LEGOLAND! Our family trip and what we thought of the new hotel.
Day 1. You guys...we can really make a two-hour drive last allllll day long. Right now, we're selling our house and when we leave for our little weekend getaways, we have to board the dogs, pack ourselves and the three kids and leave the house perfectly perfect and ready for any showings that may pop up. Oh, and feed and re-feed the troops. It's a lot. It's still worth it to me to travel, even though it's a ton of work. I feel like these experiences are formative for the kids, are so wonderful for us, and we just really, really enjoy our time together, which seems easier when you're out of your element and experiencing something together.
We've been going to LEGOLAND California every year except one since Scarlet was a baby. We always used to stay at the Four Seasons, which is now the Park Hyatt, Aviara, but this year since we're skipping birthday parties for the kids in exchange for weekend trips, Sterling got to pick the hotel.
We stayed at the brand-spankin' new Castle Hotel that is now sold out until September. It was just three weeks old when we stayed there, and though you could tell some of the employees were a little green and there were some kinks to iron out, we were impressed with the amazing things they have to entertain kids and make it a magical stay.
A few things we loved that would make us come back to the Castle Hotel:
- There's a pool of Lego's and a slide in the lobby. That's just the beginning of the fun for the kids.
- Kiddie potty seats built into the toilets in every room! Yep.
- They have Caymus by the glass in their restaurant! I'd give the food at the park and hotel like a 7 or 8 -- good and totally kid-friendly. But their wine list? That's exceptional.
- The kids get a special prize every day for solving a puzzle. (See pics below). There's a safe in the room that will unlock if they get the puzzle right. The prize was legit, too -- a good sized Lego kit!
- The playground and pool for the hotel guests are both amazing. We didn't have time to swim at the hotel pool, but the kids really, really enjoyed the intricate playground/obstacle course. It's super cute. The balcony rooms face the playgrounds but oddly enough, they are fully enclosed, even on the first floor, so the kids either have to climb the little fence to get to the playground or walk all the way through the hotel when its just steps away from the first floor balconies. I still liked the balcony rooms though -- they make the rooms feel more open and they have great energy.
A few things we were meh about:
- The walls are paper thin -- you can hear the kids on the other side of the wall, especially where the bunk beds are in each room. We use white noise on our phones both at home and when we travel, and that helped a ton. We use Relax Melodies, on "rain".
- There are no adjoining rooms, and the rooms are quite narrow. You can sleep about four million people in the rooms (King bed, bunk beds, and a trundle, so what is that, 5?) But we like adjoining rooms, and they don't have them.
- Your breakfast is included in your stay, but you have to go to the restaurant and there is no room service for breakfast. I liked the breakfast food and was happy they have lattes, but the non-vegetarians weren't as thrilled we the food as I was.
Here's what we did at the parks and how we
- We got a cabana at the water park. I forgot to call and book it in advance so I called on the drive down and they had their standard cabana left. For $250, you get the entire day in the cabana, which is a private spot with two lounge chairs, a fridge with 10 drinks (waters, sodas, etc.), a LEGOLAND Bag and two cheap-ish towels. We've stayed in the premium cabana and the only difference is a better quality bag and towels. Just get the standard. They're actually more centrally located and the important part is that you get shade, a place to put your stuff, and order lunch with a waiter.
- Bring towels! When we went to Great Wolf Lodge, there were towels galore and you could take as many as you wished. LEGOLAND? You have to bring them or buy them.
- We spent the whole day there. 10-4 or so. The kids had plenty to do, it was very clean and we all had a great time. Service was slow at the Cabana for lunch, but the food was good! The pizza is spicy so I'd avoid that for the kids. At least for my kids. Hehe.
- It's our tradition to have dinner at Vivace. It was there when we used to go to the (former) Four Seasons Aviara every year, and it's still a great restaurant. They have a kids' menu, a tasting menu. You'll leave happy. And broke. But happy.
- We booked a birthday package for Sterling, but we didn't get back in time and they were happy to reschedule it for the next night. I see all over Yelp that people said it wasn't worth it, but Sterling was thrilled with the jester who brought his cake, a cool present, and bag, and a "front of the line" pass for Legoland for one ride. It saved me the additional logistics of sourcing a cake when we were already pretty jam-packed with our schedule.
Day 3: We went to the park on Sunday and were so glad that we got the "Reserve and Ride". We did "Deluxe" and barely waited for rides. It's kind of like the fast pass at Disneyland, but instead of going to each ride to get your ticket, you wear and little thing on your belt that reminds me of Tomagatchi. With the deluxe option, you can only reserve one ride at a time, but as soon as you get into the line, you can book your next one. We didn't wait more than ten minutes; I'd say this is the option to go with if you want to upgrade.
We always have lunch at the Pizza and Pasta Buffet because they have a great salad bar and tons for the kids to eat. We went around noon and had no trouble getting in, but by the time we left, the line was huge. I'd plan to go on the early side.
And finally, after a full day and Shep totally skipping his nap, we wanted something easy-peasy for dinner. We went back to the Dragon's Den Restuarant and I have to say, it worked out beautifully. The kids got to participate in a super fun play with Legoland's actors, play in their "Lego Pool" and eat dinner. It was convenient for getting in a quick dinner and hitting the road back to LA.
Something to note if you have toddlers is that LEGOLAND is sort of age specific. The rides are for little kids, like 4-12 or so. Shep wasn't tall enough for many of the rides, so if you're going with your first child, you may want to look into the height minimums to make sure they're tall enough to get on a good amount of rides.