We finally did it! After six years and 15+ visits to the Legoland Discovery Center in the Chicago area, we made it to Legoland California. I really wanted to take my elementary-aged boys there before they were too old to enjoy it. They love imaginative and creative play, and playing with Lego-anything is still one of their favorite things to do. We were so excited to get outside and explore all there was to do. Here are our best tips for Legoland California.
Going to places like this is a bit overwhelming especially if you’re not a planner. We visited Disneyland for two days several years ago when my husband was going to Anaheim for work. We just winged it as it was a last-minute trip. In retrospect, I wish I looked up the map and planned a few things out. We went in July, and it was crazy busy. We had fun, and the kids did great but we just aren’t “that into Disney” so a lot of characters we saw and rides we waited to go on had no real significance. Lego building is what my boys have been growing up with, not watching Disney movies. It was important to me that we made it to Legoland California or Legoland Florida.
We moved to Arizona which made visiting Legoland California a priority as it was so much closer. The kids had a 4-day weekend at the end of February so I thought this would be a good time to go with most children being in school. Here’s what we learned about visiting Legoland California.
Best tips for Legoland California
Here are some overall best tips for a memorable Legoland experience. Please read on for more details but I wanted to highlight the best and some that are more unique.
- Get your kids excited about the trip and pull up the Legoland park map in advance and talk about what your child wants to do.
- Have your kids look through their Lego collection for minifigures to trade while at Legoland California. My boys spent a few hours one day looking through their pieces and making minifigures and together choosing which ones they could part with. In order to trade, the minifig must include a head, body and legs. It’s great if you bring an accessory too, though it’s not required. The pieces do not all have to be from the same original minifigure.
- Bring 2 quarters and a penny for the flat penny machines in the park. Your kids will have fun collecting them from wherever they go, around the world.
- While at the park, be mindful of the time but try to follow your child’s interests. That’s why you are there after all!
- If it’s your first visit, tell them as you enter the turnstiles for a “1st visit to Legoland!” pin.
- If you stay a second day, go to your child’s favorite ride first. Mine were able to ride their favorite roller coaster, Project X, two times within the first half hour.
- Ride the rides with your kids but try to get one great picture of your child enjoying a ride. There are certain rides with cameras at Legoland. While I think they are expensive, if you have one great picture, it might be worth it to you. I took my own.
- Soon after you get home, order or print out a few photos from your vacation, and hang them somewhere in your house for your kids to see. Legoland California is a vacation you will want your kids to remember.
More tips for a great Legoland trip
- Visit Legoland California off season if possible.
- Be sure to check their website as they have different hours and are even closed some Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the slower seasons.
- We needed two full days at Legoland California. We could have stayed longer. If the water park was open when we were there, we would want to stay even longer.
- Look around for deals so you can feel good that you at least found the best price.
Best Legoland California deals
It’s one of southern California’s top, family-friendly attractions, so it was going to be expensive. But there are definitely ways of making it less so. Once I knew were were going, I started looking for Legoland California deals. When we went to Disneyland, we just bought tickets right at the gate (cringe). We definitely overpaid.
I looked on their website first to see what they offered. Being it was off-peak season, with the park even being closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they had a great special going on.
We were able to go to Legoland California and Sea Life Aquarium for any two days within nine consecutive days. That turned out to be the best deal we found prior to our trip. We ordered the tickets two days before our arrival, and printed them out at home. If we were going to stay in the area longer, we definitely would have checked out other options. But we were driving into Carlsbad, CA on Wednesday night, going to Legoland on Thursday and Friday, and going to one of the Carlsbad beaches on Saturday before heading home that evening.
Check around for the best prices
Literally the day after we arrived home, my husband found a great deal Costco had going on. For the same exact price we paid, we could have had a pass for three entire months! That bummed me out because we easily would have (or at least could have asked the kids if they wanted to) go back on Saturday for a bit. That definitely would have motivated us to come back again. However, after thinking about it for awhile, to go back would have cost us hundreds of dollars more in lodging and travel expenses, so it’s just as well. If we go again off-season, I will definitely check Costco’s pricing. Like the park’s prices and offers, Costco’s will change with the seasons as well. If you are going during non-peak times (not summer!) you will probably get a great deal at Costco.
