I’m writing to thank you for being all kinds of awesome on our recent visit to your establishment in Billund, Denmark.
It should be said straight up that I like your name sake. Good old Lego. In my mind it’s the ultimate gender neutral toy, the great entertainer, blessedly it keeps my children quiet and not fighting for days. I’ve even been known to sneak out at night and build things with the piles of it spread all over my back deck. Conversely I may or may not have been so pissed off with those little coloured bricks scattered in every corner of my house that I’ve deliberately not picked them up before “accidentally” vacuuming over them. That aside I really do like Lego.
I have, however never had a burning desire to go to a whole entire LAND full of it. In spite of hearing my parents speak of Legoland in reverential tones and with great fondness for almost my entire life (Billund opened in the early ’70’s whilst they were touring Europe and they have always longed to visit ever since).
So it was with some trepidation that I allowed my parents (and my other children) to convince my youngest child that she may like to visit Legoland during our forthcoming trip to Denmark, as her 4th Birthday treat. Honestly, it’s me, not you, but I was filled with dread. When you start telling kids it would be great to visit somewhere you haven’t been in 40 years you run the risk that things have changed so much they’re not going to even closely resemble the original experience you had. Understandably Legoland has, in order to stay hip and modern, had to change somewhat since the 1970’s (it’s happened to the best of us!). What was once a land made of Lego (go figure!) it is now a theme park complete with….themes. And rides.
The thing is, I hate theme parks. Like I really, really hate theme parks.
But cudos to you Legoland. As soon as we arrived I started to get the feeling yours wasn’t going to be the standard theme park experience. From the get go it was evident your entire operation is designed to protect the sanity of people with children under the age of five. It was easy to find. It was easy to park. There were big wide footpaths through the car park limiting the risk of squashed children. Every single entry gate was open. There was no restriction in bringing in food, in fact it was actively encouraged with picnic areas and ample tables and the junk food stands stashed up the back out of sight of nagging small people. Every man and his 5 kids was dragging an esky across the car park! There were toilets at the gate and more strategically placed every 100m or so around the park – blessed be anywhere that doesn’t make you schlep a 20kg toddler busting for a wee about 2km so you can line up for 20 minutes to use the facilities. And best of all, at the gates there was row upon row of stroller / buggy / trolley contraptions that looked like Mclaren and Woolworths had got together and had a love child. I may or may not have insisted on being pushed around in our buggy / trolley towards the end of the day – just because I could!
And the shops selling a plethora of Lego themed junk? Non existent. For that I thank you with the heat of a million suns. Clearly someone there has kids and understands the ultimate way to ruin a perfectly pleasant day out is to spend 50% of it fielding requests for plastic junk. In fact the obligatory retail experience was extremely enjoyable. We spent at least an hour in the airconditioned comfort of your Lego Person Pick-and-Mix facility and another hour at the end of the day working through the decision making process at your Supermarket of Lego Kits. At a cool $1,200 for a Star Ship Enterprise the Star Wars shop was a bit out of our budget (I wonder if any one ever vacuumed up one of those babies?) and I’ve never really understood the appeal of updating your wardrobe at a theme park so we by passed the clothing store but I actually left feeling slightly disappointed there wasn’t somewhere I could buy a Duplo figure key ring for my mum and my sister.
Despite my relatively low expectations, our day at your theme park more than lived up to my parents high regard of your establishment.
As expected there was Lego everywhere; from fountains and rubbish bins to the signs on the toilet doors. The giant Lego dragons, the safari park of Lego animals, the life size witches and giant Lego musical instruments were so clever and fun. Our favorites were the original miniature European city complete with railway, barges, canals, buses, docks, famous buildings, houses, people and an airport and the Duplo themed playground. Those Duplo houses with Duplo-esque windows and doors and letterboxes and those big round flowers made me squee more than just a little bit! Whilst the standard theme park areas were inevitable with their predictable pirates, dragons, vikings, haunted houses the rides were fun and we didn’t line up for more than about 15 minutes. Through it all the stars of the show were still those little bricks and the sheer talent of your engineers and designers. To my mind Legoland you have found the perfect balance between tradition and the modern idea of a good day out.
I’m not sure how your corporate partners measure the success of your business but for me, a parent, the ultimate measure of a good day out is calculated by dividing the size of the grins on the faces of my children by the number of meltdowns, taking off a point for any lost children, multiplied by how many tiny pieces my heart breaks in to watching them puttering around together on the little Duplo sky rail (because the Birthday girl wanted to go on a “scary ride” despite having just been on a roller coaster that made me scream the entire time). On that scale it was perhaps the most successful big day out we’ve had in a very, very long time.
Thank you again Legoland. Thank you for being all kinds of awesome! I’m off to try and locate the heads of the pick-and-mix Lego people lost in the back of the car. Before I use the dust buster.