When I made my first pilgrimage to Legoland Florida a couple of years ago, afterwards I wrote this HUGE blog post about all of the things that I liked as well as some of the things that stood out where I felt improvement was needed.
Well, yesterday we spent the afternoon there once more and from the minute I walked in, I knew that I’d be writing a follow-up post like this one the next day … but not necessarily in a great way.
- From a family fun perspective, I had a blast yesterday at Legoland and it was neat to see some of the new additions and things we hadn’t seen last time.
- From the theme park critic’s perspective, however, I think that for only being opened less than 3 years, Legoland Florida is already starting to go frighteningly downhill.
So where do we start???
The Water Park
Last time we didn’t get to go because although we paid to add the water park option to our tickets, by the time we got to the back corner of the park it had been closed due to inclement weather, so this time we sort of made a bee line straight for the water because we left pretty late and didn’t arrive until afternoon and it was already starting to heat up…
Star Wars Miniland Detour
Of course, my nephew is a Star Wars nut and had been looking forward to this part for who knows how long, so we ended up planning our route through the newest section of Miniland so that he (and I!) could check it out first and foremost!
This area was definitely a nice touch – I particularly liked the Millennium Falcon preparing for takeoff, though it would’ve been cool to somehow fit the Death Star into the scene, too!
I want to note that this particular portion was the only part of the day that really matched the same wow vibe as my first visit…
A Merchandising Opportunity Missed
Now upon our arrival at the water park … and boy is that walk all of the way through the park still a long one … my first call of duty was to pick myself up a towel. I purposely didn’t bring one because I wanted to get one with the Legoland logo on it to add to our collection back home for pool parties and whatnot. After a quick spin through their closet of a gift shop at the entrance to the park, I was a little bit taken aback that this was the closest I could get…
Not a single brick-laden towel to be found, or the Legoland Florida front gate logo, or anything! They had about eight equally bland designs of different colors and themes like pink and pirates, but none of them had any resemblance towards Legoland aside from having the word LEGOLAND in a random font that wasn’t the official one you see everywhere else.
One of the ladies working in the shop, listening to me complain even agreed, “Yeah, that would be a really good idea – I don’t know why we don’t have anything like that…” I don’t know if this is another stupid licensing agreement between Lego and Merlin where they couldn’t get it together to associate their logo with merchandise, but I was really disappointed a) because I couldn’t get the towel that I imagined getting, and b) because I had to waste $16 on that ugly thing that I didn’t want in the first place in order to have a way to dry myself when we were done!
Seriously, they managed to put the Legoland logo on the tag … how difficult is this?! Plain white towel with that logo to fill the entire thing … BAM!
You can have that marketing idea for free … or at least for the cost of a free towel to replace the one that I ended up having to buy instead! 😛
Also, 10 minutes later I ended up buying a pair of flip-flops, too, because I hadn’t brought any and my feet were on fire, and those ended up breaking within a matter of hours … merch wasn’t a real positive feature of this visit, to say the least… 🙁
Of course, immediately after everyone got changed, the baby decided that it was time to eat, so Sara and I took a break and fed him while everyone else jumped in the lazy river. We joined them a short while later and had fun making a few laps around ourselves before most were ready for more adventurous waters. It’s definitely a lot shorter than either of Disney’s water parks … I read that Legoland’s river is only 1,000 feet long, whereas Typhoon Lagoon is over 2,000 (my favorite) and Blizzard Beach is upwards of 3,000! But it was still fun for what it was … definitely geared towards the little kids, though even I was able to amuse myself with the floating bricks by making a little “carrier” on my tube to hold my sandals (not yet broken) as we floated around… 🙂
We also noted by the end of this adventure that between the water parks and our pool at home, we could probably stand to invest in one of those waterproof cases for our cameras so that we can actually get some action photos in the water!
Eventually we made it over to the main part of the water park where there was a big play area for kids surrounded by wading-depth water that we ended up entertaining Christopher in while the other kids went on the slides. The giant bucket at the top that would dump every few minutes was kind of neat, although my perspective may be biased due to my ability to time not getting hit by it!
All and all it was definitely clear that the entire park in general is built around younger guests, as there were really only a couple of things that older kids and their parents would be interested in going on without having little children in tow. Which is fine, but it really rang home why I don’t like how the water park’s pricing is structured because due to its location, you can’t only purchase admission to the Legoland Water Park … it’s only available as an add-on for the main park itself. I’ll talk more about this later, but essentially Sara and I ended up paying Legoland admission to spend maybe 20 minutes overall doing things in actual Legoland, and the rest of our day was spent in the water … which is a $15 add-on… 😕
P.S. The wave pool was fun and is probably a little easier for smaller kids than the big one at Typhoon Lagoon … I even managed to get out in “the deep end,” which is something that I’d never do at Typhoon Lagoon!
