четверг, 17 октября 2013 г.

Family Holidays: Legoland, Germany (May 2013)

In this blog post I am happy to share with you my experience at ‘Legoland the theme park in Günzburg (Guenzburg), Germany.

We had been planning this trip for a long time as our daughter, who is 5 years old, loves Lego (who doesn’t :)?) Finally, we had the chance to visit!

We had a big party of children and adults, including many friends from different countries. We decided to go by train (which took about 5 hours) from Vienna, Austria, where we live.
We visited in May 2013, arriving in Günzburg on Friday evening and leaving on the following Monday morning. Two full days in Legoland is more than enough, if you're lucky with the weather :) (more about the weather later).

One important point to start - this type of vacation is not great for very small children. In my opinion, only those kids over 5 or 6 years old would enjoy this place as that's when most kids become able to go on most of the rides. Otherwise, height restrictions on many attractions will stop them from having fun. Luckily, my daughter is already over 120cm tall and so was allowed on all of the rides, which made her extremely happy!

Let's start from the very beginning: The train from Vienna was very comfortable, and we definitely feel that we made the right choice to go by train rather than to drive. Five hours in the train flew by very quickly in good company, with lots of eating, playing on our iPads (you can't avoid it!), reading, and watching kids' movies.
There was a small play area on our train that had a mini cinema, which was convenient! We only had to change trains once and this wasn't a problem. If you live in Munich, however, you can take a direct train to Guenzburg which only takes about 30-40 minutes.

We chose a hotel near Legoland: Eurohotel (3 stars) – which is just 15 minutes by taxi from Guenzburg train station. I don't have a lot to say about the hotel as we didn’t spend a lot of time there! It was, however, nice and clean, and quite modern; essentially, it had everything you might need for a short stay, with a spacious enough room to hold an extra bed for our daughter.

Our hotel was about a 20-25 minute walk away from Legoland, or about 5-10 minutes by taxi or car. The breakfast was decent for a 3 star hotel, with a small play area in the breakfast room for the children to keep themselves occupied until food arrived.

Some of the disadvantages of this hotel included its relative isolation, with almost no shops or restaurants nearby. There was only a gas station within easy walking distance, where you can buy water and some snacks, and the Guest house, where you can eat.

The hotel does not, unfortunately, serve dinner, but you can eat at the restaurants in Legoland or in Guenzburg, travelling there by taxi or in your car if you have one. Alternatively, you can ask the reception to order pizza or other food and beverages to be delivered directly to the hotel. This I pretty convenient and the food wasn't bad at all!

Another downside to the hotel is that you have to pay for WIFI  :(.

If you want to be very close to Legoland you can stay at the LEGOLAND ® Holiday Village, which is right next door. Our hotel was cheaper, but staying at the LEGOLAND ® Holiday Village would be more fun for the children. There is  even a beach, bowling and mini-golf here for the kids, so maybe we'll stay there next time!

About Legoland:
For me, a trip to a theme park is always a separate and well-planned project, requiring a lot of thorough preparation. After all, you only have a day or two to see and do everything...
I still remember our trip to Disneyland Paris (I'll write about this in an upcoming post). I did all necessary planning, and we managed to fit everything in, but I ended up losing my voice by the end of the trip :).
Understandably then, I was a bit concerned before our trip to Legoland. Happily, the trip was a success!
Legoland is smaller than Disneyland, which was a big advantage for me as there is less pressure to manage everything in a single day – you really can fit everything in at Legoland. If your budget allows, spreading out your visit for two days is nicer and more comfortable because you have time to visit the places and go on the rides that weren't such a high priority on the first day.
We managed to do a lot of things on the first day there, with good luck with the weather. We knew it would be rainy on our second day and so we left all the indoor attractions for then (and rightly so!).  

Some rides and roller coasters are outdoors, but there are some indoor attractions, including a large 4D cinema which I highly recommend - the kids loved it! 

There are mini trains, cars, planes – and everything is moving and humming… It's great fun for children... and adults.

