LEGOLAND California is a wonderful park for a wide variety of ages. There are play areas for toddlers, rides that will please elementary-aged kids and LEGO displays that will put any teen or adult in awe. I have the LEGOLAND tips on everything there is to see and do at this theme park in San Diego. Here’s what you can expect of a day at LEGOLAND California, with my LEGOLAND insider tips for building the best day!
LEGOLAND provided complimentary day passes for me & my family. Please note that this post includes affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you! This post was originally posted on Jan 20th, 2015 and contains updated information.
LEGOLAND California Overview
As a San Diego native, my family and I have been going to LEGOLAND California since it first opened! There are over 60 rides and attractions in the 128-acre park. LEGOLAND has grown quite a bit over the years but some things have remained constant throughout. This theme park is family-friendly with an emphasis on younger guests that is safe, clean and well-kept. LEGOLAND is located in Carlsbad, about 45 minutes drive north of downtown San Diego and about 60 minutes drive south from Anaheim (where Disneyland is located). These are my LEGOLAND tips for visiting with kids.
These LEGOLAND tips for traveling with kids will help you properly plan your day. The park is very easy to navigate, but includes a lot of walking with stops for rides and attractions along the way. Start your planning by looking at the LEGOLAND California park map and plot out your day. Even on a visit during non-peak season, you’ll be hard-pressed to see and do everything in one day. Hours at LEGOLAND California vary throughout the year, so always check the calendar before your visit. LEGOLAND does have mid-week days when it’s completely closed in the off-season.
What Should I Bring to LEGOLAND?
LEGOLAND California is located in Carlsbad, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. It can be chilly and windy, especially during the winter and spring. Bring a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt. Definitely pack your sunscreen. While it might be overcast early in the day, the sun often peeks out after noon and it may get very hot.
Parking at LEGOLAND
The LEGOLAND California parking fee is $20 per car, per day. If you arrive early, you’ll be very close to the front entrance, though there is still a short (slightly inclined) walk to the front entrance. It’s not necessary to purchase the “preferred parking”.
All backpacks, bags, purses and strollers will be checked before entering the park.
Discounted LEGOLAND Vacation Tickets
Before your vacation, you can purchase LEGOLAND California tickets online. You can purchase discounted LEGOLAND vacation packages or just LEGOLAND tickets on the Get Away Today website. You can also purchase park tickets at the booths but you will pay full price. I highly recommend purchasing the tickets from Get Away Today before your trip to save money!
READ MORE: My friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes shares more LEGOLAND budgeting advice.
Newest Must-Do Attraction at LEGOLAND California
LEGOLAND’s newest attraction, LEGO City Deep Sea Adventure is a cool hybrid attraction that’s part interactive treasure hunt, submarine ride and aquarium. Riders board a submarine, then peer through the portholes and windows to peek at the 2000 types of real sea life, including sharks! There are fun LEGO items to spy along the way as well. The touch-screens inside the ride encourage kids to treasure hunt on a search for items on the checklist.
Tips for LEGOLAND Attractions:
- Download the LEGOLAND California Resort mobile app to check ride wait times, see an interactive park map, dining options and show times.
- Many queue areas have LEGO building stations. Kids can build here while parents are waiting in line.
Thrill Rides at LEGOLAND in San Diego
A majority of the rides at LEGOLAND California are geared for younger kids. However there are a few thrill-type rides that are appropriate for elementary-aged kids and would please teens and adults as well. Nothing too crazy but still thrilling! The tallest height restriction is 42″ and several rides have an age requirement as well, so check the signage.
- LEGO Technic Coaster
- Knight’s Tournament
- The Dragon Coaster
- Coastersaurus (at 36″ height restriction, it’s a good first coaster for younger kids)
Thrill Ride LEGOLAND Tips:
- Don’t like waiting in lines? Consider purchasing Reserve ‘n’ Ride. This add-on offers three levels that will reduce wait times 25-99% at an additional cost from between $35 to $100 per person.
- Rides offer a “parent swap” so that one parent can wait with a non-riding child and then switch places so that the other parent can ride.
More Can’t Miss LEGOLAND California Attractions
- Bring out the competitive spirit on the Lost Kingdom Adventure ride to shoot laser guns and tally points.
