Legoland California has been entertaining LEGO lovers since 1999, but until fairly recently, visitors had to find somewhere else to stay nearby. Five years ago, they opened the Legoland Hotel, which encourages visitors to take their time and make Legoland a multi-day vacation. (See my review from their grand opening weekend.) That proved so successful that they built a second hotel, the Legoland Castle Hotel, which opened last Friday. I was able to attend the grand opening for this hotel as well, and my family tried out the hotel (and the park) ourselves.
The Legoland Castle Hotel
The new Legoland Castle Hotel did not disappoint. The quality of the place and the themed interior definitely competes with their original hotel. As you walk into the hotel’s Grand Hall (the lobby), you’re greeted with a large LEGO wizard creating magic before your eyes. At his feet is a large pool of LEGO bricks, perfectly situated for your kids to play with while you check into the hotel (my daughter called it the Ball Pit of Pain™). Also on this floor is a Knock-Knock Door, which tells knock-knock jokes every time its knocker is used, a throne that has sound effects (also a great photo op), a pretend jail, and a slide.
When you check in, the fine folks behind the counter will give you a scavenger hunt sheet and pencil for each child in your party. Kids then complete the hunt during your stay. Once completed, the sheet will reveal a special code to enter into a treasure chest that will be in your room. Inside the chest will be one special prize for each child. Ours were small-but-decent little LEGO build kits, which our kids had to get from the front desk folks because the chests weren’t quite ready yet when we were there.
As you make your way up to your room, take the Magic Levitating Lift (the elevator) to the proper floor, and notice all of the cute LEGO builds and interesting things to see on the walls and floor along the way. There are brick lenticulars that change their picture as you walk past, LEGO portraits to build upon, and a self-playing piano. There is also supposed to be a wave mirror but we never found it. Your room may be near the elevators (as ours was), or it may be quite a long walk, since the hotel is very large. For that reason, you may want to find your room first before going to get all of your luggage.
As you walk around the hotel, you’ll notice free LEGO build areas everywhere. This is great for impatient kids (and adults). There are also costumed characters (a princess, a knight, and a wizard) walking around for photo ops, and many familiar LEGO pieces recreated in life-size glory, such as flags and flames.
The Hotel Grounds and the Royal Courtyard
If you venture outside, you’ll see the Royal Courtyard, which is an attraction in and of itself. The zero-entry pool has interactive elements. There is a playground and a movie lawn with giant screen TV. There is a courtyard stage where performers put on shows to entertain guests of all ages (there are also improv shows in the restaurant in the evening). There is plenty of seating for resting children or weary adults. There is even a spot filled with extra-large LEGO DUPLO blocks to build with. You also have access to the Poolside Bar and Grill. There are also quite a number of LEGO sculptures, both in the Royal Courtyard and around the grounds. (The Castle Hotel has more than 2,000 LEGO models made from over three million bricks.)
There are three types of guest rooms at the Legoland Castle Hotel: Royal Princess, Knights and Dragons, and Magic Wizard. Since the hotel has three floors of guest rooms, I thought they would have an equal number of rooms of each type, but no. The first floor is half Princess, half Knights and Dragons. The second floor is all Knights and Dragons. And the third floor is all Wizards. We had a Wizard room, though I would guess that if you make your own reservations, you could request a specific type of room. There are 250 total guest rooms with 230 of them being traditional rooms and 20 of them are suites.
The Royal Princess rooms are obviously themed to be princess-y. The grownup bed includes a “canopy” with sparkly lights on it. There are jewels, hearts, bunny rabbits, and magic wands, and all of the Princess rooms have ducklings in the free-build area that guests can add onto.
Knights and Dragons
The Knights and Dragons rooms have plenty of sword-wielding fun. The headboard area of this room is my favorite, as it contains a “stained glass window” that has its own light switch. It’s gorgeous when all the other lights are off. Walls include sword and knight decorations, there is an ever-watching dragon in the corner, and treasure covers the floor.
The Magic Wizard rooms have a headboard area with graduated light-up potion bottles and concoctions. Plus there are owl companions and moons and stars everywhere. You’ll have a magical stay.
