Today was a great day!

Historically I haven’t really been much of a Busch Gardens fan because A) I’m scared shitless of “real roller coasters”; and B) I tend to spend half the time comparing everything to Disney and just being perpetually disappointed.

That said, somehow the stars aligned today and what was our first of likely many visits in 2019 was actually pretty great. Granted, it certainly didn’t hurt that admission for our family of 5 only cost us about $120 … for the entire year! … thanks to a buy 1, get 1 free offer on their Fun Cards that they offered for Black Friday last year coupled with free preschooler cards for all of our kids.

We pretty much spent the entire afternoon just walking around, looking at animals, and the boys absolutely LOVED it!

I ended up with Christopher and David because Matthew was cranky and Sara was trying to get him to fall asleep, but it was pretty awesome just how engaged they were with each and every new animal that we came across – whether it was something big like the giraffes or lions or even smaller stuff like lizards and snakes and whatnot. We took a little time to learn something new about each one, and I think they really liked being able to call the shots by picking which animals we were going to check out next…

…even if I did have a hell of a time actually finding some of them!

If I had to rank our favorites, I think it might look something like this:

  1. Hippo
  2. Elephants
  3. Gorillas
  4. Flamingoes
  5. Duck fishing in the Hippo pond

After our animal hunt, we ended up over in the Sesame Street area, which I absolutely loved the last time we were here because I think that Busch just did a really great job of making it so fun and colorful and interactive for the kids.

David was still a little nervous going on rides, but he really enjoyed the ones that he could do with Christopher.

Christopher, on the other hand, would’ve lived there if we’d given him the chance, and one ride in particular was pretty amazing. He and David were going to ride their Snuffleupagus version of a Dumbo ride, but it turns out that while they were both tall enough to ride, Christopher wasn’t tall enough to supervise his little brother on the ride, so he rode by himself while David rode with Sara.

Watching that kid slowly realize that he could make the elephant go as high or low as he wanted all by himself was absolutely wonderful, even if it felt like he was literally growing up before my very eyes!

I wish I would’ve gotten a better picture of the GINORMOUS SMILE on his face, but darkness + spinning ride doesn’t make for good pictures… 😛

It was almost the same with their last ride of the night – the two boys were able to drive a car for The Count together, and boy, do I wish that I could’ve had a GoPro strapped to the dashboard to catch a glimpse into that little joy ride! 😀

On our way out, we got to enjoy the lights and Christmas decorations during their final weekend, which was a nice way to wind down the evening as we slowly headed out to the car. The kids split a couple of giant cookies, Sara and I each got to indulge in some holiday-themed desserts, and before we had even pulled out of the parking lot, two of the three kids were already fast asleep in their car seats…

Ultimately the weather was great – a bit chilly with the wind, but nowhere near spring or summer heats that make theme parks more challenging, the kids were amazingly well behaved, and it’s nice that we’ve got another option to entertain them that’s a little closer than driving all the way over to Disney World.

And I didn’t have to go on a single roller coaster!

So yesterday we spent the day at SeaWorld Orlando awing at whales and learning about sea turtles and just generally enjoying the Christmas spirit as they pumped Christmas music around the decorated park. We haven’t actually been to SeaWorld in about eight years and even then was only a brief visit during our engagement trip, so it was neat both to revisit the park as well as introduce Christopher to it for the first time, all on top of getting to experience the place all decked out for the holidays for the first time to boot!

Granted, it fell a bit short of throwing a giant Santa hat on a 6,000-pound killer whale, but I thought they still did a nice job, particularly unique to the whole SeaWorld atmosphere with all of the illuminated trees lit up across the harbor a la the Sea of Trees. Christopher has gotten more and more into Sesame Street recently and absolutely loved Elmo’s Christmas Wish, and we even got to meet Santa, albeit I’ve never really been a fan of The Polar Express that his “attraction” – if you will – was based on…

We ended up getting passes to SeaWorld (and Legoland!) for Black Friday this year, so I’ll probably have some more to write up about the park in the future, but for now it was just a nice celebration in a new place we don’t normally visit, and my kid got to make some brand new sea turtle friends to boot! 😉







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.


In summary:

  • 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… 🙁

Floating Around…
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!

Wading Away
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… 🙁


Speaking of Star Wars…

November 1, 2012 6:55pm
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It seems that Legoland Florida just recently took delivery of the last of the models for its new Star Wars section in Miniland – over 2,000 models, 1.5 million bricks!!!

Happy Birthday to Legoland Florida!!!

