Legoland revisited

Geek Culture

We just got back from a long weekend in San Diego, including the obligatory two half-days at Legoland. If you haven’t been there before, it’s a must-visit on the GeekDad world tour–less crowded and commercial than Disneyland and with some great geeky touches, such as robotics classes and a view of the Lego workshop where they’re making the next exhibits. As with all things Lego, it’s best for boys, ages 4-9, but there’s enough to keep everyone happy for at least a day.

Here’s what’s new this year:

  • Miniland, which is the amazing Lego recreation of everything from Manhattan to San Francisco, is always our favorite part. This year they’ve added Las Vegas, which is fun albeit a bit meta (so many of Las Vegas’ casino/hotels are already models of real places, from New York, New York, to Paris, that making Lego models of them seems a bit too removed from reality. As a result there are two Eiffel Towers in Miniland, as well as two Chrysler Towers–one in their "real" cities, and one in the Las Vegas replica cities. It’s enough to make your head spin.) Unfortunately, they’ve removed Cape Kennedy and the shuttle, although that’s fair comment given the state of our space program at the moment.
  • The new Pirate Shores is a disappointment. It’s just another water ride, with little of the personality that Disney has managed to bring to the genre with Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Bulk Bricks. Nice to see the park respecting the core of Lego, which is building your own thing.

Here’s what should be new but isn’t:

  • The robotics school is still based on the old RCX brick set. Where’s the Mindstorms NXT?
  • Shut rides, shuttered areas of rides and non-functioning animatronics. I know it’s spring, and perhaps by summer the park will be back in top form, but it was a little sloppy this time.
  • The Lego Star Wars games are the best thing that’s happened to the brand in years. Why isn’t there an area dedicated to that?

This was our third visit, so we’re pretty discriminating–we’ve seen it on better form, but that may just be a pre-summer lull. I’m sure selling the parks off to an investment group hasn’t cost them their soul. Overall, I think Legoland is still great fun and one of the best GeekDad holiday destinations. Just see it through six-year-old-eyes and you’ll be fine.

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