney can learn from, frankly… because since we were all lined up early, they manually scanned everyone in as we waited, so after the countdown, everyone just goes in; there’s no big line. LOVED that. They do a cute “opening” sequence, but unless you’re in the front row, you’re not going to be able to be see it, so don’t get the kids jazzed up about it, they will just be upset. This is a great time to sunscreen your kids!
What to Pack
Similar to Disney, you need a lot of things to have a good day at LEGOLAND in our opinion. If you’re doing the water park, you’ll need even more. If you have the option of bringing a wagon, even if just for your stuff, this is a great idea.
- wagon or stroller
- if swimming:
- towels (the first day we did our heavy beach towels, the second we just did the small hotel towels – much better choice)
- bathing suits
- extra undergarments for after swimming
- shampoo/conditioner/hair ties/hair product
- backpack with:
- epipen or medicine
- water bottle and flavor enhancers for the water
- snacks (beef jerky, apple sauces, trail mix, granola bars, candy)
- cameras, portable phone chargers
For a more detailed list of what to pack for a theme park day, read our blog post Disneyland Day: Packing 101.
Things to Know
There are just differences about LEGOLAND. Once we realized we aren’t going to get the same quality, we just tried to relax and go with the flow. It’s definitely not Disney. Still fun, just a mental switch for expectations. But there were a few things I wish we had known ahead of time.
- The water park is far back in LEGOLAND. There is no special entrance, and the hours are very different. The entire first day, I carried the towels for the 5 of us and the bathing suits, shampoo, etc. in a duffel bag on my back. It wasn’t awesome. Either leave it in the car (but then acknowledge it will take about 20 minutes to go get it) or bring a wagon. I wish we had packed ours. It would’ve been so much easier! Even staying in the hotel I found this to be a huge pain. We had to leave the park to go back to the room and change into our swimsuits and grab our towels.
- I also didn’t realize that it was attached to LEGOLAND itself. I thought it was it’s own park that you could do on a separate day. You have to have a LEGOLAND park ticket to get into the water park section (which is an additional pass on top of the LEGOLAND park ticket).
- The workers just don’t know whats going on. We asked the same question to 3 people and got 3 answers. The park soft opened 30 min before it said it was opening, and basically there were 2 rides open, and then a rope. A couple of times I saw the workers on their cell phones while they were running the rides (NOT okay).
- There aren’t enough bathrooms and garbage cans. There really aren’t. I found this perhaps to be the most frustrating thing of all.
- The rides are perfect for ages 5-11. This was THE perfect year for us to go. All of the rides were tame enough for Lexie (5) and a lot of them were exciting enough for Audrey (11) and Addie (8) to still enjoy. But just mentally prepare yourself for things not to be of any real standard. There isn’t the same enjoyment for parents as in other parks. And if you have really small kids, I think it would be a lot harder.
Overall the rides in LEGOLAND are very tame. There really weren’t any big thrill rides which makes it ideal for kids that prefer more gentle rides. There are only 2 roller coasters in the park (and calling them roller coasters is a bit of a stretch) but my son and my nieces loved them. Like Disney, LEGOLAND is divided into smaller lands. Each land has its own little theme. From right to left on the map, here are the rides broken down by lands:
LEGO NINJAGO World:
Self explanatory… this was, you guessed it, all NINJAGO themed. I loved the feel of this area. They did an amazing job of the architecture. It made us feel like we were in Japan. Some of the characters are out for you to take pictures with, which my son loved! The main attraction in that area is LEGO NINJAGO The Ride. It’s a bit like California Adventure’s Midway Mania. Up to four people can ride at a time and there are four sensors at each seat.
The idea is to use your hands to fling weapons at the screen to hit different targets. As you move through the ride the scenes and objectives change. I actually found it really difficult to figure out the right height and movement of my hands in order to be effective on the ride. I spent most of the ride feeling frustrated that it wasn’t working for me. There wasn’t really anything to explain what to do. It’s apparently in the line up but because of the low volumes, we didn’t go through the whole line up. This is one thing I appreciate about Disney. They always explain it to you so you aren’t left figuring it out on your own. The food truck in this area was also amazing, but we will talk about that under food.
The first ride we went on was LEGO NINJAGO The Ride and it was good for all ages. As Heidi mentioned, it’s a bit confusing… BUT take note of the colour you are seated in and that will be what gets “flung” out of the screen. It is 3D so if motion sickness is a thing for you, this may be a factor.
Other attractions: It says there’s a “lightning drill” which our kids would’ve really enjoyed, but we didn’t see it. Too bad.
This area has three rides as well as some 3D shows/entertainment. The rides are as follows:
LEGO TECHNIC Coaster (riders have to be 42″) – This is almost exactly like Goofy’s Sky School in DCA, which is one of my son’s top 5 favourite rides. Probably the biggest “thrill” ride in the park. This was our older two’s favourite ride hands down. Our 5 year old tried it once and then didn’t want to go back on it.