October 15, 2012 3:30pm
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Nice little video from Orlando Attractions Magazine with all of the highlights from Legoland Florida as today they celebrate the park’s first birthday. In addition to half-price admission, they also had free cupcakes, giveaways including annual and lifetime passes throughout the day, and apparently a 26,500 brick birthday cake that I’m sure must’ve been quite the sight to see!

Kinda makes me a little anxious to go back the next time we have some guests visiting from out of town… 😉

This was a nice update to see on a rather ugly story to come out of Miami a couple of weeks ago – basically, a lifeguard left his designated section of the beach to save a drowning man nearby and then got fired because he left the area that his employer was legally responsible for. A couple of his fellow lifeguards ended up quitting beside him in solidarity, and there has been a lot of negative press about it afterwards, as rightfully so.

So in comes Legoland General Manager Adrian Jones, who sees an opportunity to turn a negative thing into something positive for his park, and posts an open letter to the hero and his fellow lifeguards who quit, offering them all jobs to come and work for Legoland’s new water park instead!  😀

Brilliant move on his part – that’s exactly the kind of person who I’d want looking out for my guests, too!

The Legoland Post

July 14, 2012 4:08pm
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Oh boy oh boy oh boy – where do I even start?! :mrgreen:

So last Tuesday we took a big group of family over to Legoland for the day … anyone who follows me on Twitter is probably already well aware of that, thanks to the constant deluge of pictures that I excitedly posted throughout the day! Overall it was a blast – all of the figures and scenes were incredible, and as I had tweeted at the time, just walking through Miniland was probably worth the cost of admission alone for me. Granted, I don’t really see us getting annual passes to the place, but I’d definitely be more than happy to go back the next time somebody else comes to town who can appreciate it as much as I did.

Now that said, there were also definitely some parts of the day that I was less than impressed with, so I wanted to take some time here in a more elaborated form to go over exactly what I did and didn’t like about my trip to Legoland Florida…

Getting There Is Half the Battle
First and foremost, one thing soon became painfully clear – we live in Tampa, and we spend an awful lot of time at the theme parks over in Orlando, and frankly, Legoland is convenient to neither of those places. It wouldn’t be so bad if the park was right off a major freeway, but instead it’s nestled way off the beaten trail with not nearly enough signs pointing you in the right direction. My first thought was that maybe location was a big reason why Cypress Gardens went out of business…

Don’t Worry – It’s Bigger Than It Actually Looks
Admittedly I got even more nervous about what to expect upon pulling into the parking lot that seemed smaller than I’ve seen at some Walmarts, but here with a $12 parking fee! Truth be told, the actual park is pretty comparable to most theme parks – Legoland Florida covers 145 acres, the Magic Kingdom at Disney World is 110 acres, and Universal Studios – 125 acres – so don’t let the parking lot fool you like I did! 😉

First Impressions at the Front Gate
It didn’t take long for me … and my wife … to realize that I was going to be taking a lot of pictures during the next however many hours we were at the park! In fact, about halfway through I did actually have to stop and delete a bunch from a previous trip to make room on my memory card. All in all, I took 323 photos on my regular camera alone, so that’s not counting anything I took with my iPhone!

One other point that I noted early on, and mind you I wasn’t necessarily complaining about it because it meant our wait times were pretty reasonable, but for the most part, there was hardly anybody there at noon on a weekday in July. It picked up a little in the early afternoon, but then immediately dropped when threats of rain moved in. Really, the only place we encountered crowds was at the pizza place for lunch, but we’ll talk about that fiasco in a second…  😛

Amazing Scenery, Shoddy Rides
Although I absolutely loved the countless figures built from Legos spread throughout the entire park, a big thing that I wasn’t nearly as impressed with was the rides. And granted, I will say that progressively they did get better as we moved throughout the park (we roughly did Fun Town, Duplo Village, Medieval, Miniland (take 1), Lego City, Technic, Land of Adventure, Miniland (take 2)) … it’s just that a lot of them really seemed like aside from the random Lego integration, the rides themselves were comparable to county fair rides, some (like those in the Duplo area) even looking like they had just been put up that weekend!

It honestly took me a couple of hours to realize that at least for me, I was going to have to look past the rides themselves and focus on the Legos if I wanted to have a good time, and I did, and ended up having a great time. It’s just that I’m used to Disney attractions that are meticulously designed with incredible quality and amazing attention to detail, whereas some of these felt like the designers just went through the line-up at the fair and said, “How can we work Legos into this one?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m sold on the figures alone, but kid-oriented or not, the rides themselves do need some work.

Florida is Really Hot
One other beef that I kind of had … at least until the sun went away when the thunder clouds moved in … was that there weren’t nearly enough places in the shade to protect you from the hot sun, save for the queue areas themselves, I suppose. If you look at other theme parks, the majority of their attractions are actually indoors and for good reason!

