Shaun Hinds took his young family to Florida to try out the new Legoland
Anyone lucky enough to take a holiday in Florida will know that there is only so much magic one family can take.
Especially when travelling with young children, where the choice of rides can become a little repetitive and after a while the relationship between the wait time and the ride duration seems somewhat disproportionate.
With my little girl celebrating her sixth birthday, we were keen to try something a little different. Conveniently, Legoland decided to open its latest park to coincide with our holiday and so we were only too pleased to make the trip to Winter Haven, home to the new Legoland Florida.
Holidaying in the theme park central of Orlando means you soon become conditioned to queues. Despite the familiarity, it’s still hard for a six-year-old and a four-year-old to grasp the notion of queuing. On this occasion, it was clear the relative newness of the park was contributing to one or two teething troubles with tickets. So after appreciating the novelty of a Lego Southern Belle, a clue to the heritage of the location, and nothing short of a battalion of guest services staff issuing maps to all arrivals, we made it inside about an hour later. Once inside the memory of the wait was quickly forgotten as our attention turned to the business of what to do first.
Unlike some of the other Orlando parks, which can seem overwhelming, Legoland feels much more manageable. All the areas are within close proximity to each other, so flitting back and forth between rides, an unavoidable hazard with two little ones in charge, is easily accomplished. But like the Tardis, just because it feels small, don’t be fooled into thinking it is. The Lego team has delivered an incredible choice of rides, attractions and outlets. Furthermore, the vast majority of them can be experienced by even the youngest visitor. Even though we had a full day, there was still plenty of the park we did not experience.
The highlights? The Lego cityscapes are something to behold. The children, somewhat surprisingly, were less impressed, the allure of the rides being too great. The Aquazone Wave Racer water ride, which features in the TV ad, looks amazing, but a steady stream of drenched riders exiting the attraction was enough to deter our two. Instead it was the Technic Test Track rollercoaster that captured Matilde’s imagination – five times as it happens. Having served her apprenticeship on the Ben 10 rollercoaster at Drayton Manor, and feeling emboldened by repeat rides on Disney’s Expedition Everest two days earlier, she was ready for everything Legoland had to offer. The look on her face betrayed how much she enjoyed the ride and it remains, without doubt, her favourite.
Boating School, with its combination of unguided, powered boats driven by children around a twisting, turning river, is a recipe for lots of amusement; as much for the spectator as the participant. The two Ford Driving Schools were brilliant. The junior version for under-sixes is a simple oval track mini kart experience, but nonetheless my son was ripping it up like Sebastian Vettel on the school run. The slightly older version features a mini town road layout with junctions, roundabouts and lights. It’s fair to say the roundabouts confused most of the locals, leading to some isolated instances of child road rage. Not Matilde though, after a couple of tries on this, I was seriously considering putting her through the theory test back home.
Scattered around the park, and in between the bigger rides, you’ll find a host of smaller attractions that hold just as much appeal. There’s the Royal Joust with Lego horses, Beetle Bounce (a miniature version of the Stratosphere Big Shot ride in Vegas), an adventure playground, a Lego build and test zone, theatre areas and lots more. One that proved very popular was the Kid Power Towers. Here you use a rope to pull yourself up and then enjoy a controlled ‘freefall’ to the bottom of the tower. It’s great fun, and the perfect release for Competitive Dad Syndrome. We concluded the day with a ride on Island in the Sky. Essentially it’s a revolving platform that extends 150ft into the air and once you get over the, ‘is this safe?’ issue, it’s superb.
In summary, Legoland Florida is a great contrast to the Orlando parks and is a must if you have young children. My only regret is that I did not sample some of Granny’s Apple Fries.
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