As has become our tradition, we took a trip over Thanksgiving
week. This year we visited the vacation home that my parents recently purchased in Port Charlotte, FL. For the last two days of our getaway, we traveled to Legoland, Florida, located on the grounds of the old Cypress Gardens. About halfway between Tampa and Orlando, in Winter Haven, the park seems to be ideally located for a number of popular destinations.
My wife and I both grew up as big Lego fans – and still are, to tell you the truth! The same can be said for our daughter. We had been wanting to check out one of the Legoland parks and this presented the perfect opportunity.
What’s Inside the Park
The Florida location consists of a theme park and a water park. Admission covers both, although the water park is closed during the off-season. Since we’re not big water park people, this was fine with us.
The attractions are geared towards families with things for little ones all the way through adults. Its rides are probably skewed a bit more towards younger kids than other amusement parks, though there are only a few with absolute upper age limits. Legoland has live shows and “4D” (3D plus air and smoke effects) movie presentations. Throughout the park there are extremely detailed and well-done Lego models of cityscapes, Star Wars scenes and characters, Lego characters, Lego animals, fish, flowers, you name it. Lego character meet-and-greets pop up at various points.
This Legoland has preserved the heart of the former Cypress Gardens, with a very lovely set of walking paths through the botanical garden. The large banyan tree and historic gazebo are also retained.
As this http://florida.legoland.com/en/EXPLORE-THE-PARK/Park-Map/ shows, there are different areas – DUPLO for the littlest kids, World of Chima, etc.
The actual roller coasters are the wooden Coastersaurus, the Dragon, Flying School (suspended-type coaster), and Project X. None of them are anything hard-core by any means, but they were fun. I’d call Coastersaurus my favorite.
I was impressed by the detail of the many Lego models. Star Wars was my favorite area. There was a big Lego Christmas tree and some other small holiday decorations.
We watched two live shows, the Pirates Cove Water-ski Show and the “Big Test” firefighting show. Hands-down the Water-ski show was the most fun and entertaining. We watched a couple of the movie shows and they were enjoyable.
We ate lunch and dinner at the park on Thanksgiving Day (handy, since restaurants outside the park were closed!) and lunch on Friday, as we had to leave around 3:00 to catch our flight home. The food options are pretty good for the size of the park. We ate at the Fried Chicken place for lunch on Thanksgiving day and the pizza & pasta buffet for dinner. Friday was the food-court style Market Restaurant. Food quality was about a grade B to A in my opinion. Prices were about what you’d expect for a theme park, though less than Disney World.
Legoland Florida is no more than a two-day affair in general (not counting the water park). Our day and a half was just right. I’d say though, that it depends on a couple of factors:
1. How busy the park is: Thanksgiving Day was fairly empty but the following day was much busier. We would have been more pressed to experience everything we wanted to if both days had been so busy. Though the park is rather compact, that seems to also mean the crowds have fewer places to expand into!
2. Any age variance among kids: With only one 16 year old, the three of us had similar interests and types of rides we could go on. If you have a range of kids from toddlers on up, you may have to divide up time among the different areas in order to please everyone.
The rack rate (as of 06 Dec 2013) for a one-day pass is $81 for ages 13+ and $74 for under 13 or Senior Citizens. Two day passes are $96 and $89, respectively. However the park seems to have frequent specials. I purchased a special offer of $66 with the second day free – the caveat being the tickets were only good on the exact date you specify at the time of purchase. I’m sure AAA has discounted tickets, and Undercover Tourist likely does as well. Parking is $14 per day. All in all, I felt we got a good value for the money spent.
There are a number of the usual chain hotels to choose from in the immediate vicinity. I used some of my IHG Rewards Club points for two nights at the Holiday Inn Express – Lake Wales/Winter Haven.
I was quite pleased with our stay here – one of the better Holiday Inn Express properties I’ve visited lately. Rooms have a mini fridge and microwave, with a sort of wet-bar layout including extra sink and cabinets. A DVD player is in each room and there are DVDs available to borrow. Free in-room WiFi and a business center with a printer rounded things out.