Is Legoland (the Carlsbad, California version) worth a visit?
March 29, 2013 10:24 AM   Subscribe

We are going to spend a week in San Diego soon. The oldest two kids are 5 and 7, and they play a lot with legos. On past trips we've just done the beach, the Zoo, and the Wild Animal Park. Should we add Legoland to the mix this time? Have you been? Is it fun for kids? Also, do you have any Legoland tips?
posted by Area Man to Travel & Transportation around Carlsbad, CA (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Legoland is superfun, and just right for kids of that age.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:30 AM on March 29, 2013

Your kids are the perfect age for Legoland. Lots of age appropriate rides (even the roller coasters are pretty tame) and a hands-on area where your kids will be able to play with more Legos than they can conceivably know what to do with. They will have a blast.
posted by The Gooch at 10:35 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, I can answer this from our experience last year.

Legoland is fun. We have two boys who were 12 and 6 at the time - 12 year old did not enjoy it much at all, it was definitely geared toward younger ages. As such, the 6 year old had a blast. The rides are mostly young kid friendly, there was one roller coaster that was slightly more adventurous.

We went in off season, which made for a better experience all around with short lines.

The kids loved the driving area, and the Lego cities that make up the middle part of the park.

My only real thought - it is expensive. Literally only a few dollars less per ticket than doing Disneyland, and that is a whole other level of park in my mind. We did not feel Legoland was a good value for the price. On a good note, the food in the park was not as high as other places - not cheap, but better for a family of four.
posted by shinynewnick at 10:36 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went rather a long time ago -- 1999? -- and I was an adult and I did not have children and YES YES YES. Now I have a 5yo and would love to take her.

Bring a camera.

The plural of "Lego" is "Lego."
posted by kmennie at 10:37 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

We went a couple years ago when my son was eight or nine. We all loved it. The models are amazing, you'll spend a couple hours walking around looking at them.

I thought the boat tour was worth it, it's a good way to sit down later in the day while still feeling like you're doing something.

The rides are all pretty tame, though there was one coaster that freaked me out a bit (sharp turns up high). I think it was the Technic one. My son loved them all.

There's a lot of walking involved, like any theme park.

If you're into Lego and giant, intricate models of things will impress you, then you should go.
posted by bondcliff at 10:41 AM on March 29, 2013

The last time I went to Legoland in Carlsbad, at the end of the day my face hurt from smiling so much. And I was a 29-year-old woman.

If I'd been a kid I would have passed out from joy.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:59 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sounds like your kids would love it. There are discounted tickets available as well, both as a package (combo ticket with Zoo and Legoland and other attractions), or just for Legoland itself. The water park at Legoland is quite pleasant on a hot day; you can drift around the lazy river and build giant foam Legos on your inner tube.
posted by mogget at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2013

I've done the one in Germany, which I believe is pretty similar to the Carlsbad location.

I'd skip the "factory tour" business, unless your kids are really into that stuff. It's a long canned presentation about how they're made but without the actual factory attached. Interesting to look at but a time sink.

My kids had a blast at the driving school and pirate ships where you shoot water at each other. Bring some dry clothes.

And brace yourself for the avalanche of opportunities to buy Lego parts and kits at a number of gift shops. Know what sets you have and don't have, or set a budget to keep things manageable. A t-shirt or mug will last a lot longer and be more memorable than some bricks that will get lost in the pile of other bricks back at home.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:12 AM on March 29, 2013

As I recall it Legoland is the most mellow amusement park I've ever been to. Especially if you go on a slow day. The water play areas and the driving activities are great fun, and the enormous models of Grand Central Station etc are quite absorbing. It's best for kids 3-9 and Lego freaks of any age. You might want to bring bathing suits, and definitely bring a change of clothes if you'll be playing in the water areas. I didn't think the merchandising was any more prominent than at Disney parks, but that's not saying much.

I would go again even without kids.
posted by expialidocious at 11:46 AM on March 29, 2013

A t-shirt or mug will last a lot longer and be more memorable than some bricks that will get lost in the pile of other bricks back at home.

Tip from a Lego Maniac:

Don't make the mistake of thinking that they only have the same sets you can buy at the Toys R Us back home.

The Pick-a-Brick in the Club House can be an amazing way to get handfuls of parts (sold by weight) that you might have to buy dozens of sets to accumulate.

There will also be certain park-specific items (printed bricks, keychains, picture frames, etc.) and uncommon not-sold-in-stores sets to keep an eye out for.

Having a budget is definitely wise, though.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:07 PM on March 29, 2013

I've found that buying tickets to be cheapest if purchased 7 days in advance off the Legoland website: they have a 'Second day is free" option which is nice to have on reserve in case you all want to go back the next day.

Legoland Carlsbad recently added a water park and aquarium that each have separate admission from Legoland. Not all tickets include admission to Sea Life and the waterpark. IMO, I thought the Sea Life aquarium was small and dull—one can take the entire thing in in less than 20 minutes—however most of the young kids I saw there seemed to enjoying themselves. By contrast, the water park is a ton of fun for all, it's done up in the Lego Pirates theme, has waterslides, lazy river tubing, water tables, sandy beach areas and tons of deck chairs. The waterpark is only accessible from within Legoland itself and the line to get into the waterpark starts very early and stretches very long on warm days. The water park area has changing rooms, lockers and a walk-in people dryer.