Also, one of the beverage carts would only take cash when I went to buy a water to cool down, which was kind of annoying.

I seriously can’t say enough about this part because the whole thing absolutely blew me away! I could’ve spent hours checking out all of the minute details hidden in each of the unique areas – happenings on the streets of New York, local flair from around Florida … as far as I was concerned, my admission paid for me to get into Miniland and all of the rest was just gravy.

My absolute favorite section was probably the Florida one because I loved seeing all of the things that our state is known for, from the beaches to the Daytona 500 to Kennedy Space Center! That one in particular blew my mind, and it didn’t hurt that someone who works the Twitter account for KSC re-tweeted some of my enthusiasm for the scene, either! They did a really amazing job putting that whole thing together … makes me wish that my Lego space shuttle model was just a wee bit bigger!

Downtown Tampa was a particular treat, too, because I used to work there and still love driving through all of the buildings.

One that I would’ve loved to see them include, although I kinda understand for trademark and competitive reasons, would’ve been some models of Walt Disney World. I’ve seen random models like the Main Street train station done by various Lego Users Group members and I’ve even entertained the idea of trying to do something myself eventually, but come on – even though our beaches are very nice, let’s face it – the first thing anyone thinks of when you mention Florida is the mouse.  😉

…was frankly a bit of a disappointment. We ate at a pizza place, and I love pizza, and there was even a really cool figure of a Lego pizza chef outside the place!, but the interior itself left something to be desired. It was just a bad design for a restaurant – tables were overly crammed into rooms, awkwardly funneling guests to two small buffet areas at one end of the restaurant. I have a feeling that something else used to be in that building before and it was just converted into a buffet restaurant.

It probably didn’t help that a group of about 30 kids – who all wanted to pay separately – came in just ahead of us.

It was very cramped, and very loud, and the pizza wasn’t all that good. Sub school cafeteria, even. I don’t expect much from theme park counter service, but I expect a little better than that.

Also, the soda machines wouldn’t dispense water for the majority of our meal, so I was stuck with diet soda, which I haven’t consumed in over a year.

In hindsight, I wish we had trekked back to one of the other restaurants that we passed coming in (Market Restaurant) because not only did the food and space look better, but they had a lot more Legos to look at while you were eating. The pizza place had none – just the one dude greeting you outside.  😥

Exploring the Cypress Gardens
After lunch I sort of got separated from the group for a bit, and while they moved to the back of the park to try Lego Driving School, I wandered around taking pictures for a bit and eventually ended up in the actual Cypress Gardens themselves. I kind of had a feeling that I wasn’t going to see them any other time because 1) kids are bored by plants, and 2) there were maybe half a dozen people in the whole area during my tour, so I took the opportunity to walk around the trails and surprisingly, it actually became one of the highlights of my trip!

The place is like another world – very quiet because nobody’s there, and all of the larger than life plants just make you feel very small, culminating of course with the absolutely incredible Banyan tree that dominates the back of the garden. At the time, I tweeted that it looked like something out of Lord of the Rings and a week later, I still don’t have a better way to describe that massive thing.

They also had just a couple of Lego figures in the garden as well, dressed as southern belles near the entrance. It was definitely worth wandering astray to go check out, though!

Back at Legoland…
By the time I eventually met back up with the rest of the fam, it was getting ready to storm and we actually spent the next hour running around trying to find someone who had gone out looking for me without a cell phone (oops?). This kind of took the wind out of everybody, I think, because they closed down a lot of areas due to lightning, but once we finally got the group all back together, we were able to check out a couple of other random ideas before finally calling it a day. The kids finally got to do driving school (meh), we did a couple of rides over in the Technic area (ok), then the safari (too fast to take pictures 🙁 ) and a couple of other random adventure rides, and that was about it.

Oh yeah, and we also did the Lego Factory Tour on our way out, which ended up being a huge disappointment because it was basically just one room before emptying into a gift shop. Maybe there was supposed to be a video or something beforehand, but they weren’t playing it when we came through … I was kind of hoping for something a bit more like when they show you how they make chocolate at the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. They need to expand and do more with this because it has a lot of potential to be awesome…

The Water Park
…was closed due to water…falling from the sky.

Ok, actually because of the thunderstorm – can’t really fault them for that, but what I can fault them for was how they handled it because instead of finding a sign at the ramp leading up to the park that said they were closed for inclement weather, we didn’t know until we were trying to put our tickets in the turnstiles that we wouldn’t be getting in at that time. There were even other people walking around inside the gates (although none in the water) … ultimately it was all just very confusing and could’ve been handled a lot better.

