Legoland, Windsor, Berkshire, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Legoland, Windsor, Berkshire, UK

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Legoland, officially called Legoland Windsor Resort1, is the UK's busiest theme park. Aimed at families including toddlers and young children rather than late teen thrill-seekers, it is a very enjoyable place to visit for a day if you are prepared to accept that it is unlikely you will be able to experience every ride in one day.

Legoland opened in 1996 on the site of the former Windsor Safari Park2, which had been purchased by the Lego Group in 1992. It has a range of Lego-themed lands, rides and attractions, and was the second Legoland to open following the original Legoland in Denmark. Since 2005 the park has been owned by the Merlin group, the world's second-largest theme park company after Disney.

Making the Most of Your Visit

Due to its popularity, Legoland struggles to cope on busy days. It is not unusual for most rides to have queues approaching an hour or more. Long queues of 45 minutes or more even form outside every restaurant and refreshment outlet. This is exacerbated by the lack of staff at these facilities as well as the food that they serve3.

Legoland is quite expensive to enter, but there are usually offers you can look out for. For example at time of writing you can gain entry or even annual passes by saving up Tesco vouchers and vouchers are often available elsewhere. Purchasing tickets online over a week in advance can also reduce prices, which are much greater at the gate on the day. Alternatively, Blue Peter Badge winners can get in free with a paying adult (but not with an adult with an annual pass). As well as annual passes to Legoland specifically it is also possible to purchase an annual Merlin pass, which once purchased will allow you to visit all the Merlin attractions in the UK and Ireland for free4.

Both Annual and Merlin passes allow you to get a discount in most shops and restaurants, but not the food kiosks. Most shops operate a buy now, collect later policy allowing you to pick up your goods from the shop at the entrance/exit, rather than having to carry them around with you all day. If you do get an annual pass, an annual photo pass is well worth considering. When presented, this entitles you to a digital copy of every photograph of you taken at every ride that has a camera, free digital copies of any photographs taken by the roving photographers, and a discounted price when you purchase hard copy photos too. When the roving photographers are in residence they are usually based close by at the character greeting spots. If they take your photograph they will give you a numbered receipt which you need to take to the photo booth by The Beginning to view and order copies of your photo.

Legoland is good fun, but far, far, far busier than other theme parks including Disneyworld, with much, much, much longer queues. Legoland is within easy reach of London as well as numerous other densely-populated regions including Southampton, Portsmouth, Reading, Bournemouth, Winchester, Swindon, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Brighton etc, and is the only big theme park in the area aimed at the young child range. If the queues are busy, an enjoyable time can still be had by watching the shows, playing in the playground, admiring the stunning models and meeting the costumed characters. These include the park's mascots, dragons Ollie and Olivia, and other recurring characters including Pink Brick, the cast of the Lego Friends show and assorted Lego figures.

There are various special events held throughout the year. These include the Star Wars theme weekend held over the Mayday Bank Holiday – May the 4th Be With You. For this there are Star Wars themed events and numerous characters around the park dressed as Star Wars characters. Another is the annual 'Brick or Treat' Halloween event, fireworks around Bonfire Night and Christmas events too.

Rider Swap and Q-Bot

If two of you are visiting with very little children, or a child who does not want to go on some of the rides, you can ask to do a Rider Swap. This means that you can all queue up as a family and when you get to the front of the queue, ask to do a rider swap. One parent will go on the ride with, say, the oldest child while the other waits and looks after the youngest child and as soon as the first parent completes their ride, the parents swap so that the second gets to go straight on the ride while the first looks after the youngest child.

If you really do not wish to queue, you can pay rather more to use the park's Q-Bot virtual queuing system. Despite the name, there isn't actually a robot – they either issue pagers with a deposit but a phone app is also available. The Q-Bots come in different levels, the higher the level, the more expensive it is. The Q-Bot Regular essentially is a virtual queuing system. If there's an hour queue for a ride you want to Q-Bot, once you say that's the ride you want, you can wander off and play, watch a show or shop, and in an hour you'll be allowed to go straight on the ride. The Q-Bot Express halves the queuing time, so if there's an hour queue for a ride, in half an hour you'll be allowed on. The Q-Bot Ultimate entitles you to get to the front of each ride 'near instantly'. At time of writing (April 2017) the Regular is £20 per person, Express £35 per person and Ultimate £80 per person, although children under three are free with their parents' Q-Bot. 20 rides can be Q-Botted, but only one ride at a time.

