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I’m A Disneyland Fan Who Just Went To Legoland California For The First Time In A Long Time. What Really Surprised Me During The Trip

Legoland California front sign
(Image credit: CinemaBlend)

Everybody who enjoys theme parks or amusement parks has a favorite park. You may enjoy lots of different parks, or want to go out in the world and see new ones when you can, but a lot of us probably find ourselves going back to our favorite spot again and again. For me, that spot is Disneyland Resort.

But I do cover theme parks for a living, so when I had a few days to myself recently, I decided to take the opportunity to check out someplace different: Legoland California Resort. I hadn’t been there in years, and I had never been there with children nor made it the focus of my vacation, only an "extra day" drop-in. 

When I did go there last week, I learned several very interesting things, other than the fact that a few of the Legoland rides gave off strong Disneyland vibes. Some of what surprised me was good, some was less so, but it will probably all be of use to you if you’re considering a trip there yourself anytime soon.

Legoland California Castle Hotel exterior with smiling family

(Image credit: Legoland California Resort)

The Legoland Hotels Are Incredibly Convenient, Even More Than Disneyland 

While many theme parks have their own hotels, the fact is that I very rarely pay to stay on property. To use the aforementioned Disneyland Resort as an example, while the on-property hotels, like the Grand Californian Resort & Spa, are amazing, there are other places to stay within walking distance that are cheaper, so it’s hard to justify the cost. Many are actually closer to the parks than two of the three Disney hotels.

Legoland has two hotels: the Legoland California Hotel and the Legoland Castle Hotel, which is where I stayed. They are, to be sure, a bit on the expensive side, just like most theme park resort hotels. However, because there are not a host of other hotels just outside the park gate, staying there is much more useful. They are also both literally steps away from the park gate. You can leave your room and be inside Legoland in less than five minutes, or if you have a tired kid later in the day, do the opposite. This makes moving between the park and the hotel, and getting real use out of your expensive hotel, a lot easier.

Dragon's Den Restaurant at Legoland California Castle Hotel

(Image credit: Legoland California Resort)

Free Breakfast Requires Reservations 

If you do book a room in one of the hotels, one of the really nice perks attached is that you won’t need to pay for breakfast. Like many hotels, though unlike many of the ones that cost as much, breakfast is included in your stay each morning. It’s a standard buffet breakfast and nothing all that impressive, but who says no to free food?

That said, be aware that if you’re expecting to just drop in and eat, that won’t work. While the meal is free, you still need to make reservations like any popular restaurant. Reservations are also required for lunch and dinner.

This is simply for crowd control; obviously you don’t want to show up and have to wait for a table, but I did not discover the need for reservations until reading through hotel info on the TV in my room. I’m sure this info was available when I booked the room, but it wasn’t prominent enough that I noticed. Luckily, booking a table even the day before was not an issue. 

Legoland California Dragon Coaster

(Image credit: Legoland California Resort)

Early Park Access Is Limited, And Annoying, But Still Useful 

One of the other benefits of staying in a Legoland California hotel is that you get early access to the park. While the website claimed you got 30 minutes of early access when I booked, when I was there, we had a full hour. However, what the website doesn’t say up front is that the early access is limited to the front section of the park, and most of it is still blocked off until standard opening. So if you wanted to ride the Dragon Coaster or LEGO Technic Coaster early, you're out of luck.

Anybody with valid Legoland tickets is let in through the main gate even during early hours, so to get access to the attractions you have to show you’re a hotel guest. If you’ve already checked in, this just means flashing your room key, which is easy. If, however, you’re hitting the park on day one of your trip, specifically  the morning before you plan to check-in, it means you need to have your hotel confirmation with you. I had to go searching through my email on my phone to find proof. Print it out or have it ready to go on your phone to save time.

Still, once you have access to the attractions, having that extra hour does help. Even the limited access to the park gave us the chance to ride both LEGO Ninjago: The Ride and the Coastersaurus with little to no wait. Both rides tended to have among the longer wait times during the days we were there, so knocking them out early helped with time management.

empty street of Lego Movie Land

(Image credit: Dirk Libbey)

There Are Three Different Options For Skipping Lines, And You Probably Don’t Need Them 

A lot has been made about the various options that different theme parks have for saving time in line. Nearly all of them cost money, with Disney’s Genie+ replacing the free FastPass, one of the last free options. But Legoland California goes a little wild with the idea, as its Reserve ‘N’ Ride option is actually three different options with three different price points. It claims it will save you 25% of your time for $35 per person, 50% of your time for $55 per person, or give your “virtually instant access” for $99 per person.

The thing is, I’m not sure you really need it. There are only a handful of rides that tend to have wait times longer than 30 minutes, even at the busiest times of year, and two of those are the Ninjago Ride and Coastersaurus that I mentioned earlier. 

On our main park day, we hit those two during the early hotel access. Then we were ready to enter LEGO Movie Land when the park opened fully, and we were closer to it because of the hotel access. We went right to the line for Emmett’s Flying Adventure first thing. With that knocked out, most of the rides that tend to have longer waits. Even if you end up in a couple long lines, they're nothing compared to what lines at Disneyland can get up to.

Legoland California kid on joust ride

(Image credit: Dirk Libbey)

Kids Can Do A Lot By Themselves 

Legoland California is designed very much to be a family theme park. The most intense thrill ride you’ll find pales in comparison to your average roller coaster. It’s meant to be a place where adults and kids ride together, but it’s also a place where even little kids can be independent. 

My daughter is five years old and just over 42” tall, and while that was old enough and tall enough to ride anything in the park (at least with me), it was also old and tall enough to do a lot alone. One ride, the Royal Joust, is off limits to anybody older than 12, so only kids can ride it. Another simple, but fun ride, the Cargo Ace, has seating for about four people, but she wanted to do that one alone, and she could. It’s a great place for kids to have theme park fun without needing adults too close.

For the most part, Legoland California Resort won’t surprise too many people that have been to a theme park before. But every theme park works a little bit differently, and these are just some of the nuances of the way this park works that might help you navigate it on your first trip, and it is a trip worth taking. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.