Also, I guess from the promotional materials I kinda got the impression that the front gate to the water park was adjacent to the front gate of Legoland, like how Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are … but instead you literally have to walk all the way through the park to get to the water park. I guess that’s because you also have to buy a park ticket to get in – the water park is just an add-on and can’t be purchased separately, but this also confused me because I thought that they were really two separate entities.

Final Notes & Critiques…

  • Overall, I was kind of surprised that we didn’t actually get to do everything during the day – probably due to a number of things … threat of thunderstorms, the kids eventually getting cranky, and just not everyone having interest in everything sometimes. I honestly didn’t even care about missing any of the remaining rides, per say, but there were still some random figures mixed throughout that I would’ve liked to get a closer look at.
  • Shopping at Legoland … for me, was really nothing special … at least once the glow of seeing nearly every Lego set on the market finally wore off. They really need to come up with some sets that you can only get at the parks because save for a couple of t-shirts and random junk, there really wasn’t much that I couldn’t order online or pick-up at Walmart for cheaper. We did end up buying one set for Sara and a couple of minifigs and other random things for me, but even though I was impressed early on by the huge display of the new Lord of the Rings sets, there was still that nagging reminder that I could get them cheaper online…
  • If/when we do it again, I’d definitely wait until we actually get to the water park before buying water park tickets so that we don’t waste them again like we did this time. It’s only $10/piece or whatever, but across the whole group that’d buy an extra Lego set or two instead if the place ends up being closed all day due to “inclement weather,” which we happen to have “quite a bit” here in Florida during “hurricane season.” 😉
  • I’d also strongly recommend keeping an eye out for discounts and ordering in advance because they’ve had some great promotions running lately. We ended up getting a child ticket FREE with each adult ticket, so $150 got us 2 adults and 2 kids … not bad!
  • And of course, probably the single most ridiculous thing that we came across all day – the gift shops at Legoland Florida DO NOT ACCEPT the Lego VIP Program!!! All I can say is … WTF?!?!?! The explanation I was given at the register is that technically the park is owned and operated by Merlin Entertainment and not actually Lego, but that’s just retarded. Legoland is the single most iconic representation of the Lego brand outside of the bricks themselves, which we’ve been in awe of all day long, and now you won’t honor a not so great discount system to begin with in the park’s flagship store that sells damn near every single Lego set imaginable?!

It’s a dumb policy and they need to do whatever they have to do to change it. Disney tries to pull the same sort of crap with some of their on-site vendors not participating in certain Disney World programs, and it pisses me off just as much then, too.

Lego is Lego.

VIPs are supposed to be your most valuable customers.

Legoland is supposed to be the premiere destination for Lego enthusiasts (like VIPs).

I seriously shouldn’t have to be connecting the dots like this…  👿

Regardless, it was still a pretty great day and I’m kind of surprised that it took a fan like myself that long to get out there! The figures are amazing and Miniland itself proved to be nothing short of an incredible feat of micro-design! Plus, I love that they’re continuing to expand so rapidly – technically, the water park only opened about a month and a half ago, and the entire park itself last October, not to mention rumors of a Lego-themed resort hotel on the horizon, too. I don’t know if it’s in concern that they need more draw to support the park’s remote location as a viable destination, but whatever gets people in the door. This is a park that up until the summer months was only open 5 days a week, so I sincerely hope that they can improve attendance enough to keep the bills paid because it seems like they’ve got a great concept here, even if some of the rides still need a little polish…

Another random point – I just read a rumor that the future might also hold a Miniland expansion to add a Lego Star Wars area to mimic the one that Legoland California has, which would be pretty freaking sweet!

All in all, it was a good solid day touring Florida’s newest theme park, and I look forward to checking out whatever new things are added as well as sharing my own favorites the next time a fellow Lego fanatic comes to town.  :mrgreen:

(Want even more photos?! Go check out my entire photo set over at Flickr for 165 pictures of fun!!!)

Legoland Preview!

July 10, 2012 11:54pm
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So anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows that today I went to Legoland Florida!

It was pretty great, and I’ve got a ton of pictures to prove it.

323 pictures, to be exact.

Needless to say, it’s probably going to take me a few days to go through all of them and upload the best ones to Flickr, and I also want to take some time to write a little about our experience, too, because there were some things that Legoland did great and there were some things that frankly were utterly ridiculous! All of that will come in good time (this weekend?), but until then here are a handful of my favorite shots – pretty much all from around Miniland because (spoiler) it was by far my favorite area of the entire park…  :mrgreen:

More Aquatica Pics…

June 10, 2012 7:35pm
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Eventually I’ll probably throw these up on Flickr because that’s what I got the account for, but in the meantime, I had a few more random photos from Aquatica that I thought might be worth sharing.

