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Reasons to Visit LEGOLAND Florida

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LEGO lovers whooped it up under a shower of brightly colored confetti before rushing the gates for the LEGOLAND Florida grand opening this past weekend. Having been at the park the day prior for a media preview, and as a former LEGOLAND California annual pass holder, I was on a mission to get to the best rides in the park.

LEGOLAND Florida Grand Opening

LEGOLAND Florida Grand Opening

LEGOLAND Florida Fun

“What suckers,” I thought as I whizzed past families posing with huge LEGO sculptures of Albert Einstein, dinosaurs, Darth Vader, giraffes, and southern belles. I, much like Charlie Sheen, was winning. I would avoid the insane lines that were sure to form as the throngs crowded the park.

Winners aside, here are seven reasons you should visit LEGOLAND Florida.

1. Interactive attractions for children

LEGOLAND Florida General Manager Adrian Jones brags that while most other amusement parks offer primarily passive entertainment, LEGOLAND's attractions are interactive. Kids drive mini cars around two-lane streets featuring a round-about and stop signs at Ford Driving School. They build and race LEGO vehicles and can even build and program computerized LEGO MINDSTORMS robots in the Imagination Zone. And they get a workout pulling themselves up a rope pulley on Kidpower Tower or romping through play areas. Little kids enjoy DUPLO Village and DUPLO Barn, while older kids love Forestman's Hideout and Pharoah's Revenge.

Another interactive favorite for all ages is the Lost Kingdom ride in Land of Adventure. Riders rack up points for shooting targets throughout the Egyptian-themed dark ride with their own laser guns. Hint: shoot the light on the cobra in the pot in the final room over and over to boost your score.

Kidpower Tower is one of 50 rides, shows, shops, and attractions at the new LEGOLAND Florida theme park

Kidpower Tower is one of 50 rides, shows, shops, and attractions at the new Florida theme park

2. Roller coasters

No amusement park would be complete without roller coasters. LEGOLAND Florida is home to four coasters (one more than is offered by its California sister). All are gentle, yet exciting enough to please both youngsters (my 6-year-old would love them all!) and adults. True thrill seekers may find the coasters a bit too tame but I enjoyed each ride's unique theme and different feel. They had everything from the wooden dinosaur-themed Coastersaurus to the suspended steel Flight School. That one offers a bit more excitement with riders' feet dangling below them as the coaster soars across the tracks.

Flight School roller coaster at Legoland Florida

The Flight School roller coaster is more mellow than it appears

3. Cypress Gardens

Thirty-nine of LEGOLAND Florida's 150 acres make up the historic Cypress Gardens. Originally opened in 1933, Cypress Gardens became famous for its gigantic Banyan Tree, southern belles sporting hoop skirts, and water ski shows with skiers forming daring human pyramids as they swooshed across the adjacent Lake Heloise. Jones said, “Some people see this as the end of Cypress Gardens. I prefer to see it as a new beginning.”

During a tour with proud Landscape Manager Nigel Dunning, I learned all about the native and exotic plants of the garden. The Cypress trees have “knees” (roots that grow as tall as flood waters reach, allowing the trees to breathe). The beautiful but thorny Silver Bell trees bloom pink in the fall (during my visit) and turn fluffy like dandelions to spread their seeds. The park's treasured Banyan tree, brought here in 1936, is a native to India and Asia. 36 turbo jet heaters keep the trees alive when the temperature dips below 35 degrees Fahrenheit here in Florida.

Banyan tree in Cyprus Gardens at Legoland Florida

To understand how big the Cypress Gardens Banyan tree is, look for the people in the left bottom corner of the picture (and, yes, this is one single tree)

4. Water ski show

Although there is no pyramid of water skiers, LEGOLAND keeps the water ski show alive with a pirate-themed show on Lake Heloise. The Battle for Brickbeard's Bounty has children and adults laughing, cheering, and gasping throughout the show. Captain Brickbeard and his band of pirates are defeated by Miss Miranda and her imperial soldiers in a showy display of water ski jumps and tricks. The first five rows get splashed so guard your cameras and cell phones!

Legoland Florida water ski show

Miss Miranda's imperial soldiers in the Battle for Brickbeard's Bounty water ski show

5. Locally sourced, healthy food options (& sinful treats!)

LEGOLAND Florida menu options are tasty, fresh, and reasonably priced. According to Executive Chef Robert Sit, the park's food is locally sourced and seasonal as much as possible. That makes for better nutrition, flavor, and the environment. Traditional amusement park treats like ice cream cones and pizza are available at the park. However, they provide healthy dishes like juicy rotisserie chicken served with roasted vegetables. Plus, all kids' meals come with a whole piece of fruit and choice of water or milk instead of French fries and soda.

Eat a healthy meal and then splurge on an order of LEGOLAND's signature Granny's Applefries. These granny smith apples are coated in a flour mixture before being deep fried and dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with whipped cream.

Apple fries at Legoland Florida

LEGOLAND's signature treat, Granny's Applefries

6. More LEGO fun to come

Located in Winter Haven, LEGOLAND Florida is a good hour drive from Orlando's airport and most tourist attractions and hotels. According to Jones, the goal is to expand LEGOLAND from its current one-day draw to a multi-day destination.

I couldn't get anyone to spill all the LEGO bricks about specific attractions on the docket. However, LEGOLAND Spokesperson Jackie Wallace said, “This is just the beginning for us. So many plans are on the drawing board for LEGOLAND Florida.” By next year, you can expect to see a LEGOLAND Water Park added. Additional rides and interactive attractions plus a LEGO-themed resort hotel are also in the works.

