Adventures in LEGOLAND

After arriving later than expected at our condo in San Diego, we decided that the best way to relax with five boys (and Julia) would be to go to LEGOLAND the next day… Turns out we didn’t do much relaxing, but we did have a great time. And for little boys whose bedroom could legitimately be added as an exhibit at LEGOLAND, they were in paradise.

Everything is made out of LEGO, even the urinals in the men’s room. Ok, just kidding on that one. But seriously, just about everything is LEGO.

As you enter the park, a life size LEGO Darth Vader greets visitors with the customary heavy breathing. Thankfully, R2D2 is there to lend some good vibes and back up the kids in the photo-op as they “battle” the dark lord with their own lightsaber.

Our family’s favorite part of the park was what makes LEGOLAND unique – mini-LEGO cities based on real American icons. Proportional models on display include New York – and everything from the Statue of Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington DC’s capital building and monuments, the Las Vegas strip and even a mock pirate ship show in front of Treasure Island, as well as a number of other famous outposts, including San Francisco.

Like the other cities, the detail of San Francisco is truly amazing. And the LEGO modelers didn’t forget things like Coit Tower or the financial district. Apparently, they slaved away for 1,016 hours and used 165,000 bricks just to build Pier 39. That’s longer than it took to build the real thing!

The hardest part was keeping the boys from stepping over the mini-fence and playing with the LEGO models – eight-year olds don’t really care if it’s just for show.

One thing that struck me was that there was really something for everyone. It’s not just – as I’d imagined – little kiddie rides. There are roller coasters, water rides and shows that park goers can enjoy.

And they just added an Indiana Jones type ride, called Land of Adventure, and a separate adventure walk through exhibit that looks and feels like you’re inside an Egyptian tomb. As a history buff, I thought it was great.

One ride not to be missed is the mini-cars that are divided up into separate exhibits for older and younger drivers. The kids get to road-rage their own vehicle around a mini-LEGO town and bump into each other. And at the end of the drive, the authorities give them LEGO “Drivers Licenses,” even if they’ve had an incident. That’s just what we needed, four kids eight years or younger who are legal drivers.

And if you’re seeing too much LEGO, or don’t want your kids to drive, you can use your park hopper and skip over to the new SeaLife Aquarium. It’s adjacent to LEGOLAND and offers a very interactive ocean experience for the little ones. They’ve got everything from the Lost City of Atlantis to the Kelp Forest to the Discovery Zone Touch Pool.

When you’re all done with everything else, the factory tour allows you to learn how LEGO is made and even purchase just about any LEGO brick size or type that anyone on your Christmas list could want. Even the “big boy” on your list.