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We recently returned from our trip to San Diego. While we were there, we were able to visit SeaWorld San Diego and the San Diego Zoo, but the focus of our trip was Legoland California! Here are ten tips to getting the most out of your trip when you have young kids:
1) Go More Than One Day!
You can do Legoland in one day, but if you have little kids, it won’t be any fun. You know that there are lines for rides, the kids need down time, and there are always the multiple breaks for bathroom and eating. We got the 3-Day ParkHopper Pass from Costco. The first day we rode a lot of rides, the second day we spent at the waterpark (more on that later), and the third day we spent catching anything we missed. The best part about the ParkHopper Pass is that you have two weeks to use your three days from the date of your first admission. This means you can take a day off in between visits if you need.
2) Get There Early (but not too early)!
Technically, the park opens at 10:00 am, but they actually open the gates at 9:00! Guests of the Legoland Hotel are allowed to visit several areas of the park. But even if you didn’t stay at the hotel, you still have limited access to some areas near the front. We were able to check out some LEGO building areas in the Imagination Zone as well as ride the Coast Cruise and the new Ninjago Ride. Ninjago had a very short line when we rode it, but when we passed by later, it had a wait time of over 45 minutes! Also, if you get there early, just pay for regular parking, not preferred. At that time, you are literally right next to the preferred spots. However, if you get there too early, you will check out all you are allowed to see and the kids will get antsy waiting for the rest of the park to open. My suggestion; get to the park at 9:00. By the time you park, walk to the gate and check out the front area, the rest of the park will be opened.
3) Know How Tall Your Kids Are!
Like all amusement parks, the rides have height requirements, and Legoland is very strict about following them. Being 48 inches tall will get kids on most rides without an adult. Kids between 34 inches and 47 inches can still ride most rides with an adult (there are exceptions) Anyone under 34 inches is extremely limited as to what they can ride. Our seven year old son was 49 inches, our five year old daughter was 41, and our one and a half year old was 32. There were several rides where our oldest rode alone, one parent rode with our middle child, and the other parent watched with the toddler. However, we were still able to find some rides we could do all together.
4) Skip the Coasters!
I know, I know, but hear me out. The lines for the coasters get really long, really early. Young kids are terrible at waiting in line. There’s so much for younger kids to see and do in the rest of the park, why spend half your day waiting in line making your kids miserable. Also, while my two oldest were tall enough, the 5 year old had no inclination of riding those things because she thought they looked scary. My 7 year old son was only mildly interested, until he saw the lines. I suggest waiting until they’re older and can appreciate the thrill, rather than get scared to death. If you have a kid who insists on riding a coaster, I strongly suggest you go there as soon as the park opens at 10:00.
5) Get the Most Out of the Water Park!
We spent an entire day at the water park, and it was worth it. The climbing structures, the wave pool, the slides. Younger kids can be wet all day and just have a blast. It is separate from the main park, and while you can go between the waterpark area (which includes both the Water Park and the Chima Water Park), and the main area, it is not that convenient. I would also recommend getting a locker. You have all day access to it with a special wristband (up to two wristbands per locker). As a special note, make sure your kids are wearing swimsuits without zippers! This includes one piece suits that zip up the front. Kids will not be allowed on the slides if they have any zippers.
6) Do Pirate Reef the Right Way!
Pirate Reef is the big water flume ride, and you will get soaked! The kids and I loved it, but there are some tricks to doing it right. This ride is accessible from both the main park and the water park. Basically, they load one boat with people from the main park and alternate with the next boat being from the water park. I thought it would be smart to ride it from the water park side, since we were already wet and in our swim suits. Don’t fall into that trap! The line is a lot longer on the water park side. If I had to do it over again, I would get on from the main park side. Pirate Reef is located in Pirate Shores, and most of the rides in that area get you wet. They even have a structure where kids get completely drenched. Just bring a change of clothes when you visit Pirate Shores. They have a changing area in that section of the park.
7) Check out the Aquarium!
In addition to the main park and the water park, Legoland has a separate aquarium section called Sea Life. It is not huge, but it is a great way to get out of the heat in the middle of the day. We went there on our third day and spent about an hour or so walking through it. They have a cool jellyfish area and an impressive tank for smaller species of sharks. They also had a touch tank that the kids really enjoyed. Kids get a card when they enter Sea Life and they have to find different punch stations along the way. If they get all nine punches, they can get a prize at the end.
8) Leave Time for Unstructured Play!
There are tons of areas where the kids can enjoy Legoland California that have absolutely nothing to do with rides. The Imagination Zone is great for kids that need some time to just sit and play. We visited the Build & Test Area where the kids built LEGO cars and raced them down a racing ramp against each other. We also tried our hand at building at the LEGO Hero Factory. There was also a trip in to the DUPLO Play area. In addition to these specialized areas, there were multiple places where there were piles of LEGOS and kids could just build something. There were also a few places around the park where the kids could release some of the energy they built up waiting in lines. The youngest crowd really enjoy DUPLO Playtown. It had little houses and buildings the kids could climb on as well as some smaller slides. My older two loved The Hideaways. It was a big structure with cargo nets, tube slides and spaces to hide from parents. I loved it because there was only one gate, so I could just sit there and wait until they showed up after all their climbing and sliding.
9) Trade a MiniFig!
I think the highlight of my son’s trip was trading a mini figure with one of the Model Citizens (staff members). All of the park staff wear badges that are made out of a flat LEGO brick. Some of them customize their badges with different pieces to make them stand out. Many of them have MiniFigs standing on them. One staff member told me that if they have a figure on their badge, they are required to trade it if a kid asks and has one to trade. One lady had a vest with several figures on it and she just walked through the Imagination Zone trading with kids left and right. So here’s your chance to get rid of a duplicate figure or that plain old construction worker for somebody special. My son got one that had a shirt that said “I Love Legoland!” While we’re on the topic of MiniFigs, there are a couple of shops in the park where you can build your own mini figures. This was a great souvenir and I thought it was more special than buying a regular LEGO set.
10) Fan Favorites!
Here are some remarks from our experts about the best parts of Legoland:
From the one and a half year old (translated based on smiles and requests to go again): Ride the boats at Fairy Tale Brook, the horses at Mia’s Riding Camp, and the planes at Cargo Ace.
From the 5 year old girl (with clarifying comments): Ride the helicopters (in Sky Patrol) and the firetrucks (in Funtown Police and Fire Academy).
From the 7 year old boy: The best rides are the cars in Driving School and the Ninjago Ride.
From the Mom: Take the self-guided factory tour. Also, the baby care center was amazing, but there’s only one. Hopefully, they’ll consider putting one on the other side of the park.
From the Dad (That’s me): MiniLand USA is absolutely incredible and a must see, but save some time to check out the LEGO Star Wars area!
Using these tips will help you get through Legoland California with everyone singing “Everything is Awesome!” as you had to the car at the end of the day.
Have you ever been to Legoland California? Do you have any tips to add?