Spring break stretches ahead of me like the Grand Canyon – staggeringly huge and slightly scary. I don’t remember ever doing anything particularly memorable for my spring breaks as a child, but I feel somewhat obligated to do something special for the Chatterbox, who is only five. Not doing this puts me in the realm of the Bad Parent – or so I have told myself.
I don’t know who first utters the word ‘Legoland’ but once it is floating through the air, the Chatterbox grabs hold of it and never lets go. For several days she keeps mentioning Legoland and telling any child who comes within five feet that she is going. At this point I am willing to empty our bank accounts so that she can go, if that’s what it takes. I suspect Legoland, and other theme parks of its ilk, know they have parents over the barrel and maximize this knowledge to their advantage.
It costs $87 per person to visit Legoland California on a combined ticket. Children are something like $65. We get the Chatterbox in ‘free’ with a special deal at Denny’s. We have to eat at the diner to get the coupon, which costs us $35 for two adults and one child. The night before the big outing we read the fine print and find out that we have to buy the more expensive combined ticket (an extra $15 per adult) to get our child in with the deal. I’ve never been good at mathematics, but I’d estimate that we saved ourselves absolutely nothing. The whole thing smells of a scam for people who don’t know better. I suspect we didn’t even need the coupon, just the right URL to enter online.
But we put these thoughts behind us and brace ourselves for the day ahead. It’s going to be fun, fun, fun, I tell myself. If I repeat it enough times I might actually start to believe this. Before we’ve even stepped one foot inside the park, we’ve had to fork over $12 for the parking. Legoland may be for children, but these prices are totally grown up.
Our first stop is a tour of small cities put together with a bewildering number of Legos. We go through Las Vegas, see New York skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty; we sail past the Sydney Opera House on a cruise boat and walk past San Francisco’s downtown. Washington D.C. is particularly impressive – the White House stands out against a green lawn, tall and bright. Some of the exhibits, however, are looking a bit worse for wear, especially the ones on water. Sailboats look dirty and tipsy, leaning heavily to one side. The New Orleans exhibit is getting remodeled, and I suspect it hasn’t aged well.
This tour, however, does not capture my daughter’s interest for long. She is impatient to get on a ride. Unlike Disneyland, I don’t know what kind of rides Legoland has to offer and it’s not entirely clear from the visitor’s map either. We strike out in a random direction and stumble across a dragon ride with a line that doesn’t look horribly intimidating. It’s a hit.
Lunch is not. We walk around the park looking for something that won’t cost us a fortune and settle on a tacky restaurant with a medieval theme. It’s expensive and not great value, but we kind of expected this. After lunch there are more rides – we wait about an hour for a rollercoaster that is just on the wrong side of scary for a five-year-old. We also tour an exhibit inspired by Star Wars and pose next to Darth Vadar. This, mercifully, is free.
We are tired and it’s getting cold, but the three of us drag ourselves to Legoland’s new water park. We paid an extra $15 and we are going to get every penny’s worth, even if we freeze to death. The English Husband, who is well used to a stiff breeze, strips off and drags the Chatterbox to some water rides. I take shelter on a chair and wrap a small towel around me. I am still cold. The water park looks great for a summer’s day, but right now I just want to get in the car. I’ll even take refuge in the Volvo car made out of Legos if I could get the door open.
On the way home I think about whether or not the experience is worth it. It’s all a matter of perspective. As an adult, I could really live without ever going to Legoland again. Sure, the Lego sculptures are interesting for about half an hour, but it’s hardly worth the hefty price tag you pay as a family. And while Disneyland is something that adults and children can enjoy, this park doesn’t quite have the ‘wow’ factor.
The next day I take the Chatterbox to the swings behind our house. A little boy sits down at a swing next to her and she tells him about her trip to Legoland. I hear her chatting about how cool it was and what she did. Maybe this experience is something she will remember for a long time. At that moment it’s worth the money. Next time – if there ever is a next time – I think I will skip Denny’s.