By ATD’s Florida experts Susan & Simon Veness
LEGOLAND Florida is one of the freshest, most family-friendly and all-round fun parks in Central Florida – and it’s going to be even bigger and better this summer. In the words of the LEGO Movie, “Everything is awesome,” and that will definitely be the case when the Legoland Hotel opens on May 15, and then, later in the season, when the park debuts its new LEGO Friends area, Heartlake City.
We were at the official press event for a ‘sneak peak’ at the Hotel this week, followed by the big reveal of the park’s newest section, which will offer a major ride, a show and more, all featuring the hugely popular LEGO Friends brand. And it is hard to escape the infectious enjoyment and sheer imagination of what’s in store for visitors this year.
As Hotel general manager Kevin Carr said: “Imagine how excited children will be to wake up in a giant toybox full of LEGO bricks and to be the first to enter the theme park each day!”
Not only will the 152-room Hotel be right on the park doorstep, it will feature exclusive elements and first-of-a-kind features that are sure to excite guests even further.
The park’s Master Model Builders will be moving their HQ into the hotel, with the chance for children to try their hand at free daily Workshops and there will be plenty of LEGO play stations throughout the public areas for kids to create their own fun. There will also be a buffet-style family restaurant, Brick’s, a zero-depth-entry swimming pool, splash play area and bar/lounge, as well as a boardwalk around the edge of Lake Eloise, which fronts the whole resort.
In the Lobby, guests will be greeted by a friendly LEGO dragon and the spectacular entrance will lead to themed play areas as well as the pool, while other interactive features will also be added.
Behind the reception desk in the lobby will be an entire wall created out of more than 5,000 LEGO Minifigures while the Castle Play area is based on the LEGO Kingdom & Pirates line, with elements of adventure.
Inside the Castle Play area, kids will be able to romp on a pirate ship complete with a blimp, docked along a moat filled with LEGO which surrounds an interactive castle. Pull on a handle as you enter the castle and the LEGO ogre above will roar!
Guest rooms will be totally kid-friendly in one of three themed styles – Adventure, Pirates and Kingdom, and the kids will have their own sectioned-off bunk bed area completely separate from mum and dad. Even the carpets add to the theming, for a truly original touch, while every room will feature its own Scavenger hunt, with the challenge to find the numbered clues to open a ‘treasure chest’ that will have a special children’s prize in.
Lego models will be another feature of each room, and there will also be a Premium-themed room that will add even more models. Top of the range are the four VIP Suites, which will have in-room check-in facility via dedicated iPads, a screened off balcony, and the ultimate fun of in-room character dining. Can you imagine it each morning – a knock on the door and in come the Lego Pirates for breakfast!
All four Suites have gorgeous views out over the Lake and the hotel’s pool area, and they will also include the in-park VIP Experience, with a special tour guide, a look inside the Master Builders’ workshop, front-of-line access to the rides, reserved show seating, lunch and other perks.
There will be some 2,000 Lego models sprinkled throughout the hotel – using more than two million bricks! – and every room will have at least eight as part of the all-themed décor.
One last feature that definitely caught our attention (if only for the fact it promises to be quite hilarious) is the hotel’s Disco Elevator. That’s right – there will be a lift with a full disco theme inside! As you enter the elevator, lights pulsate in the ceiling to music, a mirror ball rotates and different sound effects announce arrival on each floor. Talk about starting your own party – this could be worth visiting the hotel for on its own!
It is the addition of the Master Builders that is the probably the eye-catching element, though. As our friend and LEGOLAND Florida general manager Adrian Jones explained: “The Hotel is an extension of the theme park experience and the stars of our Park are the Master Model Builders. Moving their Model Shop into our Hotel will give guests a unique opportunity to learn and build with our Model Builders daily in the Master Model Builder Workshop.”
While we expected to see and hear much of the detail of the Hotel, the other new element for this year was a complete – and very welcome – surprise.
The LEGO Friends have been one of the biggest hits with children and fans of the Lego empire in recent years, but they have not been incorporated into the parks. Until now. The big press event ‘reveal’ included the arrival of the five ‘Friends,’ Mia, Stephanie, Olivia, Emma and Andrea, by open-top sports car, with the news that, this summer, they would have their very own area in the park, Heartlake City.
The headline attraction will be Mia’s Riding Adventure, a huge horse-themed disc coaster (imagine an over-sized Frisbee that you can sit on, which then zips backwards and forwards along a track that goes up at each end!) that should be fun for older children and add another of what LEGOLAND calls its “pink knuckle rides.”
Next up will be the FriendsTo The Rescue Show, another live entertainment presentation in the heart of Heartlake City. The story and script are still being developed but you can be sure it will feature the five Friends and their latest adventures.
Finally, Stephanie’s News Room will be an all-new, fully-themed character meet-and-greet area that allows visitors to get up close and personal with their favourite Friends, take photos and get autographs. The current Mansion area, with its Buddy character meeting, will be converted to the Heartlake City theme, and Buddy (and his friends) will move to another new location within the park.
There will also be new Friends-themed shops, plus food and beverage outlets, to complete the Heartlake City area, which will become the 13th themed ‘land’ within LEGOLAND Florida, in addition to their own water park.
Jones added: “We are delighted to bring Heartlake City to the park as the LEGO Friends brand has been huge for us. It also continues our aim to provide a new expansion area every year, and follows the water park, World of Chima and Duplo Valley in the past three years. This new land gives us another headline new attraction for 2015, in addition to our hotel.”
All in all, it promises to be another memorable and spectacular year for the folks at LEGOLAND Florida, and it should be perfect for those with children in the 2-12 age range. Even if you don’t, we think it will still be a LOT of fun!