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Is Legoland worth it?

The kids cove in a pirate themed room at the Legoland Hotel
The kids cove in a pirate themed room at the Legoland HotelPhoto by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Over the years, I've been asked again and again - Is Legoland worth it? Should we bother to go down for a day with our family when we go to California to visit Disneyland? Until now, I didn't know because I'd never been. That all changed this month when my family (3 kids ages 8, 6.5 and 5 and two adults) finally visited Legoland.

My just turned 5 year old begged to visit Legoland California on his 5th birthday, so we made a family trip out of it when Legoland gave me 4 one day passes to check it out this summer. So I bought one extra ticket to cover my family of five and decided to splurge on a hotel and booked two nights at the Legoland hotel just steps from the gate being I saved some money by getting a few free tickets.

I found a discount code for 40% off tickets from Barbaras cereals - you can use the code too by buying the tickets at this link: legoland.com/barbaras2014. This is the cheapest one day passes I could find anywhere - about $60 for adults and $50 for kids. You can get one day for just Legoland or you can add on the aquarium and water park for a few extra bucks. The code lets you buy up to six passes.

The short answer to answer the question - Is Legoland worth it? - is: not really. It's not that Legoland is so bad. It's just that the retail price is about the same for a day at Disneyland. Comparing what you get for the money, Legoland isn't worth it. So many of the rides at Legoland are SO incredibly fast. You should get to ride them three times to make how long you have to wait in line worth it. Most of the rides have too few seats available at each turn, making the lines stack up like crazy. You can spend about 200% of the normal entrance fee and buy passes that let you cut in line. But I wouldn't do it. There's no way it is worth that extra money unless you are made of money and if you are, just go to Disneyland because it is the premium place to be. Plus everyone scowls at the people with those upgraded passes like they are line cutters. It is not pleasant.

Legoland reminded me all around of a generic version of Disneyland. The rides - except for The Dragon - were missing anything special to make them Lego themed. There are things made out of Legos to look at sure, but other than that you ride a way too small, too slow slightly upgraded carnival ride. And that's all really a shame because Legoland *COULD* be SO cool! But it misses the opportunities around every corner. For one, we saw one Lego MiniFigure characters anywhere. We did see a few "characters" - but they were just poorly dressed sad looking "princesses" and the like. My kids were like why are those people dressed in costumes. I said, they are supposedly characters here. To that, they said, that's sad. My kids are HUGE Lego fans. They love every single minifigure and adore the movie. They were out of their mind excited to visit Legoland. We all wanted to love it but instead around every turn were disappointed.

I think Legoland reps should visit Disneyland and think about what makes it so great. They will find that there are people who care about attention to detail. They will find little surprises everywhere they look. They will find at least three times the staff on all the rides and staff that seem like they really want to be working where they are. They will find informed, helpful workers who know answers to questions. They will find good directions, good signage and good maps that actually tell you how to find the rides you are looking for. They will also find that no one is trying to get you to spend even more money on extra rides once you get inside. (Legoland had the nerve to charge for a small rock climbing wall. They also have carnival games that include a guy that tries to guess things about the kids so they waste their money and don't win generic prizes. It was shameful, actually.)

The good thing was that my 5 year old was tall enough to ride all of the rides. The bad thing was that those rides were lame and even he only enjoyed three of them - the Dragon roller coaster, the Techno roller coaster and the dinosaur roller coaster. Most of the rides my 6.5 and 8 year old thought were BORING. They actually said after the first ride how sad the park was. I told them to act like they were having a good time for their brother being it was his birthday, so they did. They did enjoy the Dragon coaster and the totally drenching Pirate Reef boat plunge ride when all was said and done. (Also, let me add here that having to go through Legoland to get to the water park was weird. They did have a few good slides like Orange Rush which is for the whole family to ride together, but I wouldn't do that again either.)

As for the Legoland Hotel, it was pretty cool in concept and it was literally 100 paces outside the Legoland gate. But also, really missing good planning. For instance, they have the world's coolest elevators - the music turns to a disco party as you go up. However, there are two elevators. TWO. To serve the entire hotel of 250 rooms. There are generally 4-5 people per room... and they are all trying to use them at about the same times - go get down to breakfast and into the park and same at closing time of the park (which is way too early as well.) The kids bunk section of the room was super. The themed rooms are a great idea. The treasure hunt around the hotel for clues that give you a code to open the kids safe in the room was such a great idea, as were the prizes inside (mini lego kids that retail for about $6-9). Including breakfast in the price of the room to make it "free," okay. Saying it is a character breakfast is such a joke though. There was one generic princess to go around to ALL of the tables and one day there was also a nice balloon animal maker but I'd say at least 75-80% of the people there didn't get a balloon animal. We got a visit to our table on my son's birthday because I went up an nicely asked if there was anyway she could come to our table in the back corner of the restaurant for his birthday. She was very nice and came right away after finishing the table she was at. We didn't even see her around on day two and we ate at the same time. Add to all of this, that Legoland hotel charges the bargain price of about $350 per night per room and there is no way I'd go again. I'd stay at one of the many nice, close hotels and buy my kids all a super nice giant lego set instead and you'd still save money including the other hotel cost per night and the Lego kits. But in reality, I wouldn't go again anyway.

So all in all, even for huge Lego fans that want so badly to love Legoland with all of their hearts - at the PRIME age for buying, building and collecting Legos - I'd skip Legoland and the Legoland Hotel. I personally feel ripped off, much in the same way I do when I spend $100 on one of those big Lego kits for my kids, but at least with that we did something fun together that we both enjoyed.

Did we enjoy spending the day together for my son's 5th birthday? Yes! (He says he would like to go back again one day too - but only to ride the Dragon and buy more Legos.) If you are in the San Diego area for some other reason and have a day with nothing to do and the park is open and you get free tickets and can eat only ice cream during your park visit, then sure, go. But otherwise, spend the same on the tickets and actually less to stay at the Disney Paradise Pier hotel and you'll have a much better time with your family, ride more rides even at a peak time, and eat better park food.