I apologize to any new followers who are wondering where the birth stuff is on this birth blog anyway! I’m on a roll with my vacation recap posts, so bear with me as I finish my series, then I’ll get back to business :)
After the tourmaline mine, we checked into our new hotel, The Carlsbad by the Sea Resort, and left behind our beloved Ramada Carlsbad (lamented over for every day we spent in a hotel after that!). We went to the beach and out to dinner with Mark’s best childhood friend and his wife who coincidentally now live not that far away from where we were in CA. The next morning, we hopped up for phase three of our journey, two days at Legoland. We started out the day feeling like we’d made a pretty grievous error in thinking it was remotely sensible to go to two different theme parks back-to-back (three if you count California Adventure as separate from Disneyland–you do have to pay more for it and go through a totally separate gate to get in, have your ticket scanned again, etc.), with only a single day’s break doing hard manual labor digging through rocks in the hot sun in between the big park adventures. We were all super tired, the kids said they would rather just go to the beach, and it was Memorial Day. Actual bleeping Memorial Day and there we were headed off to join the masses of other yahoos getting spun around in the sun. I was also worried that Legoland’s rides/atmosphere would not measure up to Disney’s and with only a day’s separation, the contrast would be just too clear. We ended up leaving the hotel a little later than I wanted and got to the park only fifteen minutes early. I fretted all the way over about the “crowds” and we cooked up a plan to leave and go to the attached SeaLife Aquarium as soon as it got too crowded at Legoland, then return to do the rest of the park the following day when we anticipated it would be less crowded. We decided to pay to park there, so that we could go back to our car to feast upon peanut butter sandwiches rather than expensive park food. Imagine our surprise to pull into a nearly empty parking lot…then walk right through the entrance gate and straight up to stand right by the rope closing off the attractions until the opening moment. Turns out that Memorial Day at Legoland was the best. It was practically empty all day and was basically perfect.
Since I didn’t have a lot of foreknowledge or expectation of what the park would be like, I just enjoyed it a lot. Very Zen of me, but this loosening of any attachment to outcome or experience, really freed us up to just enjoy what is. Legoland was one of the highlights of our whole trip for me because we actually felt laid back and relaxed there and it was so unexpected. Alaina was big enough to go on just about every ride and we were flexible about stopping to play on “little” stuff we would have breezed right by at Disneyland. I’d read a tip online not to go to Legoland for the rides, but to go for the experience. The post I read said that if you went for the rides you’d be disappointed, but if you went to watch your kids have a good time and to enjoy the full experience of just being at Legoland, you’d have a blast and we did. We sat in the Duplo Village and let the kids build with huge Legos and climb into big Duplo playhouses, we actually went to The Big Store and to the Minifigure Market and let them buy (surprisingly affordable) souvenirs. We never shopped at all at Disneyland, too much GO! Keep MOVING! Oh, and remember my “get your money’s worth” obsession? Legoland is practically free compared to Disneyland too. And, we actually found on clearance cool stuff at one of the shops that we bought for people for Christmas—cheap, significantly discounted, things that people will actually want (can’t say what in case they read my post!). When I think about Disneyland, I remember how hard we pushed and how we “triumphed” and enjoyed pretty spectacular highlights like working the single-rider line at Radiator Springs Racers. I felt really successful about getting the max we could out of Disneyland for our dollars spent. And, almost all of the rides there truly amazing events and not mere “rides.”
When I think about Leogland, I remember things like watching the kids play in the water park area and pushing Alaina on the swing and watching her “drive” the blue Lego car she was obsessed with and of all of us sliding down the big slides of Dune Raiders in sacks as a family and riding up to the top of the Beetle Bounce all together and feeling our stomachs wooosh as we rode back down, of sharing tasty Granny Apple Fries without feeling like we were “missing” something or “wasting time,” of my boys’ faces as they ran through the Aquarium exclaiming in amazement at everything they saw as well as their sheer delight at touching real sea cucumbers and sea stars. I remember Alaina lifting her arms above her head and screaming as we zoomed around the Coastersaurus together and of Mark shoving another mom and kid’s little Lego boat around as we crept around the little Lego boat school riverway at a total snail’s pace, but with our kids really driving their own Lego boats. We did almost nothing at Disneyland that involved all of being able to go together as a family, since we had to keep switching off with one adult going on the little rides with Alaina and one boy, while the other maximized the efficiency of going on a big ride with the other boy. Legoland is built for kids in the 3-12 range, basically. It was all families with kids at about those ages—we saw no teenagers in the whole place, it was like an entire demographic was missing. Lann, at almost ten, was almost “too old” for a lot of it (but he wasn’t and he never said anything like that). Alaina, at two, was “just right” for almost everything and probably had the most fun of us all. My expectations of Legoland were lower, but the experience was actually richer in many ways. I loved it! Of course, I loved Disney too and it was a trip to remember, but there is something to be said for just having fun with your family. Duh.
As far as the rides, think kind of like basic carnival type stuff, no show-stoppers or big thrills. The very “biggest” rides at Legoland are about as good as the rides at Disneyland like Gadget’s Go Coaster and Goofy’s Sky School and most of them were much tamer and not as good as things like Alice and Little Mermaid. And, they’ve got no clue how to do ambiance like Disney does. It is really a park for pretty young people, which is fine, because that’s what we’ve got! Many of the rides were very sloooooow paced, but having the whole family be able to ride them together was pretty priceless. And, my boys never complained about anything being too slow. I will always remember the thrill of shared discovery of going together to somewhere that none of us had ever been and didn’t know what to expect and of the sense of the “bonus” surprise of having a practically empty park to ourselves to enjoy. It put us on the same playing field in a sense, in which we could all discover and experience things together for the first time, rather than having the parents already know everything about Disneyland.
Oh, they had big signs all over about NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR WATER, so we dutifully left ours in the car and went back out at lunchtime (which was a genius plan, btw), but everyone and their brother brought water in…we saw them…and no one ever said anything to stop them.
The second day was surprisingly much more crowded than actual Memorial Day—there were lots of school buses there for end-of-the-year trips. So, after enjoying some of the things we missed the day before, we headed to the Sealife Aquarium, which was another unexpected sleeper hit. It is structured oddly in that they only let you in as a group and you have to wait for group to go in with. And, once inside, you process sequentially through without any real opportunity for backtracking to see anything you’d like to see again. It had a very one-way-street feel and you just kept going until you came out at the food court at the end. Alaina desperately wanted to go back to see tiny turtles, but there was no real way to do that without being re-admitted. Anyway, at the Aquarium is where we finally saw the looks of joy and delight and excitement on Lann and Zander’s faces that we’d expected to see at Disneyland. They had so much fun and acted like it was the greatest place they’d ever been.
Interestingly, I note that I have way more pictures of our Legoland expedition as well, because I actually was moving slowly enough to pay attention and enjoy what was around me! As always, click on any picture to enlarge and then scroll through slide-show style to see bigger images and captions.
Legoland closed at around 5:00, so we actually had plenty of time to go back to enjoy the beach!