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Article: A day out at LEGOLAND Windsor!

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legoland Windsor

When we arranged a family day out at LEGOLAND Windsor,Legoland I'm not sure who was more excited... us or the kids! Having heard so much about it from others, but not ever having ventured there ourselves, the venue certainly had a lot to live up to, and we were slightly concerned that it would not meet the high expectations that we had subconsciously awarded it!

We had, or so we thought, specifically chosen a week day to go so as to avoid the crowds, however on arrival (even at 10am opening time) it was obvious that this was going to be an unusually busy day. Nonetheless, parking spaces were abundant and cost a mere £2 for the entire day. It was not immediately obvious to us that a parking ticket needed to be purchased along with the standard tickets, however they can be bought from the Ticket Booths or Guest services at any point throughout the day and even, as we found out, from an attendant as you leave the car park (if like us you weren't aware you needed one!). There is also an option to buy a Preferred Parking ticket for £6 if you want to park close to the entrance (this is separate from the standard designated disabled parking available), although the walk from the main car park is certainly an acceptable distance even with tired kids in tow!

Legoland EntranceThe Ticket Booths are fairly abundant, so even despite the crowds the queues move fairly quickly, and following purchase there is a separate turnstile system to scan your tickets before entry is complete. It is worth picking up a free 'Lost Parent' sticker for each of your children from Guest Services if you can, as it allows you to write a mobile telephone number to attach to your child's clothing which will help reunite you, should you become separated. Facilities at the entrance, and indeed throughout the park are great, with everything you could need including toilets, cash machines, locker rentals, merchandise shops (love them or hate them!), as well as a multitude of food stalls and restaurants dotted around the site.

We were able to leave our youngest child (8 months) in the hands of the grandparents for the day, however the park does has excellent facilities for babies, including a great Baby Care Centre complete with private areas for mum to feed and changeLegoland Big Shop baby, wonderful single and double LEGO-style pushchairs available for hire (£8/£12 for the day), and baby food is available to buy from several of the food venues.

If you want to make the most of your day at LEGOLAND then it is advisable to do a little research beforehand on the huge array of rides and activities that are there. It is virtually impossible for you to see and do everything there is to offer in one day alone (bearing in mind also there will be rides that your child wants to go on more than once), and so having some sort of advance plan of the main areas you wish to visit will certainly be beneficial. It is also worth checking that the attractions you want to go on are actually suitable - many have one or more restrictions covering health, age, weight, and height, the latter of which is strictly adhered to by the staff. The park guide that you get given on entry provides full details of all these restrictions (complete with handy quick-glance symbols), which are also clearly indicated on guide signs at each ride. If you are taking along younger or shorter children (under 1.3 metres), then they will need to be accompanied on the vast majority of rides by an adult...so make sure it's a ride you don't mind/are able to go on yourself!!

Legoland MapThe park is well laid out into different zones and the map certainly comes in useful to find your way as it's easy to go round in circles. There is no set or best route around, however the big rides will obviously draw the most crowds, so getting to these earlier or later in the day may be your best option to avoid excessive queuing (although this really depends on your itinerary).

The queuing is probably the major downside of the day...be prepared for lengthy waits on certain rides, which is far easier said than done with small children to entertain. We went on a day that was certainly not full to capacity, and by lunchtime we we having to wait a good 45 minutes plus to get on some of the main attractions. The queuing at the majority of rides is laid out in a twisting grid barrier system so as to maximise efficiency and use of space (which it certainly does), however it is also incredibly daunting to stand at the end of what you think is a short queue, only to discover there is actually a mini maze of people ahead of you (cue another round of sighs and moans from the kids)! An idea of the wait time ahead is clearly shown at the start of the queues, however these times may not always be accurate (less or more in most cases!).

Legoland MazeIf you have the money to spare, there is a separate Q-Bot option to add on to your entry ticket (we did not opt for this), which allows you and your family to avoid having to wait in line. It is a handheld device to carry round, which enables you to select the rides you want to go on, for which you are designated a ride time. This allows you to go off and enjoy other parts of the park while turning up at the allocated time and place (using the Q-Bot entrance) to enjoy immediate entry of that ride without the queuing. This is obviously an excellent (but expensive) optional extra for those of you who can afford it, if a little irritating for those who can't and who have someone suddenly but legitimately pushing in front of them in the queue! Also, it is worth noting that the Q-Bot can only be used on certain rides...and only once per ride!

Despite the queuing we pressed on around the park to try and cram in as much as we could in one day, barely stopping for breaks and eating 'on the go' while waiting in line! We by no means covered all zones of the park, but managed a good twelve rides/activities, which I have listed below with a brief sum-up based on our own experiences which may differ from the experiences of others (our children are aged 3 and 6 years):