There's stores selling Lego about every 50' in the park. The one (Big Shop) nearest to the main entrance has most but not all of what is sold elsewhere in the park (for example, loose bricks are only sold at the Club House, which is back by the water park entrance). The registers at the Big Shop also get super crowded near closing time on weekends. Any purchases you make at any of the stores in the park can be sent to will call for pick up on your way out so you're not stuck trying to grapple boxes while walking around.

Finally, if you're going to stay in Carlbad to take advantage of the 2 day tickets, there's two hotels within walking distance of Legoland in addition to the Legoland Hotel itself. Pacific Grand Palisades has both hotel and timeshare rooms so the ambiance is a little weird (to me). They do have a nice if somewhat small pool with a fun pirate ship mini-water park that my kid loved but the rooms were dated with 90s era decor. Room service meals were meh. To get to LL from PGP, you walk the equivalent of 3 city blocks downhill to a gate (which is hopefully unlocked) that leads to the side of the LL parking lot. Overall, it's about a 15 minute walk.

The Carlsbad Sheraton is on a hill that overlooks LL, they have a private entrance into Legoland (you pop out in the Knights-themed Castle Hill area well away from the main entrance). Hotel is lovely, fully up-to-date, has a day spa, huge pool w/ poolside bar and dining.
posted by jamaro at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

We visited last week with 4 and 6 year olds. The kids loved it, we liked it too for the friendly vibe. I'd argue that the tickets are decent value - our kids had an absolute blast and ran all day, what more do you want? - but the food, etc. is pricey. Bring lunch a get a two day ticket if you have the time, with advance purchase that was the best deal for us.

- the main shop is crazy near closing, but they have a holding area where you can leave purchases. Don't wait til the end to grab that Lego kit the kids neeeed.
- they had staggered openings, with gates open at 9, some rides opening at 9:30 and others at 10 or 11. Get there early.
- Go early in the week, we managed to ride multiple times in a row on a couple of popular rides as we were there early on the day and in the week. Saturday lineups were much longer.
posted by N-stoff at 1:22 PM on March 29, 2013

We visit family in southern CA each summer and have taken the kids (now 10 and 8) to Legoland in each of the past 3 or 4 years. It is a lot of fun and should be particularly good for kids who are 5 and 7 - that's kind of the sweet spot, actually!

A tip to try to save money that I don't think anyone else has mentioned, on preview: at least in the summer (and hopefully also now), you can often find admission discount coupons at fast food restaurants or those glossy free magazines that advertise different attractions in the area. We've also used coupons from the San Diego public library system. It might be worth looking around a bit for coupons when you're on the ground in the area.
posted by cheapskatebay at 1:44 PM on March 29, 2013

I have kids about that age and live in Southern California and they love Legoland. It's pretty lame for a grown-up, and not something that's worth a season pass to go lots of times a year like Disneyland. But for one day - yeah, it's awesome and they'll love it. Totally worth it.
posted by The World Famous at 1:53 PM on March 29, 2013

I have heard adults speak of Legoland with real horror. They get this thousand yard stare and say stuff like, "Well... the kids enjoyed it. And I suppose that's what matters. It's for kids. Yeah."

Admittedly these were people who were very "grown up" in kind of an old-fashioned, boring way, people who couldn't understand how adults could ever read Harry Potter books and stuff like that. But they really made it sound like spending a week stuck in kindergarten or something.

And if Disneyland really isn't much more expensive? Go to Disneyland. Haunted Mansion FTW, forever.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:47 PM on March 29, 2013

We've been several times with our two boys at many different ages. They've always loved it. Miniland is fascinating at any age. The park isn't as big as Disney, so one day may be enough. Fwiw, I have never liked Lego, but I loved the park too.
posted by obol at 8:07 PM on March 29, 2013

We've been three times. Your kids are just the right age and they like Lego. So, go!

One thing I like is the size -- before they did the water park it was possible to spend the whole day there and feel like you'd done everything. Now, with the water park, it's best to do as a two-day trip if your kids are the sort who will want to do everything.

The Lego Club magazine, which is free, usually has a two-for-one offer in it. I've heard you can get discounted tickets at the Costco near Legoland, but haven't tried it myself.

If you have a kid with special needs go to the customer service counter near the main gate and see if they can help you. My son, for example, got really anxious waiting in lines, so they gave us a pass that let him wait at the exit instead. (He waited the same amount of time, just not in a crowd.)

One year we went on what the locals considered a cold and wet day. Coming from Seattle, we thought it was warm and sunny. It was great -- no lines at all, just walk right on to the rides.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:57 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

We will definitely go, thanks for reassuring me. We have a coupon from the Lego Club Magazine, so that will help.

I appreciate that Disneland is better, but I hate driving up to LA so I think we will go there on some future trip.
posted by Area Man at 6:56 AM on March 30, 2013

We stayed at the Pacific Grand Palisades that jamaro mentioned our first year. I can't recommend it. Or not recommend it. It was... functional. But the other years we stayed in San Diego and drove, and that was better. We had to get up earlier but the kids were so excited it was easy to get them out of bed, and then the rest of the trip we were somewhere more interesting than Carlsbad.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2013

Thank you, everyone. We had a great time, and your tips helped.
posted by Area Man at 12:29 PM on April 28, 2013

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