- Get soaked on a warm day at Pirate Reef or Splash Battle, both located in the Pirate Shores area. Kids can even get wet by splashing at the Heartlake Fountain and Swabbie’s Deck (feel free to bring swim suits and towels to let the kids get wet).
- LEGO NINJAGO is a small area in the park that features a very cool 4-D, interactive ride. There’s no height restriction so anyone can ride.
- Fun Town really is…fun! Kids love participating as a team with their family at the LEGOLAND Police & Fire Academy.
- Skipper School and Driving School with their trackless vehicles are can’t-miss LEGOLAND attractions. Most kids will say these are their favorite attractions. There is also a Junior Driving School for little ones aged 3-5. Kids can even purchase their own LEGOLAND Driving School license.
LEGOLAND Miniland USA
LEGOLAND’s Miniland USA is an awesome attraction that is at the heart of what LEGO is all about. Built by their “master builders”, these city representations include New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington DC and Las Vegas. There are small buttons kids can push to play a sound clip or to make one of the features in the scene move. Tiny LEGO cars move, LEGO figures dance and more. Plan to spend at least an hour exploring Miniland USA, as there’s lots of see in this detailed area.
After you’ve explored the Miniland USA cities, take a walk on the Miniland USA “Block of Fame” and see famous faces (like this one of Elvis!). There are also famous Star Wars characters as well.
The LEGO Star Wars area in Miniland USA does not disappoint. There are some amazingly detailed scenes from the movies featured here! This area is incredible and a must-see for any Star Wars fan.
Other Fun Things to Do at LEGOLAND California
Even if you never step foot on an actual ride at LEGOLAND, there’s so much to keep busy kids active throughout the day. Check out these other great things to do at LEGOLAND after the rides.
- If you have a child who can’t get enough of simply building LEGO creations, be sure to stop inside several of these areas (Imagination Zone Build and Test, LEGO Mindstorms, Heartlake Stables and LEGO Life Zone). Kids can build and play with the thousands of LEGOS that are available in these areas.
- If your kids need to run and play, there are a few areas where they can burn off steam. The Hideaways is a complex arrangement of rope ladders and slides. There’s only one way in and out so parents can sit on the wall surrounding the play area and not worry their kids will leave without them. There’s a rock climbing wall in LEGO NINJAGO area. In Land of Adventure, kids and adults can slide down the Dune Raiders. In Pharaoh’s Revenge, kids can shoot foam balls at each other.
- Watch LEGO NINJAGO Master of the 4th Dimension, a 4D show inside the LEGO Show Place Theater.
- The Adventure’s Club walk-through is a favorite for my older ones though my preschooler was a little nervous of the darker areas and sounds inside.
- Don’t miss the LEGO Factory Tour to see how LEGO bricks are made!
LEGOLAND Tips for Healthy Dining Options
If you’re expecting the same boring theme park options for dining, no fear! LEGOLAND California offers only fresh, made-on-site meals that are unique and delicious. Quite often dishes are prepared right in front of you. This makes for a hot meal that’s made to order. It can also mean that wait times for meals can be longer than normal for amusement parks.
Choose from items like the pork belly bao sandwiches, pesto chicken salad sandwich or freshly prepared stir fry from Wok n’ Bowl (photo below). The Pizza & Pasta buffet is a popular place for all-you-can-eat with a great salad bar and creative offerings. We’ve also enjoyed the Knight’s Smokehouse BBQ with slow-cooked Texas BBQ dishes and craft beer.
And yes, you can still find the usual burgers, fries and soft serve cones if that’s what you want to eat! For dessert, you have to grab a box of Granny’s Apple Fries. You might not want to share!
LEGOLAND Assisted Access Pass
If you have a guest with special needs, visit Guest Services before entering the park. You’ll be supplied with a simple “Assisted Access Pass”. This business card will be noted with the date, number of people in your party and the name of the person for whom the card is issued. We used this card in the past for my daughter (who has autism). Instructions on the card let us know that we were permitted to enter rides through the exit and wait there so we didn’t have to stand in a crowded queue.
LEGOLAND Tips for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers
There are quite a few rides in LEGOLAND California that do not have height restrictions, so they’re perfect for babies and toddlers. I highly recommend the Fairy Tale Brook, Mia’s Riding Camp and Coast Cruise. There are a few rides that have surprising height restrictions, though they seem appropriately aged for toddlers (like Safari Trek), so be aware of signage before getting in line.