Cyprus Gardens at Legoland Florida

A southern belle built from LEGO bricks is a nod to the history of Cypress Gardens, the botanic garden preserved within the amusement park

7. LEGO brick creations

The star attraction of any LEGOLAND park is Miniland. Here, famous buildings and structures from around the real (and imaginary) world are brought to life. Unique to LEGOLAND Florida are representations of various home-state cities and sites like Miami Beach, the Kennedy Space Station, the Daytona International Speedway, and Key West.

I shouldn't have been surprised by the excitement over all things LEGO as I dashed past photo-snapping families on opening day. It's those plastic sculptures formed from 50 million LEGO bricks that make this park different from all other amusement parks. Orlando residents and visitors are a spoiled bunch when it comes to theme parks. They've been there, ridden that. But the LEGO creations have visitors oohing, ahhing, and snatching up LEGO model kits from gift shops with abandon. Just like Charlie Sheen, it appears I wasn't winning after all.

Miami Beach in Miniland USA at LEGOLAND Florida

Miami Beach in Miniland USA

Can LEGOLAND Florida survive?

Ownership of this historic park has changed hands a few times over the years. Orlando and Winter Haven communities have high hopes that LEGOLAND Florida can revive this once popular tourist attraction. The question is…will LEGO be enough of a draw to lure visitors 60 minutes away from the king mouse of amusement parks?

What do you think? Will the new LEGOLAND park succeed in Florida? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

I took the photos of the Kidpower Tower, the Banyan tree, Granny's Applefries, and Miami Beach in Miniland USA. All others were taken by Chip Litherland Photography and provided courtesy of LEGOLAND Florida. As a member of the media, much of my visit to LEGOLAND Florida was hosted.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. If the crush of the crowd will be less intimidating I think people with very young children will find it more appealing than other fast-paced amusement parks.

  2. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Ellen – the crowds weren’t actually as bad as it looks in the top photo. It is quite a large park with plenty of space for LEGOLAND to add more attractions, so it didn’t feel stiffling at all.

  3. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    zwei2go – I hope you will get a chance to visit LEGOLAND Florida someday. And I hope I will get a chance to visit the European LEGOLANDS someday!

  4. I can’t wait to take my daughter to Legoland Florida. Having been to both Legoland Deutschland (in Germany) and Legoland Windsor (in the UK), I know it won’t disappoint.

  5. Sandra Foyt says:

    There’s no question – LEGOLAND Florida will not only survive, it will thrive! As you’ve beautifully illustrated, they’ve done a great job of creating a unique and engaging family experience.

  6. Winning!!!!!!

  7. Beth Arnold says:

    Getting ready to visit legoland 6/25/2012. Hopeing there is enouph activity for my 13 year old to enjoy. My 8 year old can not wait. I am thinking it might be the first place we visit! Thanks Beth Arnold

  8. April Weaver says:

    We were just there two weeks ago and loved it! The beauty of the cypress gardens was just as fascinating as the numerous Lego creations. My son is not fond of rides so we were pleased with all the other options to keep him entertained! We drove down from Universal and the ride wasn’t bad at all. We wish Lego land Florida much success!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      April – Sounds like you had a wonderful time at LEGOLAND Florida! Cypress Gardens really was my favorite part, but then I’m a sucker for beautiful gardens!

  9. Eric Szvoboda says:

    Another reason is because it is amazingly awesome! I love logo land! This is coming of course from kid growing up with logos all his life and really was the biggest connection I had with my Brother. I really want to take him there and hang out again but alas he live far away from here. Maybe ill send him your article and that will get his interest to come out an visit!

  10. We were there today….and I must say that it was worth the drive from Orlando! My kids (they are 2.5 and 7yrs) liked it more then Disney, it wasn’t as crowded and the line ups for rides weren’t too long. I loved that the kids got to interact more in the rides and activities. We are from Canada and when we come back we’ll be doing it again for sure!!! Be sure to try the Apple Fries!!! They were delish!!!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Deana – So glad your family had such a good time at Legoland Florida! The Apple Fries are so fab!

  11. Jennifer Keaton says:

    We visited Legoland in July 2013. I agree with the descriptions of the attractions here, but with one notable exception: the caricature street artists stationed throughout the park.

    After complaining to the park, I learned that it is their protocol for these artists to do demonstrations on people from the crowd who will sit down to be sketched, no obligation. To buy the caricature. Sounds good so far, right?

    For us, one of these artists pulled in my 12 year old son from the crowd without my knowledge, permission, or anything when he was walking from the bathroom back to our group. Because he’d taken longer than seemed reasonable, I left the group and found him a few paces away in the artist’s chair. To me, this lack of respect for my son and what basically seemed to me to be akin to kidnapping was beyond the pale.

    Had Legoland responded with anything suggesting that our experience was unacceptable, was not in keeping with their player training, that they would reiterate to these artists that parental consent before detaining vulnerable children is against policy…anything of that flavor…I would have a very different opinion about Legoland Florida’s commitment to child safety, concern about families, and general business practices.

    So, my suggestion to parents is to instruct your children to stay away from the artists since the artists apparently will have no respect for you or your child’s safety.
    Jennifer Keaton

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Jennifer – I’m sorry to hear about your negative experience with Legoland. We are Legoland California annual pass holders and have never had a negative experience like this.

  12. Maddie H. says:

    Legoland is probably the most boring, packed, and rushed amusement park I’ve ever been to. Both the one in California and Florida have no sense of rides whatsoever. Even the little kids were completely disappointed that there were no amazing thrill rides. Even the 6 year olds thought the roller coasters at Universal Studios and Disney World were better. I’m majorly disappointed by how small the park is and how they have nothing to offer to kids over 5. It seems more like the plastic kid playgrounds in malls.

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