Legoland: a world of multicoloured bricks
Visiting Legoland, a 150-acre resort in Windsor, was surprisingly good fun
Making friends with life-size Lego people in Legoland Windsor
The Miniland exhibition in Legoland Windsor
Here’s a tip. Never make a vague promise to your Lego-obsessed child that you will take him to Legoland unless you have firm plans to do so. Four years ago I airily promised my son that I would bring him to the land of multicoloured bricks when he was bigger. Cian (8) spends every waking moment constructing complicated worlds made of Lego, occasionally dropping a piece which is usually found by a bare foot at 2am. Once I raised the possibility of Legoland, the badgering began. “When are we going? When, when, when?” Like a woodpecker he tapped on my ear until I finally caved in.
While there are Legolands in Denmark and Germany, the park in Windsor, just outside London is probably the most convenient. It’s 12 miles from Heathrow Airport and two miles from Windsor town centre. Thanks to a spot of online research, we discovered that you could get a Windsor taxi company to pick you up from Heathrow for £20 (€24) – significantly cheaper than getting a black cab at the airport. A Legoland shuttle bus runs from Windsor to the Legoland resort and costs £7.20 (€8.70) return for an adult and a child.
Of course, if you hire a car, you can reduce costs by staying in one of the many budget hotels within an hour of the resort. Or you could blow your budget by staying in the Legoland hotel at the resort. This is Lego-heaven for children. A green fire-breathing dragon guards the entrance. Naturally it’s made of Lego. The reception area has a large pit of Lego under a pillar which is just begging to be covered in the bricks. There are Lego busts of royal family members, including William and Kate. And apparently even the chips are shaped like Lego pieces.
We opted for the Harte and Garter hotel overlooking Windsor Castle and were the first people at the bus stop the next morning. From the moment the Legoland sign loomed into view we were entranced. Those little bricks were everywhere. At one stage I thought I saw ostriches in the distance. They were made from Lego. So were the giraffes, and the crocodile attacking a Lego fisherman. Even the yield signs looked like they were hewn from Lego.
Legoland is a 150-acre resort with lots of Lego-themed rides, Lego-building workshops and live shows. As it’s aimed at three- to 12-year-olds, the rides aren’t too scary, although the Jolly Rocker swing boat did send my heart shooting into my mouth and back down to my stomach a few times.
You can meander around a little stream at boat school or put out pretend fires at the fire academy. The fire fighting ends with a very slow race of fire trucks at which we were humiliatingly beaten into last place by a woman with a baby in her arms.
Over at the driving school, children tootled around in little electric cars made by Fiat. They negotiated a roundabout, observed traffic lights and frequently crashed into each other, but at a very gentle pace. Then they paid £10 (€11.82) for a Legoland driving licence which included their photograph. On the shuttle bus we overheard a father telling his wide-eyed son that a teenager had been stopped by police in Yorkshire and handed them his Legoland driving licence before fleeing and sparking a high-speed car chase. True? I don’t know, but it’s a good story.
Miniland is a reconstruction of cities and landmarks from around the world, complete with marching soldiers, and trains, boats and buses gliding around the site. Nearly 40 million pieces of Lego have been used to build these scenes. It took three model makers 850 hours to complete the Canary Wharf Tower, using 200,000 Lego bricks in the process. Each pigeon on Trafalgar Square is made from five bricks.
If you feel like a bit of a sit-down after all that excitement, you can watch a selection of short 4D movies. Our movie snowed on us, blew wind around our ears and startled us with a small fire which rose from in front of the screen during a car crash.
Visiting Legoland at the end of September meant that we didn’t face any major queues but it does get very busy during school holidays. Our first day, a Sunday, was busy but the longest queue, for the submarine ride, still only took about 30 minutes. On the following day we had the run of the resort, often going back on a ride twice if there was no one waiting.
At the height of summer you can buy Q-Bots which tells you when to return to the ride and allows you to bypass the long queues. Cian’s highlights were the dragon rollercoaster and the dynamite drench ride. You can pay £2 (€2.36) to stand into a giant dryer after wet rides but we dried off pretty quickly just by walking around.
It is a pleasure to walk around the park. There’s no thumping music, there are toilets at every juncture and staff are very helpful. They even have a machine dispensing headache tablets at the entrance but they were not needed in our case.
It is expensive to eat there, however, and many people sensibly bring packed lunches and picnic baskets.
When you’ve had enough, you can head to the UK’s largest Lego shop beside the exit. There was frenzied shopping going on when we dropped in on Sunday evening so imagine what it’s like in mid-July. There’s no recession in the land of Lego. I spotted a box containing Lego Mindstorms for £299.99 (€355.22) while Star Wars Death Star was a cool £274.99 (€325.66).
Happily our spending was confined to one modest box of bricks because nothing more would fit in our carry-on luggage.
The whole experience left me walking around with a goofy smile like a very happy Lego mini-figure. But more importantly, what was the youngster’s verdict? “The best two days of my whole life, ever,” he declared.
Now our two-year-old has started to talk about Peppa Pig World. Yes, there is such a thing. It’s in Hampshire. I’m making no promises.
The Legoland Windsor resort is 12 miles from London Heathrow Airport. Our flights, for one adult and one child, in late September cost €245.96 return, with only carry-on luggage. Gatwick Airport is also close, just 47 miles from the resort.
Check your dates in winter because Legoland closes but selected areas of the park open for Christmas. The resort hotel is open all year round except for Christmas Day.
A day pass for an adult is £46.80 (€56.60) and kids £41.40 (€50), although advance booking online brings prices down.
Some hotels include entrance in their all-in family packages.
The Legoland Windsor Resort Hotel is priced from £247 (€291.88) low season and from £337 (€398.24) high season for one night in a themed family room (two adults and up to 3 children), including breakfast and park tickets for two days. Hotel residents also get benefits such as getting into the park earlier than other visitors.
For an idea of prices in other hotels, check legoland.co.uk which has a section on local hotels offering
We stayed at the Harte and Garter Hotel in Windsor. Its Legoland package for two nights, for one adult and one child, including breakfast and Legoland tickets for two days cost £327.42. (€386.95).
Like most holiday resorts, it’s not cheap to eat at Legoland. The resort has numerous food stops, including an all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta buffet which costs £11.95 (€14.12) for adults and £6.95 (€8.21) per child. Many visitors bring picnics.
Windsor has a wide selection of restaurants including family-friendly ones such as Pizza Express,
Wagamama and the very tempting Chocolate Theatre Café.