Legos are one of those timeless toys. Making something out of a pile of plastic bricks sparks creativity and innovation. Like me, I’m sure you have memories of Legos, whether it was building something with a friend, sibling, parent, or child, or stepping on a single brick on the living room floor with your barefoot. Relive all those brick-tastic memories with a visit to LEGOLAND Florida.
Growing up in Western New York, spring break for my family meant packing up the station wagon and driving nonstop to Southwest Florida to spend the week with my grandparents. It was a time before handheld video games, iPhones, and satellite radio. Our entertainment during the 24-hour drive was reading, drawing, playing games, and gazing out the window.
Spotting billboards opened a new world and I fantasized exploring Florida by what I saw. I wanted to zip through the Florida Everglades aboard an airboat. I wanted to glide over Silver Springs in a glass bottom boat spotting fish and maybe an alligator. I also wanted to see the water skiers and Southern belles at the colorful Cypress Gardens.
As a kid, I eventually took that airboat ride through the Glades but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I experienced a glass bottom boat tour at Silver Springs, which had become a state park. As for Cypress Gardens, it wasn’t until a few years ago when I took my first walk through its lush greenery and although the Southern belle had a nice smile, she was a bit stoic. That’s because she was constructed of thousands of Lego bricks.
The Cypress Gardens of today is not the Cypress Gardens of the 1970s, or even that of the 1990s. The Winter Haven park opened in the mid-1930s by Dick and Julie Pope and featured thrilling water shows and lush botanical gardens. This popular Florida theme park became known as the Water Ski Capital of the World; the iconic Southern belles with their hoop skirts were introduced; Hollywood stars frequented the gardens and filmed television specials and movies; and visitors from the North seeking warmth flocked during the winter.
Over the decades, Cypress Gardens welcomed more than 50 million visitors but attendance dropped as time progressed (meaning, Central Florida theme parks as Disney World, Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Universal offered thrilling attractions for the younger crowd) and the park closed in 2003. Under new management it reopened in 2004, added rollercoasters and thrill rides, yet closed in 2009.
The Merlin Entertainments Group infused new life into Cypress Gardens when it opened Legoland Florida in 2011. The 150-acre interactive theme park restored the gardens, home to a gorgeous combination of native and exotic botanicals. It includes an Asian-themed area with a pond and large, gold-toned sitting Buddha.
A grand banyan tree, planted as a sapling in 1939, still stands. Waterski shows that made Cypress Gardens popular are still thrilling visitors today with Lego citizens.
Cypress Gardens was appreciated by the Silent and Baby Boomer Generations and Legoland Florida Resort is dedicated to families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. This makes the theme park the perfect multi-generational family destination. As a destination for solo travelers, well, I’m still trying to figure that out. I imagine if you’re a guy visiting the theme park alone, you may be viewed as a creeper.
More than 50 million Lego bricks are incorporated into displays throughout the park. Miniland USA features scenes with some of America’s well-known destinations such as Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. There’s also an area of Miniland featuring various mini Star Wars scenes such as Hoth, the Millennium Falcon, and an Ewok Village. Jakku, representing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was added on Star Wars Day, May 4. Of course, there are fun LEGO models throughout the park.
Most Legoland rides can accommodate little ones, such as Safari Trek to view exotic wildlife made from Lego bricks; a two-tiered carousel; and Lego Ninjago, a 3-D interactive ride and game where I was instructed to karate chop my way through the experience. I had no clue what I was fighting and despite karate chopping against dragons, bad ninjas and ghosts, I still lost to a 4-year-old.
As for dining, there are plenty of places to grab a bite such as pizza, chicken sandwich, or black bean burger but the one must-eat item are Granny’s Apple Fries. These are slices of Granny Smith apples deep fried and served with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar sweet whipped cream dipping sauce on the side. Delicious!
Nuts & Bolts
Legoland Florida Resort
1 Legoland Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
Tel: (855) 753-8888
During the summer, Legoland is open daily at 10 a.m., other time of the year the resort is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Closing time varies between 7 and 9 p.m., depending on the day.
Single Day Admission at the Gate for the base ticket entry (valid as of May 7, 2018)
Adult (13 – 59 years old): $93.99
Child (3 – 12 years old) and Seniors (60 and older): $88.99
Single Day Admission at the Gate for Legoland Florida and Water Park entry
Adult (13 – 59 years old): $116.49
Child (3 – 12 years old) and Seniors (60 and older): $111.49
Save $14 off standard admission when booked at least 2 days in advance, online. AAA members can also save when purchased in advance through AAA.
Florida residents are eligible for the Awesome Pass which is an annual pass offering unlimited Legoland Florida admission and Legoland Water Park admission for $119.99.
Active duty U.S. service members receive free admission to Legoland Florida Resort. Non-active duty/family members and veterans receive discounted tickets through each military base’s Information, Tickets and Travel office. At the gate, receive 10% with a valid military ID. Visit https://www.legoland.com/florida/buy-tickets/military for additional information.
Parking is $17 per vehicle.
Fees are plus tax.
Where to Stay
Legoland Florida Hotel
1 Legoland Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
Tel: (877) 350-5346
This five-story, 152-room hotel is located steps from Legoland Florida’s entrance. It features pirate, kingdom, adventure and Lego Friends themed rooms, each with an interactive treasure hunt.
Disclosure: As a member of the media, I was a guest of LEGOLAND Florida Resort. Opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links to support my traveling habit, this blog, and my special-needs dog.