Shortly after my nephew, Mason, age 3, exited a simple helicopter ride at Legoland California, my sister sat down on the bench beside my mother and said, "These rides are kind of lame."
Thank God she said it, I thought with a sigh. I didn't want to be the lame aunt that proclaimed Legoland a massive failure. I was glad I wasn't alone.
My husband and I, in our 20s and with no kids, had walked through the entirety of Legoland in less than an hour. We'd then eaten an overpriced sandwich and stared at each other for twenty minutes, neither of us wanting to say what we felt: Legoland, despite our love of legos, was horrifyingly lame.
Barely an hour and a half into the park and my oldest nephew, Chase, age 5, asked if they could go to the aquarium soon. When a 5-year-old gets bored of Lego-themed rides, you know something is wrong.
I say all of this with one important disclaimer: I love Disneyland. I've always loved Disneyland. Disneyland, to me, is a great park because it appeals to both adults and children; the focus isn't entirely on shopping; and while tickets are expensive, everything in the park is included with admission (except food and souvenirs).
I knew something was up with Legoland when we immediately had to pay $15 for parking. Upon entry into the park, I was struck by how small and enclosed the entry area is; there is a gift shop and a food shop to the left and a bigger gift shop to the right. This would set the overwhelming trend of the park: gift shops outnumber rides by about 10 to 1. I'm not kidding. Every single ride Danny and I fit on (because we only fit on maybe 5 rides in the entire park) ended in a gift shop.
Danny and I walked through Miniland, considered the "heart" of the park. Sure, ok: it's cute. A tiny replica of the world, basically, complete with Las Vegas, New Orleans, Paris, and more. However, the entire place felt dirty. Many of the buildings needed a good cleaning; there was still trash on the ground from the day before; and there was even trash in some of the Miniland places. Oh and there was nothing to do. Miniland is interactive only in bits: you can press a button and make pigs in a farm tilt their head; another button and chickens move jerkily on a green patch. In another area, a button starts a short water fountain. Cute, but... really? Then, the kicker: Danny and I found a lizard trapped in the Grand Central Station replica. We tried to find an exit to coax it out, but we couldn't locate one. I felt so bad for it.
One characteristic of Disney is that you are 1. never more than 10 steps from a trashcan and 2. never more than 10 steps from a Disney employee. The same is not true of Legoland. Aside from the ride operators, there are hardly any employees in the park to answer questions or help with directions.
Another issue with Legoland is some of the rides and games cost extra. The only truly interactive feature in Miniland is a feature where you can drive a Lego boat through a marina -- but it costs $5 for 5 minutes. Throughout the park, you can play carnival games to win prizes -- but they cost $10. Even the pictures they take on rides are displayed on TVs across a counter, so unlike at Disneyland where you can just take a photo of your picture, you have to buy it to see it!
Danny, my mom, and I left after barely two hours. We agreed that it was a waste of money. The entire park felt like a county fair with a few vaguely Lego-related decorations added. Most of the rides had nothing to do with Lego. For about $79 a ticket, that's pretty ridiculous.