I took most of these running around while we were waiting for the attractions to open back up, so unfortunately that’s why the sky looks absolutely dreadful in them, but it was still fun and I tried to experiment with some different angles and whatnot – something I’d like to try more with my photos over at Disney World in the future, too…

Yesterday was a lot of fun, albeit also particularly damp and also just a wee bit scary!

A Day at the Water Park
We ended up going over to Aquatica (Sea World’s water park) in Orlando as an early celebration of my sister-in-law’s birthday. It’s always a little weird for me to walk around any non-Disney theme park because I tend to compare and contrast the crap out of them, but overall I think we all ended up having a pretty good time. If I do the math, we were really only able to do the slides and stuff for maybe 3-4 hours … we got there around noon, and then some really ugly weather rolled in mid-afternoon and pretty much closed everything down until we finally decided to throw in the towel … pun intended. 😉

I’m not sure how much I want to go into everything because I think I’m going to maybe do something comparing the park to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon (which we visited for my birthday last year), but on average I thought that the attractions at Typhoon Lagoon were all a lot better designed than the ones at Aquatica. Their star attraction, the Dolphin Plunge, which features clear slide tubes running underwater where you’re supposed to be able to see Commerson’s dolphins swimming around, ended up going by so fast that I really couldn’t see much of anything except that I knew I was underwater.

We also had a bit of a mishap on HooRoo Run, which we thought all 3 of us could ride on together, but had overlooked until halfway up the tower that although we met the weight requirement, there was also a height requirement that the 3rd rider needed to be under 5 feet tall. And the reason that this posed a problem was the goofy seating configurations that they offered – 2 or 3 riders, but no single-riders. This is where I felt Aquatica really dropped the ball because when we went to board the tube and the lifeguard pointed out our dilemma … that was about it. She didn’t suggest for me to wait and see if there was another single rider who I could ride with, or even hop over to the other slide on the same tower that did allow for single-riders so that I could at least ride something … instead, I let the two girls go down together, and I had to walk back down the entire six flights of stairs back to the ground by myself.  😳

Nonetheless, we all still had a fun day … there was at least one slide that all three of us were quite convinced we were going to die on (Walhalla Wave) because we damn near flipped our tube inside the pitch black part of the slide … but I think we got to do most of what we wanted before the gigantic thunderstorm moved in and brought a series of closures that they never really recovered from. I was a little bummed that we didn’t really get to do the lazy river, aside from maybe 50 feet of it which feeds one of the slides in a weird way, anyways … although upon a second glance at the park map, that may have actually been half the river to boot, so maybe it wasn’t such a big deal to pass on after all! 😯

The park is definitely a lot smaller than Typhoon Lagoon is and if we’d had maybe another hour (or just waited for lunch instead of trying to beat the first sign of rain), we’d have likely gotten everything we wanted to do in with time to spare.

A Night at the Movies
Anyways, it was maybe around 5:30pm when we finally decided that it wasn’t worth waiting around any longer to see if they were going to re-open the attractions before the park closed at 7pm, so instead we decided to pack things up, get changed, and head on over to Downtown Disney to treat Christina to a birthday dinner at the AMC Dine-In Theatre – one of our favorite places to eat these days! 🙂

The movie was Prometheus … in truth, our third choice – the first being Snow White and the Huntsman, which was completely sold out, and second The Avengers, which I would’ve gladly seen again if not for the only seats available being in the front row … so even though it looked scary, I sucked it up anyways in the name of not heading home early, downed a bit of liquid courage even though the truly scary parts wouldn’t end up coming until halfway through the movie, and we dined upon a mighty, yet excessive feast while we watched scientists break pretty much every rule of being a scientist as they explored the ancient ruins of mankind’s creators…

Now I cannot tell a lie – in retrospect, apparently there were a ton of things that went over my head because when I got home I probably spent another three hours reading through this thread on reddit that analyzes and overanalyzes every facet of the movie, picking it apart in true Internet style, but also offering a lot of interesting insight that I didn’t really pick up when my main focuses were “I think there might still be a little rangoon dip left!” and “Don’t look now – the scary part might not be over yet!!!”

Hell, I didn’t even realize that it was a prequel to Aliens until the last 15 seconds of the movie! 😯

That said, it was still more or less entertaining and gave us something to do that night while we dined on succulent dishes a’plenty, and sometimes, you really can’t ask for much more than that… 😛

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