Best Tips for Legoland California in Carlsbad, CA ~ Plan Your Visit

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Best tips for Legoland California! 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 kids 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.”

Therefore, 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 schools in session.

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.

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 mini figures to trade while at Legoland California.

My boys spent a few hours one day looking through their pieces and making mini figures. Together they had fun choosing which ones they could part with.  

In order to trade, the mini fig must include a head, body and legs.

The pieces do not all have to be from the same original mini figure.

Bring 2 quarters and a penny for the flat penny machines in the park.

Your kids will have fun collecting them from throughout the park, and wherever they go, around the world.

Let your kids lead

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! There’s a natural tendency to feel rushed to get your money’s worth.

Try to keep calm and let your child explore and decide when he or she is ready to move to the next play area.

With ride lines, know that as the day goes on, it’s less crowded.

Will this be your first visit?

If yes, 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 Tips for Legoland California in Carlsbad, CA

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 the Legoland 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.
Legoland California Roller Coaster

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.

Updated to add: Check Costco’s website in December. We we bought an annual pass for the price of one ticket.

This was a special Costco had going for just four days. 

Check the Legoland website to get baseline price

Overall, your best bet is to check the Legoland website. Their prices fluctuate depending on the season and school breaks.

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.
Legoland SEALIFE
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 Legoland parking.

Walking to Legoland California

We took the hotel’s van/shuttle to Legoland the first day. We walked home.

The next day, we walked there and back. 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.
Legoland for Kids
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?

Another great thing to consider is camping in San Diego. It’s close to Legoland California.

How many days do you need at Legoland California?

We definitely saw and did a lot in our two full days (10 am – 5 pm which were the hours the park was open when we were there) 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?

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 mini golf.

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.
Legoland Water Park

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.

It seems the prices are less throughout the year when the water park is closed.

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.
Water Park Legoland California
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.

Updated to add: We visited this area on a future visit, (a Thursday in October) and it was empty.

My kids stayed there for over an hour and had a lot of fun. 

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.
Legoland Coast Guard Boat Build

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 at the California Legoland 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 4 pm 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.
Lego Minifigs

Trading Mini figures 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 mini figures 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 name tag with some Lego mini figures 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 mini figs.
Legoland Rides Claw

Knights’ Tournament

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.

Bionicle Blaster

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.

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.

Best tips for Souvenirs at 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.
Legoland Flat Penny Book
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.

My kids enjoyed getting these flat pennies from our trips from the science center, Discovery World in Milwaukee, Matchstick Marvels Museum in Iowa, and Hastings Museum in Nebraska.

Inexpensive souvenir

On our first day, we bought each of my boys a flat penny book because they filled up the two they had 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 (large) 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 5 pm 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!)
Legoland SEA LIFE Aquarium

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 to understand the park map. It’s not clear what is in each section.

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 us is there is a lot that is 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 Tour Legoland

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

Legoland hours

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 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 many 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.
Legoland Ninjago World

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

There is lots to do in this section.

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.

Castle Hill

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.

Pirate Shores

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.

For a fee, everyone in your group can walk in and use it at the same time.

Legoland Miniland

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 DC’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.

Explorer Island

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.

When you enter Legoland, if you go “left,” you can go to this area first.

It’s a great section for a dino-loving kid.

There’s also a fun Safari Trek where kids get to drive a Jeep.

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 time-frame to go to the front of the line for that ride.

Lego building is a great hobby

Much like kids collecting trading cards, Lego building is a timeless hobby.

Going to Legoland in Carlsbad, CA (and Chicago Legoland) will enable your child to experience Lego in an exciting way.

What a great road trip destination!

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.

Green Travel Stay at Grand Pacific Palisades Resort Carlsbad

We care about sustainability and want to travel green as much as we can.

On our trip to Legoland California, we stayed at the Grand Pacific Palisades in Carlsbad, which was a quick, easy walk to Legoland.

Not only did we save on parking fees at Legoland, we enjoyed more eco-friendly, green amenities than we’ve seen in a hotel in a long time.

Why is this resort and hotel successful in their green initiatives?

They make it easy for their guests to participate.

There are convenient recycling bins.

There are signs in the lobby restrooms, in the elevators, and in the guest rooms which encourage green travel.

