[Winter Haven, FL] Yesterday LEGOLAND Florida, the largest LEGOLAND theme park in the world, located about an hour and some change outside of Orlando, officially welcomed guests after a week-plus “soft opening” period.
And yes, your kids will want to go. Featuring over 50 rides, shows and attractions geared for youngsters aged 2-12, the park prides itself on its educational value as well as its entertainment satisfaction. The British Government even bestowed an educational award on LEGOLAND Windsor, located outside of London, for its excellence in academia.
But fear not parents, LEGOLAND Florida is not all toys and learning – there are multiple rollercoaster thrill rides that will appeal to adults and older children. And the gardens and fauna will please those seeking the natural beauty of The Sunshine State.
Located in tiny Winter Haven and built over, on and around the lush greenery of the former Cypress Gardens, LEGOLAND Florida is spread out over 150 acres. It is operated by the Merlin Entertainments Group, a British company that runs enough theme parks across the globe to come in second behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
There are 10 distinct areas in LEGOLAND Florida:
The Beginning is the entrance to the place as well as home to two key park ingredients: Island In The Sky, a 150-foot high perch that gives you a bird’s-eye view of the park, and a massive LEGO store called The Big Shop.
AQUAZONE Wave Racers
Fun Town includes a Factory Tour and a 4-D movie theater. Oh, and a specialty shop with all the licensed LEGO toys such as SpongeBob and Harry Potter (yes, another theme park has something Harry Potter-related).
Miniland U.S.A. is exactly what it sounds like, miniature versions of America’s landmarks built entirely out of LEGOs. Florida is well represented here. Oh, and there’s also pirates.
DUPLO Village is for the wee ones. Drive a semi truck through the desert on the Big Rig Rally ride. Join the fire department as part of the Junior Fire Academy attraction. Granny’s Jalopies recalls the good times of bumper cars – now with horns! There is also a “farm.”
LEGO Kingdoms is where the action is. Ride the indoor-outdoor steel coaster named The Dragon. Ride LEGO horses and pitch your opponent on Royal Joust. Merlin’s Challenge: a wizard is using his magic to propel a wooden train. There is also something called The Forestmen’s Hideout which is basically a giant climbing tree for kids to burn off all that energy before they collapse in a heap. Girls can also be transformed into princesses, a la Disney World.
LEGO TECHNIC is another ride-heavy area with a roller coaster (Test Track), a water ride (AQUAZONE Wave Racers) and a “zany pedal-powered spinning machine” called (Technicycle).
One of the big rides to make adults and teens happy
Imagination Zone is exactly what it sounds like: a place for kids young and old to let their minds wander. The Zone also features seven of the park’s signature models, including Albert Einstein’s head. When you are done playing around, jump into the Ki Power Towers for a top-of-the-tower view of the park before plunging back down to Earth.
Pirates’ Cove is basically home to a water ski stunt show and a place to grab a burger.
There’s a lot going on in the Land of Adventure. There’s a junior coaster (Coastersaurus), a dark shoot-em up (Lost Kingdom Adventure), a foam ball blaster area with a maze (Pharaoh’s Revenge) and Beetle Bounce, which has something to do with jumping and scarab beetles. Safari Trek is just like the real thing in Africa, except that all of the animals are made of LEGOs.
LEGO City is small for kid-sized fun. Children can get a LEGOLAND driver’s license after passing the FORD Driving School ride test, become a captain after completing Boating School or soar in flight on the Flying School steel coaster. Kids also learn fire safety during The Big Test show.
Tickets to LEGOLAND Florida are $75 for those ages 13-59, and $65 for those aged 0-12 or over 60. An annual pass will set you back $129, or $99 for the really young or the really old. There is also something being offered for seniors called a Garden Pass, which is $85 and includes a year’s worth of admission and parking during weekdays only.
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Images: LEGOLAND Florida/Merlin Entertainments Group by Chip Litherland Resource: LEGOLAND Florida website