By Karon Warren
Photography courtesy of LEGOLAND Florida Resort and Chip Litherland Photography
Florida’s LEGOLAND Resort builds on its reputation as a family friendly destination, offering something for all ages.
Central Florida has a plethora of theme parks and attractions and choosing to visit just one or two can be a challenge on both time and budgets. Often overshadowed by Orlando’s mouse and friends, LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven quietly welcomes kids and adults to come, stay and play awhile in Florida’s only interactive theme park where the LEGO brand comes to life.
Geared to kids ages 2 to 12, the best thing about LEGOLAND is that all kids can participate in just about every ride. Some may require mom or dad to tag along, but, otherwise, the younger kids don’t have to watch their older siblings go on a bunch of rides as they stand by waiting. When I took my kids a few years ago, this was a huge advantage because my son didn’t have to stand on the sidelines watching his older sister.
Since opening in 2011, LEGOLAND has expanded to include more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, a water park, and, of course, the iconic Cypress Gardens botanical garden that formerly held court on the property.
One of our favorite rides was The Quest for Chi, which – at first glance – looks like a boat ride. But don’t be fooled. Those boats are equipped with water cannons so riders can shoot riders on other boats as well as bystanders watching the ride. However, these aren’t the only water hazards. Throughout the ride, water sprayers and waterfalls drench unsuspecting riders, and even bystanders have water cannons to wage their own water war against riders. Bringing a change of clothes is a good idea because you will get soaked.
We rode this ride repeatedly because my kids couldn’t get enough of it. They love shooting the water cannons at anyone within reach, and they thought it was hilarious every time I got stuck under a waterfall (why was it always me?). Needless to say, we laughed a lot during and long after we rode this ride.
Another favorite for us was Miniland USA with its interactive displays of famous landmarks near and far built of LEGOs. You’ll recognize Kennedy Space Center, Daytona International Speedway, and the themed hotels along the Las Vegas strip. Even Star Wars characters made their way into Miniland. The level of detail in these iconic scenes created with LEGOs is amazing. Plus, the kids especially enjoyed the displays that had interactive components. By pushing buttons outside the display, we could turn on lights, shoot water or move figures in the scenes.
While my kids did not find it as exciting as I did, I loved walking through the botanical garden. It still includes the notable features from Cypress Gardens, one of Florida’s earliest tourist attractions, including the famous Banyan tree originally planted in 1939. It was a beautiful and quiet place to recharge, even if for just a few minutes, from the thrills and excitement of the amusement park.
A ride that became popular with park-goers after our visit is LEGO NINJAGO, which opened in 2017. The interactive ride allows kids to become ninjas who fight villains in an attraction comprised of 3-D computer animation, 4-D special effects (think heat, fog and strobe lighting), and interactive technology.
Another exciting attraction, The Great LEGO Race, has also recently opened. This ride is the world’s first-ever roller coaster utilizing virtual reality technology to create a fully immersive, action-filled road rally. Riders compete against LEGO mini figures in a world where everything, including the riders, are made of LEGO bricks.
LEGOLAND quickly became one of our favorite amusement parks, so we plan to return. When we do, we’ll keep the following tips in mind. First, we will stay more than one day. We didn’t have enough time to experience all there is to see, and now there is even more. The park is about 45 minutes from Orlando, so it’s easy to add a couple of days to a trip visiting Central Florida’s other theme parks.
We will also think about another winter visit. We were there in February, which turned out to be a fabulous time. The weather was warm and pleasant without the crowds. Visiting LEGOLAND is like seeing a favorite toy come to life, and it’s a unique spin on the traditional amusement park.
legoland.com/floridaRead More in DeSoto Magazine online.