Legoland California Resort

Amusement Park in Carlsbad

A fantasy environment built largely of those little colored plastic blocks from Denmark. Many rides and attractions are targeted to elementary schoolers: a junior ‘driving school’, a jungle cruise lined with Lego animals, wacky ‘sky cruiser’ pedal cars on a track, and fairy-tale-, princess-, pirate-, adventurer- and dino-themed escapades. If you have budding scientists (age 10 and over) with you, sign them up on arrival at the park for an appointment for Mindstorms, where they can make computerized Lego robots. There are also lots of low-thrill activities like face-painting and princess-meeting.

The whole family will probably get a kick out of Miniland USA, recreating the skylines of New York; Washington, DC; San Francisco; and Las Vegas entirely of Lego blocks, alongside many world monuments. New York’s 25ft Freedom Tower (to replace the World Trade Center) was built according to the real winning design, years before the actual building was completed. Adjacent are amazing Star Wars models.

Compared with some of the bigger, flashier theme parks such as Disneyland and SeaWorld, Legoland is rather low-key and far less commercial – though there are plenty of opportunities to buy Lego. At least this one sparks creativity.

One could easily spend an entire day at Legoland (not least because of long lines to get into some of the more popular attractions). Just adjacent are the Sea Life Aquarium (in which real sea creatures swim among Lego creations, entry $22) and Legoland Water Park (Legoland tickets can be upgraded for $30). The Chima Water Park, themed after the Cartoon Network's 'Legends of Chima' collaboration with Lego, has more rides and waterways evoking the characters.

There are many ways to visit Legoland parks, each at a different price point. The most expensive two-day ‘Resort Hopper’ combination ticket (adult/child $119/113) gives two-day admission for all three main attractions. Check the website and tourist kiosks for other discount opportunities, extended summer peak hours and occasional closures September to May. Hours change daily, check the website for current details.

From I-5, take the Legoland/Cannon Rd exit and follow the signage. Parking is $17. By public transit, take the Coaster commuter train to Carlsbad Poinsettia Station; from here you can get a local taxi ($12-15 with West Coast Cab, 760-434-1530) or Uber; it takes approximately 15 minutes to get to the park.