Check the Legoland website to get baseline price
Overall, your best bet is to check the Legoland website. It will frequently feature special ticket deals in which customers receive free admission for an extended portion of their visit. In the off season, it’s not unusual to score deals where guests pay for one day and receive an additional four days for free. That’s an amazing deal that the whole family will love.
Purchasing in advance may save some money. Many visitors choose combination tickets that include access to the water park and the SEA LIFE Aquarium. On the Legoland website, guests can select a particular day for their visit to receive specially discounted pricing. Tickets for a one-day admission to Legoland are available, but the best deals are the tickets that offer a free second day and admission to the park’s other attractions. You really want to try to get a second day for free — even if you don’t plan to stay the entire day — without paying the full ticket price.
Another way to save money on Legoland tickets is by looking for coupons. Recent coupons include a free kids ticket with each purchase of a full-price adult ticket, often found in the free Lego Club magazine. You can find a variety of online Legoland coupons throughout the year, so it’s worthwhile to check back often.
What to do at Legoland California
With dozens of rides and activities, children between the ages of three and 12 are sure to have an unforgettable experience, as will their parents. This full-service resort features a hotel, aquarium and water park in addition to the signature theme park, so guests can plan a complete vacation around this timeless attraction.
We did not stay at the Legoland California Resort due to the cost. Yes, I’ve heard it is great and it would have been a memorable experience, and I really wish we could have made it happen. As it was, we stayed at the Grand Palisades Resort, which was very close, though not on the Legoland property. This place was nice but also more expensive than we usually pay, (the pool was great!) so look around and see what will bring the most value to your family. We didn’t walk back to the hotel during the day for naps so we didn’t need that convenience. However, we wanted to be close to Legoland California. We loved the convenience being able to walk and not have to pay for parking.
Walking to Legoland California
We did take the hotel’s van/shuttle the first day. We walked home and then walked there and back — we stayed from open to close — the next day. It was a 10 minute walk with kids and very easy and safe. We wanted to avoid the parking fee and be eco-conscious as well. We loved tracking all of our steps on our Fitbits too! “This means extra steps,” my kids said as we walked back to the hotel. It was less than 2,000 adult steps to get back to our hotel as noted on my Fitbit.
The water park wasn’t open while we were there which was just as well. There was so much to do and so much we didn’t have time to do, that if we had the Legoland water park option too, we would have needed a week. (Did I mention my kids love all things Lego?)
How many days do you need at Legoland California?
We definitely saw and did a lot in our two full days (10am – 5pm which were the hours the park was open) including spending about an hour in the SEA LIFE Aquarium on our second day. My kids rode the rides they wanted to multiple times so going back for a third day would have been more of the same. However, we would have appreciated a third day, especially a third day within the next nine days if we were staying that long. I’m sure my kids would and I know I would love to be able to spend more time in the inside attractions. There were many things we walked right past en route to somewhere else we wanted to go, not even knowing they were there or what they were.
Hard to see everything at Legoland
Also, while the map has every location marked, and while I looked this up online in advance of our trip, I wasn’t sure what all the location names meant. As an example, my kids used to be huge Lego Hero Factory fans. At one point, they owned every single Hero Factory “guy” there was. They were affordable toys which made for nice gifts, etc. When we went to the Lego Hero Factory building at Legoland California, we weren’t able to get in the door. It was locked and through the window it appeared that there was a class going on. I still don’t know what someone does in this section, and the Legoland California website does not describe what one does here. Do you build Lego Hero Factory guys?
There is lots to do at Legoland California
Additionally, the last 20 minutes of our second/last day there, we came across an entire section that we hadn’t been to yet. It was an area that up to four people could sit in a car and shoot at laser targets for points. This attraction is at the Legoland Chicago Discovery Center we know and love so we were excited to experience it here to see how it differed. (It was a longer ride with more targets, and they all seemed to work!) We rode it twice, and then my kids were off to the area where they were able to shoot soft balls at each other. In this section I also saw a carpet slide that we never noticed. My kids would have had a great time in this section with more time.
