Legoland Florida officially opens Saturday, October 15, 2011, but I was lucky enough to get a recent behind-the-scenes tour.
Prediction: Lego fans: Prepare to go crazy at Legoland Florida.
First, the park is beautiful. Amazingly detailed giant Lego sculptures are everywhere. Secondly, the rides and attractions are highly interactive. We cannot wait to try out the dark shooter ride and experience the 4D films! Third, the Lego brand comes to life throughout the park in every detail from employee nametags through an entire section of the park built from Lego bricks (Miniland USA). Fourth, can you say bricks, kits, and minifigs for sale?
When Legoland Florida opens, it will be the world’s largest Legoland. Legoland Florida also boasts a Lego-themed ski show (pirates have taken over the shores of beautiful Lake Eloise). Legoland Florida is dripping with Lego geekiness. In fact, its difficult to predict who will enjoy the park more, geek parents or Lego geeklets.
All Legoland rides are kid-friendly and playfully characterized as pink knuckle rides. In fact, Duplo Village is an area dedicated to Legoland Florida’s youngest visitor. In Lego Kingdoms, a colossal castle dominates this section of the park. Oh, and it has a stunning roller coaster, the dragon, built into it. The dark shooter ride in the Land of Adventure is a Lego-themed ride where laser guns are used to shoot targets. Laser tag fans will be first in line for this ride. The new suspension coaster that simulates flight in Lego City sound like serious fun and not too scary!
- Lego Einstein under construction at the Imagination Zone
Legoland Florida field trips are the best theme park value anywhere. Period. Legoland Florida has committed to making the park as affordable as possible so that any young Lego lover can afford to visit. For school groups of fifteen students or more, field trip visitors enter the park for as little as $5 each. Field trip visitors are treated to 45 minute educational sessions directed by trained facilitators. Learning session participants use Lego bricks, gears, and even Mindstorms robots to learn about friction, balancing forces, and programming. By the way, field trip admission includes complete park access for the entire day!
With a pick-a-brick shop, a minifigure shop, and a licensed brand Lego kit store, there will be plenty of Lego-branded merchandise available at the park. Legoland education materials such as Lego Mindstorms kits, gears, and pulley pieces can also be purchased at the park.
My favorite part of the park is Miniland USA. Miniland USA features scale models of iconic architectural buildings from around the U.S. Visit Washington, D.C., New York City, Las Vegas, and of course, various cities around Florida. According to Legoland Florida Master Builder, Jason Miller, a team of Legoland master builders traveled around Florida to photograph and study interesting buildings, landmarks, etc., before choosing and building the Florida section of Miniland USA.
Made entirely from standard Lego bricks, each structure in Miniland USA is meticulously detailed and built to-scale. What is my favorite Miniland USA model? It is either the Hemingway house in Key West or the Kennedy Space Center complex. The Hemingway house features Hemingway Lego cats roaming all over the place. The Kennedy Space Center complex model is amazing and includes the Space Shuttle sitting on the launch pad, the crawler (the vehicle that carries the space shuttle to the launch pad), and the VAB building.
The Pirate ships and the Daytona 500 track are shaping up to be amazing models, too. Jason promises that the Daytona 500 track model will feature motorized cars racing around on the track when the park opens.
Proof that Legoland Florida really understands the passion people have for Legos is Jason Miller, resident Master Builder of Legoland Florida. Jason works in the Legoland Florida model shop, building and overseeing brick building for Miniland. Jason has been building with Legos his whole life and even studied mechanical engineering in college. What was Jason’s favorite college course? Jason enjoyed Introductory Engineering Design because he designed and built a Rube Goldberg device using straws! Although Jason is a genius model builder who loves math, his secret weapon is social studies. Jason credits his interest and appreciation for social studies as a key to accurately portraying people and places in Miniland USA.
It was an honor to tour the model shop. Instead of bolts and screws, Jason’s shop is filled entirely with shelves upon shelves of bins full of Lego bricks. Harry Potter fans might compare the model shop to the Ministry of Magic’s Hall of Prophecy with Lego brick bins instead of glass globes filling the shelves.
Miniland architecture is stunningly beautiful, incredibly detailed, and fun. I enjoyed the brick humor used extensively on building names. Lego fans will probably spend hours studying architectural details of the Miniland USA models, but hardcore geeks are going to get a real kick out of all of the “Easter eggs” Jason has built into Miniland. For those who aren’t familiar with Easter eggs, an Easter egg is a common term computer software programmers use to describe a cleverly hidden extra bit of program, such as an extra game level, a humorous screen animation, etc. In Miniland’s case, with a nod to popular movies, Jason has added a few famous characters. I am not going to reveal their locations, but Legoland Florida’s Miniland includes characters from Men in Black, Sister Act, and Star Wars (hint: wears a black mask and breaths heavily).
The most interesting Easter egg is peering out of a window in the Statue of Liberty. Child actor Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick Heck in the ABC show “The Middle”, visited Legoland Florida over the summer as a special guest. Atticus is a huge Lego fan (hence the name Brick in the show) and thoroughly enjoyed his time at Legoland Florida. As a tribute to Atticus, Jason created his character, Brick, in Lego. Be sure to look for Brick when you visit the park!
So, request some vacation time, purchase your Legoland Florida tickets, pack up your family, and head to Florida for the October 15, 2011, grand opening of Legoland Florida. Plan to spend a few days at the park since serious Lego fans may not have time to experience everything in a single day. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen. I will see you there.