Our grandsons, ages 4 and 7, live and breathe Legos, so they rejoiced when I booked a hotel and admissions package at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif. My husband, Paul, and I girded our loins for amusement park stress: long lines, big crowds and blah food. To our surprise, we were so taken with Legoland’s stimulating interactive attractions, variety of food choices and recently opened Castle Hotel that we ended up enjoying the experience almost as much as our grandsons did. The tab: $699, including tax, for one night plus breakfast at the Castle Hotel and two days’ admission to Legoland and Sea Life Aquarium, and $125 for food and snacks.
The Castle Hotel grabbed the boys’ attention starting with the Legos-filled play pit in the lobby and the climbing/play structures in the courtyard. They couldn’t wait to hit the swimming pool, complete with floating Legos. But what blew their minds was our room, decorated like a wizard’s lair down to the Lego owl mascots. It featured a curtained-off kids’ alcove with bunk beds, a Lego building station and a ceiling that lighted up like the night sky. Paul and I were happy to have a king-size bed and privacy in the adjoining room.
We expected morning gridlock in the hotel’s Dragon’s Den restaurant because breakfast is included. Instead, families moved like clockwork through multiple buffet stations. The food was fresh and plentiful: cereal, fruit, waffles and eggs with all the trimmings. For lunch in the park, we were pleased to find organic salads, made-to-order deli sandwiches and Chinese bao as well as the usual hot dogs and hamburgers. The highlight of dinner in the Dragon’s Den was Asian lettuce wraps with free-range chicken breast, shiitake mushrooms and hoisin sauce.
We put off Legoland’s Sea Life Aquarium for last, worried that the boys would find it more educational than fun. Instead, the experience was so riveting that it was hard to get them to leave. We walked through a series of captivating interactive marine-life exhibits, including one in which we “splashed” in a glowing simulated bioluminescent tide. The boys enjoyed seeing sharks and fish from below and above as well as right in front of them. “Look, he’s smiling,” said the 4-year-old as a giant stingray skimmed past the glass, its mouth on its underbelly shaped like a grin.
THE LESSON LEARNED
Bottom line: Legoland does more than entertain kids. It also keeps them active and stimulates their imaginations. While we waited in line for rides, our grandsons built Lego structures. While we sat and watched, they climbed ropes and slithered through tunnels in the park’s elaborate play structures. Most of the rides encouraged their involvement, whether it was spraying water at other guests in Splash Battle, driving mini-cars in Driving School or pressing buttons to destroy 3-D ninjas while jolting through the video-game-like Ninjago ride.
Legoland California Resort & Castle Hotel, 1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad; (877) 376-5346. Wheelchair accessible. Check online for special offers for room and admission packages.