While I’ve been to Disneyland a few times (on someone else’s dime), and Disney World once as a kid and once as an adult, I’d never been to Legoland. Being a geek with geeky kids, I’d always been itching to go. But I never could justify the expense. But… Legoland! I hoped I would make it one day.
So when I heard that they were making their own hotel, I jumped at the chance to be there for the grand opening. They invited media to experience the hotel and be there for the grand opening announcement. And since Legoland is a family destination, they invited whole families. This is how my kids, my Rory, and I got to spend a couple of days at Legoland in Carlsbad, California, last week. None of us had ever been there, so we were all able to have a fresh experience. I’ll speak a little bit about the park, but mostly about the hotel.
When we first saw the Legoland Hotel, we were taken with the giant figures and colorful touches. Color is everywhere! In addition, much of the reception area of the hotel, and the area nearby, is taken up with play areas where kids can build with Lego and pretend to be in a castle. It’s obvious that the hotel designers put a lot of attention into detail everywhere you look. Lego flourishes abound, on the floor, the walls, etc. The doorways in the play place are even padded where kids (or grown-ups) might hit their heads. Rory, who was dressed in some bright, Lego-type colors when we arrived, even said he felt like a minifig, surrounded by everything we saw.
The hotel is definitely oriented toward families. There are high chairs in the eating areas, and the rooms seem almost completely to be for the kids (more on those later).
The public bathroom in the hotel has Lego decorations everywhere. It also has one sink lower than the rest, and it talks to you if you stand near it. Outside the bathrooms is an interesting spot on the floor with an image of a whoopie cushion. When you stand or jump on it, it makes, well, whoopie cushion sounds and related comments. My son loved that, and made sure to spend some quality jumping time there every time we passed.
Each floor of the hotel has a different theme. The bottom floor, where we stayed, is a Kingdom theme, complete with crowns, castles, and knights. The second floor is a Pirate theme with pirate ships and parrots. The third floor is an Adventure theme, with Egyptian and Indiana Jones-style decor. Since we were staying on the first floor, we didn’t need to ride the elevator, but we had to make a point to try it. These are special elevators. You walk in, and the inside is covered in more Lego decor. There is some pleasant lounge music playing (not Muzak, but nice lounge music). Once you’re inside and the doors close, however, you can get wild. The music changes to disco and the disco ball on the ceiling lights up and spins. We heard “The Hustle,” “YMCA,” “Funkytown,” and other songs. This makes you want to dance in the elevator, which made me wonder if the elevator engineers had allowed for this extra force…
Our room was fairly spacious and gorgeous. There were three things about the room that I did not like, however. There is no fridge, there are no outlets next to the beds, and the bathroom door, while having a very cool mechanism, doesn’t lock and, honestly, doesn’t block any noise that is made in the bathroom. But those are my only complaints, and if they could fix these, that would help families quite a bit.
Otherwise our room was really nice and quite fun. Lego touches are everywhere you look, which made me think about how much work went into decorating all 250 rooms with these details. The headboard of the main bed is carved. The kids got bunk beds (with a trundle bed underneath) in their own private alcove, with each bed having their own light. The kid area also has a separate television. There is a safe and a separate treasure chest. There were two bottles of water and two juice pouches which we were free to take (yes, we double checked that they were free). Also, the treasure chest, which normally has a game to unlock it for which they hadn’t quite worked out the bugs, had two minifig packs and a bag of dark chocolate coins (i.e., treasure) inside. These were also free (yes, we checked). The room also has a medium-sized container of Lego bricks for the kids to play with for the duration of their stay. You could also buy the sets at the hotel gift shop, or in the Legoland park. But it was great to have a toy in the room. The normal peephole in the door is accompanied by a peephole much lower down (much lower than my eight-year-old son’s eyes) just for kids. The toilet seat lid has a child’s toilet seat built into it. My kids are (thankfully) too old to need this now, but there was a time for which I would have been thankful.
The walls of the rooms have various Lego items on them. Our room had a snail, a crown, a butterfly, a large spider, a ladybug, and a shield. We decided that the hotel could make more money if they sold kits for the items decorating the rooms. I probably would have bought a kit to make the crown! Even the ice bucket was a Lego head. Unfortunately, most of my photos of our room turned out blurry, but I did get a good one of the bathroom.
We ate two meals at the main restaurant in the hotel. Both are all-you-can-eat style buffets, so there is something for everyone. We all decided that the quality and taste of the food was hit or miss. They had some amazing options, such as the carne asada, and the fennel and apple turkey. Their fruit was fresh, and their mashed potatoes and green beans were good. Their crepes were very interesting and, I thought, excellent. But the pudding was instant pudding, the stuffing tasted like it came from a box, and the mushrooms weren’t very good. The French toast was pretty good but got too chewy as you ate it. The yogurt parfaits had soggy granola in the middle. Hopefully they’ll keep the quality items, and improve on the others.
The second day of our visit, the Legoland Hotel hosted their grand opening ceremony. It was blissfully short and sweet, with a couple of short speeches and a performance with an adventure guy on a motorcycle with sidecar, a knight on a horse, and a pirate who repelled from the roof. They all had pieces of a hotel room key. A girl came along with the fourth piece, and, once combined, the key officially opened the hotel. The presentation was cute, and culminated in lots of crepe paper being blown into the air. Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to realize that it would be a windy day, and the nearby (heated! zero-entry!) pool ended up being filled with the paper. As were the grounds all around the hotel.
The Legoland park itself was fun. It is aimed toward kids age 2-12, though the middle of that range is probably the ideal age. There were some rides, but nothing too thrilling. But because there weren’t a lot of rides, the ones they did have always had long lines. The park also has many other attractions, such as places to play with different lines of Lego products, classes to take (so I hear — we didn’t sign up for any), a factory tour, and the Minilands, where different scenes from around the country are recreated in Lego. It was very cool, but there were water deposits on most of it. They should go around and clean it more often. I wish I’d been able to take the kids to Legoland at an earlier age, since they would have gotten more out of it (my kids are almost nine and almost twelve). It’s a great park, but don’t go there expecting thrill rides. You end up with more of a variety of experiences there, though.
In short, the Legoland Hotel is fantastic. Except for my few complaints above, it’s a marvelous place to stay, especially considering it’s mere feet from the park entrance. Checking the upcoming prices, they vary per night from about $183 (with an AAA discount) to $339, depending on day of the week and other factors. It’s not cheap, but there you get great service, and the proximity to the park can’t be beat. You also extend your Lego experience to be during your whole visit, not just your time at the park.
We received a night at the hotel and passes to the park for the purposes of this review.