We needed more than two days
I learned after our visit that we really missed a lot of attractions! It seems we completely missed Castle Hill which included an Enchanted Walk with Lego animals; the Hideaways section with slides and ropes to climb; and the Wild Woods Golf section for 18 holes of minigolf. We wouldn’t have used our time miniature golfing but certainly would have looked at the animals, and I’m sure my guys would have climbed for a bit.
So for our family of Lego-loving boys, we could have used 3-4 days for sure and definitely at least two days. If we paid full price for just one day admittance, that would have been a letdown.
Do you miss out if the Legoland water park is closed?
We did not miss it. While we would have enjoyed going to the Legoland water park, we didn’t even have enough time to do all we wanted to see and do much less have to deal with the hassle of swimsuits and changing, etc. Sure, if it had been open while we were there we would have gone but we did not miss it at all. So if you are wondering what to do at Legoland California know there is enough to do without the water park being open. Don’t worry about missing out on it as it seems the prices are less throughout the year when the waterpark is closed.
Following your kids’ interests while at Legoland
Yes, it’s overwhelming to decide what to do at Legoland California and any amusement park. There is often the internal stress of hurrying the kids along, even if they are enjoying the activity at hand, to do more, see more… more more more. I tried hard not to do that this trip.
I reminded myself before getting there that the reason I am even going to Legoland is for my kids. (No offense, but this wouldn’t make my top 20 list if I didn’t have kids or grandkids, etc. to go with!) So I was going for them. It was for their enjoyment and experience, and because they would be enjoying it, of course I would too.
Patience is key
Our first hour on our first day there also involved digging in the sand for dinosaur bones. My children were there probably a half hour. They were having fun so I really tried to just let them be which was difficult given they didn’t know all the other cool things the park had to offer. For example, it was my kids’ decision to drive the cars 10 times in a row. When they both agreed to stop, they did.
So we let them do what they wanted, and only reminded them as the day was winding down to think about what they really wanted to do. After being there the first day, they were already planning what they wanted to do the second day and what ride to do first.
Building with Legos at Legoland
I did realize that my older son was more into building with the Lego bricks than my younger son was. My younger son enjoyed it, but for not as long. So both days, they spent time building and racing their boats at the Coast Guard Build a Boat section. The second day we found a store in Fun Town that had some Lego building opportunities, and they sat there for awhile and built. The highlight for them in this store is that a Legoland employee was passing out packages of Red Vines; they were thrilled!
I really wish we saw there was a Build and Test spot at Legoland California because it’s my kids’ favorite thing to do at the Legoland Chicago Discovery Center. How we completely missed this, I do not know! This is an area where you can build a car out of Lego bricks and race them down the ramps. The Chicago location is all indoors, and it’s a space they have rearranged several times over the years, oftentimes making it smaller. I would have enjoyed seeing how they intended it to be given enough space. We are definitely going to see this the next time we go.
My kids’ favorite things to do at Legoland California
My kids really loved everything there was to do. They could have spent a week there and been thrilled. When we got home, I asked my boys separately what their favorite things to do were. They both answered the same. Here were their most favorite things:
Driving School (ages 6 – 13)
The attraction they really loved that surprised me was the one in which they can drive their own Lego car around on the Lego town, complete with stoplights and stop signs. They went on it 10 times the first day and 11 times the second day, each taking about an hour and a half to ride the ride (a little under two minutes), get a paper “driver’s license,” fast-walk/run to get back in line, wait for that ride to fill up and run, then get back on again. They had an absolute thrill doing this over and over again. (This isn’t a bummer-car type ride. There isn’t supposed to be contact.)
I was so impressed with the Legoland employees in this section. Sometimes a child’s car would crash into the side or another driver and an employee would have to help them. Each time I would see an employee literally running over to help the child. I seriously haven’t seen employees anywhere like this in recent years. It was impressive. This happened anywhere between 1-4 times during the two minute “ride,” and these employees always seemed alert and ready to resolve the problem.
