Saturday, March 24, 2012

Florida Field Trips #5: LegoLand

Florida Field Trips #5: LegoLand

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I took my four youngest kids, ages 6-12, to LegoLand Florida, about an hour and half from our house in Seminole County.  Last fall, LegoLand opened in Winter Haven, not far from US Highway 27, on the grounds of what used to be the historic Cypress Gardens theme park.  Cypress Gardens was a classic Florida fixture for several decades until it ran out of money a few years back.  I remember going there over 25 years ago with my husband!

Our home school co-op scheduled this as a field trip so we could get the school discount, which is just a fraction of the cost of a regular ticket.  We paid $5 each for children ages 5 through 12, and $25 each for teens, adults, and preschoolers age 3-4.  Under age 3 is admitted free.  A regular adult ticket is $75 at the gate or $68 on-line, while children’s and senior citizens tickets are usually $65 at the gate or $60 on-line.   The moral of the story: go with a school group if you can!   We were initially told to bring our home school ID cards, but only our leader had to show hers.  Parking costs $12 for a car (maybe more for larger vehicles?) and can be paid by credit card.  

You can rent a single stroller for $9 or a double stroller for $14.  I rented one at lunch time so I could bring my heavy lunch bag to the back end of the park where our friends were eating, and so my tired six year old didn’t have to walk so much.  It was well worth the money.  Speaking of lunch bags, I’ve been told there is refrigerated storage area in the white mansion so you can bring it in.  I didn’t realize that ahead of time and had left mine in the car.  You can also get food in the park.  I saw an all-you-can-eat-and-drink pizza, pasta and salad buffet for $9.99 for adults and $6.99 for children.  At that price, I would have been tempted to just eat there if I hadn’t had as many kids with me!  Some of the other food is a big more expensive, such as a bottle of Gatorade that is $3 if you buy it inside or $2.50 if you buy it from a cart outside.  Other amenities include a pet kennel and locker rental.

The hours are 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM, Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday), but they don’t seem to be very strict on the closing time.  We didn’t leave the park until 6:20, and there were plenty of people still in it.  

They are opening a LegoLand Water Park this summer.

Island in the Sky
While LegoLand is much more fun than the old Cypress Gardens, I am very grateful that they have retained the best features of the old park, including the actual gardens, water ski shows, and the Island in the Sky ride which is a viewing platform that rises high above the park and spins slowly for a terrific view of the Florida countryside.   I’m not sure which of the current rides remain for the CG days, but there are four different roller coasters and lots of other rides for all ages to enjoy.   

There truly is “something for everyone” at LegoLand, even if you don’t usually play with Legos.  We compensated for the differences in age and interest levels by trading off kids with three other families as necessary.  We kept in touch with cell phones so we could meet up frequently and trade kids again.

 New York City
Statue of Liberty
The really fun thing about LegoLand is the LEGO theme!  This is apparent from the moment you walk through the gates, because there are gigantic Lego sculptures throughout the park.  The crowning display of Legos is at MiniLand, where there are at least a dozen amazing scenes built entirely of Legos, including New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, the Daytona speedway, Kennedy Space Center, Key West, Las Vegas, and more.

U.S. Capitol Building

Space Shuttle at Kennedy Space Center
San Francisco with Golden Gate Bridge 

San Francisco

The Safari ride for young children takes you through an area with full size Lego animals. 

Some attractions that are not made of Legos still retain the theme, such as at the water ski show where the ship looks like it is made of Legos and the pirate is called Captain Brickbeard instead of Blackbeard.  During this show, there are four full-size Lego men (people in costumes) and a Lego pirate who water ski and act out the skit.    

In the Dragon roller coaster ride, the outside is a Lego looking castle with the trademark colorful plastic flags, a Lego gargoyle, and Lego soldier.   During the preliminary inside segment, you travel through a castle with large Lego sculptures of dragons and courtiers.   

The Dragon coaster ride was fun but not overwhelming, and I think it is the best pick of coasters for younger riders.  There is also a nearby Merlin’s Challenge ride for very younger children which is sort-of-kind-of like a junior roller coaster (goes up and down a little on a circle track) but ironically rougher on my joints than the Dragon and the wooden Coastersaurus!  I didn’t ride the Flying School suspension coaster, nor Project X (?) which is more curvy.

I also loved the Clutch Powers 4-D show we saw.  What is 4-D? It is 3-D with the additional sensory elements of wind, water and “snow.”   There are three 4-D shows available, including a racing one, and another with a wizard theme that looked a little dark for my tastes.

I am also super glad I took the opportunity to walk through the gardens, which I missed the last time I was at Cypress Gardens.   A Southern belle made from Legos replaces the human ones that used to grace the park.

The most outstanding feature of the gardens is a massive banyan tree that has several trunks.  

Banyan Tree

Gazebo, with pond that has alligators!
I think this is a Jack-in-the-Pulpit flower
I always love to stop and pay attention to details about God’s creation.  I kept noticing soft white clumps of fuzz on the grass in one area, and realized it came from baseball sized white clumps growing high up in the trees.   Yes, they were silk floss trees, the ones with really spiky trunks.  Very educational!

"Silk floss"

Look closely to see the soft white seed balls
on the silk floss tree

Trunk of silk floss tree
One thing I didn’t like as much was that the map gave very little detail about what each attraction was. For example, we thought The Lost Kingdom Adventure was a roller coaster, but it turned out to be a little car that takes you through Egyptian tombs so you can shoot targets with a laser gun -- fun, but not the roller coaster, which was the adjacent Coastersaurus.  So you should do your research on-line ahead of time.  You can explore the Park Map here:

I guess that’s enough about LegoLand and Cypress Gardens for now!  I hope it helps as you plan your trip!

This is the fifth post in my Florida Field Trip series.  You can find the other ones here:

Have fun!

Virginia Knowles

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