By Brady MacDonald
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
12:10 PM PST, November 9, 2010
Legoland Florida will open in October 2011 with 50 rides, attractions and shows at the former Cypress Gardens theme park in Winter Haven, about 40 miles from Disney World.
In many ways, Legoland Florida will be similar to Legoland California in Carlsbad, which in turn is similar to other Legoland parks around the world: a kiddie theme park divided into lands based on adventure, exploration, imagination and, of course, Legos. Like all Legoland theme parks, the demographic will consist of 2- to 12-year-old kids and their minivan-driving, stroller-pushing parents.
Photo gallery: Top 10 Legoland California rides and attractions
The heart of any Legoland, and my favorite part of the California park, is Miniland. The Florida Miniland will feature landmarks from the Sunshine State. So it won't, for instance, bother with a New Orleans French Quarter area, which seems more exotic to Californians than to Floridians.
The most oft-asked question about Legoland Florida: Why Winter Haven? Which is another way of saying, "Nobody's going to drive that far for a theme park."
Much like Walt Disney's choices of Anaheim and Orlando decades ago, Legoland officials have a knack for choosing out-of-the-way locations that just happen to be between two big metropolitan areas. In California, it's Los Angeles and San Diego. In Florida, it's Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
Legoland chose the Cypress Gardens location in part because much of the necessary infrastructure, such as shops, restaurants and bathrooms, was already in place. The new park will re-theme and reuse several Cypress Gardens attractions, including the landmark gardens and three roller coasters.
Two former Cypress Gardens coasters have found new Florida homes: the Galaxy Spin spinning coaster has moved to Kissimmee, and the beloved Starliner appears headed back to Panama City, where the wooden coaster originated in 1963.
Meanwhile, Legoland California has seen rapid growth over the last decade in attractions and attendance. Additions have included entire new themed lands, a separate-admission Lego water park and a SeaLife aquarium (also separate admission), with a planned and approved Lego-themed hotel on the horizon. I wouldn't be the least surprised if all four – new lands, water park, aquarium and hotel – eventually show up at Legoland Florida.
Below I've compiled a land-by-land breakdown of attractions planned for Legoland Florida on opening day, scheduled for Oct. 15. Under each land, I've also included future possibilities, based on attractions found at other Legoland parks in California, Denmark, Germany and Britain. (It's important to emphasize these are long-term possibilities and by no means are official proposals for the Florida park.)
The entrance area will include shops and restaurants, including Granny's Apple Fries. Attractions include the Flying Island indoor viewing platform (formerly Island in the Sky), a Lego-themed carousel and a 4-D theater where four animated movies featuring Lego characters will be screened. The former Cypress Gardens conservatory will be converted into a gallery of Lego flowers and butterflies while the park's former mansion will eventually host private group meetings.
Future possibilities: Flight Squadron plane ride (California Denmark and Germany), Sky Patrol helicopter ride (California and Britain), train ride around the park (Denmark, Germany and Britain)
The centerpiece of the Florida park will feature scale-model Lego versions of Washington, D.C., landmarks, Las Vegas casinos and a stunning New York City skyline. Unique to Florida's Miniland will be a pirate ship battle (which replaces an ill-defined "harbor" area found in Legoland California) and famous Florida locales including Key West, the Kennedy Space Center and the Daytona 500 racetrack (but apparently no Disney World).
The preschooler playground will feature three kiddie rides: the Fire Brigade fire trucks, a plane ride similar to Cargo Ace at Legoland California and an as-yet-unnamed mini-truck ride.
Future possibilities: Fairy Tale Brook boat ride (California and Britain), Legoland Express train ride (California, Denmark, Germany and Britain)
The medieval-themed land will feature the cute Royal Joust horseback ride for the little ones, an undulating caterpillar ride identical to one found at Legoland Germany and the indoor/outdoor Dragon coaster (utilizing Cypress Gardens' former Okeechobee Rampage family coaster, which will eventually wind through a castle filled with Lego scenes). An as-yet-unnamed tree-and-rope climbing area will be similar to the Hideaways at Legoland California.
Future possibilities: Vikings River Splash whitewater river raft ride (Denmark and Britain)
Land of Adventure
The explorer-themed land (think Nickelodeon's Dora meets Indiana Jones) will feature the shoot-em-up Lost Kingdom Adventure dark ride, the kid-sized Beetle Bounce drop tower, an animal-themed Safari Tour off-road vehicle ride and the Pharaoh's Revenge foam ball play area. Legoland Florida will graft the dinosaur-centric Coastersaurus theme onto Cypress Gardens' former Triple Hurricane wooden coaster.
Future possibilities: Dune Raiders slide (California), Dig Those Dinos sandbox (California), Raptor Splash water play area (California)
Legoland's home for "pink-knuckle" thrill rides will include the Lego Racers race-car course, the Technic coaster (a twist on the classic Wild Mouse) and the awesome Aquazone Wave Racers water ride.
Future possibilities: Bionicle Power Builder Kuko arm ride (California, Denmark and Germany), Bionicle Blasters teacups (California and Germany)
The transportation-themed land will include the physically exhausting Fun Town Fire Academy interactive fire truck race ride; a fun pair of driving schools featuring Lego cars; the Skipper School boat ride; and a fire-safety-themed live show called "The Big Test." Legoland Florida plans to keep Cypress Gardens' Swamp Thing suspended coaster, giving it the working title of "Flight School."
Future possibilities: Balloon School hot air balloon ride (Britain), Digger Challenge backhoe construction experience (Britain)
The play area will be a virtual toy box filled with places for kids to play test Lego bricks, cars, robots and video games. Parents should bring their wallets. The land will also include Kid Power Towers, a human-powered free-fall ride that builds up your biceps.
Future possibilities: Sky Cruiser pedal-powered ride (California, Germany and Britain)
Legoland plans to keep the landmark gardens, adding Lego flowers and treasure-hunt items to the grounds. The plan is to eventually call the area Cypress Gardens, but the park plans to wait on the tribute to avoid confusion during the initial opening. The famed Southern Belles, beautiful debutantes in ball gowns, will return in Lego form only.
Future possibilities: Coast Cruise boat ride (California)
The Lake Eloise ski stadium, formerly home to Cypress Gardens' renowned water ski show, will host a pirate-themed water stunt show similar to the "Pirates of Skeleton Bay" live-action show at Legoland Windsor in Britain.
Future possibilities: An entirely new themed land called Pirates Shores would fit perfectly between the Xtreme and Miniland areas of the Florida park and might include the Splash Battle water battle boat ride, a rocking pirate ship, a water flume ride and water slides. (California, Denmark, Germany and Britain)
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