Duplo Playtown is going to be a hit with your toddler! There are quaint little houses set up like a town including a fire station with a pole and tons of stairs and slides. The LEGOLAND Express, a small train, circles around here as well. Plan for plenty of time in this area if you have a toddler or preschooler, they’ll absolutely love this place!
There are areas that are appropriate for toddlers to hang out while waiting for older siblings to ride. My daughter enjoyed playing in the sand at Dig Those Dinos. Queue waiting areas sometimes have larger Duplo blocks but check for the tiny LEGO bricks, which may be a choking hazard for toddlers.
The Royal Joust is for kids aged 4-12 only (and must be 36″ as well). This adorable horse ride takes kids on a journey through the Castle Hill area. Make sure to ride Coast Cruise, where you’ll be able to see LEGO displays from around the world, including the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower or George Washington getting his ears cleaned at Mount Rushmore!
Where to Get Discounted LEGOLAND California Tickets
Did you know that each October in San Diego, there are many theme parks and restaurants that offer FREE entertainment for kids?! LEGOLAND is a participant in this special offer, so click through and find out how you can get your kid’s free offer! Kids FREE in San Diego for October!
LEGOLAND California Water Park
When the weather warms, our thoughts turn to the water-play activities at the expansive LEGOLAND Water Park! From toddler splash pads, water slides for big kids and a giant wave pool, there’s plenty here for the whole family. Entrance to the water park is on top of the regular park admission. Water park days and hours of operation vary upon the season, so check the LEGOLAND website to make sure it’s open during your visit before you pack your swim suits!
Read all the LEGOLAND tips in this post about the 10 Things to Know Before Visiting the LEGOLAND California Water Park.
LEGOLAND Halloween Special Event
Brick-or-Treat Party Nights at LEGOLAND California offers children and their families trick-or-treating and entertainment throughout the Park on Saturday nights in October. This is a special ticketed event that is not included with regular park admission. Guests are invited to dress in costume and there is candy given, certain rides are open during the event as well as a costume contest and not-too-scary Halloween-themed entertainment for kids.
Read more LEGOLAND tips for the fall special event, Brick-or-Treat Party Nights Halloween Celebration at LEGOLAND® California Resort.
LEGOLAND California Holidays
All of LEGOLAND gets into the holiday spirit during the winter season, with festivities and shows that are included in the regular park admission. There are also seasonal foods and treats, holiday decor and special gift shopping areas. Visit Miniland U.S.A. to see more of the Christmas spirit, where many of the buildings have fun holiday touches, including Santa and his sleigh and wreaths decorating the LEGO White House.
Check out more about celebrating Holidays at LEGOLAND California – Ultimate Seasonal Guide.
LEGOLAND Sea Life Aquarium
The Sea Life Aquarium at LEGOLAND California combines a real, learning aquarium of actual sea life with fun LEGO models. Guests can see jelly fish and seahorses, spy octopus and sharks, reach inside touch pools, and experience feeder talks.
The Sea Life Aquarium is compact and will take about an hour to completely walk through. During busier seasons and holiday events, strollers are not allowed inside so make arrangements for little ones (I brought a front carrier for my baby so I wouldn’t have to hold her in my arms the entire time). Admission to the Sea Life Aquarium can be purchased separately or as an add-on to your LEGOLAND park ticket. My travel partner Get Away Today offers the bundled LEGOLAND discounted ticket.
LEGOLAND is known for their unique, tongue-in-cheek humor so it was no surprise to me that these unique hotels feature a disco ball in the elevator and a treasure hunt inside the rooms!
Rooms at both the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel and the original LEGOLAND Hotel are heavily themed. At the LEGOLAND Castle Hotel guests can choose from castle-themed rooms, naturally – Knights & Dragons, Royal Princess or Magic Wizard. And at the LEGOLAND Hotel, pick from Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, Friends, and LEGO NINJAGO.
A stay at one of the two LEGOLAND hotels includes a complimentary buffet breakfast. Kids will also receive a welcome treasure hunt with a LEGO prize. One of the nicest features (for the benefit of the grown-ups!) is a separate kid’s sleeping area with entertainment center, bunk bed and pull out trundle.
My friend Karen at Desert Chica has a review on the new LEGOLAND Castle Hotel with in-room photos.