BIONICLE Blaster – aka the Teacups from Disneyland. Different packaging but the same idea. Spin, puke.
Aquazone Wave Racers – This ride was kind of cool. You stand in little pods on the water and use a steering wheel to go in and out as it goes around a track.
Land Of Adventure:
This area has an Egyptian feel. My favourite ride in the park was in this area.
Lost Kingdom Adventure – Think Astro Blasters crossed with Indiana Jones. This was my favourite, and the line up had tables in the center for the kids to play and build LEGO while the parents waited but could still see the kids.
Dune Raiders – Racing slides with a riding mat that you sit on.
Beetle Bounce – It goes up and down, similar to Jumpin’ Jellyfish in DCA. It’s not too high or fast. My son rode this on repeat. The lines were so low the worker even let him stay on several time in a row (yay…).
Cargo Ace – Like Dumbo but with airplanes, and lower to the ground.
Pharaoh’s Revenge – A ball pit where you can launch balls at each other.
The Dragon – Another repeat ride that my son kept wanting to come back to. It’s a roller coaster through a castle. Really cute, but also gentle. We did this after the TECHNIC Coaster so our 5 year old was nervous. I ended up having to bribe her to go on it and she absolutely LOVED it.
Royal Joust (for 42″-55″) – Basically it’s a plastic horse that goes clip clop all around a track and comes back. Wooooooooooooo…
Knight’s Tournament – This was actually pretty cool. It’s a mechanical arm with two seats over water. You get to pick what kind of ride you want in the beginning. It intimidated my son so we chose the most gently setting (which didn’t even go upside down) and he didn’t want to try it again. The arm moves up, down, sideways, upside down and all around. Would be fun for adventurous/older kids.
Hideaways – Giant outdoor play area. Our kids really enjoyed this! Good way to blow off steam.
LEGO CITY Deep Sea Adventure:
This is the newest ride. It’s definitely the best submarine style ride we’ve ever been on. It was a long wait (try heading there pretty quickly in the morning), but it was worth it! It’s salt water with REAL sea life, and they get you in and out of the submarines very quickly (unlike Finding Nemo). None of us felt stuffy or claustrophobic the way we sometimes do in Finding Nemo from Disneyland. Each seat has a screen where you search for treasure and lock in when you find some! It was a highlight for sure. Plus, the Granny’s Apple Fries (in Castle Hill) are really close, sooooo…
Captain Cranky’s Challenge – Pirate ship ride. You know the one, it goes back and forth. This one even twists a little from side to side.
Pirate Reef – LEGOLAND’s version of a log ride. There are two loading docks for this ride. One in the water park entrance and one off of Pirate Shores. It doesn’t matter which side you load from, if you go on this ride you will get DRENCHED! If you go into the water park, you can actually ride this in your bathing suit and without shoes… game changer for my husband who hates being in wet clothes!
Splash Battle – The theme of Pirate Shores is basically getting you as wet as possible. On this ride you are in little pirate ships while people spray you with water guns. Super.
We enjoyed walking through and seeing a lot of famous landmarks made out of LEGO. Doesn’t take too long, but worth walking through. The girls really enjoyed the Vegas Strip, because we had just been there the same week and were able to find our exact hotel! When Evan and I were there they had a Star Wars section which was amazing!
Coast Cruise – There was also a gentle boat ride for the whole family here. It was fun to go under the Lions Gate Bridge from our very own Vancouver BC!
Adventurer’s Club – An interactive walk through. The girls liked this so much we did it three times.
Driving School – They did a GREAT job of this. There are two rides, the first is for 3-6 and the second is for 6-13. They get to drive their own cars and they aren’t on a track which made it really fun for our 8 and 11 year old. Our 5 year old didn’t enjoy it as much but I think she was getting frustrated. Unlike Disneyland’s Autopia they actually get to drive, which my son still talks about even a year later. Mini roads with stop signs and lights.
Fun Town Police and Fire Academy – This one I found to be super lame but the kids did enjoy it. It’s also a lot of work! They make you work at the LEGOLAND. There are 4 firetrucks or police cars and each one is powered by the riders. They made it a race which my son and I found really hard. You needed 2 people to work the pump and one to steer and it was just my son and I so we couldn’t keep up with everyone else that had larger groups (and men!). My son found this very disheartening.
Kid Power Tower – Sitting in a seat, you use your arm strength to pull yourself to the top of the tower and then it gently brings you back down.
LEGOLAND Express – A very, very small train. There is also a Duplo play centre here. If you have littles, this is where I’d choose to have my coffee break.
Skipper School – A boat where you are the driver! Must be at least 34″. This one was so much fun!
