- August 20, 2017
- Posted by: Topher Morrison
- Category: 49 Things Before I Turn 49
Growing up in a household with one older brother and no iPads, mobile phones, or tablets, my brother and I entertained ourselves the majority of our indoor childhood with endless hours of creation using LEGOs. They were our single favorite toy as kids.
When LEGOLAND opened in California in 1996 we knew we were born in the wrong era. An amusement park made entirely of LEGOs? That’s a childhood dream we didn’t even think of, but once it existed we knew immediately we always wanted to go ever since we were a small child. But at 27 years old at the time, it was past our prime and we most likely wouldn’t. Still, my brother an I always said if we could, we would.
A few years back he visited me in Orlando and we immediately thought about fulfilling a childhood dream and visiting LEGOLAND. But, as we sat Outback Steakhouse talking about going, we realized 2 middle aged men going to LEGOLAND without kids would probably result in having security following us around with suspicious eyes. We opted out of going.
If you’re going to go to LEGOLAND you really need 2 things:
#1 A sense of childlike wonder.
#2 A kid.
I owned the first one like a boss, but I’m void of #2. Thankfully, kids aren’t that hard to find. They’re everywhere if you just look around. I don’t recommend just taking one though. Get permission first. Just find someone with a kid and offer to take them off their hands for the day. You’ll be shocked at how many parents are good with that. Especially if you tell them you’ll take the kid to LEGOLAND, wear them out, and return them completely exhausted so they fall asleep immediately.
In my case, I didn’t have to work that hard, because my friend Anna has the same sense of childlike wonder that I do. And bonus: she has a kid! So we went as a group.
~ On a totally unrelated subject, I’ll now be driving for Uber, mowing lawns, and pet sitting for some extra cash, at least until I can get back on my feet. ~
Okay, so with the exception of the admission, I loved everything about LEGOLAND.
Built on the site of the former Cypress Gardens theme park, LEGOLAND preserved the botanical park and redecorated the water park and roller coasters along a LEGO theme.
Designed for families with children ages 2 to 12, the park has more than 45 rides, shows, attractions, restaurants, shops; and a botanical garden and a water park. A 5 gazillion star hotel opened on the property on May 15, 2015. (That star rating can’t be confirmed, but I read it on the LEGO site, so it must be true.)
They did an incredible job making this whole place all about the kids. You know those long lines at theme parks? Yeah, they have them too, but they are for the parents. The kids get to play with LEGOs on a creation counter right beside the lines while the parents hold the kids place in line. That way the kids have fun and the parents have to suffer in the long lines like they would anyway, they just don’t have to hear their kids whining.
My favorite part of the park was a play center that had soft nerf-style balls all over place and pneumatic guns that you could shoot the balls from. But here’s what made it cool. The upper level is kids only and the parents have to stay on the ground as moving targets for the kids to shoot with the foam balls.
This did not stop me from climbing to the upper level and shooting those incredible inventions though. It was joyous. Every second of it. Until I had to climb back down. Turns out, those tunnels are made for kids from 2 – 12 as well. And I’m apparently much bigger than a 12 year old.
The parental abuse doesn’t stop with the guns. At the firehouse you can climb aboard 1 of 7 firetrucks and race the other firetrucks to the end of the track. The catch? The kids steer the firetruck, the parents pump the hydraulics as fast as they can to make the truck move. Once at the end, we run out, and again using hydraulic pumps have to pump water for the kids to direct the hose at the faux fire. While we went on most of the rides multiple times, this one was a one-time only adventure. Anna and I made sure of that.
Overall, there is a perfect balance between kids getting to be the best of themselves, and adults getting to have fun by reliving childhood LEGO memories.
I was also quite impressed at how many of the attractions were designed to boost a child’s confidence while having fun. A perfect example is the driving school. For kids 6 – 12 (or for kids who have adults willing to fib and tell them their 5 year old is 6 #SorryNotSorry), they can apply for a drivers license by taking brief course on road rules, then going out all on their own and driving a car by themselves. If they pass the rules, they get their license (for the reasonable upsell of twenty bucks).
When you enter the park, you can purchase a LEGO figure that you can trade with anyone else in the park who has a different figure. This teaches the kids about confidence, the willingness to take chances, and value exchange. Priya traded her figure twice with two of the staff.
Oh, and did I mention the Apple Fries? This may be the one thing in the park worth getting the annual pass. I’m not saying I would drive all the way from Tampa to LEGOLAND to get them, but I’m not saying I wouldn’t either. Let’s just say I bought the annual pass.
When you want to escape the heat, there is a play factory where kids and adults can play in big LEGO pits and compete in races with cars they make or flying contraptions that slide down tracks and crash against a wall. Yes, that’s right… you get to have it fly down a track and break into pieces!
And don’t ignore Cyprus Gardens when you get inside! It’s absolutely breathtaking! Some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen, and a giant Banyan tree that looks like it was plucked right out of a fairy tale.
After how much fun I had here, I think it’s time to put a few more child like activities on my list. Especially ones that my brother hasn’t done but always wanted to. Because in addition to loving the park, texting my brother all day long with amazing LEGO creations like full size Ford Mustang’s and ending each text with “suck it bro” was pretty entertaining as well. And just in case my brother is reading this… Dude, you so missed out. This place was amazing. Suck it bro.