Five of us crowded into the lift, staring silently at the closed doors. Then the music started, a disco ball on the ceiling spun its bright colours across us, and while we’re serious, working journalists, it was physically impossible not to join the kiddies in a dance. Think you’re immune to Funkytown or YMCA in a Disco Elevator? Think again!
It’s all part of the brand new LEGOLAND Hotel in Winter Haven, where the fun starts the moment you enter the lobby. And we’re not just talking about fun for kids. The hotel is chock-full of little details guests of all ages can explore and enjoy. Want to relive the mischievous side of your childhood? Step on the portion of the carpet near the lifts that’s shaped like a Whoopie Cushion, complete with inappropriate sounds (then look at the wall next to you, where a Lego person asks the inevitable question, “Was that you?”). Want to recall the youthful joy of discovery? Pay attention to the Lego bike rider moving back and forth along the wall behind the reception desk. His bike tyres are magnifying glasses that bring the minifigures behind him into clearer focus. Or ignore your parents’ admonition not to talk to strangers and engage hotel staff in conversation. They’ll happily swap the minifigure each of them wears on their name badge for one of your minifigures.
It’s all about being a kid or remembering what it’s like to be a kid when you’re at Legoland Hotel. Even the bedsteads are high, ensuring grown-ups experience that long-ago feeling of clambering up the mattress and letting their legs dangle down the side. What else is in it for adults? How about free WiFi? Want more? A superb buffet breakfast is included in the cost of your room and very hotel guest is granted early access into the park, insuring they can avoid the crowds at the most popular attractions.
Guests who truly are children are catered to with thoughtful touches such as child-height peepholes in their room’s door, LEGO to play with in their own mini-suite, bunk beds and a kids-only television and entertainment center.
And if they’re not quite tall enough to reach the sink? There’s a kid-sized stool for that. Not quite big enough to sit on the potty? Each toilet has a built-in toddler-friendly seat that drops down over the regular seat. Best of all, each room has a treasure chest themed for Pirates, Adventure, Kingdom, or Lego Friends, depending on which floor you’re on. This special kid-friendly ‘safe’ includes easy instructions on how to crack the code and open the padlock. We won’t tell you what’s inside, but suffice to say, it’s stuff kids love (we’ll admit we got a smile out of it too).
Guests can request the room theme they’d like to experience when they make their booking, and each floor of the hotel takes its theme to the ‘nth degree, from the Lego character who talks to visitors as they exit the lift, to the carpeting, wallpaper, wall decorations, pillows, shower curtain, and, of course, lots of Lego models in each room (eight, to be exact, with more in the Premium themed rooms).
Having done a hardhat tour of the hotel earlier this year, we had some small idea of what to expect from each of themed rooms, but there was one thing about the hotel that took us completely by surprise, and that was the freshness and quality of the dining. With nary a burger or hot dog in sight, kids and adults were happily tucking into the buffet offerings of baked chicken, black bean salad, a very respectable curry, and other tantalizing entrees and sides, all locally sourced.
Bricks healthy choices are presented in such an appealing way that young’uns even gravitate toward fresh-cut vegetables and fruit cups. And smoked salmon always tastes better on a morning bagel when it’s at a height kids can reach. Perennial kid-favourites of chicken tenders, mac-and-cheese, and sweet corn were available too, of course, but during our stay the more interesting options were the most popular.
While most hotel lounges are tucked away, mainly out of sight of the youngsters, LEGOLAND Hotel’s Skyline Lounge is right in the center of things. Yes, it can get a bit noisy when pirates or Lego Friends characters do their interactive performances, but that’s a small price to pay for being within easy sight of your offspring while sipping a martini or sampling a pint or two of Florida’s fabulous craft beers, or dining on fare worth of any four-star restaurant.
Happy to have the kids out of view for a while? LEGO Club center is just off the lounge, providing LEGO Club magazines, building areas, character meet-and-greets, and videos for kids taking a break from the excitement. For those who still have plenty of get-up-and-go, a LEGO Castle and pirate ship serve as the centerpiece between the Skyline Lounge and Bricks, where young’uns can build, play, enjoy interactive shows, and even wake a sleepy ogre!
There are so many brick-filled areas in the hotel (even the fabulous zero-entry pool has soft bricks that float!) you can’t go far without indulging your passion for model-making, but guests who have always wondered what it would be like to be an actual LEGOLAND model builder can sign up for the daily Master Model Builder Workshop. We’ve attended two sessions with Master Builder Jason, who taught us all the proper brick terminology, cracked a few groan-inducing jokes, and made us feel like seasoned professionals as he led us through the creation of our very own LEGO models (a mini Yoda and a hilarious alien with his little dog now sit proudly on each of our work desks).
It’s all just steps away from the front entry to the LEGOLAND park, on the shore of pretty Lake Eloise, where a brand new boardwalk quiets the pace after a full day of family fun, for an evening stroll and the chance to make S’mores chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker treats to cap off a perfect day.
Remember those lifts we mentioned earlier? Even the sadness of checking out of your room at the end of your stay comes is softened a bit by one last boogie under the disco lights.