LEGOLAND Florida has opened to great fanfare in Central Florida on the footprint of Florida’s original theme park, Cypress Gardens. From the playful characters to the gardens, the rides and shows to the food, shopping and plenty of photo opportunities, LEGOLAND Florida promises a day filled with fun, adventure, and plenty of new memories.
Primarily for children 2 – 12, LEGOLAND Florida welcomes every family member. Built with more than 50 million bricks and set on 150 acres, LEGOLAND Florida offers up more than 50 family friendly shows, rides, attractions, and plenty of ways to enjoy the day. There are 10 themed zones and the walk between is among a park-like setting of trees, flowers, plants and those soon-to-be-familiar LEGO characters.
Here are some tips and warnings in general and for many of the rides to get you going. These are based on our day at LEGOLAND for Media Day, the day prior to the October 15th Grand Opening, and in some cases, may be smoothed out as they move forward.
- Plan Ahead: Head online and read our coverage here at Rori Travels Florida for our experiences, then head over to the LEGOLAND Florida website to check in on the map to help you plan your day. A day at LEGOLAND Florida will be so individual, based on the make-up of your group. From one child to many, ages of those in the group, to even how many adults, you’re going to have a unique experience and planning ahead will help you save time.
- Arrive early: This will be a full day. The folks at LEGOLAND Florida plan to one day have an on-site water-park and then resort, so soon there will be more to do, and places to stay will be popping up. But no matter how close or far, you’re going to spend a full day here trying to see and experience it all, so get there early.
- Shop later – Except: You don’t want to be carrying LEGO boxes and t-shirts in bags around all day, so save the shopping until later in the day. *Maybe even take a break in the mid-afternoon to do it and avoid crowds, but not carry things all day long. ** However, do stop in and buy the mini-LEGO people – ask when you’re in the store – so that the little ones can trade them with “Modal Citizens” – the LEGO name for employees. Just like Disney World pins, you can trade for other cool LEGO people found on their name tags.
- Keep an eye on the watch: Its very easy to get into an area and forget the time. Especially in places like Miniland, home of the LEGO cities.
- Start at the back: Like all great theme parks, it seems that heading to the back and working forward will work here as well. As many start their day up front and move to the back, plus then have to make the walk to the front at the end of the day. If you start at the back we think you’re more likely to avoid crowds as they build over the day, and you’ll end up in the front, by the stores and exit.
- Go on a nice day: If you can at all plan – or change your plans – go on a nice day, do. LEGOLAND Florida is primarily outdoors and with little ones, unless you do not mind them being wet all day, this is going to be a nice-weather theme park. Unlike Disney World where you can get inside for a while and wearing a poncho can help, we think LEGOLAND Florida will be much more enjoyable overall if you can be there without the rain. They also point out on their information that in the event of a thunderstorm with lightning, they will close rides, – which are primarily all outside – so another reason to go early and/or on a nice day.
- Get a map: Yep, get a map. Unlike Disney World with a lot of “old timers” returning and again and again, LEGOLAND Florida is a new entity and most of us have no idea what’s where. Its not laid out like Disney World, these 10 theme zones are not off a central hub and working in basically a circle. In fact, when you’re in one “land” you might think a path will take you to the next one, when you could still end up in the same one, only a different part of it (Land of Adventure) or you may think you’ve got to make a longer walk to get to something when its really just around a corner. Planning ahead will also help you move from one to another without taking too much time.
- Food: All American: There are some choices between burgers, dogs and pizza. There are sugary treats as well such as funnel cakes and ice cream. Healthy isn’t all the important here, but if you’re looking, sandwiches, wraps and salads are found at the Lakeside Sandwich Co. (Technic near the Pirate Show) or soups and salads at the Market Restaurant (The Beginning).
- Cypress Gardens is a Must-Do, but: For anyone who remembers Cypress Gardens, this is a must-do area of the park. You’ll relive some wonderful memories of the park setting, the lovely gazebo remains up on the hill, the Banyon tree is simply cool to see, and the LEGO Belle is a nod to those lovely ladies of the past. That said, if you’re with little ones or you’ve never been to Cypress Gardens, or you’re on a tight schedule, this part of LEGOLAND Florida is ok to skip. Yes, its wonderful and lovely, but this is a big place and if you have to skip something, this might be it. Set off on its own at the back of the park, past the Pirate’s Cove show, you’re going to do a decent amount of walking to get there, get through, then get back. No, it is not hard, just time, so plan yours carefully.
TIPS & WARNINGS, RIDES (we did not get on all, but this is a good start)
- This place is for kids: You’re thinking, duh, I know. I repeat: this place is for kids. That’ll be something you think about a lot when you’re trying to fit your frame into many rides. You’re going to want or need to go with the kids, but some you’ll feel like you’re too big for, sticking out of and so on. And NO, it has nothing to do with you being too fat or too tall. Every adult is going to go through this.