Even our kids were pointing them out.

It’s often difficult to travel green when on the road, but staying here enabled us to minimize our impact

Guests are much more likely to participate in eco-friendly activities when they’re quick and convenient, and they are actually asked to do it.

Easy ways to go green when traveling

A TripAdvisor travel survey shows travelers are more than ever willing to:

  • Turn off the lights when they leave their rooms: 88%
  • Hang and reuse their towels: 80%
  • Recycle: 57%

Now that this has become almost second-nature to guests, some proactive hotels and resorts are introducing even more ways to travel green.

One of Grand Pacific Palisades’ most interesting initiatives is their toiletry donation program.

It makes such perfect sense, and we were interested to learn more about it.

Toiletry recycling at Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel

In your room, you will find the usual toiletry items: shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body wash, and two bars of soap, one for the bathroom sink and a slightly larger one for the shower…but I would recommend bringing your own Best Travel Hair Dryer.

To be a truly green hotel guest, you would bring your own from home and not use them at all. But typically, most guests open and use one of more of these personal care products.

Grand Pacific Palisades donates leftover toiletry items.

And during a short stay, you won’t use these five items in their entirety.

Whatever is open and left is thrown away and is wasted.

At best, you might be able to recycle the bottles. Until now….

Clean the World recycles toiletries

Grand Pacific Resorts partners with Clean the World, an organization which collects and donates partially-used toiletries items that guests leave behind.

Renée Wagner, Director of Creative Services & Brand Management for Grand Pacific Resorts, said, “Last year, they helped us keep over 21,000 pounds of waste out of landfills and supplied impoverished communities with hygiene kits.”

According to Wagner, one of their challenges is education and about adopting new habits.

She said, “We need help raising awareness about not tossing toiletries in the trash. Our housekeepers aren’t allowed to reach in the trash. The only way these items are recycled is when they’re left on the counter.”

The impact their resort in Carlsbad has made so far is impressive.

“In 2017, we recycled 2,500 pounds of used toiletries, giving Clean the World the ability to distribute nearly 8,000 bars of soap to poverty stricken countries around the world,” according to Gaby McCray, Grand Pacific Resorts’ Senior Marketing Coordinator.

Educating hotel guests

We learned of this program before our visit to the resort but we didn’t see any information about it in the room or in the lobby.

Therefore, the only thing which would make this better would be if they were to promote this program in the room itself.

They could put in on a small sign in the bathroom, next to the toiletries, or include it on a small card with the room literature.

We always thought we were being helpful by throwing away our used soap so the housekeeping staff wouldn’t have to handle it.

However, being they are not allowed to touch it, in this case, it would be useless.

We never would have known about this program had we not asked about their sustainable practices in advance.

This is really a unique and easy program for guests to participate in.

We hope more hotels will start doing this so it will become second-nature like other green hotel practices.

The housekeeping staff isn’t allowed to pick these items out of the trash, even if they are on top.

So it’s important for guests to leave them out on the counter.

Go green at Grand Pacific Palisades

There are so many ways this hotel makes it easy for their guests to go green when staying here.

Right away, we noticed all of these ways to green our hotel stay.

Curbside recycling

There is recycling right outside when you pull up to the Grand Pacific Palisades — just on the other side of the posts so it’s not unsightly.

It’s so convenient for those of us who’ve made a road trip and want to empty our cars of food wrappers, paper, plastic containers and bottles, etc.

Recycling right outside when you check in.

There are many options to recycle inside and outside Grand Pacific Palisades.

Recycling in their underground parking lot

We were surprised by the great number of recycling and garbage cans in the parking area.

It was very convenient to recycle aluminum, plastic, and paper in their separate containers.

After a day at the beach or sightseeing, vacationers usually have brochures, park maps, fast food packaging, and more to dispose of.

Having these convenient receptacles for easy sorting and recycling make guests much more apt to do it.

Shuttle service

They have a free hotel shuttle which will take you within a five mile radius.

When we checked in and asked about it, they told us we could call to arrange a pickup with 30 minutes’ notice.

So many times, hotels have their shuttles idling outside, waiting for guests.