Nice Slides, Poor Design
Nearing closing time for the park, I was informed that my niece wanted Aunt Sara and Uncle Scott to go on some of the bigger water slides with her – the dark and scary one, to be precise! 😯
They basically have four or five slides tucked out of the way that are more grown-up than the ones at the play area … one with a pretty steep incline that I didn’t want any part of and another that seemed to open up just at the worst possible time, and also a couple of tube-based rides that were more my speed, and thankfully those were the ones that she actually wanted to do.
Unfortunately, I only got to ride once due to a really poor queue design because when I went to grab a tube, there weren’t any and all the park employee could tell me was that “I had to wait until another guest brought one back.” Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but there was nobody who was actually enforcing that, so whereas instead of like at Disney where you get in line, get a tube, ride down the slide, drop off your tube, and then get in line again if you want to ride again, I was probably passed by a couple of dozen people who just got right off the end of the slide and hopped in line again with their same tubes, so essentially I had to wait for someone to be done riding the slide before I could actually get a turn.
Really poor system and it gave me a lot of time to sit at the end of the slide fuming about all of the other operational issues that I had noticed around the park that day, but then came another blunder that was almost equally as bad in my book…
How NOT to Talk to Your Guests…
So I got up to the top for my second ride, and the employees at the top announced that they had to shut the ride down due to inclement weather.
Bummer, but it happens and as much as some people were protesting, you could see the sky getting dark in one direction quite distinctly and an hour later it was lightning’ing something fierce, so better safe than sorry when you’re standing on a giant metal tower in the middle of a pool of water, right?!
Well, one of the guests in line shouts out – “Do you have any idea how hard it is for these kids to climb all the way up here?!”
And then one of the lifeguards shouts back – “Do you have any idea how much it sucks to get hit by lightning?!”
Don’t get me wrong, I know where both were coming from, plus the second line was kind of funny and probably something that I myself would say – if I wasn’t an employee representing the park – which the guy totally was.
It was definitely a simple example about how young and inexperienced a lot of the park’s employees really are because there’s no way a Disney cast member would ever get away with talking to a guest like that. They’ve got standard blurbs like, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but the safety of our guests is our number one priority, so right now we just need to get everyone off the slide…” or whatever. You don’t remind the guest how much it would suck if they got fried for not taking the lightning seriously!!!
It also didn’t help that they clearly didn’t have a good process in place for clearing out the queue. At first they were going to let those at the very top ride down, then they made even those four get out of the water at the top. Myself and a couple of others asked if we could leave our tubes at the top instead of having to carry them back down again and it was no problem, but nobody offered the same to the rest of the line so instead of people handing their tubes up and then walking down, it took twice as long with people tripping over their tubes and grumbling the whole way.
Two Last Water Park Critiques
These are pretty simple, but #1 – they don’t have showers in the changing rooms, so even though you’re expected to continue your fun day in Legoland proper, there’s really no place to wash off the chlorine after you’re done.
And #2 … maybe this was kind of my fault because I wasn’t 100% honest with the employees I ran into, but after changing I wanted to go back and get a couple of photos of the water areas … you’ll notice that there really aren’t any photos here except for a few right around the entrance. Well, in crossing over the bridge I ran into an employee asking if I needed anything. Instead of telling him I wanted to take some quick pictures, I told him I was looking for somebody, to which he quite bluntly replied that this end of the park was clear and nobody was left, so anyone I’d be looking for would be in the other direction.
Granted, I shouldn’t have lied and maybe I’d have gotten a better response, but it still just seemed pretty rude and not the kind of treatment that I’m used to at theme parks. We encountered a few different employees who acted like this throughout our visit – like they had a job to do with little regard for the guests who actually made their job needed in the first place.
So Back in the Main Park…
We’re making our way back to the front because it’s clearly about to start storming and the park is about to close anyways. We made a few stops along the way to get some pictures of Christopher with the various Lego models, and by far the most disappointing part of my visit was that I couldn’t help but notice that the models are starting to look VERY OLD AND WORN. I got this impression even on our way through with some of the first ones we’d past and even throughout Miniland, but by now it was clear as day. Most of them were dirty and hadn’t been cleaned recently, and so many of them were badly sun-damaged … it’s like they’d gone from looking professional from our last trip to looking like something a kid had built and left out in the backyard this time around.
It was very embarrassing and proved to be a sizable nail in the coffin for me… 🙁
One Saving Grace, a la Curiosity!
By the time we’d reached the front, thunder struck and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the big gift shop … at one point the employees were encouraging people to just stay put instead of trying to walk to the parking lot in the thunder & lightning, which I thought was nice … albeit ironic because they were also selling ponchos and umbrellas, which we had just bought thinking we were going to make a run for it.
