Tips for a first-timer to Legoland California (and southern California)?
April 11, 2016 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Tips for a first-timer to Legoland California (and southern California)?

My 8-year-old son and I are driving from the Stockton area to Legoland in June. We'll be spending two mid-week nights at the hotel there, and this is the first time at Legoland and southern California for both of us. I'd appreciate any tips, must-dos and definitely-don'ts anyone has to share. Bonus points for good places for food, rest stops and points of interest along the way. Thanks!
posted by DakotaPaul to Travel & Transportation around Carlsbad, CA (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I moved to orange county from modesto almost 4 years ago, so, NorCal fist bump. Traffic is the thing I sill struggle with. 10 miles is not 10 miles. It exists in another measurement system totally dependent upon what day, what time of year, what time of day. Plan accordingly.

For beachy stuff, my favorites are the state parks and other beaches south of Newport Beach. Crystal Cove is pretty cool. San Juan Capistrano has the old mission for historical goodness.

And if you pass through the OC at the right time of day, my favorite donuts in the world.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:03 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Avoid the 405 between the hours of midnight and midnight, especially in Santa Monica and Long Beach and everything between them.

Seriously, though, be ready for the driving to be ridiculous. My dad's been driving around LA since he got his license circa 1970, and he still gets stunned by the traffic at times.
posted by SMPA at 10:10 AM on April 11, 2016


The good thing is that traffic in OC and San Diego are not as bad as LA (most of the time, at least). I've lived in both LA and OC, and the whole "it takes at least an hour to get anywhere, no matter how close it is" applies much more in LA than OC. That said, it's always a good idea to allow plenty of time just in case.

I've only been to Legoland once, and I don't have kids, so my knowledge is light. But from my perspective (and that of the people who were with us, with their kids), one day was enough. It was off season, though; if things are busier it may be a different story.
posted by primethyme at 10:20 AM on April 11, 2016


The aquarium at Legoland is fun, too. But I'm with primethyme: you don't need two days. I'd spend that other day going, perhaps, to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and seeing the space shuttle at the California Science Center. Those two are right next to each other.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and as for traffic. Sure, it can be bad. But as long as you're willing to start early and end late, it can be pain-free. We've driven up from San Diego bunches of times and have never had the kind of hair-pulling traffic that makes you never want to drive again. One secret to that: be sure to use Google Navigation or Waze to go *everywhere.* Both programs are very effective at routing around blockages. In some case, Google Navigation has saved us from 45-minute delays. They're miraculous.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2016


Legoland tip, as the mother of a child who LOVES that place and who can easily spend two full days there completely happy: it's basically laid out in a circle, and when you first walk in, you want to go to the left. The rides and attractions are vaguely laid out in a younger-to-older way, and this'll set you off on a fun path immediately.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


If your son has a lot of minifigs, he may want to bring a small bag of them for trading. There are a couple of designated spots in the park where they have minfig assortments for trading, but also most park staff have minifigs attached to their badges/lanyards, and you can trade with them too. But, you have to ask, they don't volunteer. Our experience was that selection is better earlier in the day--by the end of the day folks only had minifigs with pieces missing, etc. Just a fun little extra...
posted by msbubbaclees at 11:39 AM on April 11, 2016


Thanks for the great info so far everyone! Keep it coming!

Follow-up question: He really wants to do the water park—is that all part of the same park, or is it separate with another entrance fee? Any tips for the water park?
posted by DakotaPaul at 11:43 AM on April 11, 2016


You can usually get buy one day, get a second day free at Legoland. If you're planning to go for two days, that's usually a better deal than the GoCard which only allows one day. Make sure you get the park hopper and not the one that's just Legoland/Aquarium. I think this link will work.

