The first thing most people think of when they think of Florida is Disney World. But for those of us with preschoolers and elementary-aged children who hate lines and crowds and are just generally made anxious by the thought of pulling together a trip to Disney, there is another option with all the fun and none of the anxiety: Legoland.
My son is admittedly not a huge fan of Disney characters, but he LOVES Legos. So when we were looking up fun day trips while in Florida, Legoland was a natural winner.
We took an off-season trip just after Halloween to Madiera Beach, FL for a week and used our last day to venture inland to Legoland, and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Below, I will share what was so great about this hidden gem for those of you that may be needing something new to do in Florida with a few pro-tips thrown in.
- The off-season is where it’s at! We went on a Monday in the beginning of November. It was glorious! Weather was great. It’s about 45 minutes south of Orlando and about an hour and 20 minutes from Tampa so the weather was still on the warmer side. No crowds and there were next to no lines for any of the rides for my four-year-old to throw a fit in. Another great thing about the park is even if there are lines, the more popular rides have areas next to the lines with Lego bins that kids can play with while the adults wait. The only thing that was missing was that a lot of the food stands were closed but there were still plenty of options to choose from. Well worth the trade-off. If you don’t mind crowds, their Halloween and Christmas festivities look like a lot of fun, though.
- Speaking of food, you must get the Apple Fries. Sounds weird to eat fries made from apples, but they were delicious. You will see plenty of recommendations on them if you Google Legoland tips. They serve them plain with just dipping caramel and topped with ice cream. I suggest doing one of each and sharing, they are that good.
- Even though we didn’t need to use them as much, if you go in the summer months when it is hot, there are different buildings throughout the park that have bins of Legos that kids can stop and play with to get a break from the heat or just get away from the crowds and take a breather.
- All the staff members have minifigs on their badges, you can bring your own minifigs to trade with them. They do not have to be new and can be in any shape, so bring your old ones or your duplicates. A lot of the shops and areas in the hotel also have displays of minifigs that you can trade for. The biggest assortment of minifigs to trade from is in the coffee shop at the front of the building, it has a History of Lego exhibit that has a large display of minifigs to choose from to trade, just ask a host.
- There are plenty of photo ops and characters throughout the park to take pictures with. You can find out where the characters are going to be when on the app and plan accordingly. The Lego build structures that are found throughout the property are amazing. We went with my mom and her husband, and they took just as many pictures as we did of all of the builds.
- Protip: The water ride is deceiving, it looks like there is not much water involved but you will be quite soaked afterwards.
- The onsite hotel is a must!! Not only is it super convenient to be steps from the park when you need a quick snack, change of clothes or have a 4 year-old who is picky about public restrooms, but our son enjoyed it just as much as the park itself. He didn’t want to leave to go to the park at first. The hotel is full of Lego build displays just like the park, from the front lobby to your actual room, which was a nice extra. Both hotels are connected by the main lobby, so there is not much difference in which one you stay at. It’s more preference on room theme. We stayed at the Pirate Island Hotel. The entire hotel is pirate-themed from the play areas on the first floor to the pirate voice that sings to you every time you get in the elevator (The elevator of all things was a highlight for my son.) Each room has a king-size bed and then a wall that separates it from the kid area with a bunkbed with a trundle bed underneath so it can comfortably sleep 5 (which is also the max occupancy per room allowed.) It also has a small Lego play area in it for the kids.
- The in-room scavenger hunt was the cutest thing. Each night the kids get a scavenger hunt (where they count things in the art on the wall, etc.). The numbered answers from the hunt make the code to the treasure chest in the room that opens to a small Lego kit, activity books, pirate eye patch and a juice box in it. The room includes two sets, but if you have a third kid in the room you can purchase an extra set and they will put it in the chest with the others, just prearrange it before you get there.
- A family-style breakfast is included with each night. It’s a full hot breakfast served to the table, is all you can eat, and is delicious. Get there first thing in the morning when they open to avoid a wait, it fills up fast. And if the one in your hotel has a wait you can walk around through the main lobby to the other restaurant and try that one instead.
- The Skyline Lounge is great for dinner and they make a mean martini, which is needed after a long day at a theme park with kids. Each of us got something different to eat and we all loved what we got. Which is not always the case with theme park hotel food.
- The park closes earlier than most (between 5pm and 7pm depending on the day and time of year) but there is plenty to do for the kids at the hotel after the park closes. There is a large indoor Lego play area, a movie room with beanbag beds in it, a heated outdoor pool with a large water slide and floating Legos, game nights, build nights, a bedtime story time for little ones or a pajama dance party for the slightly older kids. And of course, there is always the gift shop.
- In addition to the main park there is also a waterpark and for the younger kiddos there is also a Peppa Pig Theme Park. Each park needs its own ticket. Since we were only there for the day, we did not have time to explore the other parks, but both looked fun. Peppa Pig has more play areas (including a splash pad) than rides, even though there are a few small rides as well. If you are planning to be there multiple days, you should check them out.
I loved our choice of Legoland Florida as our first theme park adventure with my son. It was just our speed, and he already can’t wait to go back. And our whole family is still talking about it and telling people how great it was. If you have any questions about the park or the hotel, feel free to ask away in the comments!