The Lands of Legoland

This is a quick description of Legoland following a route from the Beginning down to Miniland, and then following a clockwise route back to the Beginning.

The Beginning

After passing the bag inspection and ticket area, on entry to the park you pass the main shopping area with shops selling Lego toys and clothes, as well as a cafe and some lockers. There are also a few nice Lego models which are well worth looking out for. Guest services are also located here, where you can inform the park that a member of your party has a birthday.

Please note that the toilets located here are unable to cope with the demand at the beginning of the day when the park opens and queues quickly form. On the slope down towards the Imagination Centre is the photo booth. Here you can either purchase photo passes or, if you have been photographed and given a receipt, view and collect photographs taken by the park's roving reporters at the end of the day.

To access the rest of the park you must go downhill, however children particularly enjoy the slides on the way.

Hill Train

The first ride encountered in the park is also the oldest – being older even than Legoland itself. Dating from the Windsor Safari Park days, this funicular railway takes guests to the bottom of the hill to a spot between Miniland and Pirate Shores. There are two three-carriage trains, one ascends while the other descends.

Star Wars Miniland

One of the park's highlights, this Lego Star Wars area which opened in 2012 contains interactive Lego dioramas of the classic and prequel Star Wars films, and the Clone Wars film. The first Death Star models opened in 2016. There are over 2,000 models in 1:20 scale and also various full-size characters. Children under seven must be accompanied by an adult to ensure they do not touch the models.

This area was previously the Rocket Racers ride, which allowed racers to design and race a Lego car.

Imagination Centre

This area contains more shops, an ice-cream parlour, toilets, lockers and a play area where you can build your own Lego models5 (although you can't take them home). The highlight in the area is the 4D cinema, which shows short, typically 20-minute 4D films. These involve wearing 3D glasses and heat, water and bubble effects. Films that have been shown here include Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace and a sequel to The Lego Movie (2014) entitled All Hail Lord Risky in which Lord Business' younger brother Risky Business opens a rip-off theme park entitled Brickworld. The 4D Theatre opened in 1999.

Space Tower

This ride involves a tall tower which the riders sitting on chairs in pairs can pull themselves up to the top of the tower and, by letting go of the rope, gently descend to the bottom while the tower slowly rotates. This was among Legoland's first rides.

Sky Rider

A slow ride on an aerial track in which guests travel in vaguely dragon-shaped vehicles 20 feet above the ground. This ride provides great views of Miniland.

Miniland

This is a display of famous sites all around the world, especially Britain, Europe and the United States. These models are brought to life by moving trains, planes, cars and boats that children love to follow around the displays. An incredible 40 million Lego bricks were used to build these models. To mark the start of constructing the park, the very first model to be placed in Legoland was of the Houses of Parliament's Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, in 1995. Speaking of Queen Elizabeth, Legoland's royal neighbour visited in 2003 and was particularly impressed with the model of her home, Buckingham Palace6.

Miniland also contains the Miniland Stage. Before 2016 visitors to the park who arrived before 10am were kettled in the Beginning and unable to descend to the rest of the park, but now guests can filter down to Miniland from 9:30am. Here they can admire the models and, from 9:50am, see a small opening show on the Miniland Stage before the park officially opens at 10am. This works out much better.

Duplo Valley

Duplo Valley, formerly Duploland and originally Duplo Gardens, is the part of the park dedicated to toddlers, with some areas of water play aimed at older children. On a hot day is an ideal place to cool off in the water play area – so much more than a mere paddling pool. If you visit regularly with a young child, chances are you will not get out of Duplo Valley for three years.

There is a shop that sells towels, swimwear, the latest range of Duplo sets etc. There is also a chicken fast food restaurant as well as lockers, changing rooms and toilets.

Brickville

This is Duplo Valley's new toddler-friendly playground with a range of different themed play areas to explore. This has replaced Play Town and is located where Waterworks used to be.

Splash Safari

A water play area that is especially good for toddlers, with many Duplo-themed animals created larger than life and squirting water. This replaces the former Waterworks paddling pool area.