Kids love driving the cars
My kids did not get their picture taken at the entrance to this attraction. If they do, you have the option of purchasing a Legoland lanyard with your child’s picture in it after the ride. Surprisingly, I saw a few parents holding these, but we did not spend money on this when we could have bought a small Lego set or two lunches for that price. Your child will get a (blank and perfectly fine, free) license after each time riding it. Even when my kids tried to say “no thanks” they were still given one. My plan was to give them to the employee after the ride so they could reuse them but really my kids were thrilled with these licenses and wanted to keep them.
There is a little food stand right in this section along with tables and umbrellas, so depending on the crowds, this is a great spot for the grownups to hang out while the kids ride again and again.
Coast Guard Boat Build
Legoland has large boat platforms/bases for anyone who wanted to build a boat and race it down the water “ramp.” We had experienced this while visiting the Chicago Legoland Discovery Center for their Pirate Adventure Island exhibit. This is the same concept though larger because it is outdoors. Legoland has shade sails to keep the direct sun off the builders which is nice. There are some benches for the grown ups to enjoy watching their kids have so much fun. While my kids didn’t comment on it, I liked that the Chicago Legoland exhibit had actual sea-themed pieces, like octopus, ship’s wheel, sharks, masts and sails, etc. I imagine because those pieces are so unique and that they have such a high traffic volume that they worry about theft. So you will just find regular Lego pieces but everyone will enjoy it anyway.
Lego Technic Coaster
Wondering what to do at Legoland California for older kids? This ride is it! This is a fun roller coaster with a big drop and twists and turns. My kids went on many times in a row, especially after 4pm when the lines dwindled. I am scared of roller coasters and unfortunately couldn’t bond with my kids over this fun ride but I was able to get fantastic pictures by standing right where the 4-seater coaster drops and didn’t have to pay for them! My boys went on this ride four times the first day and six times our second day.
Trading Minifigures at Legoland California
If you take anything away from these best tips for Legoland California, let it be to have your child/children bring some of their own minifigures to trade. My kids had a blast and traded every single one of the 12 they brought to trade. They would have traded more if they had more. This was great for me because it almost seemed like they were getting something new and wouldn’t be asking for souvenirs on our way out.
Basically, if the Legoland staff has a nametag with some Lego minifigures stuck on it, you can probably trade with them. Your kids will need a full “person” but it doesn’t have to be from that character. There needs to be a Lego head, body, and legs. Some had accessories as well but didn’t seem to be required. My kids had fun digging through their Lego parts to make complete guys. They loved trading them at Legoland because each and every time the employee said “yes” to whatever trade my kids wanted to make! When in life does that happen? They were happy with their new minifigs.
Riders can choose from five levels of intensity if they are at least 55″ tall. My kids chose level 4. I can’t imagine how much worse level 5 would have been as level 4 was quite intense. They only did it once but they wanted to try level 3 and level 2. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.
This name was a little deceiving as there wasn’t anything to blast. Think if it like a spinning teacups ride like at a Disney park. My guys had fun spinning around and around.
More best tips for Legoland California
Make sure you find these two rides. We found them with less than a half hour before closing on our second/last day. My kids loved the Lost Kingdom Adventure with the laser guns. They had fun shooting the balls at people in the Pharaoh’s Revenge section.
Souvenirs and best tips for Legoland California store
Luckily, our family isn’t big on souvenirs but my husband and I wanted to get them something from this trip being they love playing with Lego bricks, and it keeps them off of electronics.
We love the flat penny machines and that is usually what my kids get when we go on trips (and that is all they got when we went to Disneyland and they were fine with it). There are several of these machines at Legoland. Bring two quarters and a penny for your 51 cent souvenir. If you kids don’t already have a collection of these, start one. They are a great memento because they are cheap and won’t take up room in your home. Buy a book for them at Legoland, and your kids can keep them all in one place.
On our first day, we bought each of my boys a flat penny book because they filled up the two they have at home. What a great souvenir to keep all of their penny souvenirs for all of their vacations to come. They each got two flat pennies (one for each day) from Legoland California and from SEA LIFE Aquarium. Happy kids.
