Legoland, Florida’s latest theme park, bills itself as “geared to families with children ages 2 to 12”. The park sports attractions, including four beginner coasters, but all are specifically for kids and their parents, so what were a couple of forty-somethings doing there without kids in tow?
I’m glad you asked.
Legoland was developed on the grounds of Cypress Gardens, a park that opened in 1936. Often called Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens was a large botanical garden to which water ski shows were added during World War II. Comprising 150 acres, it’s one of the larger botanical gardens in the United States.
Legoland has kept the gardens looking the way they did for decades. This part of the park is truly wonderful. There are superb examples of native and exotic plants, a series of charming canals and one of the largest banyan trees in the world. There are curving pathways that lead to surprise vistas such as the shore of Lake Eloise, an audience with a large golden Buddha, sloping and sculpted lawns, even an historic swimming pool in the shape of the Sunshine State.
Guests regularly come across striking flowers, fascinating sculptures and attractive bridges over the canals. A patient guest can spot native wild animals in the gardens as well. In the time we spent there we spotted numerous bird species, as well as turtles, squirrels, lizards, butterflies, dragonflies and even a local cat friendly enough to pet.
The best thing about the hour and a half we spent in the gardens was the lack of other guests. While the rest of the park was bustling with kids, in this area we saw at most twenty other guests. My friend and I both had cameras clicking because we love to photograph nature. We really enjoyed our time there.
I also like that Legoland has chosen not to put Lego structures or figures in the gardens. At the entrance are full-sized Lego southern belles which recall the local young ladies clothed in antebellum dresses that were a long-time fixture of Cypress Gardens. Truthfully, I wish Legoland would bring back the southern belles as they were always a highlight of my visit to the park, but Legoland said recently they have no plans to do so.
As for the rest of the park there are a number of interesting attractions that adults will enjoy. Obviously, if you’re an AFOL (Adult Fan of Legos), you’ve probably already planned for your first visit, but what if you think you’ve outgrown the classic building toy?
The first thing we did is ride Island in the Sky. This is a large saucer-shaped structure on the end of a long arm. Guests sit in a circle around its edge and the arm peacefully lifts into the air. It rises 150 feet and rotates leisurely to give excellent views of the park and the surrounding area. It’s a fun ride, especially since the attraction doesn’t lock guests in a sealed car. The opportunity to feel the breeze and hear the sounds of the park while riding is very refreshing. I’d suggest doing it more than once on a humid day.
We then wandered over to the shore of Lake Eloise and entered the Fresh from Florida Greenhouse, an interesting exhibit that gives a lighthearted but informative look at food production from farm to table. Along with water features and plants, Lego figures, including a full-sized Lego cow with “working” udders, keep the attention of older as well as younger explorers. The area next to the greenhouse is a broad grassy area that is also pleasant to explore.
The most iconic area in all Legoland theme parks is called Miniland. This is the area in each park that contains 1/20 scale dioramas of real cities and other locations, real and fantasy. At Legoland Florida, there are models of the downtowns of several Florida cities, including Miami, Key West, Tampa, St. Augustine and Tallahassee. There are also prominent Florida locations such as nearby Bok Tower and Kennedy Space Center. Miniland also features views of the cities of New York, Washington, San Francisco and Las Vegas, a pirate village and the newly completed Star Wars Land (embracing scenes from all six movies). There are interactive aspects to Miniland: buttons to press that move vehicles, spray water and even launch the Space Shuttle. Of course, this area is chock-full of kids, but it’s hard to believe that adults won’t find all the Lego structures captivating. There is certainly plenty to view in just this one area.
When we visited, there were Lego characters in parts of the park. Maybe hanging with pirates or a “star” of the recent Lego movie isn’t your idea of adult fun, but I’ve found that interacting with characters, regardless of the theme park, can be a fun diversion. Go ahead, play around.
Cypress Gardens was once known as the Water Ski Capital of the World, and rightly so. Dozens of records were set over a forty year period; the 1950 and 1957 world championships were held there; and Cypress Garden’s legendary founder, Dick Pope was one of the first inductees in the U.S. Water Skiing Hall of Fame. Over the years, millions of guests were thrilled as skilled professionals did the extraordinary. Legoland continues that tradition with the Pirates Cove Live Action Water Stunt Show and as in the past skiing on water is fun for all ages.
Dining options tend to be child-friendly, which is to be expected, however Christopher Jones, a spokesperson for Legoland says: “Legoland Florida offers…food options inside the park that adults will enjoy, ranging not just from sandwiches and salads but also Asian Fusion (The Market Restaurant), Pizza (Pizza/Pasta Buffet) and Chicken (Fried Chicken Restaurant)”. We also saw the following menu items: rotisserie chicken, grilled salmon, soups as well as panini of chicken Florentine, roast beef and havarti cheese and Panzanella (a vegetarian option).
At this point, don’t expect a fine dining option, but Jones mentioned that Legoland is “always evaluating its options to provide the best for its guest”. With the new Legoland Hotel expected to open in 2015, we might see a more upscale dining experience there.
So the nuts and bolts of Legoland Florida:
Legoland’s website offers discounts on some pre-purchased tickets. They offer tickets with a pre-chosen date (Pick-a-Date) and a more expensive “Flexible Date” ticket, with or without same-day water park admission.
Pick-a-Date: Adult (13+) 1 Day from $69; 2 Day from $84 – Child (3-12)/Senior (60+) 1 Day from $62; 2 Day from $77
Flexible Date Ticket: Adult (13+) 1 Day $84; 2 Day $99 – Child (3-12)/Senior (60+) 1 Day $77; 2 Day $92
It appears that if you order Pick-a-Date tickets online for a day within a week of the date of your order, the price is higher ($74 instead of $69 for a 1 day park ticket). The website also says that tickets booked on the wrong date require a $20 re-booking fee to change.
Legoland/Water Park Combo Tickets (same day admission):
Pick-a-Date: Adult (13+) 1 Day from $84; 2 Day from $99 – Child (3-12)/Senior (60+) 1 Day from $77; 2 Day from $92
There isn’t an online option for flexible date tickets for combo tickets.
Parking: At park – $14; online – $12
Legoland Shuttle – $5 per person: Round trip bus transportation Universal Blvd in Orlando. Pick up time is 9:00 am. They ask guests to arrive thirty minutes prior to departure. It leaves Legoland at park close. Reservations must be made before 11:30 am the day before.
All prices are valid as of July 15, 2014
Park address: One Legoland Way, Winter Haven Fl, 33884.
Park website: florida.legoland.com
The website states Legoland is open seven days a week, but can be closed on some Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The website’s calendar shows that closed dates are at non-peak times but check before you plan your visit.
For a look at a basic Touring Plan for Legoland check out this 2012 post.
All in all, is Legoland worth the 35 mile trip from Walt Disney World for child-free adults? I’d say a qualified yes. It’s certainly something different, so if you are an AFOL or love gardens and nature you’re going to see some great things.
Please share any Legoland experiences you’ve had in the comments. We all want to hear more.