Drench Towers

Marketed as the largest water play structure in the UK, this is a waterpark complete with slides, water cannon and more water features than ever appeared on Ground Force. Ideal for older children on very hot days, it is impossible to navigate Drench Towers without getting soaked.

Swimwear must be worn by all children at all times. This, along with Splash Safari, opened in 2013. Children must be a minimum of 0.9m in height to go down the bigger slides. Although there are smaller slides too, Splash Safari is perhaps best suited for the very youngest.

Raft River Racers

A wild water slide ride where two riders descend down a twisting and turning water slide in an inflatable dinghy. This is one for older children as riders must be a minimum of 0.9m in height to ride and it is extremely likely that riders will get wet.

Fairy Tale Brook

The biggest ride in Duplo Valley and one of the park's original attractions, this is a gentle boat ride round the world of fairy tales. These are brought to life with animatronic life-size models of such characters as the Big Bad Wolf, Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs and Cinderella. There is a camera at the end of the ride, making it the perfect ride to go on if you want a family photo souvenir.

Duplo Train

A small train ride that is perfect for the youngest children.

Duplo Valley Airport

A helicopter ride where children can control a helicopter and make it ascend, descend and rotate.

Duplo Theatre

A puppet theatre that hosts shows based on popular fairy tales throughout the day. Most days will show more than one fairy tale, so look at the board showing what shows are on when.

City

Confusingly, the land currently called City was formerly called Traffic, while the land now called Heartlake City was formerly called City. However, this land has a range of different vehicle rides and is one of the most popular lands in the park.

Coastguard HQ

Formerly called Boating School, this boat ride is perhaps the most popular ride in the park and certainly often attracts the longest queues, even when the park opens first thing in the morning. The ride involves steering a boat around the waterways, admiring the Lego models of various animals, members of the coastguard and avoiding the squirting elephant. As long as you avoid the elephant, this ride is gentle enough for babies to enjoy.

L-Drivers

Children aged 3-5 can drive electric cars around a small circle. Children can be photographed and have Driving Licences purchased.

Driving School

For children aged 6-13, this is the more advanced version with children navigating a large network of roads, roundabouts, junctions and the other cars on the road in their own individual cars. Children are also photographed, allowing you to get your children their own Driving Licence.

Balloon School

A gentle balloon ride in which families can ride in a rotating gondola that can ascend or descend by pulling on a rope. This ride opened in 1999.

Fire Academy

Families work together to race other families to propel their fire-engine towards a burning building and then adults pump water to the hoses while children aim the hoses to put out the simulated flames. Great fun that gives everyone a workout. Due to the water hoses it is possible to get wet on this ride, which opened in 2005.

Adventureland

Located next to a large lake, in many ways this land has become Adventure [Hotel] [Hotel] Land, as much of what used to be Adventureland has since been developed to become the site of the two Legoland hotels7. Adventure Land opened in 2004 and originally had rollercoasters that have now since gone8. This has left the land with only two rides, one, Atlantis, adjacent to City on the other side of the railway level crossing, while the other is adjacent to Heartlake City. As these two rides have been separated from each other the land no longer feels like a coherent whole. There have been proposals for a Haunted House ride to be built here in the future.

Atlantis

Described as the world's first Lego submarine ride, this takes guests on a journey in yellow submarines through fish tanks containing Lego models as well as a large range of fishes. As this is indoors, this ride is one of the most popular on rainy days and often has extremely long queues. When Merlin Entertainments gained control of Legoland this was one of the first rides they created, utilising their experience gained from running the Sea Life Centre chain of aquariums.

SQUID Surfer

At the extreme other side of the land, SQUID Surfer is a fast, fun, wet, jet-ski themed ride in which spectators can trigger water bombs to try and soak riders. Previously called Wave Surfer, this is a very enjoyable, popular ride which will almost certainly result in those riding getting wet.

Heartlake City

Previously simply Lego City, in 2015 this land became based on the Lego Friends range and television series. It also is where Legoland's main shows take place and has a range of restaurants, kiosks and other facilities including toilets. You can often meet the Lego Friends cast outside the Heartlake City Shopping Mall.

Heartlake City Express

A train ride around Heartlake City, Kingdom of the Pharaohs and City. Although the train is clearly on the Heartlake City side of the tracks and has been painted in Heartlake City colours, it used to be the Orient Express and still has a Kingdom of the Pharaohs theme. Passengers on the journey encounter wild Lego animals and other dangers, including some squirting models.

