A grown-up’s guide to Legoland Florida Resort

Legoland Florida Resort in Winter Haven has a Lego-themed hotel, theme park rides, and a water park. –Chip Litherland/LEGOLAND Florida, Merlin Entertainments Group

Located an hour’s drive west of Orlando in Winter Haven, Legoland Florida Resort occupies the former site of Cypress Gardens, a garden and theme park that operated from 1936 to 2009. Comprising a theme park, water park, and adjacent Legoland hotel, Legoland is an intimate campus of everything Lego. A new property, Legoland Beach Retreat, opened last year and sits across the street from the park.

While park visitors can opt for non-Lego lodging, generous promotions at the Lego properties diminish the economic appeal of those alternatives. So why go elsewhere?

The frenetic activity begins early each day, when the breakfast buffet (included in all room packages) opens to guests. There’s no shortage of options.

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Lego pits provide built-in fun for kids. A video room plays an endless loop of Lego movies, a quiet nook for parents and kids to unwind. Bedrooms at the hotel are Lego-themed and include bunk beds for kids, which are separated from the master living area.

Both the hotel and beach retreat offer large and inviting outdoor pools, which are fairly quiet during park hours, and therefore great for parents seeking some R&R. There are complimentary build classes at the hotel, taught by an actual Lego master builder. Participation tops out at a dozen or so participants, making preregistration essential. The classes fill primarily with kids, though adults jockey for the coveted classroom spots, too.

Legoland’s Water Park features a Build-a-Raft Lazy River (where guest build their own Lego rafts), Joker Soaker water playground, Lego Wave Pool, Duplo Splash Safari and five slippery fast water slides. —CHIP LITHERLAND/LEGOLAND FLORIDA, MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP

In contrast to Orlando parks, Legoland is not a mosh pit of Fast Pass-toting thrill-seekers. Its atmosphere is far more relaxed, with most attractions accessible in just a day.

As a first stop, caffeinate at the Market Coffee Shop, located steps away from the park entrance. Espressos help kickstart the day.

From there, you’ll discover numerous mini-parks that cater to a variety of Lego-inspired interests. All ages will appreciate Miniland, a staggering collection of miniature cities and themes — New York, Star Wars, etc. — constructed with more than 32 million Lego bricks. (Be sure not to miss the Golden Gate bridge.)

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There are separate lands to explore (DUPLO Valley, LEGO Kingdoms, LEGO Technic, NINJAGO World, World of Chima) and a seasonal water park.

Embracing the park’s Cypress Gardens connection, there is also a well-preserved botanical garden. The magical Banyan tree is a peaceful oasis for any parent. There’s also a water show, in which human pyramids water ski across a bay. At night, return to that spot for a fireworks display, enhanced by 3-D bursts of virtual Lego pieces.

The Banyan tree in the Cypress Gardens section of Legoland. —CHIP LITHERLAND/LEGOLAND FLORIDA, MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP

If you go . . .
Winter Haven is less than one hour from both Orlando and Tampa. A Legoland shuttle operates daily from Orlando and costs $5 per person; reservations required. Call 877-350-5346 to book a spot. Onsite parking at the hotel and beach resort is free; parking at the theme park is $25.23 plus tax (2018). Check out legoland.com and www.winterhavenchamber.com/visit.html.

Book reservations at the Legoland Hotel and Beach Resort at legoland.com or call 888-690-5346. Legoland offers hotel packages at its onsite properties as well as partner Winter Haven hotels: vacations.legoland.com/florida/booking/accommodation.html.

Otherwise, visit the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce website for a list of area accommodations: web.winterhavenchamber.com/Lodging-Travel-Tourism.

Purchase tickets at legoland.com, with multiple packages available. Tickets start at $79.99 (adult) and $74.99 (child), though many inclusive packages lower these costs, including second-day-free park privileges.

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