12 Legoland California Resort Tips and Tricks
Ole Kirk Christiansen began producing wooden toys and blocks under the Lego name as early as 1934. It wasn’t until 1949, however, that he created the iconic, interlocking plastic bricks. By late 1950s, Christiansen’s son, Godtfred, had taken over the project, and Lego began bricks and model sets out of the factory, also in Billund.
It was here that the idea for the first Legoland park was born, as travelers from across the globe began visiting the factory to see the Lego sculptures that decorated the factory’s exterior. Godtfred had the idea to transform the manufacturing center into a proper attraction, by opening a 125,000-square-foot park to exhibit Lego creations.
In 1968, Legoland Billund officially invited enthusiasts to marvel at the immense collection of miniature houses and famous landmarks. Of course, Legoland has grown a bit since then. The park at Billund has doubled in size, and introduced rides, entertainment, and themed worlds.
The second Legoland, in Windsor, opened in 1996, followed shortly by the first Legoland in the United States — Legoland California. Today, there are also Legoland parks in Florida, Germany, Malaysia, Japan, and Dubai (home to the largest Lego replica of the Burj Khalifa).
Like the original Legoland Billund, in Denmark, the Legoland California Resort also has a Miniland — this one filled with distinctly American sights and attractions, including plenty of California’s most famous points of interest: the Golden Gate Bridge, Griffith Park Observatory, and the Hollywood Bowl.
While any Lego enthusiast will certainly find something to love about a trip to Legoland, the park is specifically geared toward children between the ages of 2 and 12. For the tiniest tots, there are rides without height requirements. Older kids might have their first rollercoaster experience on what a park representative calls “pink knuckle” rides — thrilling, but not too scary.
Legoland California is busy all year long, but prices rise and crowds tend to swell during school vacation weeks and the summer months. Be sure to cross-reference your travel dates with any on-site events, like the July 4 Red, White, and Boom fireworks and the Halloween-themed Brick-or-Treat.
For expert tips and tricks to planning a perfect trip to Legoland California — including park hours, the best rides and restaurants, how to use a pass, and the can’t-miss attractions — check out our definitive guide. We promise, all your Legoland California Resort questions will be answered.
Getting to Legoland California
Located in Carlsbad, a Southern California coastal city just 30 minutes north of San Diego and an hour south of Anaheim, Legoland California is easily accessible from Interstate 5. The closest airports are the Carlsbad Airport, just three miles away, and the San Diego Airport—approximately 35 minutes away.
Purchasing Legoland Tickets
Legoland California tickets start at $84 for children ages 3 to 12, with adult prices starting at $90 (that’s age 13 and up). This is one theme park where it’s seriously worthwhile to book in advance. In addition to breezing past the ticket booth, you’ll get a better deal on tickets.Right now, for example, guests who reserve tickets online more than seen days in advance can save $5 — or get access to the Legoland Water Park for only an additional $5. Your ticket will get you one-day admission to California’s Legoland on the specific date you select, though there are also Resort Hopper tickets that include access to both the Legoland Water Park as well as the Sea Life Aquarium starting at $98 ($104 for visitors ages 13 and up). These tickets are valid for two-day admission, with a second visit taken within nine days of your initial visit. Want a happy medium? Consider booking a two-day admission ticket to Legoland California and the Legoland Water Park — only $89 for both ($95 for visitors ages 13 and up). Locals and serious Lego enthusiasts may want to consider an annual pass, which costs $159 and includes unlimited access to Legoland California Resort.
Legoland California’s hours vary wildly, so be sure to check their operating calendar in advance of your visit. Generally speaking, the park opens at 10:00 a.m., and closes between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. in the evening. Toll and ticket booths always open 45 minutes before the park. The park is also closed on select days throughout the year, though it’s almost always open on major holidays. In December, for example, the park is open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, though it’s closed December 5, 6, 12 and 13. During the busy summer months (from approximately the end of June until late August), when most children are on vacation, the park extends its operating hours and hosts major events like the LEGO Star Wars Days and the Fourth of July fireworks.
Legoland Reserve ‘N’ Ride
Like many popular theme parks, Legoland California Resort offers visitors the chance to skip the line — or at least avoid the tedious experience. Known as the Legoland Reserve ‘N’ Ride Electronic Ride Reservation System, travelers can reduce their wait time by making a reservation for a ride within the park. You’ll still wait for your turn in line, but you won’t actually have to be in line to do so. Park attendees who book the park’s Reserve ‘N’ Ride feature will receive a hand-held device upon arrival. The Reserve ‘N’ Ride works with 14 major attractions, including NINJAGO The Ride; AQUAZONE Wave Racers; Safari Trek; Coastersaurus; Kid Power Tower; Mia’s Riding Camp; Driving School; Splash Battle; Knight’s Tournament; The Dragon Coaster; Lost Kingdom Adventure; LEGO TECHNIC Coaster and Coast Cruise; and the seasonal Pirate Reef.Reserve ‘N’ Ride devices are available at three price points: Express ($25 per person), Deluxe ($55 per person), and Ultimate ($100 per person). The Express Reserve ‘N’ Ride option reduces wait times by 25 percent, while the more expensive Ultimate Reserve ‘N’ Ride option reduces wait times by 90 percent, guaranteeing almost immediate access to your favorite rides. Visitors arriving by car will be able to find Legoland parking for $17, and the Legoland California address is hard to forget: 1 Legoland Drive. There is also a horseshoe-shaped drop-off area for park guests arriving by Uber, cab, or carpool.