The suites contain everything that is in the regular rooms, but they also have a lounge area with sofa bed (so you can sleep more people in the room), more fixtures in the bathroom, and actual closing doors on the grownup and kid sleeping areas. Ahhh…
Each of the rooms is a generous size with plenty of milling about space. They have at least six LEGO models as part of each room’s decoration. They are also energy-saving rooms, which means you must insert your room key in a slot near the door to be able to use the room’s energy. The grownup beds are immensely comfortable, and the kids get a bunk bed (and an extra trundle bed) in a separate area. The grownups get the window with blackout curtains, a chair, an alarm clock, and a TV, along with the special themed light-up feature in the headboard area. Kids get their own TV, two free-build areas with vertical and horizontal plates for construction, and their very own night sky that can be turned on separately from the light switch. You’ll see stars and the Milky Way on the ceiling of the room, with comets periodically flying by. My daughter observed that, if you turn it on when you go to sleep, it will shut itself off at some point. This is good because it does make a little bit of noise.
The rooms also have a mini fridge (hopefully this stays powered even when your key isn’t in the energy-saving slot), a safe, and a Keurig machine. Our room came with three pods for hot chocolate and two for coffee, along with two bottles of water and two juice pouches. These are complimentary.
The bathrooms are very child friendly, including toilets with built-in child toilet seats, an insulated cover to the water pipes under the sink (no burns!), and a step stool for the youngest kids to reach the sink. The towels are very fluffy. The shower also has a built-in metal drying rack or towel rack that is really useful. The included bar of soap has a large oval hole in the middle, which confused me at first, but it would be useful for small hands to grip the soap.
From the Legoland Castle Hotel folks:
In the Royal Princess rooms, the princess is joining forces with her jester friend to sneak into the grand tournament and compete with the knights. In the Knights and Dragons rooms, the knights are on a mission to defend the king’s castle and protect his treasure. In the Magic Wizard rooms, the wizards are concocting potions and fireworks for the grand tournament. Every room has a children’s sleeping area which includes bunk beds, a trundle bed, their own television, LEGO building station, and shooting stars illuminating on the ceiling. Every adult sleeping area has an ornate head board with LED lights which could resemble a stained glass window, a canopy sparkling with twinkling lights, or shelves filled with potions and a magical bubbling illuminated cauldron.
Dragon’s Den Restaurant and Bar
If you didn’t already discover and enjoy the restaurant the night before for dinner (their dinner menu seemed pretty pricey to me), in the morning be sure to get your free breakfast at the Dragon’s Den Restaurant and Bar. This isn’t your average free hotel breakfast. There is a fantastic buffet of hot and cold foods along with made-to-order omelettes, oatmeal, bagels, and more. I also had my first-ever breakfast cake, which was full of fruit and cream. There was even a breakfast salad with spinach, strawberries, and a light dressing. It was the best free hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. I even heard a passing mom say to her daughter, with a hint of sarcasm, “Nothing says breakfast like breakfast cake!” In any case, the food was wonderful and the service very quick. There was a distinct lack of chocolate, however, but a few chocolate croissants did show up at the last-minute, right before we were about to leave.
Very Little Room for Improvement
While the hotel is amazing in general and has gone almost overboard with their attention to detail, there is still a (very) little room for improvement. The walls between the rooms are thin enough that we could hear what our neighbors were saying, but there are quiet hours starting at 10pm. The water in the shower goes back and forth from hot to cool to hot. The water is pretty soft and doesn’t rinse soap or shampoo off very well. And the kid area is a bit snug, especially if you use the trundle bed (we didn’t) or have adult-sized kids (which we have). The hotel also has that New Hotel Smell™, but that will dissipate pretty quickly, I’m sure. Hotel parking is free, unless you use valet. There is also a $28+tax daily resort fee. Plus you’ll need park tickets.
Legoland California: The Park
If you choose to stay in one of the Legoland hotels, you gain early access (by a half hour) to Legoland itself. Only a few of the rides are open that early (Safari Trek, Coastersaurus, Fairy Tale Brook, Mia’s Riding Camp, and Legoland Express), but you can also position yourself to be first in line for any of the other attractions you want to see. Plus, so much of the park is enjoyed just by walking around that it’s easy to make use of the extra time.
