Friday, August 5, 2011

A Fun Visit (and a Review of Legoland Discovery Center)

My good friend Nicole just came for a weeklong visit with her 5 year-old son Will. Nicole and I have been friends since college and have gotten even closer after Will and J were born two weeks apart. Then I moved to Texas (Nicole lives in Austin) and our friendship grew even stronger.

J, Nicole and Will at the entrance to Legoland Discovery Center.

Anyway, Nicole and Will have come for several visits since we moved here and each one is great fun. This week our plans were slightly altered by the 108F and higher temps. The zoo was ruled out as too darn hot. We ended up heading to Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine instead. Both J and Will are Lego fans and we had never been so we decided to check it out. We were a little nervous because the online tickets were sold out for the morning. (They sell discounted tickets online but only a limited number per hour). We got there right at ten and it was perfect. We only had to wait a few minutes before entering the fun.

After a short interactive tour of a Dr. Seuss-like miniature Lego factory where we learned how Legos are made, we got in line for the Kingdom Quest ride. This ride involves shooting Lego bad guys with your laser gun while trying to come to the princess's rescue. The only chance to ride it is right as you come in and in fact they syphon all guests through this ride before they enter the main area. It was dark and N thought it looked scary so just Nicole, Will and J rode it. After the ride and a chance to buy a keychain photo of ourselves on the ride (which we passed up), we entered the main play area. In the center of it is the Lego City Playland, a huge enclosed play structure--kind of like a Lego-themed McDonald's play structure on steroids. The boys played in it for a bit, but spent less time in the play area than I expected.

Our next stop was Miniland. This is really cool. It's a whole miniature city built from Legos--and, of course, this one was Dallas-themed complete with the Dallas skyline, airport, Cowboys' stadium, Rangers ballpark, Forth Worth Stockyards and even Southfork Ranch. Each area had a button you could push to make something move and come alive.

N especially loved the airport.

J and Will checked out the Dallas Cowboy Stadium.

I had heard that Miniland was more adult-oriented, but our boys really liked it a lot.

Our next stop was the Lego Racers: Build and Test Zone. They have lots of little building stations with buckets of wheels, axles and blocks for building cars. Then there are three steep ramps to race them down and another race ramp complete with start button and finish line.
Will was our most serious builder and spent a lot of time carefully building cars. N and J built quickly and raced over and over.

I had to lift N up to reach the ramp. J could just barely see over it. They both loved it even though their cars often fell apart during the "race."

Next we moved to the Duplo Village complete with a smaller play structure that looked like a barn complete with a spiral slide and large animals made out of Legos that resembled the Duplo zoo animals. Duplo Village is specifically for children age 2 to 5 years. N and J (especially N) had a lot of fun in the barn (climbing up and then sliding down the slide), but the biggest hit in this area for our boys were the giant Lego building blocks. They are soft and rubbery and the boys really enjoyed building with them.

N and J built a tower while Will worked on a giraffe.

At some point, we stopped and had a snack. We brought our own and this seemed to be pretty common. We didn't see anything posted about outside food, but we saw multiple people snacking on food that did not appear to be purchased at the Lego Cafe.

Our next adventure was the 4D Cinema. The Cinema was playing three movies that day in a constant rotation. As soon as one ended, they cleared the theater and started the next one. Each was about 15 minutes long and we watched two of the three. This was our first 4D experience and it was a fun one. When we got wet for the first time, it was a bit of a surprise. When it started snowing in the theater, the boys were really excited--a nice change from the 108F temps outside. J found the Spellbinder movie to be a little scary, but Chase Powers was a huge hit.

Right before the movie started. We were at the end of the line for this movie so we got front row seats.

The movies really were a lot of fun and it was nice that you could pop in line and see one whenever you felt the urge since they were playing constantly. There is a timer outside the theater displaying the name of the next movie and a countdown until the start of the next movie (always 15 minutes or less).

At some point during the day of fun, we attempted to ride the second ride at Legoland Discovery Place--Merlin's Apprentice. This wizard-themed ride looked fun, but the line was long and with only 12 people fitting on the ride per turn (6 groups of 2) it moved very slowly. Also part of the issue, children under 4 feet tall have to ride with an adult. We had three children and only two adults so it didn't really work out for us. I don't think our children cared too much. They were having too much fun in the rest of the place.

Another favorite stop for our boys was a building area that didn't even have a name. It had four building spaces where you could build a structure. Then you turned on the "earthquake" complete with controls to change its strength to see if your structure would stay or fall down. The boys LOVED it. First, they just did it to see things fall, but then they worked to try to build a strong building.

J is ready to see this structure shake and fall down.

N anxiously watching to see if his tower will withstand the shaking.

We were at Legoland Discovery Center until 1PM when we left to walk over to the mall food court for lunch (Legoland Discovery Center is inside Grapevine Mills mall and next to the new Sea Life aquarium). We didn't do everything at LDC (we skipped the Lego Girls Princess Palace and Merlin's Apprentice), but did do everything we wanted to do. We had time to return to things we liked and had a lot of fun. In general, although there were a lot of people there, we did not feel overcrowded or like we were stuck waiting for something. The ride had lines and sometimes the movie line was long, but other areas seemed good. When we left the mall at 2PM (after lunch and a quick visit to the Lego shop), the line to get into Lego Discovery Center was long. I am glad we came right at 10AM like we did.

Overall impression: Legoland Discovery Center is fun with a good amount to do. I feel there are a good variety of activities fit into a relatively small place. I also feel there is a good mix of things that a variety of ages would enjoy. However, it is pricey. It cost me over $50 for myself and my two boys. It was worth it to have this experience with our visiting friends, but we will not be able to make this a regular hangout. My advice: go early and plan to stay as long as you can to get your money's worth.

Sorry for the travelogue description. I just know I've been wondering about this place and found a similar blog description helpful in my choice to go.

Nicole and Will went home today after a wonderful week of fun. I miss them already! So glad we got to have this time together including a great trip to Legoland Discovery Center!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a really fun day! I know Ohio isn't as hot as Texas, but I wish we had a local version of this (I'd even drive to Columbus) for some fun and cool family entertainment.