I was a bit apprehensive about taking the kids to Legoland. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always wanted to go, and I’ve always thought they’d love it, but with them being so young (3 and 1) I thought we’d wait a few years to justify the ticket price.
Then my sister offered us some tickets she couldn’t use, and we decided maybe it would be fun to take them while they’re still little. So, we ended up going on a bit of an impromptu visit. In half term.
Yes – you read that right. I took my pre-school-age kids to a major UK family attraction in half term, when the rest of the world was off school and looking for something to do. Did I mention I was a bit apprehensive?
Getting to Legoland Windsor
We set off for Windsor nice and early (which is about 9.30am in our house – for once I managed to pack everything the night before) and the drive took just over an hour. When we arrived we were directed through to a huge parking area and couldn’t quite believe the number of cars. We parked up, loaded the kids and bags into the buggy, and followed the crowds heading to the entrance.
Getting in was nice and easy – the queues moved really quickly and we barely slowed down. Once we were through the gate I picked up a (free) map of the resort and looked for the best areas for young children. A little bit of research the night before had told me that Duplo Valley was best for toddlers, so we set off in that direction down the hill.
Legoland’s best bits for toddlers
The first thing we came to – once we’d navigated the buggy down the massive ramp (bring a baby carrier if you can and you’ll be able to take the steps like the rest of civilisation) – was Miniland. This is where all the miniature Lego models of UK and US cities are, and it’s pretty amazing. The husband and I were definitely more impressed than The Boy, though. At 3 years old, he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to climb in and have a play with the Lego. Suffice to say we moved on from that area pretty quickly, before he started pulling it to pieces.
Once we got to Duplo Valley we were in safer territory, and this is where we spent the most time. The resort map is marked up with a little teddy symbol that shows all the rides suitable for tots, so we knew where to start queuing. The Boy and I had a go on a helicopter at Duplo Valley Airport (not for you if you’re scared of heights), caught the end of a show at the little theatre and bobbed along the Fairy Tale Brook in a boat (I’d highly recommend this one for toddlers – there are loads of fairy tale scenes made out of Lego on the way round, and it’s nice and sedate).
Be warned: there’s nothing here for babies
Unfortunately for The Girl, there wasn’t anything at all on offer for babies or tiny tots (she wasn’t quite walking at this stage), which meant she was stuck in the buggy the whole time. I took plenty of snacks to distract her, but once those had run out she just wanted to get out of the buggy and crawl around which – with the crowds and autumn weather – just wasn’t an option.
I hate soft play centres with a passion, but this is one case where it would have been a godsend. I checked at the helpdesk to see if any of the restaurants had any sort of soft play or baby area but was told they didn’t, so in the end we had to let her crawl around on the grubby floor inside the shopping area at the entrance to the park just so that she could stretch her legs before the journey home.
Elsewhere in the park
We ate our lunch on the go with the kids in the buggy and wandered over to some of the other areas. The crowds were starting to go a bit crazy at this point, and the kids were a bit frazzled, so we were on borrowed time.
We wandered through Heartlake City while the Pirates Of Skeleton Bay Stunt Show was on (The Boy watched from the husband’s shoulders as the crowds were huge), got an ice cream, and then made our way over to the one ride I was prepared to queue up for: the Atlantis Submarine Voyage. It’s one of the few ‘big’ rides the whole family (including babies) can go on, and it’s one of Legoland’s newest. We arrived at the queue and realised (in horror) that we couldn’t queue with the buggy, so we put The Girl in the carrier and took our place in the line.
Now, if you asked me if I’d spend over an hour queuing for a ride with both kids going slightly nuts, I’d definitely say no. But once we’d committed there was no going back, and fortunately it moved pretty quickly. Eventually we were ushered through to our submarine with another family, and the ride itself was over in the space of about 5 minutes. But The Boy in particular absolutely loved seeing the fishes and underwater scenes out of the little window, and even The Girl seemed to enjoy herself. We picked up a hilariously bad photograph of the four of us on the way out for £10 – I’d usually say no, but as the tickets were free we thought it’d make a funny memento. It makes me laugh every time I see it on the fridge, so it was worth every penny.
Time to go home, after a spot of shopping…
Once we’d wandered through the last few areas we headed back to the gates, which is where the main shop just so happens to be. Determined not to spend a fortune, I sent the husband in by himself to get a few little bits for The Boy and we headed back to the car with a couple of Lego keyrings and some stocking fillers for Christmas. We’d spent around 5 hours at the park and would have stayed later for the fireworks if we weren’t at work the next day. Suffice to say both kids slept for most of the journey back, and the one who can talk has been asking when he can go back to Legoland ever since.
Thinking of going? Here are our top tips…
1. Get a map as you enter the park and look for all the little teddy symbols by the rides.
2. If you’re taking a crawling baby, dress them in something you don’t mind getting dirty if they end up having to crawl on the floor.
3. Measure your kids before you go – the minimum height for the toddler rides is 90cm, and there are lots more to choose from if they’re over 100cm.
4. Don’t rush off on your way out of the Atlantis Submarine – there are some cool domes you can pop your head into (there must be a name for these things) and you’ll miss them if you’re in a hurry.
5. If your buggy is worth a bit of money, bring a bike lock. You can’t take it into most queues, so it’s also worth bringing a baby carrier if you can.
6. Take plenty of distractions and snacks for the queues. There was a snack shack half-way around the queue for the Atlantis Submarine, which is worth knowing if you get desperate.
7. Take a packed lunch (and your own baby food) and you can make the most of the quieter time (and shorter queues) while everyone else is cramming into the restaurants at lunch.
8. Take a changing mat – baby changing facilities are pretty limited and I ended up having to change The Girl on the floor of the disabled toilet (thankfully my PacaPod has a travel-sized mat in it).
9. Pack swimming stuff and towels for the splash zone, Drench Towers. It looked AMAZING and was still open when we went in October, although nobody was brave enough to go in it. It’s closed later in the winter, so check before you go if it’s a deal-breaker.
10. Buy some Lego beforehand to take with you if you’re saving money and want to avoid the shop. It’s not cheap, particularly if you’ve got more than one kid.
11. If you’re going in winter, check if there are any fireworks planned – they’re free if you happen to be visiting on a day when they’re on.
12. Think about packing a portable potty – like the Potette – if you’ve got a toddler who’s toilet training (or just needs the loo a lot). The queues for the toilets can get pretty long, so you’re best avoiding them if you can.
13. If you don’t fancy eating in the park but need to grab something on the way home, try the restaurants just outside the park – there’s a Harvester and a couple of others right next door.
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