- Height restrictions: Yes, there are some here. That said, in every case we know of, those under that height can still ride, but must be with someone over that height who is responsible. This is where adults come in handy – or bigger kids. We saw on a few occasions where they matched little ones up with other riders who were of height. Also, on two occasions we saw Modal Citizens (employees) on the ride with little ones, though we do not know any policy on this.
- Three Levels I call “Ride Maturity”: After spending the day and watching the kids – plus our time at Disney World – I believe there is something called “Ride Maturity” that basically says that while height and age do come into play, so does ride maturity. For example, a child might be big enough and even old enough, but do they have the “Ride Maturity” to enjoy that ride? We all know of kids going through “dark ride fear” – for my nieces and nephew it was age 3. Now at 5, 7, and 9 they all love the fast, dark, scary rides throughout Disney World. Knowing your child’s “Ride Maturity” will help determine where you want to head and can help save time and fits in line.
- Do Not Assume: Even though you know your child’s Ride Maturity, do not assume. There is currently one dark ride, most are outside, and many you can figure out pretty closely what the fear level is going to be. But do not assume. Be aware that a child may find something totally boring! We saw those faces as well.
- Nothing to do in lines: This place built for kids missed a pretty vital elements: keeping them busy between. We saw it as they waited for the pirate show to begin and they were getting bored waiting. We saw it in lines. There is nothing for kids to do or see while waiting in lines. Line themeing is pretty limited, so it means watching the ride or just waiting. Understand this as this new park’s lines are sure to be long for awhile. You might want to bring something to do, or just learn to deal.
- Nothing to cool you: Ok, there are plenty of shady places around the park and even the lines are covered, but as of Media Day, the day before opening, there were no fans nor cooling elements under the covers. This is October and come next spring (2012) that may be fixed. But we still have warm, even hot days here, so be aware that cooling could still be an issue.
- Pay Attention: We could not always hear the announcements and that made for some times we had no idea what was going on. This can also be dangerous as you might miss what’s happening.
- Ride Safety: Overall the rides seem and feel safe. That said, adult size makes you feel uneasy. We were uncomfortable on the car Test Track ride when we felt the cars shift in the corners. The Drop Towers Laura pointed out the ease of opening the restraints from the moment she knew where they were, so a return ride could see a child knowing show to do that. Be aware of ride safety as you go through the day.
Specific Rides: (not all listed)
- Boating School: Free moving, goes a bit slow, interesting, but may be boring for older kids. Sit and drive, interactive.
- Cypress Gardens: Interesting for those returning, those who like parks, may be too boring for those with active or young children.
- Rescue Academy: Fun for little ones, may be boring as they get older. Interactive.
- Ford Driving School: Fun for many ages, drive around and follow rules of the road. Interactive.
- Ford Jr Driving School: Like driving school, age appropriate. Interactive.
- Flying School: Age older, a little scary for some, “Pink Knuckle”. Roller Coaster.
- Coastersaurus: Fun, age a little older, fun for adults. “Pink Knuckle” but easy. Roller Coaster.
- Safari Trek: Large age range, slow, somewhat interactive, LEGO animals throughout. Somewhat interactive.
- Beetle Bounce: mid to older age range, ride goes up and bounces down, so good stomach and no fear of heights. “Pink Knuckle” type.
- Lost Kingdom Adventure: Dark Ride, indoors, shoot at items with car-attached “gun.” Age range large. Interactive.
- Kid Power Towers: Two riders, height restrictions but ok with taller riders. Age mid to upper. Higher energy, Interactive.
- Aquazone Wave Racers: Ride across water, mid to older age. High energy, Circular. Interactive.
- Test Track: Mid to upper age. Roller Coaster. Height restriction, ride with adults. “Pink Knuckle” but we thought “white”.
- Technicycle: mid to upper. Peddle to rise, circular. Be ok with heights and circular. Interactive.
- Pirates Cover Live Water Show: Whole family. On water-land show. Adventure. Fun. Some interaction.
- Royal Joust: up to mid-age range. Older may be bored. Some low level interaction.
- The Dragon: Roller Coaster. Height restrictions. Mid to upper age. “Pink Knuckle.”
- Merlin’s Challenge: Mid to upper age. Circular ride with up and down motion along track. “Pink Knuckle.”
- DUPLO Village: Young to Mid. Like a playground and Carnival. Mild to Higher Interactive.
- The Grand Carousel: Double deck carousel for everyone in family.
- Island in the Sky: For those without fear of height or motion sickness. Age range wide.