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 (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 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]

Best answer: 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

Best answer: 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]

Best answer: 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

Response by poster: Thanks for the great info so far everyone! Keep it coming!

Follow-up question: He really wants to do the water parkā€”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

Best answer: 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]

Response by poster: 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

Response by poster: 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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