The Best Legoland California Rides
Some of Legoland California’s rides are more in-demand than others: the pedal-powered Sky Cruiser, for example. But with 60 rides across the park’s various themed sections, it’s easy to spend an entire day experiencing Legoland California. For parents traveling children under two, be sure to seek out rides with a teddy bear symbol on the Legoland California park map. These, including the Fairy Tale Brook enchanting boat ride and Swabbies Deck splash area are low-key attractions without height requirements. Older children and parents should get in line for rides like Knight’s Tournament, where you can select the number of dips, spins, and flips your chair makes. But for those in the Goldilocks age group — snugly between 2 and 12 years of age, head for the Driving School (Volvo-emblazoned go-karts on an open course) and the Coastersaurus ride on Explorer Island.
The Best Legoland Attractions
The signature attraction of every Legoland on Earth is the Miniland, which features local attractions and landmarks. At Legoland California, visitors can enjoy a stunningly detailed miniature United States which includes the major landmarks of Washington, D.C., New York City, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and, of course, California. At this time, precisely 32,496,352 Lego bricks are built into Minland USA.
Special Events at Legoland
Legoland California hosts a number of special events every year, though there are two major celebrations worth traveling for: the Brick-or-Treat Party Nights, held on Saturdays throughout October, and the Red, White, and Boom Fourth of July extravaganza. For Brick-or-Treat, park guests can expect special Halloween goodies and fun decorations all across the park beginning at 5:00 p.m. Events can vary, but might include a Ghost Cruise adventure, a theater performance in Castle Hill, costume contests, Lego pumpkin patch building.Meanwhile, the Red, White, and Boom on the Fourth of July is a fun way to celebrate the holiday with the entire family. There are special performances and wholesome activities throughout the day (water-balloon tosses, burlap sack races, a Lego hamburger relay), with the main attraction being the evening Fireworks display.
The Best Legoland Restaurants
Unlike many theme park restaurants, travelers will find that Legoland California’s restaurants all have a health-conscious, Californian sensibility. One of the best restaurants for adults is the Garden Restaurant, in Miniland USA, which has an outdoor patio overlooking the tiny cities. A highlight from the menu (which includes sandwiches, homemade soups, and salads) is the signature caprese panini, made with mozzarella, pesto, fresh basil, and tomatoes on whole grain wheat berry bread. Other on-site restaurants that will certainly exceed your expectations of amusement park cuisine include the Ninja Kitchen (think: Banh Mi and steamed Bao buns) and Wok N Bowl Ramen, which serves a number of vegetarian options. For dessert, drop by Granny’s Apple Fries, located in Castle Hill, for a sweet, not-so-sinful treat invented at Legoland. Families will love splitting an order of these cooked Granny Smith apples dusted with cinnamon sugar and topped with a vanilla cream dipping sauce.
Drinking Alcohol at Legoland
After a long day touring Legoland with the kids, parents might want to consider sitting down for dinner at the Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ, which recently started serving craft beer.
The Best Legoland Hotels
For travelers who don’t want the Lego fun to end after Legoland California Resort closes for the evening, book a room at the Legoland Hotel, a 250-room property with Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, NINJAGO, or Lego Friends-themed rooms. There are serious reasons to consider staying at an official Legoland hotel, including early access to the park and an unbeatable position at Legoland California’s entrance. Look out for the new Legoland Castle Hotel, which opens in the spring of 2018 and will transport your entire family to a medieval realm of knights, princesses, dragons, and more. Grown-ups who need a break from all the primary colors and block-shaped designs should still book a hotel stay with a partner property. Carlsbad by the Sea Resort, for example, is less than two miles from Legoland California Resort, and includes complimentary shuttle service to the theme park. A full breakfast is also built into the price of every room. One of the best hotels near Legoland California is the Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort. Here, you can enjoy the perks of staying in a coastal California town (the property is little more than 150 paces from the Pacific) while still having complimentary shuttle service to and from Legoland.
Legoland California Insider Tricks
Be one of the first to cross the turnstiles in the morning, and you’ll avoid some of the worst crowds. But if you’re not an early riser, head directly to the back of the park upon arrival, or wait until after lunch to make your appearance.
According to Jake Gonzales, a representative from Legoland California Resort, kids can trade with any Legoland California employee wearing a Minifigure on their uniform. “Some guests try to see how many times they can trade in one day,” Gonzales told Travel + Leisure. “Or they search for certain Lego Minifigures that they can add to their personal collection.”
If you’re traveling during your kids’ school break, a Legoland insider suggests visiting the park on either a Tuesday or a Wednesday.
Legoland Resorts and Parks Around the World
LEGO fans on the East Coast of the United States might want to consider the newer Legoland Florida park, which has almost 50 rides and attractions, and is larger than California’s Legoland
Of all the Legoland parks, the Legoland Windsor Resort, in England, is the largest, spanning more than 150 acres. The newest Legoland, in Dubai, has the world’s tallest Lego replica of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.