Bonus: Are you also planning to visit either the San Diego Zoo or the Safari Park? Both are pretty amazing and worth the 45-minute drive. However, they are in different directions, so it's one or the other. With an 8-year-old, I'd go to the zoo. (Get the pass that allows you to use the sky ride and buses. If you get to the skyride and the kid is pooped just skyride back to the exit and skip the other half.)
posted by 26.2 at 11:48 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Definitely go to the San Diego Zoo! It's the best, totally worth the drive.
posted by yasaman at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been so focused on Legoland that I completely forgot about the zoo! I've always wanted to go and I think he'd love it.
posted by DakotaPaul at 12:25 PM on April 11, 2016


The water park is inside legoland and is fabulous-you can usually get great deals that combine admission. Our kids were thrilled to go for two days-they were 8 and 5 at the time-and would love to go back now.
posted by purenitrous at 12:39 PM on April 11, 2016


The zoo is definitely worthwhile. When you go, one of the first things you do when you arrive is take the tram to the back of the zoo and check out the polar bear exhibit - it's awesome and it gets really crowded. The double-decker bus tour that goes around the zoo is worthwhile (adults and 6-year olds in my family agree). If you don't already like panda bears, you'll probably find the panda exhibit to be boring and not worth the crowd that gathers at that exhibit... I love panda bears, but my adult friends who don't like them think the exhibit is pretty lame.
posted by hootenatty at 1:55 PM on April 11, 2016


Legoland's waterpark is a ton of fun and I wouldn't be surprised if your son wants to spend an entire day just there (there was no prying my son out). Tickets to the waterpark are an add-on to your regular Legoland ticket, they sell park only, park + waterpark, park + aquarium or park + waterpark + aquarium. If you're going to skip anything due to cost or time, skip the aquarium, it's small and kind of lame.* The entrance to the waterpark is inside Legoland over by the Pick a Brick store: Legoland limits how many people can be inside the waterpark at a time thus weekend lines to enter can back up for quite a ways because everyone seems to follow a schedule of "wander around the main park, eat lunch, then go into the waterpark to cool off." Best strategy to avoid the line is either go during the week or enter the waterpark within an hour of it opening (get in there by 11). There's lots of lounge chairs and shade for parents to take refuge in in the waterpark, there's also huge dryers** you can walk into to dry off once you've had your fill of splashing around and want to see the rest of the park without chafing from wet clothing.

Are you staying at the Legoland Hotel, Pacific Palisades or the Sheraton? If it's LH or PP, you enter from the front entrance of Legoland and yes, go left. If you're staying at the Sheraton, take advantage of the private hotel entrance† into the back of the park: you'll pop out in Castle Hills: go right, pass the Pirates and there's the waterpark entrance. All three hotels have pools, Legoland hotel's pool has a few of the same activities as the waterpark, PP has a really fun kid's water play area (the hotel is otherwise weird and dated in that timeshare way) and while the Sheraton doesn't have a kid's playpark, they do have a poolside bar which, as a parent, I really appreciated after a long day chasing my kid around a theme park (even a themepark as delightful as Legoland).

Anything you buy in the stores can be sent to will call for you to pick up on your way out of the front entrance‡. No need to juggle the 3000+ brick Death Star box while walking around.

*However, as an avid aquarium hobbyist, my bar to be wowed is pretty high. Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium the next time you visit the NorCal coast instead.
**Dryer used to be free but apparently now they are charging a few bucks to use.
† Make sure you bring your Sheraton room key, they won't let you through the private gate without it even with your tickets in hand.
‡ If only they did will call at the Sheraton entrance too, then I could have my booze and my bricks conveniently delivered

posted by jamaro at 8:17 PM on April 11, 2016


The water park sounds great and he's been very interested in that so I imagine we'll spend a lot of time there. We've been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium a couple times so we'll probably skip the aquarium.

We plan on staying in one of the themed rooms in the Legoland Hotel.
posted by DakotaPaul at 11:25 AM on April 12, 2016


If you pass through Encinitas (which you will if you're going south on the 5), Raul's is a hole-in-the-wall with great carnitas burritos and chicken soup. Also good is Seaside Market in Cardiff, which sells amazing marinated steak, aptly named Cardiff Crack.
posted by culfinglin at 3:22 PM on April 13, 2016


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