- IMAGINATION: Great for big and small children alike. There are no high-speed rides in this area which, instead, features slower attractions like Pedal-A-Car: small cars which you can pedal and move slowly along a track (in fact, you  don’t actually have to turn the pedals to move as it's automated :)). From the track you can enjoy a birds-eye view of Legoland, or you can get even better views from the Observation Tower. This has an observation deck made of glass which slowly rises up and down while spinning around, so that you can see the full 360 degree panorama

This zone is, in my opinion, more suitable for smaller kids, as there are different playgrounds, such as Duplo there. It is calm and without any extreme, fast-paced rides.
- LEGO X-TREME: Here we go with the real rides :) Project X - the 18 metre-long roller coaster ride (there are restrictions on height and age, Express Pass is valid there and helps a lot!). My daughter, of course, loved it – she is a big fan of extreme rides...
Another ride which our daughter liked was the Techno Tea Cups, Thankfully, she has no problem with her vestibular system... This is simply rotating cups and it looks cool from the outside (where I stayed!).

We all loved the Aquazone Wave Racers, an attraction on the water where you sit in a double-seated water rocket while people shoot water at you from outside. At the end we were very wet but had a lot of fun :).

Just so you know, there is an automatic dryer available so you can dry off your wet clothes after the ride.

In the same zone there is both the 4D cinema and a small aquarium.

- KNIGHTS' KINGDOM : With a medieval castle and a gold station.

My daughter particularly like the roller coasters: Fire Dragon (there are restrictions on height and age, Express Pass is valid here).

There is also the fascinating gold station in this zone where you can get involved in Gold Panning (for an extra fee). They give you a sieve/pan and you and your kids pan out the water and pick out the gold, taking it to be weighed and then getting a present according to the amount of gold you found. When you're panning for gold it is, indeed, a real gold rush :).
There is a Caterpillar Ride: a (very!) fast ride on a small train in the form of a caterpillar, going first forwards then backwards...

- ADVENTURE LAND: In this zone you'll find the wild jungle and safari. Safari Tours (with Express Pass): this is a quiet ride where you can see animals mad​e out of Lego.

We also recommend: Jungle X-pedition (there are height restrictions; Express Pass applies here). This is a log-flume style boat ride of 12 meters high – after which you'll be wet but have had a lot of fun! In the shop next door you can buy a waterproof poncho to protect your clothes if you like.

For smaller skids you can take a similar (not at all scary) Canoe X-pedition, or the newer attraction,Temple X-pedition, where you ride around in small wagons and shoot at the Pharaohs – it didn’t impress us much!

- PIRATE LAND: There are fewer attractions in this zone, just the Pirate School (use your Express Pass), a swinging pirate ship, and a pirate playground, amongst other things.

- LEGO CITY: In this zone you can enjoy a quiet ride on the Legoland Express (with Express Pass) – suitable for children of all ages. I highly recommend riding this train at the beginning of your trip so as to get an idea of the whole park.
Harbour Cruise (with Express Pass): Here you can take a ride on the boat.

Your kid can also get a driver's license at Legoland! The driving schools are divided by age: Junior Driving School (3-6 years) and Hyundai Driving School: 7-13 years (for an extra fee).
The extreme ride in this zone is the Flying Ninjago (use your Express Pass).

Hero Factory – Only for those with no balance issues or problems with the vestibular system. My daughter loved it! Children are firmly strapped in to special seats which are raised and start moving in all possible directions... It looks scary! I didn’t do it. This is an indoor attraction.
Then there is the Lego Factory, where you can see how Lego is produced.
There are lots of cafes and restaurants at Legoland, but do not expect gourmet quality. The food is OK and there is some choice (an Asian restaurant, Italian pizza, pasta, and classic French fries and burgers)..

And... of course, you can't avoid the stores selling various Lego models. This is a paradise for children! Parents, get ready to get your wallets out :).

Overall, our trip to Legoland was very enjoyable: all the parents were happy and the kids were ecstatic (“When can we go to Legoland again, Mom?"). If you plan everything well in advance then the trip can be great fun!

Bon voyage!
Looking forward to getting your feedback upon your return!

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