Let Family Travel Forum show you around this wonderful theme park for children in England, a fabulous day trip from London for kids ages 3-11 years and Lego fans of any age.
Let’s cut straight to the essentials: there are currently 55 million Lego bricks at Legoland Windsor, with more arriving every day. Which is why anyone in London with child in tow will find the gravitational pull from all those little bricks in Windsor (21 miles/12.6 km west of London) almost irresistible. The Royal Family still has the lock on real estate high above the quaint little town, but it is to the hills and dales west of Windsor that the Pied Piper of Plastic is calling your child. The good news is that Legoland Windsor is a terrific theme park for kids of certain ages. It’s spotlessly clean, user-friendly, and, unlike many of the slicker parks, it has numerous attractions for the pre-school child.
Amusement Rides & More
From the entrance, past the remarkable and obligatory Lego shop, you quickly walk down into a pastoral valley, set among gently rolling English farmland. It’s a theme park so of course there are rides: three roller coasters, an imaginative learn-to-drive track with child-driven electric cars, a sweet boat course, Viking’s River Splash, where kids can set sail through uncharted waters in a fantasy lego Viking world, plus many more. On the regal side, the Medieval Knight’s castle and Dragon ride are especially popular. Rides are targeted to kids under 9 or 10, and probably, if they’re American kids dulled by the extreme thrills of many U. S. amusement parks, under 8. Our son and his cousin enjoyed it all at age 8.5, even in a driving rain. Oh yes, it does rain in England and everyone carries on, so you must be prepared to drip all day long while the children enjoy themselves. Because they were already soaking wet, they especially enjoyed panning for gold in the Wild Woods area. Those who are successful get a medal!
One of Legoland Windsor’s proclaimed strengths is their 4-D Imagination Theater that blends exciting lineup of 3-D films with simulated motion and physical effects that will leave Legoland guests on the edge of their seats. This year the Imagination Theater is offering a much more expansive lineup that includes the exciting new Clutch Powers 4-D Adventure. Join Clutch as he races against time across Legoland to deliver a special package. For the more daring movie-goers, the Imagination Theater presents Spellbreaker 4D. Here, viewers can join the hero Blacksmith as he rescues his princess from the evil wizard and his skeleton army. While all of the films offered by Legoland’s Imagination Theater are family friendly, younger viewers will especially love the new Bob the Builder and Legos Racer 4-D movies.
For those of you looking for live action, be sure to see the Pirates of Skelaton Bay. Complete with high energy pirates on an acrobatic adventure, this thrilling stunt show is sure to amaze everybody on board. For the younger audiences, be sure to visit the inviting Duplo Theater where a fantastic puppet troop offers daily performances of both “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” and “The Elves and the Shoemaker.”
Artistry in Building Blocks
For kids and adults of all ages, the most remarkable part of the park is the Lego artwork — countless Lego sculptures and, even, paintings (my favorite was a two-dimensional, totally realistic rendition of the Queen). These are scattered throughout, but the largest concentration is in Miniland, where there are extensive models (1:20 scale) of buildings, streets and palaces in European cities, along with canals, villages, windmills, a soccer stadium, and soon, London’s own Millennium Bridge. Mechanized Lego buses and cars traverse city streets, passing St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, and the Tower of London. Lego ships move among the harbors, trains through the railyards. There are over 40 million bricks in Miniland alone. You’ll wonder if they are glued together, and the answer is yes, so you can’t “pinch them”, as the Brits would say. The artistry is just astounding. It took 100 model makers, both British and Danish, three years to build all the models, and more are coming together all the time. In fact, you can watch the building process in the Creation Centre near Miniland.
Lego Means “Play Well” in Danish
The kids’ appetite for Lego play will have been whetted by Miniland, so you’ll go a short distance up the hill to the Imagination Centre and FreeStyle workshops, where kids can build to their heart’s content, and even test their constructions on an earthquake simulator (a variably shaking table). Older kids can build with Technic sets, with motors and programmable controllers, and even computers.
If you’re not exhausted by now, you soon will be, so you’ll welcome the eating opportunities. Legoland’s Pitstop Diner and Great British Carvery both offer a pleasant variety of classic British cuisine. For those in search of a more accustomed menu, we recommend the City Walk, the Crossed Ribs Barbeque, or the Knight’s Table, but avoid the noon rush by eating earlier or later. Otherwise, you face a substantial wait to feed your hungry pack.
Tending to the Details
To get to Windsor, take British Rail from London (Waterloo or Paddington stations.) The ride is a little over an hour. They sell a same-day discount combination train/park admission package. Be sure to ask your hotel’s Concierge to check the schedule, and do try to get there early. From the Windsor station, grab a taxi, or follow directions to the free Legoland Shuttle Bus, which runs every half hour. Check the schedule of departing Shuttle Buses as you enter so you can time your departure to the bus schedule.
Legoland’s daily hours vary from 10am-5pm (on some nights to 7pm). From mid-March to early November, the park remains open until 8pm. For more information, check out www.legoland.co.uk/, or call +44/8705 040404, the booking and information hotline. Rates are upwards of £38 per day for adults and £28 per day for children 3-15 years, depending on season.
True Lego fans will be pleased to note that there are three other Legoland Parks in the world – the original Legoland Billund in Denmark, Legoland California in America’s southern California, and Legoland Deutschland near GÃ¼nzburg, Bavaria Germany. The company’s newest parks will be Legoland Dubailand in Dubai, opening in 2011, and Legoland Malaysia in Iskandar, Malaysia for 2013.
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