Friday, 5 October 2012

Day 5 - Legoland Windsor: A review

This is the fifth and final of a series of posts based on our crazily busy holiday down in Bournemouth and Slough in August.  Yes, you heard that correctly; Slough.  We had an intense week of family days out; it cost us far too much, but we had an absolutely ball. 

I publishing the posts that were drafted during the trip between other yummy musings throughout September.  The first one: Sandy Balls is here and the second; Wet Bottoms: A review of Peppa Pig World is here. The third: Painful Groynes - a day at Bournemouth beach is here.  And the fourth, Piddle Valley and Sea Life Adventure Park, Weymouth, is here.  Enjoy the series.

We also managed to visit Beaulieu National Motor Museum to check out the James Bond Car collection (DB9 - yum) along with Noddy and Mr Bean's cars, go ten-pin bowling and catch this year's new Disney Film Brave.  It was a VERY busy week!

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LEGOLAND Windsor - A review


I was delighted when the lovely people at Legoland Windsor agreed to provide me with a family ticket for the day in return for an honest review of the park.  It's somewhere I've always wanted to go (I'm such a lego geek) and my hubby was excited about the prospect of seeing the Star Wars Lego sets.  My children obviously thought I was the best mum EVER to get them free tickets, so it was all looking good.  My  camera took a hefty toll on the day of our visit.   

My pictures first... then the review.. then some more pictures... work for you?

My picture of the Legoland Hotel entrance

At this point hubby was drooling.....


Younger was shouting and pointing at this point.

Not a bad effort capturing the action!?
Remember when TV's were that deep?

Yellow piggies?

Dear Father Christmas......

What I'd really like for Christmas....

is a whole village made from Lego!

I wonder how much, at RRP....

Miniland cost to build?

I wonder how much this set would be on ebay?

The giant people have invaded!

London Calling...

How cute?!

Amazing eh?

Unfortunately we managed to pick the hottest day of the year to go.  Ordinarily we would have adapted our plans and gone to the beach for the day, but the tickets were for a specific day so we were limited.  With suncream plastered on, sun hats on our heads and spare clothes in the day bag we set off from our base for this part of the trip, Premier Inn Slough and arrived at the park 10 minutes later.

Parking and collecting our tickets was easy as we'd arrived at 9.15am.  The park wasn't due to open until 10am but I kind of hoped maybe we'd be able to get in either early or as one of the first.  The turnstiles for entry were empty, so no queues to pay at this time.
We paid for our car parking (£2).  Yes, I was surprised.  You'd think that the entry fee to the place would include your car, but apparently not.  Either this is Legoland's attempt to be ecofriendly by trying to discourage car users and encourage the use of public transport (tricky since it's not exactly next to a train station) or someone somewhere is being a bit greedy.  Tickets for 2 adults and 2 children bought online in advance (and therefore at a saving of £25) cost £33.30 per adult and £26.55 per child.  That's £119.70   .  What do you think about charging extra for parking?

Onwards then, into the 'Beginnings' section of the part.  Here we hired a buggy for the day for £8.  In hindsight we should have made it a double buggy.  Although our Elder has recently turned 6 years old, the busy week we'd had, combined with the heat and a large park to cover took it's toll. 

 The Star Wars experience is over to the right as you go in.  We wandered straight into there (hubby was delighted) and were impressed by the models.  The kids were slightly uninspired, but then they aren't old enough to have seen the films yet so it was a bit bewildering for them.  Hubby was, of course, completely bewitched! We ended up in the Star Wars shop (of course).  At this stage in the day we weren't about to start shopping so we emerged from there into the sunshine only to find a crowd of people gathering just outside the store.

A queue? Or not? A quick look at the map revealed that they were blocking where we needed to go.  I thought we'd been let in early, after all we'd just been in one of the attractions, but apparently not.  In much the same way that you can get into the entrance to Disneyland Paris, but have to wait at the Castle until that section of the park opens, in Legoland you have to wait outside this store.  Only there were no employees letting the customers know this or directing traffic.

I am a traditional fair queuer.  I get in the queue at the end and wait my turn.  But this wasn't a traditional queue.  There were people surreptitiously going into the Star Wars store, then emerging and hovering near its entrance alongside the queue  instead of walking back up to the back of the queue.  Even worse, when the queue started moving, people emerged deliberately from the store and just joined it.  Major queue jumping!  I hate this.  I think you should wait your turn.  It wound me up no end, and since we were stood in the heat (about 22 degrees already) with two over excited children, the queue jumping made me angry.  I turned to my husband and said "At least I'll have something to review.  They've failed at the first hurdle."  So Legoland, please sort out this queueing.  Have an employee (there were plenty wandering around with those refillable bottles (more later) stood directing people into the queue and not letting them jump in from the shop. Please!

Anyhow:  enough of the moaning, because this is a HUGE attraction.  There was far far far far too much to see and do in one day, so what did we do?

We hotfooted it straight over to the Atlantis ride - an amazing journey underwater with the sharks and a fair bit of Lego (obviously).  The sharks are real though.  Really.

Tried Dino Safari which the girls enjoyed (mostly the younger) and there wasn't a queue.  The dinosaur models are brilliant.
Checked out the exterior of the Legoland Hotel, and worked out that, since it is physically INSIDE the park, they probably get in before the rest of us (mental note for next time).  The pictures on the website (see the pirates bedroom I've shared over on the left) show some interior decoration that is going to forever make the kids own rooms seem dull.  I'm not sure Santa Claus could cope with the length of my daughters' letters if they went to this hotel before Christmas!