  • Vikings' River Splash (Land of the Vikings)
    A twisting, turning river rapids ride where you sit in a boat (usually with another party which speeds up queuing). This is a great family ride with LEGO models along the way, but do be prepared to get a little wet, as you pass under fixed water sprays as well as being squirted at by other park visitors Legoland Longboat Invaderthrough the water cannons!
  • Longboat Invader (Land of the Vikings)
    This is a large viking longboat, routed to the ground, which rocks backwards and forwards while spinning sideways on its axis. The queuing for this is not bad as the ride can sit a good number of people in one go. The kids loved it, although not good for delicate stomachs due to repeated spinning motion!
  • Laser Raiders (Kingdom of the Pharaohs)
    A laser ride where you travel round in a 4-person 'car' and each of you has your own laser gun to shoot your way through a labyrinth of targets. On hitting the targets, the impressive laser beams from the guns trigger various moving evil mummies, skeleton models and special effects, and each person clocks up their own points score throughout the ride. Unfortunately, this ride was closed for a large part of the day due to technical failure, which meant that when it did open the queues were large and the waiting times long. A great interactive ride for all the family, with wonderful scenery, although slightly disappointing given the huge hype and wait time. Also we found that the distraction of using the gun takes away from the actual plotline of the ride.
  • Scarab-bouncers (Kingdom of the Pharaohs)Legoland Scarab-bouncers
    An indoor 10 metre high free-falling mini thrill ride for youngsters. There are two falling 'towers' which can only hold seven people each (and only one of these seven can be an adult), however parents not riding can see their kids at all times during the ride. This was a firm favourite with both our kids, and the queues were short.
  • Desert Chase (Kingdom of the Pharaohs)
    A carousel of horses just like a traditional merry-go-round, with safety belts on the horses and additional carriage seating areas. A little dull for the adults but the kids loved it, and the queues were short.
  • Digger Challenge (LEGO City)
    A digging activity where children (with accompanying adults where necessary) sit in the control cab of a JCB digger simulator (there are ten in total) and operate the levers to scoop as many balls into a separate bin as possible in the time given (instructional video is shown prior to use). The queues for this were long, but it turned out to be surprisingly great fun, although a little frustrating for your child if they cannot master the controls.
  • Fire Academy (Traffic)Legoland Fire Academy
    An interactive challenge where you must work as a team to propel your fire engine to the scene of a pretend fire, and then use the water pumps to put out the fire, before hopping back in the engine and beating the other teams back to the beginning (we won by the way!). A really good fun family team game, which also gives the arms a good work out, and you might get a little bit wet (but not much)! We found the waiting time for this long, although there's a few models to keep the kids occupied for a while at least.
  • Wave Surfer (Adventure Land)
    A water based fast ride where you sit in jet-ski style 'surfers' (two people to a surfer) and skim across the water round a central platform. A fun ride where you have some control in steering the surfer, and spectators standing round the outside can trigger 'water bombs' to get you wet! The queuing for this was long and tedious, and also the surfers are quite deep so younger children (our 3 year old) may not have a good view!
  • Atlantis Submarine Voyage (Adventure Land)LegolandA tlantis Submarine
    A brand new ride in which you sit inside a part-submerged LEGO submarine which travels through a live aquarium tank! The queues for this are massive due to its recent unveiling, but the ride is certainly well done, and young children will love spotting the live sharks, rays and fishes, as well as the many impressive underwater LEGO models, and the flashing control buttons.
  • Dino Safari (Adventure Land)
    A self-propelled rail ride in a two-seater jeep around a short LEGO jungle. Considering the long waiting time for this, we found it to be the most disappointing of the rides, and very short with not a lot to do or see!
  • Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench (Pirates Landing)
    A winding log flume ride with a pirate theme and plenty of LEGO models along the way, ending in a steep fast drop down a ramp into water. This was one of our favourite rides of the day, and also one of the wettest...great fun! The popularity of this ride means the queues are long, however there is a LEGO Duplo play area within the main waiting area to keep the kids entertained.
  • The Dragon (Knights Kingdom)Legoland Dragon
    A fast roller coaster ride in the design of a dragon, which starts inside the 'castle'. This is an amazing ride to get the adrenaline pumping, and will certainly not disappoint with its fast pace, twists and big drops. Perhaps not suitable for younger children (as we found out) due to a couple of scary models at the beginning along with the general speed of the ride. Also the queues are long, but it's well worth the wait!

The park certainly tempts you into spending money once you are inside whether of not you agree with it, including strategically placed vending machines for drinks and rain capes (these may be advisable in colder weather), as well as food/drink stalls while you are waiting in the queues; in addition, many of the rides have photo points which take pictures of you at the most thrilling moments. These can be purchased from photo booths which you can't fail to miss as you exit the ride...tempting, but not cheap! There are even some stand up drying facilities (which are again not free) for those who do not want to walk around wet from the rides (although on a warm day your clothes will dry out fairly quickly anyway). We were also disappointed to see that there are several activities within the park which you have to pay an additional amount to use, including the Mini Golf, Climbing Wall and Remote Control Trucks among others, and it is debatable as to whether visitors should be made to pay for these bearing in mind the amount they have already paid to get in.

Legoland Papa MolesThe various food stalls and restaurants are also not necessarily cheap, however the variety of food offered is great, and it is freshly cooked/prepared and most importantly tastes good. Unfortunately, by the end of the day we noticed several of the rubbish bins were overflowing which could potentially attract wasps in warmer weather, as well as the aesthetic/hygiene aspect!

Overall, the kids had a fantastic time at LEGOLAND and were certainly overcome with the whole experience. It's still a popular topic of conversation some weeks later....namely 'When can we go back?'!! As parents, we would definitely recommend taking your kids if you can afford it, and we will certainly take ours back in the future so that we can all explore the parts we didn't manage to see this time. Be sure to keep an eye out for future update reviews: A day out at LEGOLAND Windsor - The Return!

For more information on LEGOLAND, visit their website at www.legoland.co.uk. 


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