Legoland California: The Complete Guide

four life-size characters from "The Lego Movie" posing for a picture at the entrance to Legoland

Courtesy of The Merlin Entertainments Group

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LEGOLAND California

One Legoland Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008, USA
Phone +1 888-690-5346

Opened in 1999, Legoland California was the first Lego-themed park in the U.S. (There are now Leogland parks in Florida and New York as well.) As with the other Legoland parks in America and around the world, the focus is on children 12 and under and their families. Based on the popular toy brand and its characters, many of the attractions and other elements throughout the park appear to be fashioned out of the brightly colored bricks.

The heart of Legoland is Miniland U.S.A., which features elaborate, miniature dioramas that are all crafted out of Lego blocks. The exhibits depict famous sites and landmarks in the nation including facsimiles of Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre and surfer dudes hanging ten; San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and Pier 39; the Las Vegas Strip and its iconic casinos; the French Quarter of New Orleans; Lego versions of the White House and the Capitol building; and miniatures of New York City skyscrapers and Central Park.

In addition to the theme park, Legoland California offers two additional gates (which each require separate admission). Visitors can cool down and enjoy the water slides, water play areas, and other features at the Legoland and Chima Water Park while the Sea Life Aquarium features marine life exhibits that are specially designed for children.

The theme park is large and loaded with things to see and experience and with two on-site hotels (which, like everything else at the property, is geared to families with young children), Legoland California is a true destination resort.

Legoland California Highlights

Because it targets children, Legoland’s rides are mostly on the mild side. (There are a few that deliver a modicum of thrills.) Rather than passive rides, many of the attractions engage visitors with interactive elements. There are even opportunities to build things with Lego bricks and accessories. Since some attractions have minimum height requirements as low as 30 inches, and others have no height requirements, even very young children will find plenty to do at the park.

On many of the attractions, kids participate in the action. For example, they get to steer their own miniature cars in Driving School and can earn a Legoland driver’s license if they correctly follow the rules of the road. There is a Junior Driving School for children ages 3 to 5.

On the Kid Power Tower, guests hoist themselves up and then get to let themselves fall to the ground. On the Aquazone Wave Racer, passengers have to pilot their vehicles to avoid water blasts, and at Skipper School, they can freely steer boats around a lagoon. The Fun Town Police and Fire Academy recruits visitors to rescue a burning building by using fire hoses. On the high-tech Lego Ninjago the Ride, passengers use martial arts-like hand gestures to hurl lightning bolts and other virtual weapons at villains.

Legoland California also offers some out-and-out thrills (albeit, the “pink-knuckle” variety) on roller coasters such as Coastersaurus, The Dragon (which travels both outdoors and into a castle to confront the namesake creature), and the Lego Technic Coaster. There is also the interactive Lost Kingdom Adventure dark ride, a Safari Trek that features encounters with Lego animals, and Lego City: Deep Sea Adventure, an underwater journey aboard an actual submarine.

Among the park’s shows is the wildly funny The Lego Movie 4D A New Adventure. The 4D presentation features Emmet, Unikitty, and other characters from the hilarious movie series. Other 4D shows include Lego City 4D - Officer in Pursuit! and Lego Ninjago: Master of the 4th Dimension.

Legoland and Chima Water Park Highlights

Build-a-Raft River attraction at Legoland California Water Park

Courtesy of The Merlin Entertainments Group

Legoland’s water park has the usual suspects, including body slides, a mat racing slide, a family raft ride, a wave pool, and an interactive water play station with a dump bucket. It also offers Pirate Reef, a shoot-the-chutes boat ride in which everybody gets soaked.

But the water park is also unique in that, like the theme park, it offers some interactive, hands-on experiences. For Build-A-Raft River, guests can customize their inner tubes with oversized Lego bricks before floating down a lazy river. At Eglor’s Build-A-Boat, kids can use bricks to create a boat and then race against other participants. At Imagination Station, visitors can use Duplo bricks to build bridges, dams, and other structures in the water.

For young children, the park also offers pint-sized fun. At Splash Zoo, kids can frolic among Duplo animals, while at Duplo Splash Safari, there are sprayers and other ways for children to douse themselves and others.

Sea Life Aquarium Highlights

Many of the exhibits at Sea Life Aquarium are hands-on, including opportunities to touch sea stars at the Southern California Rockpool, cavort with stingrays in the Ray Lagoon, and get up close and personal with other creatures in the interactive touchpool. Other zones include Shark Mission, Kingdom of the Seahorse, and San Francisco Harbor, which features animals indigenous to the region (including a giant Pacific octopus).

One of the more unique exhibits at the aquarium is Sea at Night. It allows visitors to splash among (virtual) tides and experience a simulated nighttime oceanside environment complete with stars, even during the day.

What’s New at Legoland California?

The Lego Movie World at Legoland California

The Merlin Entertainments Group

In 2022, Legoland will be debuting Lego Ferrari Build and Race, an interactive, hands-on experience in which guests will be able to build their own sports car models and then race them against other participants. There will be opportunities to build and race both physical and digital models.