Had a go on the Squid Surfer - great fun. Our elder thoroughly enjoyed forcing us out to the edges so that I'd get absolutely drenched stood behind her.  I was dripping, but pretty thankful - it cooled me down.

Bought 4 refillable drinks bottles.  These large plastic bottles on lanyards are brilliant.  You pay £6 each for them, but since a large drink is approx £4 anyway, you only have to refill it once (at any drinks venue in the park) and you've saved money.  On a day like today, with the heat, with small children, they saved us from sunstroke or dehydration.

Tried Digger Challenge - good and novel idea, but the queue was long and they hardly give you any time when it's your turn to have a go in the digger.  Younger loved this, but wanted LOTS longer.  Any chance of more diggers please Legoland?

Watched The Pirates of Skeleton Bay stunt show.  Absolutely fab.  See one of my pictures further up this post.  But it is out in the open, so if it's hot, it's really hot sat watching it.  Maybe a few seating areas under cover would be good (are you taking notes Legoland?  Hehe!)

Ate lunch in City Walk Pizza and Pasta.  This restaurant is enormous but at noon there was a huge queue going out of the door and an empty restaurant.  The system in place is unusual and has advantages and disadvantages.  You queue up at the door where one member of staff is stood.  His entire job is to stop you going further.  You are then collected by another member of staff who takes you to a table.  Then she asks you how many are eating and tells you how much it is.  If memory serves she disappears to bring back one of those card machines.  Then she goes to get plates for you and brings them back (If they'd have been stored by the door she could have picked them up with us, so there's another idea for the notebook Legoland).

Finally she disappears so you can go away from your table to the self service buffet to load up your fairly small plate and grab a drink.  The food was nice.  Hearty, filling, plenty of choice and salad too.  But the logistics of this didn't work.

I suggest that the chap stood on the door would have been better off joined by one of the numerous 'take-you-to-a-table' folk.  Two people, with payments machines, could have taken your payment on entrance and then let you in.  You could then help yourself to plates, a table, the food etc.  A few members of staff to keep the place clean, clearing tables etc and you are sorted.

After lunch we walked across to try the Fire Academy.  Another great idea but unfortunately again there weren't enough of them, and by them I mean life size Lego style fire engines, so the queue took nearly an hour (in the heat).  The actual ride is also over in less than 30 seconds by my reckoning.  That's a lot of time invested for 30 seconds.  Making it a race between the four families that get a turn together was also not ideal for smaller children who, lets face it, just want to have a go and not be rushed.   

The plan was now to walk up near Duplo Play Town where all the smaller children's rides are.  However, as we approached it was clear that this was one part of the park that was absolutely packed!  There is a splash park called Waterworks.  I couldn't tell you what it looked like because of the sheer volume of people in and around it.  I, as a very risk averse mother, was scared at the thought of children running around that splash park, because a) there was no chance as a parent you could keep eyes on them with that many people around, b) there isn't just one entrance into it that you can stand by, there are multiple and c) the children running around ranged from tinies (3 and 4 year olds) to teens making it, again just by sheer volume, a recipe for broken bones.  The only way I can explain how busy it is is by saying that there wouldn't have been one child inside there that could have stood with arms outstretched without hitting someone else.  I don't have an answer to this though.  Limiting access on that hot day could have sparked a riot, so not really an option.  We chose to walk through this section of the park as fast as we could, stopping off at the toilets on route.

Quick Tip on Baby Changing: there are separate doors for specific toilets with changing tables so parents with babies were queueing outside those, BUT, the normal toilets (with no queue) also have changing tables in them, so before you queue, take a peek.

We spotted Fairy Tale Brook, as we tried to walk through this part of the park, with hardly any queue.  20 minutes later we were sat in a little boat spotting the different fairy tale characters, all made of Lego of course.  Quick Tip on this - Don't sit two adults in the back of the boat and two tiny children in the front... it makes for an unsteady boat!  We had to lean forward to ensure we didn't flood the boat.  This was a lovely little ride though, and the girls were tiring by this time.

Next for a walk through Miniland.  My favourite bit.  The camera took some hammering and my favourites are at the top of this post.  The lovely train close up here is, of course, a Legoland official picture and far superior to my efforts.

And that was it for us other than the inevitable trip to the Lego shop at the exit.  I started to comment on this, and got sidetracked thinking about the gender stereotyping that we were faced with in this store.  I decided to move that discussion to another post which you can find, and add your Lego set pick to, here.
And that was us done.  The girls were exhausted and there was So much more to see.  I think, looking at the map (HERE) we probably covered only about 20% of the park rides, if that.  I guess it means there's plenty to look forward to next time!

Would we go again?  Absolutely yes.  I'd be prepared for the queues and would research the QBot scheme next time.  I'd try eating in another of the eateries and I'd not go on the hottest day of the year!

All in all Legoland Windsor has some great original ideas which is rare in a theme park.  Often the rides are all the same basic structure with different themes painted on (think Dumbo and Aladdin rides at Disneyland Paris)  But here, there were ideas I'd never seen before.  Great work on the originality.  But room for improvement on the restaurants and queueing.  

PS  If you are going out for the day with young children always take spare clothes! These parks all seem to include either rides with water involved, or actual splash parks for the kids)

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