On the second day, they were surprised when my husband said they could pick out a set to share. At first they looked at the Star Wars sets but I was glad when they picked the Lego Nexo Knight because they didn’t have any of those sets.
On both days, we visited the store at the end, on our way out. It was open past 5pm so we weren’t using our precious park time shopping.
Where to begin when you get inside Legoland California
When we first entered the park on the first day, we we went left inside of right. What is the age of your children? If you have preschool-aged or younger, I would go left. If your kids are a little older, you might consider going right. We went left our first day, and my kids spent a lot of time in the Explorer Island section we went to first. My thought in that section was that there are a lot of local families who must come with their preschool-aged children and toddlers. This isn’t their “big vacation;” this is their local hangout. (Lucky them!)
SEA LIFE Aquarium at Legoland
We visited the SEA LIFE Aquarium with two hours before closing on our second day there. We certainly could have stayed longer than the hour we were there as my kids had fun seeing everything and building the Lego sand castle; however, it was enough time as they wanted to get back to the park before it closed.
What I didn’t like at Legoland California
I found it difficult in advance while trying to research online and even at the park with the map in my hands to understand what was what. They have their park divided into sections and then further divided. I only cared about the Rides and Attractions but didn’t know what they were.
What made this park different for me is that there was a lot that was indoors that we walked right past. My kids went toward the rides, and like me, often assumed the buildings were food and shopping.
Even when I read online on the Legoland website, I still do not have a clear idea of what one does in the Lego Hero Factory section.
Lego Brick Tour
I love the small Legoland Discovery Center tours where each child presses a button to operate the different machines. At the end of the tour, they give each participant — adults too! — a Lego Duplo brick. It is a lovely (free) souvenir. Here, they did not do that which was disappointing. It was a self-guided tour, a little bit dark, and not very engaging.
Otherwise, we enjoyed everything we were able to do.
Best tips for Legoland California, a top kid friendly family vacation
You must check online for the operating hours before you plan your trip. Depending on the season and week, sometimes the park is closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Otherwise, the park is open seven days a week, with general operating hours occurring between 10 am and 5 pm during the low season. Extended operating hours occur during the summer, holidays and on some weekends, when the park may stay open as late as 8 pm.
Legoland California address
Legoland California is located at One Legoland Drive in Carlsbad, California. Carlsbad sits very close to San Diego, a city that is known for the number and quality of its tourist attractions. Accordingly, many families stay at the Legoland Resort, and then travel to San Diego to visit the world-famous zoo, the waterfront and the city’s historic districts. Of course, the main attraction for most families is Legoland itself.
What to do at Legoland California
The theme park incorporates more than a half dozen different lands, each one designed to fire the imagination and guarantee fun for kids of all ages. The day starts, quite naturally, at The Beginning where you can purchase passes and tickets. This is also the place to pick up a Legoland map so your family can be certain not to miss out on any of the fun. Plenty of employees, which the company calls Model Citizens or MCs, are on hand to answer questions or point you toward the attraction you’re most excited to experience. Remember, kids are overjoyed to have their first opportunity to trade Minifigures with the MCs, so please remember to bring along a few to trade.
The Beginning is also where you can rent a locker to store valuables or get a stroller to help make your day more convenient. You will also find a first aid station, lost and found and guest services in this section.
Ninjago World Legoland California
Legoland’s newest area is Ninjago World. Children and adults can train to become ninjas in this magical land. The centerpiece attraction is LEGO Ninjago The Ride in which riders control fire, lightning, shockwaves and ice. Kids also have opportunities to build a model of Ninjago Monastery, climb a rock wall and test their reflexes in an exciting variety of attractions. We will definitely look forward to seeing this on our next visit.
Legoland California Imagination Zone
In the Imagination Zone, the Lego Show Place offers ongoing screenings of “The LEGO Movie 4D A New Adventure,” in which favorite characters from The LEGO Movie let park guests in on some hair-raising fun. Other attractions in this land include the exciting Aquazone Wave Racer where kids pilot boats and try to avoid water blasts from other riders. Those who don’t mind getting a little dizzy will love the Bionicle Blaster ride while master engineers will want to stretch their skills at the Build & Test area where they can build a car to race against other park guests. The littlest visitors won’t want to leave the DUPLO Play area where they have access to tens of thousands of colorful, sturdy DUPLO bricks.
