CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Imagine the fantasyland you'd get by turning hundreds of kids loose for months in a huge park with millions of Lego building bricks.
Probably something similar to the $130 million amusement wonderland that Lego company officials built on 128 acres in Southern California.Located in Carlsbad, a short distance off I-5 about halfway between Disneyland and San Diego on the California coast, Legoland California is the Danish toy manufacturer's third amusement park worldwide and first in the United States. The others are in Great Britain and Denmark.
Legoland California opened in March and already is a popular attraction for the thousands of tourists who spend their vacation time each year in Southern California. Park officials expect to attract close to 2 million visitors annually.
According to company officials, the name Lego is derived from the phrase "le godt" -- which means "to put together" in Danish and to "play well" in Latin. Legoland California definitely fits both themes.
Though built by adult technicians, Legoland California is geared mainly toward kids. To be exact, park officials say, the 40 rides and attractions and 5,000 models built with 30 million Lego bricks are targeted for children ages 2 to 12.
Even windows in the park are located closer to the ground. Restroom facilities are built with smaller people in mind. And only a few of the rides have height restrictions.
Everything is built with Lego bricks or designed to look like a Lego brick. The attractions encourage kids to "push, pull, squirt, climb, steer, pedal, build, crawl, stomp and program." Many of the attractions are interactive and hands-on, instilling a little creativity into the youngsters.
Even though the park is mainly geared toward kids and there's not much in the way of thrill rides, adults will still find the park's meticulous and colorful displays and activities interesting.
Adults will not only marvel at the park's decorations, but they'll marvel at the children marveling. And what's more entertaining than watching kids marvel?
The part parents might enjoy most, however, is that Legoland California has fewer ride lines, and shorter lines, than most amusement parks. A day at the park probably won't even be a full day.
Like most amusement parks, Legoland California is divided into themed blocks.
Miniland: The heart of Legoland California is a replication of five areas of the United States constructed in meticulous detail with miniLegos. Visitors will feel like King Kong hovering over the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the easy life of the California coast, a shipping yard in a New England harbor, the elegance of Washington, D.C., and the busy life of New York City. Each set is landscaped and animated with powered models of people, trains, ships and cars.
Castle Hill: The hill is themed of the time when kings and queens ruled. The Dragon, the only thrill roller-coaster type ride in the park, takes you through a tunnel of dragons and damsels before twisting rapidly through a winding track. Royal Joust is a ride where participants role play as a knight in battle.
Fun Town: This scaled down town is a place for kids to live out their big-world dreams. Kids can steer and accelerate their own minicar at Driving School and Junior Driving School. Or they can take a helicopter ride and boat ride at Sky Patrol and Skipper School. At the Lego Factory Tour you can see actual Lego bricks being made with injection molding.
Village Green: No better place to cool off on a hot summer day than the fountains at Water Works. Safari Trek, a boat ride through a jungle, and Fairy Tale Brook, are nice rides for viewing Lego models.
Imagination Zone: The educational and hands-on part of the park. At Lego Show you can put your own ideas on the big screen. In Mindstorms you can build a robotic Lego machine and program it to compete with others in a ball game.
The Ridge: The highest point in the park. Sit in a seat and use ropes to pull yourself to the top of Kid Power Tower and you'll get a nice view of the Pacific Ocean. Pedaling around the track on the monorail ride Sky Cycle provides another nice view of the park and the many Lego models.
Scattered throughout the park are plenty of themed stores, shops and eating places. Skits and musicals are performed throughout the day on the park's many stages.
Even though Legoland can be done in less than a full day, admission is comparable to other amusement parks. Adult admission is $32. Children 3 to 16 are admitted for $25. Children under 3 are admitted free, when accompanied by an adult.
Getting to Legoland California is easy. Take the Cannon Road exit off I-5 in Carlsbad. Drive east for a few blocks until you come to Lego Drive. From there you'll be led right into the parking lot, where you'll have to spend your first $6 to park your car. The park opens at 10 a.m. and closing hours vary with the season. For more information check out Legoland California's Web site at http://www.lego.com/legoland, or call 1-877-LEGOLAND.