Mia's Riding Adventure

Despite the tame name, this is probably the biggest adrenaline rush ride of the park. Opening in 2016 as a type of rollercoaster called a Disc-o-coaster, this involves sitting in a horse saddle on a large spinning disc that rides back and forth, up and down, on a W-shaped track, taking the riders to a dizzyingly vertical position. Riders are held securely in place by a safety bar, must be a minimum of 1.2m tall and free from back and neck complaints, heart conditions, high blood pressure and broken limbs, and it is not recommended for guests who are pregnant.

OIivia's House

This is effectively a small Heartlake City Miniland, with a model of Heartlake City complete with buttons to make different parts move. This leads to Heartlake City's shop.

Pirate Show: Return to Skeleton Bay

A spectacular stunt show in the lake at the heart of Heartlake City, in which the heroic incompetent pirates face the humorous horrors of evil incompetent pirates. Will they be able to save the day by constantly falling off the top of a lighthouse9? If you sit in the splash or soak zones, you will get wet.

Lego Friends Show

The Lego Friends wish to put on a singing and dancing show on the same stage as the Pirate show.

Kingdom of the Pharaohs

This area is another young child-friendly zone, with most of its rides suitable for toddlers. It is separated from Heartlake City by a level crossing and Pirate Shores and Miniland by a bridge over the railway tracks. This land opened with an ancient Egyptian theme in 2009; the area had previously been Brickadilly Circus and contained standard fairground rides that have since been rebranded.

Lazer Raiders

A family-friendly ride in which you sit in a car and shoot at lit-up ancient Egyptian-themed targets like canopic jars, mummies and ankhs with lazer guns. This indoors ride is one of the most popular in the park – particularly in wet weather as it is all indoors – and so is one that is recommended you visit first. That said, the ride does have a television screen to entertain children in queues. The queue, though, is deceptive as when it is busy it is one where as soon as you think you've got to the end, you go round a corner and see the queue continues winding round a different room. There is an automatic camera near the end of the ride that takes a photo in an area full of targets to try and get an action shot of people shooting. The queue itself consists of two areas, and at the end of the first queuing room there is a green screen where sometimes there is a photographer who takes family photos, but they're not always there.

Scarab Bouncers

Located at the exit to Lazer Raiders, this is a ride aimed at children, although one adult and six children can ride at a time on each of the two bouncers. These take children to the top of the ride and drop up and down in a bouncing fashion down to the bottom.

Aero Nomad

A family-friendly Ferris-wheel ride where the carriages are shaped like balloons.

Desert Chase

A standard carousel with a vague Egyptian theme.

Thunder Blazer

A chair-o-plane swing ride for children, although adults can fit too. Riders sit in a swing that rotates like a carousel a short height off the ground.

Pirate Shores

Shiver me timbers, a pirate-themed land that has the biggest play area in Legoland as well as a couple of classic rides that will entertain older children. It also has a variety of stalls, toilets, a burger restaurant and a picnic area that leads to Knights Kingdom that is grandly called The Enchanted Forest.

Castaway Camp

A shipwreck-themed play area. As well as a number of boat-shaped climbing areas, this park contains rigging-themed ropes to climb up and a number of houses linked by a network of bridges and tunnels. Children playing here will be reluctant to leave. This opened in 2014, replacing a smaller play area.

Jolly Rocker

A typical swinging pirate ship ride in which passengers board a large boat-shaped vessel that swings backwards and forwards, going higher and higher with each swing. Riders must be over 1.3m tall to ride this.

Pirate Falls

The park's log flume water ride is one of the original attractions, with lots of pirate Lego models to entertain and squirt you as you journey towards the big drop at the end. This comes complete with a camera as well as a number of water fountains at the end, in case you weren't wet enough. Waterproof ponchos that come in both adult and child sizes can be bought from a vending machine in the queue, which also has a children's playground to entertain younger visitors while their parents are queuing. This can have long queues particularly on hot days, as riders will get wet.

(Nexo) Knights Kingdom

Originally opened as 'Castleland' in 1998 with the Dragon Coaster before becoming Knights Kingdom and, in 2016, Nexo Knights Kingdom, this land has the park's rollercoasters. Just outside the castle is also one of the main character greeting spots. This land has toilets.

