Legoland California was a park that was secretly on my radar for a while. While I may be a *bit* outside their targeted demographic as a 26 year old male without any kids, they had something very appealing to me. Did I want the three credits? Well duh, of course I did. But that wasn't my primary goal. I was intrigued by Knights’ Tournament, their Kuka arm flat ride. From the videos I saw online, it looked like a dark horse contender for one of the most intense flats out there.
Fortunately Legoland is so much more than one crazy flat and three credits. As the original, Legoland California is the best of the Florida and Japanese parks. It has the sheer size of the Florida park with the level of detail of the Japanese park.
After a frustratingly strict rain policy at their Florida park, I made darn sure to visit on a sunny day. Fortunately that wasn't an issue in SoCal. The park had a posted partial open at 9:30 and a full opening time at 10. I rolled into the parking lot at 9 and as I approached the gate, they were already letting people in.
Hotel guests had early access to Explorer Island and Heartlake City, aka two of the areas with the highest concentration of children's rides. This causes quite the dilemma for the super credit whores out there. Unless you splurge on a skip-the-line pass or one of the Legoland hotels, you'll have a dreadful wait for Coastersaurus that makes your life choices. I'm certainly not above riding a kiddie credit, especially one with a jumbo dinosaur in the center, but I had to draw the line with a posted wait of 60 minutes.
So instead I went the other way. I'm sure you can name several parks that make you exit through a gift shop, but Legoland makes you enter through the gift shop. That's right, to reach a majority of rides, parents have to take their Lego obsessed kids through the Big Shop. It's the perfect recipe for sales. This appeared to be a temporary thing as they were redoing the pathways around the building.
I figured they'd stage us until 9:30, but after clearing the construction walls, they told us Ninjago World would be open early. I sure was glad to have arrived early! I loved everything about the ride in Florida except the wait. I was able to score four straight rides with no more than a 5 minute wait.
I never thought I'd find a ride more physically exhausting than Toy Story, but Ninjago did it. Teenagers can train all they want with a box of tissues and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but even their arms will be weak and trembling like a bowl of jelly.
I cannot stress how important it is to watch and read the instructions. Ninjago requires a very nuanced technique of hand motions. My first ride was a feeler, but by the second ride, I was killing (?) all sorts of Lego characters with fire. In fact, I was the day's best pyro. Ninjago is an absolute blast and the interactivity may make it the park's best ride. 8 out of 10
It was now 10, so the rest of the park opened. I hoped Ninjago would draw most of the guests at opening, but I a flood of unsupervised kids sprinted to the Technic Coaster. I continued walking at a steady pace. A single adult should never run at a kid's park. It's a bad look.
The Technic Coaster is one of the large wild mice, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, the big drop is arguably the best moment on any wild mouse I've ridden. On the down side, the rest of the ride is a heavily trimmed ride devoid of any thrills. 4 out of
Lost Kingdom Adventure was a ride I had experienced in Florida and Japan, but this one had some differences. For one, this one had cars with two rows. But the biggest difference was the shooting. The other two versions have oversized laser pointers. This one had tiny little pointers, so it was definitely harder.
The other thing that made it challenging was how the hits were registered. There were several targets I know I hit right on the money, but I didn't get any points. However, the second I drifted away from the target or shot somewhere nearby, I'd get points. Maybe the pointer wasn't perfectly in line? Nonetheless, I did really enjoy the set design and overall ride. 7 out of 10
I had put it off long enough; it was time to see if Knights’ Tournament justified my pricey visit to Brick City. There was little doubt which program I was going to select, Program 5. Programs 1-2 match the movement of Forbidden Journey. While you never go upside down, you do end up on your back. Meanwhile Program 5 had 18 inversions. 18! That's absurd for any park, let alone Legoland.
Sounds intense, right? Half of the ride was. Half the inversions came from these surprise backflips. It felt like an S&S launch backwards into an inversion. It was glorious. But the other half were just these slow 360 degree rotations chained together. I wouldn't say it's worth going to Legoland exclusively for, but it's a can't miss for any thrill-seeker who finally caves for the three credits. 8 out of 10
Speaking of credits, I moseyed on over to the Dragon. I'm glad I caught it early since they were only running one train on it. Normally that's no problem on a junior coaster, but it is when you add a dark ride at the beginning.
That dark ride is really cute and easily the ride's strength. The coaster part isn't intense, but it did have a 720 degree helix and a trench dive at least. Anyone who isn't a kid just needs to watch out for the dragon's bite (aka the headrests).
On most rides, the headrests are flush with the seat backs. However, on the Dragon, they are these hard bubbles that extend a solid 2 inches from the top of the seat back. They're the perfect height for kids and the perfect height to drive into the center of an adult's back. 6 out of 10
I loved the submarine ride at the Japanese park, so I was glad to see it at the California location as well. The one addition (unless I was oblivious in Japan) was a touchscreen where you play hide-and-seek looking for treasure throughout the ride. It was a neat touch, but I was more focused on the diversity of fish and detailed Lego figures. 8 out of 10
I just double checked and for some odd reason Deep Sea Adventure isn't listed on the "Rides and Attractions" page on the website. So that's why I didn't know it existed.
No visit to Legoland is complete without a tour of Miniland. There are multiple ways to experience Miniland. The first is a massive walkthrough. I still can't believe all these figures are made of Legos. I'm pretty sure the builders had an orgy getting to build something so extravagant from a children's toy.
The second way is the Coast Cruise boat ride. I was originally going to skip it, figuring it would have a substantial wait, but it was a walk-on!
Also, what is it with California and closing their monorails? The former Sky Cruiser was doing its best Peoplemover impression just rotting in plain site. Old reviews mentioned it was the most popular ride in the park, so I was stunned to see it closed and not even acknowledged on the website. Anyone know why it closed?
By the time I finished my loop, it was evident the crowds had arrived. Anyone who has been to a Legoland park knows capacity isn't their strong suit. It's pretty shocking considering they market themselves as a resort, but it's just something I know I have to deal with at Legoland.
Ultimately I had an enjoyable time. Without a doubt, it's the strongest of the three Legolands I have visited. If you only want coaster credits, I cannot recommend Legoland, especially considering what else is nearby. If you have kids, it's a no brainer though. And if you like dark rides and are intrigued by Knights’ Tournament like me, then it just comes down to how much time you have in SoCal if you ask me.