In 2021, the park opened a new land, The Lego Movie World. Based on the popular (and very funny) movie series, the land features three new attractions. The highlight, Emmet’s Flying Adventure Ride, is a flying theater attraction (think Disney’s Soarin’) that transports passengers into The Lego Movie landscape. There is also the drop tower ride, Unikitty’s Disco Drop, and Queen Watevra's Carousel. Guests can also visit Emmet’s Super Suite and meet characters from the movies, have fun in Benny’s Playship playground, and snap together creations using Lego bricks in Build Watevra You Wa’Na Build.

Where to Eat

Three children eating a meal with intricate lego sculptures in the background

Courtesy of The Merlin Entertainments Group

It’s designed for the under-12 set, but Legoland California has fare to appeal to parents (and kids with more sophisticated palates). Sure, there are burgers, mac and cheese, and pizza. But there is also banh mi sandwiches, spicy rice and noodle bowls, porchetta, and pesto chicken salad on the menu as well. A good choice is Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ, which offers pulled pork, beef brisket, and other delicacies cooked on-site in a wood smoker. Craft beer is also available for over-21s.

For treats, Legoland offers ice cream, churros, popcorn, and other traditional park fare. Granny’s apple fries—one of the park's more unique, signature items, features granny smith apple slices that are smothered in cinnamon sugar and vanilla cream.

Admission Information

One-day passes to the park are available. Children 3 and under are free; all others pay the same price. Legoland often sells advance tickets at a discount online at its official site. It also sometimes offers 2-day tickets at a discount on its site.

Separate admission is required for Sea Life Aquarium and Legoland and Chima Water Park. Visitors can purchase a-la-carte tickets to the aquarium, but in order to enter the water park, you must first have a pass to the theme park. (Entrance to the water park is inside the theme park.) Packages are generally available that include Legoland park plus one or both of the other attractions. The resort also generally offers hotel packages that include accommodations at its on-site properties and passes to the park, water park, and aquarium.

Legoland offers annual passes, which come in a variety of levels. The higher levels, which cost more, include additional benefits such as admission to the aquarium and the water park, fewer blackout dates, and free parking.

Where to Stay

Three young girls laughing on a pony-themed bed at a Legoland California hotel

Courtesy of The Merlin Entertainments Group

Legoland California offers two on-site properties: Legoland Hotel and Legoland Castle Hotel. The rooms, which come in a variety of configurations, have Lego-inspired themes, including Lego Ninjago and pirates at the Legoland Hotel, and knights and dragons at the Castle Hotel. Both properties offer easy access to the park, water park, and aquarium as well as pools, play areas, and other amenities. Breakfast is included at the Legoland Hotel.

The Best Time to Visit

The theme park and aquarium are open year round. The water park is open daily in June, July, and August as well as some days in March, April, May, and generally weekends only in September and October.

Crowds are typically highest in March and early April during spring break, June and July for summer break, and late December for the holidays. If you want to avoid crowds, the lowest attendance periods are late January, mid-to-late August, September, and early December.

Getting There

Legoland California is located in Carlsbad, California at One Legoland Drive. The resort is about 30 minutes away from San Diego. From the I-5 Freeway, take the Cannon Road exit. Nearby airports include San Diego (SAN) and Los Angeles International (LAX). There is also a nearby, smaller airport, Carlsbad (CLD/CRQ - McClellan-Palomar).

Tips for Visiting

  • You might want to consider visiting during the fall, when the crowds are (generally) fairly light, and the park offers its Halloween event, Brick-or-Treat. The scare-free event includes special shows, trick-or-treat stations, costume contests, and character meet-and-greets.
  • While attendance is heavier during the holidays (especially later in December), Legoland does deck its halls with Lego-themed ornaments. It also offers a holiday light show, seasonal treats, and live music.
  • Go San Diego offers passes that include discounted admission to Legoland California (as well as the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, and other area attractions). Options include: the All-Inclusive pass, which offers unlimited admission to as many attractions as you wish to visit over the course of a prescribed number of days; or the Build Your Own pass, which offers discount pricing on specific attractions.
  • The CityPASS program includes access to Legoland California. In the past, CityPASS charged one price for its Southern California pass, and offered admission to Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld San Diego, and San Diego Zoo, in addition to Legoland.
  • The San Diego Tourism Authority offers San Diego's Fab 4 Combo Deal. The discount pass includes admission to Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo, and San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
  • Take advantage of early admission. Guests staying at Legoland’s on-site hotels get to enter the park before the general public.
  • If you visit during an especially busy time, you may want to consider purchasing Reserve N Ride, Legoland’s line-reduction program. It comes in three varieties, all of which allow visitors to make ride reservations and skip the lines; the more you pay, the less time you’ll have to wait before boarding rides.
  • Download the Legoland mobile app prior to your visit. It offers resources to help plan your visit as well as enjoy your experiences at the park. The app can be used to purchase tickets, find out waiting times for rides, gain access to offers and discounts, see showtimes, and more.
  • If you have young children who do not meet height requirements, take advantage of the park’s parent swap program. All members of your family can wait in line together, and parents can trade places going on a ride and staying with their children without having to get back in line.
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Legoland California: The Complete Guide