Not too scary

The Coastersaurus circles a dinosaur crafted from Lego bricks. The junior roller coaster is in a new dinosaur-themed area of Legoland. (Craig Nakano / LAT)

  • Also
  • Ready, aim at fire Photo: Ready, aim at fire
  • Budget for four

    Expenses for this trip:

    Lodging
    Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, two nights with tax $351.54

    Admission and parking
    Legoland, two adults, one child, one child free, auto-club discount $106.85
    Lunch at Legoland $38.25

    Admission and parking
    SeaWorld, Fun Card passes (admission through December) for two adults, one child, one child free $153.85
    Lunch at SeaWorld $39.15

    Other meals $79.23

    Gas $43.38

    Final tab: $812.25

    CONTACT: Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, 1380 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, CA 92101; (619) 291-2900, www.sheraton.com .

    SeaWorld, (800) 380-3203, www.seaworld.com .

    Legoland, (760) 918-5346, www.legoland.com .


There's danger lurking at amusement parks.

The danger is a word.

And that word is "again."

As in, "Uncle Craig, Shipwreck Rapids got us soooo wet. Can we ride it again?"

Or, "Uncle Craig, Bionicle Blaster made me so dizzy, I think I'm going to throw up. Let's go again!"

Or, simply, "Coastersaurus! Again, again, again!"

Coastersaurus, for those who haven't heard, is a roller coaster at Legoland. Two weeks ago I rode it. Again and again and again.

I rode many coasters, in fact. My mission was to rate the newest rides and attractions at Legoland in Carlsbad and SeaWorld in San Diego. Tough work.

Enter Daniel, age 6. He's more than a nephew. He's a coaster connoisseur, a maestro of amusement. This is a kid who, at 3, was doling out critiques of Knott's Berry Farm and chiding the park's mascot, Snoopy, for not being attentive enough. In the world of critics, he is no Gene Shalit.

For our outing two weeks ago, the kid rated rides using the system of Mrs. Matzner, his first-grade teacher. If a ride earned a 4, that meant it was "very good," he said. A grade of 3 meant "pretty good," 2 meant "OK" and 1 meant trouble.

Coming along for the ride were Daniel's 2-year-old brother, Eric, a protégé in the making, and my partner, Todd.

One Saturday morning we were among the first to pass through Legoland's turnstiles, beelining for the park's new marquee ride, the Coastersaurus.

Daniel looked up at the twisting track. He glanced at Uncle Todd, who's a tad roller-coaster-phobic. Then he muttered to me, "He's going to be crying for his mommy."

Turns out the Coastersaurus — a junior coaster, in theme park parlance — wasn't so scary. Our little cart scooted around a life-sized brachiosaurus made of Lego bricks, never whizzing much faster than 20 mph. There was virtually no wait to get on, so by 10:15 we had ridden it twice.

"My face was like this!" Daniel exulted, pulling his cheeks toward his ears. The G-forces really weren't that strong, and I thought ride designers had done too little to dress up the simple track layout. But none of that mattered to the kid. His rating: 4.

Coastersaurus is part of a new dinosaur-themed part of Legoland that also includes Dig Those Dinos, a sand play area where children can dig for fake bones, teeth and other "fossils." You pay $3 to rent a brush and pail. That's on top of the $41.95 per adult and $35.95 per child park admission fee and $7 parking charge. Though we saved 20% on admission with an auto-club discount good through June, the added brush-and-pail fee was irksome.

The same held true for Raptor Splash, another new play area. Opposing teams used giant slingshots to launch water balloons at each other's "battle stations." The catch: You had to buy buckets of balloons at $3 a pop.

Daniel thought the game looked to be a surefire 4. His cheap uncle gave the pay-as-you-play concept a solid 1.

We moved on to Fun Town Fire Academy, opened three weeks ago. The line was short, the wait only two minutes. We soon found out why.