When I heard that Cypress Gardens closed in September 2009 just months after I finally had the opportunity to visit this longtime Florida attraction, I was sad and a bit disappointed. However, when the property reopened in 2011 as LEGOLAND, I was quite excited to learn that this new attraction held on to the beautiful grounds of Cypress Gardens. And now that I have finally visited Florida’s latest theme park, I’m delighted to discover just how much fun these little bricks have to offer for visitors of all ages.
From the moment we arrived at the front gate, my kids couldn’t keep away from all of the Lego figures scattered throughout the park. From the large dinosaur just inside the turnstiles to the small archeologist near the Land of Adventure to the antebellum-dressed lady at the entrance to Cypress Gardens – and everywhere in between – they wanted to see and touch every single one (and, of course, have their pictures made with each one, too!). Sometimes it was all my husband and I could do to get the kids to move on from the figures to the actual park shows and adventures.
Those shows included the Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty, which pays homage to Cypress Gardens’ time-honored water ski show. A bit cheesy for us adults, the show definitely caters to a child’s interest, and my kids did love it. If nothing else, it’s a nice opportunity for us grownups to enjoy a respite in the shade.
According to its website, LEGOLAND is geared to children ages 2 to 12, and that was perfectly reflected in the many adventures throughout the park. My kids, ages 8 and 4, were able to do everything they wanted to do. On occasion, my son (the 4-year-old) did require an adult companion for certain rides, but otherwise enjoyed no restrictions on his play in the park.
One of the kids’ favorite adventures was the Ford Driving School (ages 6-13) and Ford Jr. Driving School (ages 3-5) in Lego City. At Ford Driving School, my daughter learned basic driving lessons such as coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, and how to read and respond to a traffic light. At the Ford Jr. Driving School, my son basically drove his “car” around a circle track. At the end of each “ride,” both kids received their own “driver’s license,” for which they were quite proud.
Another favorite, the Quest for Chi in the World of Chima is a water- based adventure ride. Guests load into a boat that is armed with hand- cranked water cannons on each side. The goal, as we soon discovered, was to aim your water cannon at passengers on other boats as well as bystanders alongside the water route and see just how wet you can get everyone within reach. There are signs at the entrance stating, “You could get soaked.”
The truth? You WILL get soaked. It may come from passengers in other boats, it may come from the waterfalls and sprayers you encounter along the water route, or it may come while standing on the sidelines taking in the action. Whatever the source, plan to walk away from this ride with soaking wet clothes. You could bring an extra change of clothes, but, in our case, we just enjoyed the cold water on our skin until the hot Florida sun dried us out.
One aspect to every ride at LEGOLAND that I loved is the kids play area, where kids are invited to play with Legos while their parents hold their spot in the waiting line. Every parent who has tried to keep small children entertained while waiting their turn to ride will understand how wonderful these play areas are for both kids and adults alike.
An adventure spot that we all loved was Miniland, which features Lego re- creations of iconic cities and sights around the country. From LEGOLAND’s own Florida neighbors like Kennedy Space Center and Daytona International Speedway to Las Vegas, New York and beyond, visitors will love seeing these popular spots brought to life in Legos.
There’s even an entire “Star Wars” area that includes scenes from all six episodes of the “Star Wars” movie saga as well as “Star Wars: The Clone Wars Christophsis.”
For me, an obvious highlight was walking through Cypress Gardens once more. I fell in love again with the botanical gardens’ shaded paths, the famous gazebo atop the rolling lawn and the expansive Banyan tree that beckons guests to sit a spell in its shade. After the excitement of LEGOLAND, the gardens offer a much-needed calm that can recharge adults and kids for their return to the park next door.
There was still much more to explore at LEGOLAND, but, unfortunately, we only had one day to visit during this trip. We already are planning to return so we can check out what we missed plus revisit those things we loved. I just hope that day comes sooner rather than later.
Disclosure: Karon and her family visited LEGOLAND as guests of the attraction. All opinions are her own.