Going to Disney World is a dream come true, and with in-laws who relocated from Ohio to just 40 minutes shy of the maingate, it’s a luxury we get to partake in at least once a year.
But, I’m not gonna lie. The happiest place on earth? Is stupid expensive.
I have a 2, 4, and 5 year old, and while I love nothing more than dragging them around Disney in Florida heat, paying out the ass for food with ears, waiting in insane lines for dark rides depicting movies they’ve never even seen (hi, Pixar), I began to wonder if Disney World was more fun for me than it was for them.
LEGOLAND opened last October in Winter Haven, about 40 minutes outside of Orlando, and the buzz was intriguing.
While I, myself, had absolutely no interest in LEGOs, other than cussing them out at 3am as I stumble to the bathroom, the kids loved them, and my husband, by default, nerds out about almost anything, well… nerdy, so I thought, why not!?
Our Day at LEGOLAND Florida
We rolled up to LEGOLAND at about noon to find a completely empty parking lot. Having been burned by outrageous in park food prices before, I insisted we all have a thoroughly mediocre meal at Ruby Tuesday before heading over.
So, we paid to park ($12), schlepped our belongings across the barren lot to the unassuming entrance, at which I declared… let’s just skip this, okay guys?
Because truly, it didn’t look like much. But, it turns out, looks can be utterly deceiving.
LEGOLAND was built into an existing park, Cypress Gardens, a park my parents remember visiting as they made the drive down south for their honeymoon 30 some years ago.
There is something to be said for a company that works with the environment it is given instead of bulldozing a clean slate and plopping down a faux-world to explore. Sure, it’s spread out a bit more, but its mature trees and rolling hills add to its character and comfort.
The kids were in love from the moment they tore our tickets.
Fun LEGO statues, a double carosel, a 4D theater, and worlds and worlds of LEGO themes that I was quickly worrying we wouldn’t have time to get through.
Miniland USA: There are no words to accurately describe how awesome this is. Cities so intricately recreated in LEGO form, including Las Vegas, New York City, Daytona, even the White House! We spent at least an hour wandering around the tiny towns.
The Food: Eating offsite? Big mistake. Not only did LEGOLAND have some amazing food, it was cheap! From a Italian buffet (unlimited buffet $10.99 for adults) to Granny’s Fried Apples ($4.99), the food was fresh, delicious and cheaper than any other park I’ve been to. Tip: keep some cash on hand, some of the smaller hand carts only take cash and a cold beverage is a must with all the walking!
Rides: The beauty of LEGOLAND is not just that it’s a huge awesome park made of LEGOs, it’s also specifically geared to kids 2-12 years old. That means, unlike Disney where every ride was dark and/or a little scary, all three of my kids could ride nearly every single ride.
- Everyone from the ticket takers to ride operators were friendly, and the park and restrooms were extremely clean and family friendly.
- The food was affordable, I paid more to eat off site.
- My kids (ages 2, 4, 5) could ride and participate in almost all the attractions.
- The park is normally only open from 10am-5pm, which makes it really difficult to get through all the attractions.
- It’s hard to swallow a $12 parking fee when the park is only open seven hours. You also have an option to pay extra for closer parking, which is a waste of money.
- The areas are spread out, so there is a bit of walking involved, but we didn’t have to use our stroller once.
- If your kids are over 11 or 12, they will probably be bored, unless they have a younger sibling they can help ride everything with.
- Unlike Disney, where lines and attractions run like well oiled machines, things at LEGOLAND seem to run a bit slower. I think it’s due to the large population of retiree workers. While seems to be an alright match for families with small children, it’s nice to not always be rushed around.
We loved LEGOLAND. Our kids had a blast, and while any admission fee is hard to swallow, I loved knowing that we were getting our money’s worth, as evidence by snoring the moment their heads hit their car seats. We are headed back to Orlando in two weeks, and we’ve definitely worked a day at LEGOLAND into our agenda!
Disclosure: While I was provided entrance into the park for my family in exchange for sharing our experience, all opinions are my own.