LEGOLAND Florida in Winter Haven – A Weekend Getaway from Pensacola

If you have been anticipating the opening of LEGOLAND Florida for the past year like we have been, you will have to wait no more!  I was so excited to be able to visit LEGOLAND Florida on Grand Opening day and it was an incredible adventure.  Living in Pensacola puts us just a six and a half hour drive from Orlando, home to all things theme park.  We are able to get in the car and drive down for a weekend without spending the large sums of money for plane tickets and more if we want to do a theme park trip.  We have spent several weekends in Orlando recently and I like being able to just go to the theme park one or two days and not have to spend hundreds of dollars on a week long pass.

LEGOLAND has added another option to the land of many theme parks.  LEGOLAND opened on October 15th about 40 minutes south of Disney World.  Some of you may remember going to Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven and the builders of LEGOLAND did a lot to preserve the gardens, some original structures and even some rides.  LEGOLAND Florida is the largest LEGOLAND and has the added beauty of the gardens.  The entire park is full of brightly colored LEGO bricks placed perfectly around the many brightly colored flowers and the many different shades of green…green trees, green grass, green bushes.

Things to Know Before You Go:

LEGOLAND is meant for children ages 2-12.  The park will appeal to LEGO lovers of all ages but it is meant for younger children.  I brought my 4 and 7 year old and felt like they were the perfect age to enjoy the park.  My 7 year old could go on almost every ride by himself and my 4 year old could go on just about every ride when I was accompanying her.  Most of the rides and activities have an interactive element to them so children will be shooting lasers, driving cars and boats and more.

Be prepared to wait just like any other theme park.  My one and only complaint about our visit is that it seemed like most of the rides had to be loaded with riders, sent on their way, unloaded, loaded again, and so on.  There weren’t too many rides that were constantly moving.  This could also have had to do with the fact that it was opening day.  This caused for a few lengthy ride wait times.  The good news is that every ride wait time sign was accurate almost to the minute or the times were overestimated!

Upgrade your single day ticket if you will be returning.  You can purchase a two day ticket for just $15 more than the one day ticket.  If you love the park, you can also look into upgrading your ticket to an annual pass.  Annual passes begin at a $99 for children ages 3-12 and $129 for ages 13 and up.  We spent two days exploring LEGOLAND but I do think it is doable in one day.  A day and a half would be perfect.

Choose your hotel wisely.  If you are making the trip just to visit LEGOLAND and don’t care about staying in Orlando, book a hotel with the Bed and Brick program and choose one that is close to the park.  There are a number of hotels in the program but the Best Western Park View Hotel is the closest hotel to LEGOLAND Florida.  We stayed at the Nickelodeon Suites Resort in Orlando and had a great time.  The Nickelodeon Suites Resort is near a Disney park and is also a participant in the Bed and Brick program.  It was about a 45 minute drive from the Nick Suites to LEGOLAND.  We took the shuttle, which provides roundtrip transportation from Orlando Premium Outlets-Vineland Avenue.  The pick-up time is 9am and the shuttle returns at park closing.

Look for the inexpensive or free souvenirs.  Save money on your trip by picking up one of the many souvenirs under ten dollars like a key chain or minifigure.  There are two free souvenirs that you can pick up: the LEGOLAND Florida brick and a paper driving license at Ford Driving School.  After learning about how LEGO bricks are made in the LEGOLAND Factory each child will get the special LEGOLAND Florida brick.  After attending driving school and driving the cars at both the Ford Driving and Ford Jr. Driving School, children will be given a paper driver’s license.  You can purchase a laminated driver’s license for $14.99 (ouch!), but if you push past that area hopefully your kids won’t notice and will be satisfied with the paper version.

Another option for a LEGOLAND souvenir is to bring a minifigure from home to trade with an employee.  Most all employees have a minifigure on their name tag and will trade you their minifigure for yours.  Don’t have one from home that you want to give away?  Minifigures can be purchased for $2.99 a piece or $9.99 a three pack.

The food at LEGOLAND Florida is actually pretty reasonable.  I was impressed with the prices of food available.  It certainly is not cheaper than eating a sandwich at home but there are a number of options with a variety of prices.  We ate at the Fun Town Pizza and Pasta Buffet where you can choose all the pasta and pizza that you wish for around $10.  Our favorite meal was at the Market Place where I paid $6.99 for a large piece of chicken and two huge spoonfuls of sides.  My daughter and I shared this meal while my son had a kid’s chicken tender meal.  Share a meal to save even more money.  For a snack, I recommend you try Granny’s Apple Fries.  I bought the $4.99 container of apple fries because everybody I spoke to talked about how wonderful they were.  I really liked them but my kids weren’t interested.

LEGOLAND is worth a visit even if you are just viewing the LEGO structures and Cypress Gardens.  Don’t miss wandering through the Cypress Garden area.  The gardens are beautiful and the Banyan tree in the back is amazing to see.  If the kids are bored while you wander the gardens have them hunt for the belle of Cypress Gardens…this belle is wearing a hoop skirt but she is made out of LEGO bricks!  Spend some time wandering Miniland where structures were built with 30 million bricks!

Don’t miss The Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty Water Ski Show.  Cypress Gardens was famous for its water ski shows and LEGO pays homage to it with the Brickbeard show.  A couple of kids will get to be part of the show and blast the pirates with a water hose.  The fact that the characters water ski in those costumes is impressive!

The verdict?  We had a blast! My LEGO loving son couldn’t get enough of the LEGO sculptures and interactive rides and my daughter loved being able to participate in almost every ride.  We will definitely return and I can’t wait to see what LEGOLAND Florida has in store as it continues to grow (rumor has it that a water park is in its future!).

*Thank you to LEGOLAND Florida for hosting us.  As always, opinions are my own with no outside influences (except for my kids, of course).

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