SURVIVING LEGOLAND

Lego. It’s everywhere. Under the sofa, in the car, in the dog’s bed, embedded in the sole of your bare foot. Every day, these pieces of plastic are leaving subliminal messages in your child’s mind: “Take me to Legoland. Take me to Legoland. Take me to Legoland”. It’s easier just to give in. The Lego will always win.

Defeated and en route to Windsor, you’ll soon discover, as expected, Legoland is a never-ending maze of thrill rides, multiple gift shops and numerous fast food restaurants; a child’s paradise but hell to many a sore-footed parent. With screaming kids and relentless queues, it can test even the most proficient parent. Survive Legoland in peak season, unscathed and you can drive away from the royal county knowing the world is your Duplo-shaped oyster.
 
The struggle is real, but it doesn’t have to be, as I’ve discovered. Having visited Legoland on maybe, ten occasions in the last couple of years (yep, you read that right, ten) I feel I’ve cracked how best to navigate this maze of rides and most importantly, dodge the unrelenting crowds. 

My repeated visits aren’t as extreme as I’m making out. Yes, there’s been around ten in the last couple of years but I’m not some Legoland loon. I live in Windsor and so bought an annual pass knowing my daughter Edie and I could pop in whenever it suited.

With summer fast approaching, I feel it’s my duty to share how I’ve survived Legoland with a toddler.

Before I begin, it's worth noting that these visits were made when Edie was between 1 and 2-years-old. So if your children are about to sprout their first strands of bum fluff, then perhaps my guide might not be appropriate (unless of course Fairy Tale Brook is their thing). If your child is a toddler and you’ve given in to the pull of the multi-coloured bricks, do read on.

Before You Go:

  • Pre-book you tickets – it’s cheaper than paying on the day and the queue to get in is always shorter.
  • Look out for deals on cereal packets, online etc - often 2-for-1s and money-saving bargains.
  • Children under 3 go for free.
  • Bear in mind that while it states on the website that it opens at 10am, that’s when the rides open, you can get there a lot earlier. If you need to collect tickets, pick up a map, go to the loo, grab a coffee or want to get a good spot in the swarm of visitors waiting to be released into the main park, get there about 9.30am.
  • A lot of the rides have a height restriction of 0.9m and anyone under 1.3m must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Legoland is very hilly - something to remember if you've packed everything but the kitchen sink in the buggy and have to heave it uphill at the end of the day. Also, make sure you’re wearing suitable shoes. Sorry, that’s the dad in me talking.
  • If it’s boiling hot, pack the kids' swimwear and a towel for Splash Safari.

Getting There and Parking:

  • If you’re already in the centre of town near the castle/Long Walk sort of area, avoid the Legoland signs directing you towards the Great Park/Ascot as they take you a very long way round. There’s a much quicker route if you’re already in town; use the B3022 (St Leonard’s/Winkfield Rd) and simply follow it all the way up to Legoland. This avoids going nearly all the way to Ascot for no reason.
  • If it’s early in the morning when you arrive, when driving up the hill and approaching the car park you’ll see the road splits into two. Keep to the right and follow it round. You’ll feel like you’re missing out on all the spaces you can see on your left, but eventually you’ll come to a car park that's right near the main entrance. You’ll thank me 7 hours later when your legs are about to fall off and you don’t have to walk far to find your motor.

My Route and Rides Around the Park:

  • Once you’re through the ticket barrier, topped up with coffee and ready to tackle what these helmet heads can throw at you, take the left-hand side entrance that leads down to the rides. The right-hand side (next to Star Wars) might be more suitable if your children are a bit older and want to beat the queues for the water rapids etc that are found on the other side of the park.
  • Leg it as fast as you can in the direction of the Duplo Valley/Lego City. This is where the best rides for little ones are and therefore get pretty busy, fast. Avoid the temptation of Imagination Centre, Miniland, Brickville or other attractions en route. You can do these later.
  • Whilst in the area I would do: Coastguard HQ, then Atlantis Submarine Voyage, then Balloon School and finally, Fire Academy.
  • Next, head towards Kingdom of the Pharaohs where your toddler might like Laser Raiders (but may need some help with the laser guns), Aero Nomad and Desert Chase.
  • Remarkably, that’s seven rides nailed already, so you'll probably need a break about now. Put your feet up on the Heartlake City Express train. You might have seen it pass around the park earlier and thought it was just a slow-paced carriage to allow us old folk some respite (thankfully it does offer that too!), but there’s one or two surprises en route. Choo-choo!
  • By now it’s probably lunchtime. I always try and take a picnic, as it’s already a bloody expensive day and the variety of food on offer isn't great or particularly healthy, but if al fresco dining on an itchy blanket isn’t your thing, there are a few places to eat around Heartlake City (where the train drops you). With a bit of planning, you could combine your lunch break with watching one of the performances (sing-alongs, stunt shows etc) by the water.
  • Fed and watered, it’s time to move on.
  • Now, I’d head towards Land of the Vikings and Knights Kingdom. On our first couple of visits, these areas felt very much like they were aimed at older children, but on closer inspection (you have to mix it up if you’ve been as many times as me and Edie), we found there were some rides Edie enjoyed, such as Logboat Invader and Dragon’s Apprentice. There are other attractions for smaller children around these areas too, such as Loki’s Labyrinth, but it all depends on how much time you have. 
  • Next, hop on the Hill Train. Some might question the logic in this as it takes you back to the start, but bear with me (your legs might need this by now anyway).
  • From the top of the hill, head back down to where you sprinted at 10.01am in the morning. Now at a more leisurely pace, you can head to Imagination Centre. If the queue isn’t looking too bad, go on the Sky Rider. You’ll also pass the 4D show. I tried this with Edie and although there’s no restrictions on age or height, she was too young at two, to really enjoy it.
  • Next up, head to Duplo Valley. Try out Fairy Tale Brook, the Duplo Train, Raft Racers and if it’s boiling hot, let the kids get wet and wild in Splash Safari. If it’s not quite the weather for a good soaking, Brickville is a good old fashioned playground.
  • It must be late now and you’ll all be pretty knackered so start heading back up the hill. Take in Miniland en route and then round it all off with a look around the Star Wars display, before finally getting bribed into buying a trunk of plastic bricks from the gift shops. 

Other stuff:

  • There are plenty of places to build Lego (especially around Imagination Centre) but we gave these a miss. Time is of the essence and besides, she’s got plenty of Lego at home to play with (don’t we know it!)
  • Just to reiterate, this was all done when Edie was 1 -2-years old (plus she was quite tall for her age, so was able to just about get on a lot of the 0.9m restricted rides with me accompanying her). I’m sure when we return this summer, with Edie growing faster than Japanese knotweed, it will be a different experience. 
  • Queue jumps (known as ‘Q-Bots’) are available to buy, starting from about £20.
  • It might be worth considering an annual pass if you think you’ll return soon. If you buy one whilst you’re in the park, you can get it at a discounted rate, which means you’ve only got to go another couple of times and you’ve saved money (in a roundabout way... I suppose saving money would be to not go at all!).

Well done, you survived! However, you’ll be reminded of your visit for a long time to come… Those gift shops on the way out look innocent enough, but they're far from it. Although you might have ticked Legoland off your list, you're guaranteed to come away with mountains of plastic bricks, pre-programmed to miraculously scatter themselves around your house and ready to annihilate your bare feet at any given opportunity, until you agree to return. You’ve been warned.