We were happy to learn that at Grand Pacific Palisades their shuttles don’t sit running, waiting for guests who may or may not need services.

It makes so much more sense this way and is so much better for the environment.

Recycling bin by family pool

And really, when we walked on our first day to Legoland and saw how close it was, we didn’t bother to call the shuttle for a return pickup.

Walking is a great way to travel green.

Lots of recycling throughout the grounds

There were convenient recycling bins by the family pool area and splash pad and throughout the grounds.

It’s rare to see these fantastic bins which separate out the recycling, but there were so many of them here.

They really take their recycling seriously and make it a priority.

While the elevators are easily accessible, the staircase is right in open view in the lobby, conveniently located by the concierge desk.

The stairs beckon guests to enjoy the floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the Olympic-size adult pool and incredible views of the city and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

It’s always a green practice to take the stairs instead of riding the elevator.

We took some time to enjoy the spacious lobby playing games and hanging out.

Convenient recycling and minimizing resources

You will find convenient recycling in the lobby as well.

The concierge area has the San Diego Union Tribune for guests to enjoy.

Remember back in the day, when hotels would leave a newspaper outside of every guest door?

It’s nice now that there is less waste.

They also offer water with limes and lemons with small recyclable plastic cups with a garbage can to recycle them right there, just inches from the cups.


It was so convenient for someone who wanted to take a small drink to then recycle their cup.

They offer reusable pool wristbands instead of paper ones for access to the pool.

Signs in the elevators ask guests to conserve energy and then gives them specific examples of how to do it.

Awareness signs

Throughout the hotel, in the elevators and public restrooms, you will see signs encouraging guests to Tweet the ways they are going green with #goinggreen.

These eye-catching and attractive signs definitely influence guests to make green choices.

Signage politely reminds guests to turn off the lights and adjust the thermostat when they leave their rooms, and to reuse their towels.

Incentive to decline housekeeping service

Once you are in your room, there are more ways for you to minimize your impact.

While we’ve declined housekeeping services before during other hotel stays, we’ve never been compensated to do so.

If you are staying for more than one night, you can decline cleaning service the next day.

We’ve done this before on trips.

To travel green but mostly because we didn’t want cleaning staff in our room because of our electronics.

We’ve never seen an incentive to do so.

Here, when you decline housekeeping service, they will give you a $5 voucher for their gift shop.

Being we were going to do this anyways, it was a nice bonus.

You simply hang a card outside your door by 2 am to let them know.

In-room signage offers guests the option to decline housekeeping services and receive a $5 gift shop credit.

Of course, the day you check out, they have to clean your room so that doesn’t count, but the other days it does.

We stayed for four nights and were able to decline service for three days, “earning” $15 in vouchers for the shop.

Our kids were thrilled.

The small shop offers sun protection, lip balm, hats, Ty beanie animals, handmade greeting cards, candy, snacks, (granola bars, trail mix, etc.) ice cream pints, water, sodas, and more.

Reuse your towel

Additionally, they have a hanging sign in the bathroom encouraging guests to reuse their towels to conserve resources.

In-room recycling

When I looked under the sink for a hairdryer, I was surprised to find a blue recycling container.

This was a fantastic find to be sure; however, I’m not sure how many guests would know to look there to find it.

We brought cereal and snacks with cardboard boxes and needed to recycle our Legoland map, so it was great we were able to recycle these items.

And while we brought our reusable water bottles, we still had a few plastic Gatorade bottles to recycle.

It would be good for the hotel to mention this in the same notice about recycling the toiletry items.

We loaded that recycle can; it truly was a great green thing to see.

Didn’t need to eat out at every meal

Also, because there was a mini-fridge in our room, we brought yogurt, fruit and vegetables.

There was also a microwave.

This reduced our reliance on eating out at restaurants for every meal, which also is a healthier and greener way to travel.

Toiletry recycling program

Again, you can leave your toiletries out for them to donate to others.

Easy to travel green here

We were able to see all of these green initiatives during our stay.

It was fantastic to think how many guests are able to minimize their impact because Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel supports and encourages these best practices.

Ways they are going green as a resort

Native landscaping on beautiful grounds

Before our visit, we asked about the behind-the-scenes ways they were going green as a hotel and resort to be environmentally conscious and responsible.

