Our family was thrilled to be among the first to experience the new LEGOLAND Hotel, which opened this week with a flourish, literally, as a knight in full regalia, along with a dusty adventurer riding in a motorcycle sidecar, and pirate who repelled from atop the roof, welcomed the first guests as the 250-room hotel opened its doors last week.
The first of its kind in America, LEGOLAND Hotel adjoins LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad, California, inviting families from all over, especially children ages two to 12, to enjoy a world of LEGO-themed attractions and activities.
Build It, and They Will Play
Amenities at the hotel include themed rooms decorated with LEGO models, characters and clues to unlock a treasure chest, Mini’s Lounge for grown-ups adjacent a castle and pirate ship for kids to play in, Skyline Café for upscale casual drinks and dining, the kid-friendly Bricks Family Restaurant with a scrumptious buffet, disco elevators complete with a mirror ball, light show and fave 70s grooves like “Dancing Queen” and “Do the Hustle,” and a lobby that is a kid’s fantasy play area, with a pit of LEGOs surrounding a multi-colored LEGO pillar that kids can help build.
Like a LEGO model in process, LEGOLAND Hotel seems to be experimenting with its environment. On opening weekend, the expected crowds of alcohol-imbibing parents never materialized at the Mini’s bar, but the families came en masse for the evening entertainment at the castle, so bar tables and padded stools were pushed aside to make way for song and dance parades of kids and performers.
Three Themes a Charm
The three-floor hotel features varying themed rooms with adventure, kingdom or pirate décor. Premium rooms have additional detailing and decal on the walls. In addition to a queen bed, all basic rooms have a separate, semi-private sleeping area with its own TV and bunk beds and a trundle bed for up to three little ones. Our family of four stayed in a junior suite that features the same kids’ quarters as the basic room plus a king bed and additional sitting area with a full-size sofa bed, to accommodate up to seven guests.
The rooms all had Wi-Fi, in-room coffee makers, hair dryers and the usual accoutrement of a modern hotel, as well as some other tech features like door locks activated by a wave of a key card and flat screen TVs with front-access accessory panels so guests could plug in their own devices.
Besides the conveniences for grown-ups, the hotel was a bounty for kids. Talking LEGO characters greeted guests as elevator doors opened, and figures and decorations lined the hallways – 3,500 models in all, along with fun surprises like talking mirrors in the hotel restrooms and a giant cartoon whoopee cushion on the floor that when stepped on emits sound effects that kids can’t seem to get enough of.
Kid Size Fun
Throughout the hotel there are special amenities for smaller guests, such as a kid-height peephole in guest rooms and toilet training seats in the bathrooms. The Bricks buffet for kids was also at a lower height, as was a dedicated kid sink in the restroom. The heated swimming pool also is perfect for little swimmers with a depth of five feet and a gradual incline similar to a beach shore.
LEGOLAND California seemed to benefit from the opening of the hotel, as the entire amusement park appears to have gotten a new coat of paint in recent months. The staff at the park and hotel seemed very enthusiastic about the hotel, and the staff was exceedingly friendly and helpful all around.
LEGO Land, Ahoy
After our fill of rides we ventured next door into the Sea Life Aquarium which has two tide pool exhibits where kids can touch the wildlife. The giant tanks give visitors a feeling of being immersed in the water, where plenty of sharks circled overhead, a delight for our son, who would not leave without a shark’s tooth souvenir necklace from the gift shop. Though the spring chill in the air made it too cold for us to indulge in the LEGOLAND Water Park, in warmer weather it is a wet wonderland with a Build-A-Raft river and six-person tube slides as well as a lower-key toddler area.
The park and hotel have implemented some of the same perks and features as Disney theme parks, with hotel guests entitled to early admittance to the park, an adjacent entrance for hotel guests, and character appearances at the hotel restaurants. Also similar to Disney pin trading with cast members, guests at LEGOLAND trade mini LEGO characters with staff. The minis are marketing genius, as my son became obsessed with finding a rare skeleton mini, prompting frequent trading and the purchase of six minis during our trip – but we have yet to come across the elusive skeleton.
Are We There Yet?
Lucky for us Angelenos, LEGOLAND is just 95 miles away, so it makes a perfect weekend road trip. We cruised to the resort in the new Mazda 2013 CX-9, which makes travel with kids easy thanks to its MP3 auxiliary input jack for iPods and other music media players. The blind-spot warning system made changing lanes on fast-moving I-5 a lot safer, and the rear back-up camera made parking in tight spots less stressful, as on-screen the green, yellow and red zones saved us the trouble of making someone get out of the vehicle to call out, “c’mon back.” The super roomy CX-9 is perfect for large families as the third row adds two extra seats. When the seats are folded down the cargo area is huge enough to fit plenty of luggage and gear. Though SoCal’s climate is generally moderate, the heated front-row seats feel great on a cold morning or chilly evening.
Hop to It
While LEGOLAND is a terrific weekend getaway, there is much more to explore than a family can conquer in a couple days. Two-Day Resort Hopper tickets at $112 for adults and $102 for children 3-12 years are definitely the best deal for families that want to bounce from the amusement park to the water park to the aquarium. Weekdays are always best to avoid longer lines, and the hours just before the park opens or just before it closes are often the least crowded.
Wisely, LEGOLAND has figured out that guests want to maximize their time at LEGOLAND, and having the LEGOLAND Hotel just a hop and skip away makes it all the easier. Ironically, there were so many exciting things at the hotel, our kids actually wanted to leave the park early, asking, “Can we please go back to the hotel!”