Thursday dawned overcast and gloomy and threatened rain as we emerged from the hotel parking structure. Legoland appears to be part of a larger complex, an office park on steroids, and while the avenue to the park was nearly deserted at 9 a.m. on a March weekday, I couldn’t help but wonder how the other companies liked sharing their slice of Carlsbad with thousands of rabid Lego fans. On any given summer weekend day, you're likely to see as many as 10,000 people enjoying the 128-acre park, according to California Weekend Getaways.
Benny in the Legoland parking lot
I hoped the rain would scare off most of them. I handed over the “2 for 1” coupon we’d won at a Dinosaur Preschool auction, and the ticket lady included a small card with a little rain cloud on it, warning that Legoland gave out no rainchecks, refunds or compensation due to bad weather.
I made a beeline for hot tea and a toasted bagel while Ron and Benny boarded a little water cruise. Benny liked it so much, and the line was so short, that I accompanied him on a second trip. We floated past dinosaurs, animals and national monuments like Mt. Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge, all made out of Legos.
The clouds were still glooming over us, but Benny was in heaven, just tall enough to go on rides by himself, but young enough to like climbing on play structures and riding on plastic horses. The park was obviously designed for 10 times the crowd, so we easily hopped from ride to ride and Benny rode all his favorite rides twice.
We made our way to Pirate Shores, which was mostly water rides, and lo, the clouds parted and the sun beamed down, allowing us to try out the water rides. I liked the play structure with a giant swinging bucket on top; when the bucket filled up, it dumped water all over the kids, to much screaming. Then, the minute we finished with the water rides and headed for the Pirate Shores exit, the clouds closed in again.
Ron at Pirate Shores, in a spirited naval battle. Note how blue the sky is in this picture, while gray in the others.
The only long line was for little two-person train engines on a track high above the ground, but the line curved around a play area where kids could build Legos while they waited. Behind us was a mother with a toddler who was showing his displeasure at the wait in a way that only a toddler can do. The mother must have a degree in Early Childhood or something, because she handled the whining and moaning with amazing aplomb. At one point she said to her son, in a calm and cheery voice as she pointed to the paved ground: “Would you like to pick a clean spot where you can have a fit?”
Benny and a sleeping Lego knight
The highlight of the day for me, however, were the insanely detailed Lego models of New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and other cities. The three of us stood agog in front of a mini-San Francisco, complete with the TransAmerica Pyramid, Coit Tower, cable cars, Lombard Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Victorian homes, Chinatown and the waterfront, right down to little Lego sea lions sunning themselves on Pier 39 and the wormlike Vaillancourt Fountain.
If nothing else, Legoland proved that you can make a model of anything out of Legos: Benny and I wanted to go straight home and try to make a Lego volcano, a Lego Callisto or maybe just a Lego bowl of cereal.
All in all, a successful vacation and a quick retreat from reality. Our landlord found the termite nest in the basement – just a small one, they said – and destroyed it, so we won’t have to move. And with the Honda Fit getting an average 35 miles per gallon on this trip, I’m starting to plan our summer vacation: a two-week road trip in the Pacific Northwest.