Nonetheless, as I’m going to checkout with a small handful of goodies … noting that Lego VIP still isn’t honored there, just like I found last time … and all of a sudden I notice a small display of Lego Cuusoo sets (now Lego Ideas) behind the cashier, including the new Ghostbusters Ecto-1, but more importantly, the set that I’ve wanted to get ever since it’s been sold out everywhere … the Mars Rover, Curiosity!
I actually asked the cashier, “Are those for sale???” to which he gave me kind of a weird look as he said yes. I ended up buying both of the ones that they had (they had a posted limit of 5/customer, but only two in the display), and was surprised/grateful to find that they were marked for their original $29.99 sale price and not the double or triple that I’ve been seeing them going for on eBay ever since they sold out. 😯
So In Review…
- I’m sad to say, but this was a pretty disappointing trip … not from a fun perspective, but more from a standards/should I bring people here again perspective.
- Their employees desperately need some training as far as interacting with guests on multiple levels. This felt like a park run by a bunch of kids out of school, which a lot of Disney World is, too, but the cast members there would’ve never acted the way I saw cast members act at Legoland yesterday. They were rude, they weren’t helpful, and only a couple actually made our experience positive rather than negative.
- And granted, a lot of this comparison is with Disney because that’s the market Legoland is in now. Sorry, but if you’re going to charge as much as the big guys, you’re going to get graded like the big guys and standard park admission to Legoland Florida by itself at the gate is now $84/day for an adult. SeaWorld is $80, Universal is $96, and Disney is $94-$99 for a single day. It’s not a “new” park anymore and these are the types of details that determine the parks that I want to frequent and which ones I avoid.
- I’m really curious now to go back and look at the Lego models along the store at Downtown Disney to see how those have aged because although I don’t remember them being nearly this bad, I’m curious.
- That said, whereas in my first trip I was clearly wow’ed by all of the models and Miniland as a long-time Lego fan, aside from the new Star Wars section (which is much newer than everything else), I wasn’t anywhere near as blown away, and I don’t necessarily think that it was because I’d seen it all before as much as because so much of it now just looked plain trashy to me. Anything with white in it almost looked yellow and there were clearly all sorts of different tones of the same bricks in models that were supposed to be solid colors. I remember reading once that the other Legoland parks cleaned their models by actually sandblasting a thin layer of plastic off of the models every so often so that the colors would remain bright and consistent, and then essentially when they ran out of model to sandblast, it was time to replace it altogether. Are they doing that sort of thing at Legoland Florida or does just nobody care???
…because the thing is, two years ago when I visited Legoland, while I wasn’t ready to rush back myself the next day, I would’ve been more than happy to return with any fellow Lego fanatics who happened to be in town to visit. Now? There are a lot of caveats that I’d need to throw out that I didn’t feel obligated to before, to the point where I think I’d rather spring the difference to just take them to Disney World instead of going here and potentially being let down. Which sucks because the park is filled with possibilities, but if Merlin Entertainment isn’t going to execute on them the way that Lego deserves, then it makes me wonder if the place is even going to be around in another 10 years or if it’s going to go the way of Cypress Gardens and just eventually fade into broken down obscurity.
As it stands today, Legoland Florida is overpriced at the gate prices it charges for the quality it delivers through the turnstiles. I would argue that even the park itself realizes this – when we were coming in, the people at the gates were reminding guests of their Buy 3, Get 4 Tickets Free promotion to get people to bring their friends back with them. Apparently the deal only applied to people who paid full price and most didn’t, but in a way you can learn about a park’s true popularity by the types of discounts it offers. Let’s face it – Legoland is constantly offering discounted pricing … we ended up going on a corporate rate that was buy 1, get 1 and made our admission about $50/adult, and you can still get buy 1 adult, get a child free publicly today. That tells me that Legoland’s standard pricing in general is too high if they have to consistently offer such deep discounts to get people in the door … as compared to Disney that offers very slight discounts unless you’re buying multi-day tickets as a Florida resident.
And back to the water park admission, consider that we basically stayed there the entire time, we essentially paid $50/day to solely visit the water park, whereas $53 gets you into Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach for longer hours and more park to enjoy. Sure, we paid it this time because that’s where everyone was going, but the next time when we’re asked where we want to spend the day???
So much potential, but so much sorely needing improvement that it really shouldn’t this early into its life cycle … it’s almost enough to make me worried about what I’m going to find in another couple of years when Christopher gets a little older and actually starts playing with Legos himself. I really hope they get their act together by then because I want his first trip then to be as fun and exciting and awesome as my first trip was, but they’re not there right now… 🙁