Land of Adventure at Legoland California
The Land of Adventure is a favorite with explorers young and old. The Beetle Bounce ride is particularly popular as guests get to bounce as much as 15 feet in the air, though this was closed for maintenance while we were there. Rides where kids get to pilot airplanes, race dune buggies across a desert and fight mummies and more with laser blasters make this land the best for kids who love a little excitement.
Other guests fall in love with the Castle Hill section. It features encounters with life-sized Lego animals and tests for everyone’s ability to climb, slide, crawl and swing. Go to Royal Joust if your child loves horses. The Dragon coaster is the ideal ride for little ones who love twists, turns and speed.
No one has to walk the plank at Pirate Shores, but you will certainly enjoy testing your sea legs on Captain Cranky’s Challenge. It’s a pirate ship that operates on a U-shaped track and tests the balance of all who come aboard. Pirate Reef pits sailors on two ships against each other. On a hot day, the Soak ‘N Sail and Swabbie’s Deck will keep the whole family cool with water features. We didn’t get that wet on it to warrant spending money on the family dryers. (Everyone in your group can walk in and use it at the same time.)
If you’re looking for a more relaxing attraction, wander over to Miniland with its amazing collection of cityscapes and recreations of famous structures from around the world. Everything is built entirely from Legos. You will be impressed with the incredible detail and ingenuity Legoland California put into each exhibit. In one place, you’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge, Washington D.C.’s capitol building and the Las Vegas Strip. If you’ve ever wanted to see what New Orleans is like during Mardi Gras and then explore New York’s Grand Central Station all on the same day, then this is your chance. Take a cruise around the “lake” to get the best view of these incredible creations, and don’t forget to visit the likenesses of well-known people at the Block of Fame. We walked past this section several times.
Star Wars Miniland
One of Miniland’s most popular attractions is the Star Wars exhibit. It features an eight-foot wide model of the Death Star. There are also several scenes that have been recreated straight out of the movies. Enjoy taking a photo with life-size Lego replicas of famous characters like R2-D2, Darth Vader and Chewbacca.
Fun Town and more
There’s Fun Town where kids go behind the wheel and pretend to be firefighters or ship’s captains. Journey through the Adventurer’s Club and experience a trek through diverse places like ancient Egypt and the Amazon Rainforest. Fun Town is also the place to go behind the scenes of the magic with the LEGO Factory Tour. Kids and adults will enjoy seeing how Lego makes Lego bricks.
Unfortunately, we ended up walking past LEGO Friends Heartlake City on our first day. We never made time to go back to check it out. At Heartlake Stables, kids can build with LEGO bricks. Mia’s Riding Camp is a themed carousel for the whole family. You will find the Friends Forever Stage here which features live performances by the LEGO Friends.
Because so many kids love dinosaurs, Legoland’s final area is Explorer Island. You will enjoy breathtaking fun on the Coastersaurus. You have the chance to become an amateur paleontologist at Dig Those Dinos. It’s a great section for a dino-loving kid. There’s also a fun Safari Trek where kids get to drive a Jeep on a wild ride. Be sure to visit Fairy Tale Brook, which offers a relaxing float along a river. You will enjoy seeing beloved characters from fairy tales.
We did not pay for this as it is expensive plus the lines weren’t too long while we were there. However, some rides are on the park’s Reserve-N-Ride system. This system enables visitors to reserve a spot on certain rides through use of a handheld device. You can purchase it before you arrive or at the park. Visitors can reserve one ride at a time. Legoland California will give you a specific timeframe to go to the front of the line for that ride.
Lego building is a great hobby
One of the best tips for Legoland California for our family is to be sure to have enough time. Try hard not to rush your children but let them know about other things to do at the park. You want to make sure when you leave they have seen and done what they wanted to do. Try to plan your visit during an off-season to have shorter lines and better deals. It will be a great vacation and an experience your kids will always remember. Be sure to put out some pictures soon after you get home so your kids can remember their fun trip.