Travel to one of Orlando Florida’s best “unknown” theme parks. LEGOLAND Florida is just as fun as that “other” theme park, but minus all of the crowds and long ride wait times. So avoid the switchbacks and build some fun at LEGOLAND Florida.
There are very few corporations in the world that would dare dream of challenging Walt Disney World on their home turf in central Florida. Even long-time Florida stalwart, Cypress Gardens, was forced to shutter its doors in 2009 due to lagging attendance. But not every corporation can boast about making more tyres per year than ALL of Detroit, Michigan…combined (that’s a staggering 300+ million tyres per annum, folks; and it’s a documented Guinness World Record). Nor, can just any old corporation claim that they are the maker of the “Toy of the Century” (a claim sponsored by Fortune Magazine). That corporation is LEGO and they have built LEGOLAND Florida.
Ironically, built on the exact same spot as the dearly departed Cypress Gardens, today’s LEGOLAND Florida is slowly ebbing away at the Walt Disney World juggernaut. Situated approximately 40 miles away from Tinker Bell’s backyard, in Winter Haven, Florida, LEGOLAND Florida (there is a automobile parking fee and the park closing time changes throughout the seasons) is quickly becoming a popular theme park alternative for line-weary Magic Kingdom attendees.
LEGOLAND Florida, which opened its doors in October 2011, is a 150-acre interactive theme park featuring over 50 rides, shows, movies, and attractions including a, newly added, water park. Remarkably, there are several holdovers from the original Cypress Gardens park that have been maintained by LEGOLAND Florida.
Three of the premier roller coasters inside LEGOLAND Florida were fixtures in Cypress Gardens: Dragon, Flying School, and Coastersaurus. The latter is one of the few operational all-wooden roller coasters in the US. Couple this legacy with the incredibly short line time at most of LEGOLAND Florida rides and you have a thrill-seeker’s dream theme park.
The other major holdover from Cypress Gardens is the stunning botanical garden that is now dotted with some amazing LEGO constructions that are nestled in amongst the palms, azaleas, and the awe-inspiring Banyan tree. This tree is a massive tropical plant that was originally planted in 1939 and now spreads its massive, eerie limbs into a crazy 100-foot diameter circle. If you’re looking for a bizarre photo-op, be sure to stop by the Banyan tree in LEGOLAND Florida’s Cypress Gardens tribute.
Although LEGOLAND Florida does have a solid foundation in its core rides and attractions (over 100 free-standing king-sized LEGO models including an Al Einstein bust that is crazy cute), improvements and additions are being regularly added . In 2013, for example, the LEGO World of China feature attraction was opened. Co-sponsored with the Cartoon Network, this area includes a water play area, movie experience, and an interactive water ride that will leave you and everything you own soaking wet. This is a must stop-and-see-and-soak event that is especially welcome in Florida’s seasonal heat.
When it’s time to recharge your body, LEGOLAND Florida has got you covered. An all-you-can-eat pizza/pasta buffet will satisfy any appetite. While you can elect to eat your feast inside the air-conditioned restaurant, real gamers will want to eat outside in the secluded courtyard that overlooks MiniUSA. It’s warm, but shady and it has one of the best views in the park for studying LEGO models.
During your rest stops between rides (there are no less than five killer rides in this park that’ll leave anyone screaming like a little girl) you can elect to do some LEGO shopping. Build a custom Minifigure, design a race car, or purchase a hard-to-find LEGO kit, there are many purchase options available to both avid LEGO collectors and first-time builders. Unknown to many park visitors, you can FREELY exchange your Minifigures with any of the park’s employees. All you have to do is ask and the trade is ON.
If you’re planning a trip to Orlando, Florida, be sure to make a beeline to Winter Haven and try LEGOLAND Florida. Once you’ve built a relationship with this theme park, you might not ever wear mouse ears again.