While visiting the UK last week I persuaded myself to take the kids to the Danish brick fest that is Legoland. Thoughtfully situated directly underneath the Heathrow flightpath my first thought was: who’d want to live in Windsor? and my second thought was: couldn’t one of it’s famous residents organise to get the blasted thing moved?

After driving for around a day and a half in London traffic, we joined a massive queue of MPVs waiting to park in an area approximately the size of Luxembourg and there were already a couple of kids tantruming in the car-park because their parents wouldn’t buy them an ice-cream at 10 o’clock in the morning from one of the thoughtfully provided Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream vending machines situated every ten yards or so. Luckily, because of the Swiss school system’s gentle approach, neither of my kids can read the words: ice-cream or Ben & Jerry’s so they thought the machines were part of the attraction. Besides, Ben & Jerry’s costs about as much as a bottle of Scotch in Swizzerland, so they’ve barely tasted it…

I organised to meet some friends there and we had studied school timetables and half-term start and end dates like a bunch of archeologists bent over hieroglyphics  – but alas, the complexities of half term times in England and Wales were beyond us university educated idiots so Legoland was a heaving throng of parents and kids.

After confusion (on their part) about my internet tickets they thoughtfully slapped on a sticker (with my phone number) on each of my kids, which promptly fell off to join the hundreds of other stickers with phone numbers on which are collected around the ticket turnstiles – in the event that your child gets separated from you I imagine a Legoland employee sifts through this sorry pile ringing every number until they join the family up again. Failing that, they could peel off the many others I found stuck to walls, toilet seats and benches. Great system, I thought.

Anyway, here are some thoughts on my experience:

The Good

  1. Rides Some of them were tremendous and my kids loved them but I found the people who manned the rides hardcore killjoys whose maniacal obsession with height restrictions made them wield the ‘F’ bar like some kind of religious relic. The fuckers.
  2. The Lego Models As you would expect Lego managed to rope in some top lego building expertise to model, well, the world. London, Paris, New York – all crafted in loving detail with some witty touches. They needed a good clean, but that would be my only critique of them really.
  3. The Pirate Show I have seen a couple of these type of shows before and then tend to be, on the whole, shite. But this one was excellent. It was exciting, enthusiastic and had lots of crazy pyrotechnics and stunts. The kids loved it.
  4. Merchandise Well, obviously it was all lego but it was all good, it was all quality – you don’t get that in many theme parks. You can buy actual models of the things you did, which is kind of awesome. The only downside was the relentlessness of the sell…it was like being in a Lego advert. I felt like one of the PG Tips chimps.

The Bad

  1. Cost At nearly 100 real, British pounds to get three (count ’em) people in I thought that Legoland was outrageously expensive. Firstly, my ticket cost…[cue: drum roll…] £48.00. Really. Firstly, I only get to go on a few of the rides (and honestly, I wouldn’t care if I went on none) and secondly – I am free childcare! Plus there are a few rides and experiences you have to pay extra for, which is a bit cheeky. But I thought that they showed real attention to detail by making you pay for your parking at at the end of the day. So thoughtful.
  2. Food Every type of bad, unhealthy, vitamin deficient food had some kind of presence in Legoland. The only food vendor that I seemed to have missed was one selling Palm Oil milkshakes or lard lollipops. All the food was shit. Even the coffee was shit. I struggled to buy a bottle of water but thoughtfully it was really, really easy to buy a bottle of Coca-cola or Fanta.
  3. Queues It was busy and on one ride we had to wait around half an hour, which is hard with small children. I know it’s not Legoland’s fault – but maybe (here’s a crazy idea) they should make the days when they know it’s going to be busy, cheaper! You get to do less stuff so you should pay less, no? But no, what they thoughtfully do (I thought) is make you pay more. They’re real heroes.
  4. Queue Jumpers I hate this, it is morally wrong that you can cough up more money and then jump to the front of the queue. Let less people in. Make more rides. But don’t let people pay to jump the queue.
So, would I go again? I would, but I would gnash my teeth at paying the money for it. I would also only go if it was really quiet. I’d wait for another royal to die (that’d be a quiet day)…or a couple of days after it was discovered that Lego actually used the bodies of unborn babies to make the clear bricks…or maybe I could leave a suspect package at the entrance at around 9.30am and then realise – doh! – it’s my rucksack after all, at around 10.00am.
But until then, I’m going to give it a miss.

6 thoughts on “Legoland

  1. My Mum’s family live in Slough but they say they live near Windsor – I love that. I’m planning a trip here beginning of next year as a sort of apology for missing my Nana May’s 90th birthday party on Boxing Day as I can’t bear to get on a plane and leave my gang as I love the day after Christmas better than the actual day…. but anyhoo.

    Legoland. I’m aiming for a freezing cold day in January when no-else (apart from a hard Scot like myself) would think of going. I’m hoping this means less queues. I’d best start saving now though, shower of shites, that’s well expensive I had no idea.

    Haven’t been over at yours for a while, been leaving online alone-ish, but thank you for your lovely comment on my Scribbling Mum finishing up post ’twas very nice of you.

    1. Nay bother. I think there must be an optimum time of year to go when it’s just miserable enough to put you off but not miserable enough to prevent you going.

      But remember, Legoland shuts for part of year so check their opening hours.

  2. So many family attractions treat their punters so badly.

    One I could mention had enormous queues even on an off-season day. It poured with rain all day and there was no shelter for those queuing. To make matters worse the digital boards showing how long you’d have to queue weren’t at all realistic, so you thought you might have to suffer another ten minutes in the rain when it could be up to 50 minutes. It was hell.

    My own Lego experience was similar to yours. Loved lots of it, as did the children, but why such dire food? And the drive a Lego car queue was a joke. 50 minutes for a 2 minute ‘safety briefing’ then seconds on the track. I could go on. I won’t. But theme parks take note: you won’t always have us paying through the nose to queue around the block.

    1. I agree that you do sometimes feel exploited in some theme parks. I find them, on the whole, a little disappointing and largely a vehicle to sell stuff to a captive market at inflated prices.

      I am sure a computer program could be written that could ping each family when it’s their ‘turn’ on a ride. I would be quite happy to wander around a park or grab a coffee and then read a text that says: Be at Ocean Mania in 10 minutes…or something and just register for the rides you want to go on.

      I agree about Driving School = shit. Wait ages for slow cars and a two minute ride. Best ride was the Pirate Ship as nobody wants to go on it so the queues are tiny!

  3. Like any other theme park Legoland is a ruthlessly commercial enterprise, although I think it’s better than most. The price they charge for a one-off visit does burn a significant hole in your pocket, but I don’t think it’s any more (or less) exorbitant than, say, Chessington or Alton Towers. The food is indeed crap and over-priced – we always take our own.

    I say “always” because we’re fortunate enough to be only about 45 minutes away down the M4, so we bought the cheapest possible annual passes this year while both boys are still out of school. They pay for themselves by your second visit, although you can only go at certain, non-peak times (i.e. you can’t go at weekends in the summer holidays, that sort of thing). Which suits us fine, as my wife (who works three days a week) has taken the boys 5 or 6 times on a weekday, and I’ve taken the odd day off to join them. On a Friday in mid-June or September you rarely have to queue more than 10 minutes for anything – the Driving School is one of the exceptions which always has a long queue – which is bliss for keeping the kids happy.

    At full price, though, and in the height of summer, it is an incredibly expensive day out. Like Disney World/Land, but without the weather.

    As for the queue-jumping system, I hate it. I long for the day when everyone has paid to jump the queue, meaning that no one benefits. Is that wrong?

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