A Legoland Adventure: So much family fun

Taking my nephew to Legoland was one of the most memorable of weekends. Watching the joy and excitement in him as he saw his favorite Ninjago characters come to life was priceless. Legoland was a 6-year-old’s fantasy world come true and I wrote about our trip in the Napa Valley Register, which I share here. If you are looking for a fun family activity, make sure Legoland is on your list!

Legoland California, located in Carlsbad, on the north side of San Diego County, just turned 20 years old.

While Legoland may be 20, its biggest fans are between 4 and 10 years old. So, when I went down to Legoland to celebrate its birthday, I had to bring two of Lego’s biggest fans, my 5 3/4-year-old nephew Harrison and his friend, Thomas.

We arrived in the evening, just around bedtime. But when we pulled up to the Legoland Castle Hotel, which opened last year and sits next to the Legoland entrance, bedtime was put on hold.

The 250-room hotel looks like a Lego castle and inside the lobby, a child’s fantasy came to life. A large Lego pit sits in the center of the lobby and there is also a slide. While the adults stood in a long line to check in, the children were running, playing and exploring.

As we checked into our room, we were given a treasure hunt. We had to solve four questions to come up with a code. We searched the lobby, found the clues and headed up to our room.

Each of the rooms are themed as Knight, Princess or Wizard rooms, each with dragons, potions and animals crafted in Lego bricks.

Every room has a king-size bed with a television for the adults. But the kids get a separate bunk-bedded room with a play area filled with Lego bricks and a television.

Inside the room, there was a locked safe and we entered the code we had and inside found a treasure – a bag of Lego toys to take home.

Once we were able to temper the excitement, it was time for bed as we had a big day ahead of us. But, at two o’clock in the morning, I heard a little voice, only to find the boys out of bed with the light on and playing Legos. Their excitement was so overwhelming that they were ready to go. I persuaded them to go back to sleep and everyone was quiet until seven a.m.

There are two perks of staying in the Legoland Castle Hotel. The first is that breakfast, and a very good one at that, is included. And, of course, there is a large Lego play pit for the kids to play in while waiting for a table or while waiting for the adults to finish eating.

The other perk is that you can access parts of Legoland park earlier than standard ticket holders.

The park has more than 60 rides, shows, and attractions — including three rollercoasters, live shows by the Lego Friends, and entertainment and meet-and-greets related to various Lego incarnations, from Ninjago to “The Lego Movie” and Lego Batman.

Legoland is a manageable size with different zones—Land of Adventure, Fun Town, Pirate Shores, Castle Hill, Imagination Zone, Explorer Island, Miniland USA and Lego Ninjago World. We traversed the park a couple times throughout the day, doing as much as we possibly could.

We rode the Coasterasaurus, a roller coaster that goes around twice through a prehistoric jungle of Lego brick dinosaurs. No too fast with minimal dips, this roller coaster is the perfect for first-time roller coaster riders.

We flew the Sky Patrol helicopters where my nephew was in control of our going up or down or left or right.

We slid down the Dune Raiders slide in potato sacks, ran through Pharaoh’s Revenge where soft foam balls are fired and whoosh by, and went on a safari where we spotted full-sized Lego animals.

We also went to Skipper School where he captained his own boat and stopped by Duplo Playtown, a primary-colored mini-wonderland of slides, small houses, and static vehicles positioned on a hill overlooking the diminutive buildings of Miniland.

As fun as all of these activities were, the real highlights were Driving School, Lego City Deep Sea Adventure and Build a Boat.

At Driving School, Harrison got his own Lego car and drove it around the streets. There are no tracks, so he was in total control and he managed the streets so well, he received his Legoland Driver’s License when he finished.

The Lego City Deep Sea Adventure is a real submarine that submerges underwater with real sea creatures. We saw fish, sharks and manta rays while looking for Lego treasures in an interactive treasure hunt.

And at Build a Boat, kids build a Lego boat of their own design and then send it down rushing water and winding turns to the finish.

Other highlights, which we adults enjoyed as well, were Miniland USA and The Lego Movie 2 Experience. With The Lego Movie 2 Experience, we got to go behind-the-scenes of an actual live movie set and step onto the Lego soundstage where we saw the Lego models seen in the movie.

And, Miniland USA is a visual stunner with expansive miniaturized recreations of Washington D.C., New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as scenes from the Star Wars movies, including an enormous LEGO Death Star. Miniland USA is made up of 32,496,352 Lego bricks!

For my nephew, the true highlight of our visit to Legoland was Ninjago Land where we went on Lego Ninjago The Ride and got to throw fireballs, lightning, shockwaves and ice at the Great Devourer and earn ninja status.

He also got to meet some of his favorite Lego Ninjago characters and take photos with them. His pure excitement at meeting Kai and Nya had him talking to me the whole way home about them and the other characters including Master Wu, Lloyd, Lord Garmadon, Jay, Zane and more. I feel like a Ninjango expert myself now.

Another fun thing that we did throughout the day was trade Lego Minifigures. My nephew came to the park with one, although you can buy them at the park and could trade with any Lego employee throughout the day. At first, he was nervous and needed a little prodding. But by the end of the day, when he would see an employee wearing a name badge with mini-figures attached, he would march right up and point to the one he wanted to trade for.

It is really hard to say who had more fun, my nephew who was in Lego heaven, or me watching him enjoy himself. I do know that when we got home, as he crawled into bed, he looked at me and said, “Alli? Can we go again and stay two nights in the hotel?”

Then, a few weeks later, while spending an afternoon together, we were recalling our trip to Legoland while drawing pictures. He knew I was writing a story about our trip and so I encouraged him to draw some pictures about our trip. Together we chronicled our trip and then folded it and stapled it like a book. But, Harrison wanted it to look like a real book so he asked his dad and they printed it as a real bound book, making a copy for each of us to remember forever. [Here is our book.]

A trip to Legoland, which also has its own water park and aquarium, is definitely a great family trip. And, for Legoland’s 20th birthday, they are offering free entry for kids under 12 on their birthday this year.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.