The Dragon

Inside the castle is the park's Dragon-themed rollercoaster. This begins gently enough with a ride through the castle where you can see various rooms including the treasury guarded by the dragon, before the ride zooms around, up and down in the highly enjoyable way that rollercoasters do. The ride contains a camera although it is possible for guests to get quite good shots of the rollercoaster in action if they follow the signs labelled 'To the dragon's lair', which leads to a viewing platform that the Dragon goes beneath. This is one of the park's main rides and so is one of the busiest.

The Dragon's Apprentice

Opposite The Dragon is this much smaller ride for much smaller visitors, which markets itself as being a child's first rollercoaster. Tame in comparison with The Dragon it is still good fun and there is a camera allowing you to purchase photos of your child's first rollercoaster experience. This too can attract some of the longest queues in the park. It opened in 1999, a year after The Dragon.

Knight's Quest

A carousel-like ride in which the guests sit in trains that spin round and undulate up and down quite fast. This ride is not designed for adults who have reasonably long legs and can be cramped and uncomfortable, but children love it. The ride's narration states that a knight is on a quest with his horse to rescue a princess from a dragon, although how this is achieved with trains bobbing up and down is never really explained10. Queues for this ride are usually reasonable.

Ninjago/Land of the Vikings

At time of writing (April 2017) Legoland is constructing a new Ninjago ride on the site of the former Loki's Labyrinth Viking-themed maze. This is expected to be a large indoor attraction similar to Lazer Raiders. The former Longboat Invader ride that was located outside the maze is also being moved to a new location outside the new ride's entry. As the area has posters stating 'Ninjago World Coming Soon!' it is likely that the current 'Land of the Vikings' is going to be rethemed to Ninjago as Viking Lego is no longer available for sale. When in April the Researcher visited Legoland, many of the Viking-themed models formerly located in Viking's River Splash were being dismantled, which implies that the ride is going to be rebranded either with the Ninjago theme or possibly that the River Splash and Spider will become branded with Pirate Shores as they are located next to that land.

Spinning Spider

A teacup ride beneath a giant model of a spider. The 'cups' are arranged in groups of four that rotate around each other as the whole ride spins, with a solitary cup between each group of four which does not rotate and so is better suited for riders who would prefer to spin a little less than everyone else. An original ride; when the park opened in the 1990s this area was called the Wild Woods.

Vikings' River Splash

This river rapids ride opened in 2007. Groups of up to six sit in a round vessel that bumps and splashes around a course that leads past Lego models of Vikings and dragons, many of which squirt you, with other visitors able to aim water cannons at you at one point near the top. Some of the bumps can result in flooding inside the boat, so think before you bring any valuables with you.

Legoland waterproof ponchos are available to purchase from vending machines in the queue and there is a camera located halfway along the ride, with photos available to purchase after the ride. As the closest ride to the entrance, this is one of the most popular rides in the park, particularly on warm days.

1It has hotels you can stay in!2Perhaps best known for featuring in a scene in The Omen (1976).3For instance, the kiosks sell Cornetto Soft ice-creams. To sell one, the staff must put the cone into the bottom of the machine while the flavouring is inserted into the top of the machine and slowly pumped into the cone, rather than simply hand a pre-packaged ice-cream over. On a hot day this creates long, barely-moving queues.4Their most prestigious attractions include historic buildings Warwick Castle and the Blackpool Tower as well as theme parks Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park and the indoor Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester. There are also numerous Sea Life Centres and other attractions nationwide.5Remember: Lego bricks are a potential choking hazard for very young children.6You can get a good view of one of her other homes, Windsor Castle, from the top of the hill at The Beginning.7The site of Dino Safari has gone, however the dinosaur models are still on display having been moved to near SQUID Surfer.8The popular Technic-themed Jungle Coaster, for example, was moved to Legoland Florida, where it was opened under the name Lego Technic Test Track, to make space for the hotel.9On particularly cold or wet days, the performers do not dive into the lake but perform extra gymnastic falls instead.10The ride was originally Adventureland's Dino Dipper, before it was moved in 2011 to Knight's Kingdom and rebranded to make way for Atlantis.

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