Sky Patrol – Must be at least 34″.
LEGO Friends Heartlake City
This was the area my girls were most excited about… we met the Friends and then also watched the show.
For attractions it’s just Mia’s Riding Camp. It’s a carousel with plastic horses (these are literally the widest horses ever!).
Coastersaurus – We must’ve done this 15 times. It was definitely the favourite. And it always had quite a long line! Say it with me now… “one more time!” Also a quick note, the workers were super inconsistent for this one. Sometimes they wanted us to have our bags by our feet, sometimes in the cubby outside of the ride itself. Just go with the flow!
Dig Those Dinos – Just digging for bones. Yup, on repeat for us as well.
Fairy Tale Brook – Our youngest REALLY liked this one. Prepare yourselves parents. Evan really liked this one as well. A collection or fairy tales made of LEGO. This was probably one of my favourites as well. I thought it was adorable.
Safari Trek – Riding in a mini jeep, with a different animal print, you go through a “safari”. Good for littles.
Here’s where LEGOLAND gets you as the parent. The food was over the top amazing. There were SO many options, and they were ALL delicious! AND for the second day that we were there, you could get a kids meal free with the purchase of the adult meal! The app was really handy for this. It was useless for everything else (except show times) because it just didn’t keep up with the ride waits. But they did have offers on it which we thought was great.
There was a great little food market in Fun Town called Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen that had lots of fresh options, like a salad bar. They also had sandwiches, ice cream and a smoothie bar where you could come up with your own recipe. This is also where I found the best coffee, in case coffee is life.
We had SO MUCH good food. We went to Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen on the first day and got made-to-order stir-fry. The Banh Mi in the NINJAGO section was so so so good. All of the restaurants were made-to-order, which was fantastic. If you’re in the water park area, check out the tacos (at Beach Street Tacos). They were delish!
And then there’s the apple fries (Granny’s Apple Fries in Castle Hill). I wish we had these twice, they were that good! I’ve tried to re-create then at home but they just aren’t as good. They are a MUST try!
LEGOLAND Water Park
The water park was really the highlight. We went right after lunch til dinner, paid for a locker (another unexpected expense, but what are you going to do). We also ended up getting a locker. There really wasn’t anywhere I felt comfortable leaving my stuff. There was lots to do, and it was really fun. Try to get there as close to opening as possible, because it just gets SO packed.
In the old part of the water park there is a lazy river with floating LEGO. My son absolutely loved it so we spent quite a bit of time in there. Your child HAS to be in a tube, either sitting with you, on a double tube, or on their own. They are not allowed to swim independently without it. It gets quite busy so I held on to my son’s tube for the majority of the time. I found this super tough with our 5 year old because the tubes were SO big. She kept falling off. We called it the “un-lazy river” as parents cause we had to switch off watching her. I also saw several parents with babies fall right through the hole.
There is also a large kid area with smaller slides, and a wading pool. For really small kids/ toddlers there is a Duplo Splash Safari. Then there are 2 bigger slides and two racing sides, which we did on repeat, called Twin Chasers. The only other thing open in the water park when we went was Pirate Reef. It’s a ride that you can go on from the water park side in your bathing suits (highly recommend) or you can go on it from the park side fully dressed (do NOT recommend). This is a full on ride where you are sitting in a boat and go down a hill and get hit by a wall of water.
You get DRENCHED! Bathing suit or not there is no coming off of that ride dry. We were so sad to miss out on the new LEGO CHIMA Water Park. There really wasn’t enough for us to do for an entire day so we only ended up staying there for 4 hrs or so. When we were there in July it was really busy. There were people EVERYWHERE. Also take note, they “empty” all of the pools around every 30-45 min and you have to stand and look at the beautiful empty water for 10 min or go somewhere else.
On our very last day, and very last ride, the older two went back on their favourite ride, and were having the best time. Unfortunately, our oldest got stung by a bee ON the ride, and panic ensued, as she is mildly allergic and I had left her Epipen in the van. Thankfully the staff helped us out right away, and she and I rode in a van behind the scenes to first aid. They helped us till we were out of the “danger zone”. We were pleased to see that they handled that well.
Sea Life Aquarium
Included in our tickets was the aquarium! It was a small, air conditioned, two level experience. A few things to know:
- There is only a bathroom at the very end. This meant I took our youngest quickly through the ENTIRE thing and then back.
- It takes about 45 minutes to 2 hours.
- Before you start, ask for a “Dive” book. This is a fun way for kids to interact, as there is something for them to do in each room. Don’t forget to get the special badge at the end of the Aquarium unlike we did (face palm).
Overall, we had a good two days there. We won’t need to go back, but I’m super glad that we went! Hope this helps you out on your next trip.
Have you been to LEGOLAND?
Have a magical day!
Erica and Heidi
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