In addition to learning about their partnership with Clean the World, Ms. McCray told us about:

Water conservation through landscaping

They planted succulent gardens and indigenous drought-resistant landscaping to drastically reduce the need for watering.

Energy conservation

They’ve installed smart thermostats and LED lighting which reduces energy usage.

Green Team

They have a committee which works to educate their guests about sustainability and works to reduce waste costs.

Staff support

They offer monthly “lunch and learns” on health topics for their staff.

Staff gets involved

As an organization, the employees are encouraged to give back to their local communities.

They continue to do so in many ways.

Grand Pacific Resorts gives back

Staff helps in their communities

They encourage their employees to give back by helping in their communities.

You can see all their projects and the ways in which they’ve helped to learn more.

ResorTime donates to charities

The rental arm of Grand Pacific Resorts is called ResorTime.

Every quarter, they donate $2,500 to a non-profit organization.

Their guests and others can nominate and then vote for which charity they want to win the donation.

Working with h2otrashpatrol

Ms. Wagner explained how Grand Pacific Resorts’ leadership team and members of their resort staff works with h2otrashpatrol in their marine cleanup day outings.

This paddle boarding video shows some of what they’ve done and how they’ve helped.

Hotel close to Legoland California

We choose this hotel due to its proximity to Legoland California.

We loved the option of being able to walk to a major area attraction.

On the Legoland property there is also the SeaLife Aquarium and the seasonal Legoland Waterpark.

What’s great is you can literally walk to Legoland in 10 minutes.

Where the crosswalk is from the hotel, you actually cross closer to Legoland (on the other side of the parking booths) than where the shuttle is permitted to drop you off (before the parking booths).

So either way, by staying at Grand Pacific Palisades, you will save the $20 it costs to park at Legoland each day.

Legoland also has a $30 option to park closer to the park but it really wouldn’t be worth it.

We really cannot overstate how wonderful it is to be able to enjoy your morning at the hotel, and then walk over to Legoland to enjoy the full day there.

Highlights about Grand Pacific Palisades

We’ve never seen a hotel offer so much to their guests, both adults and families.

We were gone all day, everyday, and unfortunately weren’t able to enjoy their wide range of activities while we were there.

For sure, we are hoping we can come back to enjoy some of these fun things to do.

Grand Pacific Palisades offers

Amazing adult pool area with cabanas, hot tub and more

  • Schedule of events for kids and adults, including crafts, food, and more
  • Olympic-sized adult swimming pool
  • Large areas surrounding the adult pool with cabanas, hot tub, lounge chairs, etc.
  • All of the comfy chairs in the lobby and by the pools; it would be a true vacation to relax and read in one of them
  • Huge family swimming pool
  • Splash pad
  • Playground
  • Barbecue areas
  • Fitness center
  • Ping pong and basketball
  • Kids’ Club
  • Activities Center
  • There’s probably even more we didn’t see!

View from the second floor looking down at part of the lobby and at the adult pool.

This picture isn’t doing it justice!

Going green on your trip – Finding a LEED hotel or green hotel

Typically, convenience and price are what people consider when booking a hotel room for their vacations.

We want to travel green and be environmentally-friendly, but we most likely won’t take the effort to find a LEED hotel and certified green hotel.

So when there is a hotel that so obviously cares about being green, it’s great.

The fact that Grand Pacific Palisades makes it so easy for guests to participate during their stay is what makes a big difference.

Carlsbad green hotel stay

We had a wonderful stay at the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel in Carlsbad, California.

There was always friendly staff behind the guest services desk and helpful staff in the concierge area.

The lobby, room and grounds were clean, spacious, and bright.

It was one of the few times where we wished we had more time to enjoy all there was to do at the hotel instead of seeing the sites we came to see.

In addition, we felt good about all the ways we were able to minimize our travel footprint, which is often difficult to do when on vacation and especially on road trips.

We were really able to travel green this trip.

We hope to return to the Grand Pacific Palisades Hotel and Resort this fall to enjoy Legoland again and to explore Carlsbad, Encinitas and Oceanside with its convenient location.

Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel Information:

Grand Pacific Palisades Resort & Hotel, 5805 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008

Phone: (760) 827-3200