The first thing you’ll notice about the park, if you’re at all familiar with Disney parks, is just how close the entrance is to the hotels (and the parking lot, and everything else). Seriously. We could look down on the entrance area from our hotel room window. You’re not at all exhausted by the time you get to your first ride or attraction, unless you start at the far end of the park. Everything is on a more human and manageable scale. And yet there’s still so much to do and see. And there is shade.
The park has more than 60 rides, shows, and attractions on its 128 acres. There are also places to get food, plenty of stores to satisfy your every LEGO craving, and plenty to look at around the park, including many things that don’t require waiting in any lines.
Once you enter the park, start by hooking up to the free wi-fi (yes, there is free wi-fi throughout the hotels and the park) and download the Legoland app if you haven’t already. This app is a fantastic resource for figuring out what you want to do next, where things are located, how long it will take to walk to different attractions, the path you need to take to walk there (this is more helpful than you’d think since the park has a lot of twists and turns), and ride wait times.
Look around you as you walk from activity to activity. There are more than 30,000 LEGO models in the park, from a giant Brontosaurus made from two million bricks to a tiny rabbit made from just four. They are assembled by using a solvent to hold them together, which kind of dissolves the plastic a bit and glues the pieces together. They apply a UV coating to outdoor models every few years, sandblasting the models before reapplication to remove the old coating and any faded plastic. When we were there five years ago, everything looked fantastic. This time, most of the red bricks were quite faded, so I think it’s time for another round of sandblasting.
There are a few roller coasters at the park, and we rode them all. My favorite would have to be The Dragon, which is half dark ride and half roller coaster. The best hill, though, goes to the LEGO TECHNIC Test Track. The first hill is thrilling!
We also spent some time in Miniland, ogling all of the builds of famous cities and attractions. The Legoland folks paid a great deal of attention to detail, and there are a few moving and/or interactive elements to some of the scenes. Don’t miss the Star Wars areas. Seriously. So cool. (See how many BB-8s you can find!)
We also went on boat rides, walked through mysterious themed adventures, and perused the self-guided factory tour. Plus, we spent a lot of time (and a bit of money) in the LEGO shops. There are a few Legoland-exclusive sets that you can only get at the park (or from third-party vendors on Amazon, with a huge markup), and it’s convenient to have everything in one place. You can also design and build your own minifigs and buy a set of three for $9.99.
We didn’t eat much in the park, but we were sure to stop by Granny’s Apple Fries for some deep fried Granny Smith apples, with vanilla cream for dipping. They were delicious. And they are a Legoland original.
LEGO CITY: Deep Sea Adventure
Rory and I also got to go on a hard hat tour of the upcoming ride (opening this summer!), LEGO CITY: Deep Sea Adventure. We toured the construction site (complete with wearing reflective vests and hard hats) to see what is to come. We also got to talk to the master builder who is coordinating the building and maintenance all of the LEGO models for the attraction. He even studied to become a master scuba diver just so he could work on this ride.
For the four-minute ride, visitors will climb into a real submarine that goes around a track, submerged in a 300,000 gallon salt water tank, which uses actual ocean sea water. Through the windows visitors will see a large number of undersea LEGO models, along with over 2,000 actual sea creatures, including sting rays and sharks and tons of fish. (But don’t worry, the ride is accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, so they’re taking great care to keep the creatures safe.) The ride’s undersea models have a special coating that inhibits algae from growing on them, which makes maintenance easier. They are also designed with a few hard-to-spot holes in the top, so air bubbles can escape. The largest model has 800,000 pieces.
Along the ride, passengers will be able to track the treasure they can see through the portholes on a touchscreen, including glowing gems and sunken treasure, marking them so a “dive team” can retrieve them later. The better guests do at spotting treasure, the higher the explorer level they’ll achieve. Twelve passengers will be able to fit into each submarine, and there will be eight total subs.
If you and your family are fans of LEGO and amusement parks and seeing really amazing creations, both the new Legoland Castle Hotel and the Legoland California park itself are must-dos for an upcoming vacation. Though the hotel resorts and the park are meant to be a destination for families with kids aged 2-12, my teenagers (almost 14 and almost 17 during our visit) still had a great time. As did we adults. (Plus, the ocean is so close you can see it from some of the rides!)
Note: My family received a complimentary hotel stay and park access for the purpose of this review, but our love of all things LEGO is rooted in our genetic code.