Legoland was my first true theme park experience as a child and it’s ridiculous to think I’ve been visiting on and off for over 20 years now. In some ways the place is almost unrecognisable, particularly in terms of layout, though there are still a couple of corners that remain just how I remember them in those opening years.
The focus has definitely shifted somewhat, away from ‘Miniland centrepiece featuring a few rides’, with the ‘big’ rides all tucked away at one end. While the charming lego models of various landmarks across the UK, Europe and now the world are still present, they’ve gone rather full blast on the attraction front to flesh the place out and keep things fresh. This is great news of course, as far as I was concerned, there were three new dark rides and a coaster to be had since I last visited.
An overbearing threat of rain appeared to be keeping (some of) the crowds at bay as we arrived just after opening for a pain free bag and temperature check. The Legoland App gave us a good indication of where all the early risers had headed first (the two newest attractions), so we attempted to circumvent the major queues and started off with Haunted House Monster Party.
This Vekoma madhouse had flown completely under my radar somehow. The last I remember hearing is that the park wanted to get their own version of Ghost, the haunted drop tower ride found at other Legoland properties but that planning permission had been denied and then I must have simply stopped paying attention. It’s great to see that this type of attraction is still being sold and that a fresh idea was born out of the situation.
The experience begins with a preshow in which Mr vampire lego figure invites us to a social gathering (of less than 30), some mad scientist fellow attempts to explain his latest party trick and guests are then encouraged to do quick dance under the disco balls before boarding the ride itself. It’s fairly standard haunted swing fare from there, the satisfying sensation of illusion that comes with the eyes not agreeing with what the body feels. It’s still a genius trick that I admire greatly, though it seems there are only so many ways the story can be told by now. I was reminded of how refreshing the version at Parc Astérix was and I’d love to see another park think outside the box a little more with how they use this hardware one day.
With actual queuetimes not reflecting what was advertised by this point, we opted to try (and fail) to beat the system with logic instead and head for the new for 2021 attraction, Flight of the Sky Lion, in the hopes that the initial rush had died down. The queue itself is rather less pleasant than the Haunted House with its outdoor soft floor, instead being endless switchbacks of tall plastic screening broken up by a single wall of empty trays and lego boards to serve as an unfortunate reminder of the ongoing situation.
At long last we were batched into the preshow area, to be greeted by an amusing door that allows guests to ‘skip the ride and exit’ after an hour and a half of torturous waiting, along with some screens that set the scene. This UK’s first Flying Theatre is part of a whole new land called Mythica, a place in which all Lego sets can come to life, with a particular focus on imaginative creature builds. Maximus the Sky Lion wants to take us on an adventure through this land and, of course, mild peril may ensue along the way.
It’s then time to board the suspended, single file, 10-seat-across pods that act as your flight vehicle for the ride. Though it’s a first for the UK I no longer have enough fingers to count how many flying theatres I’ve already encountered and I have grown a little tired of the concept. Luckily, with this being a fantasy based adventure, it was a completely refreshing experience and one that reminded me of other motion simulator attractions in the way that the vehicle movements juddered and responded to activity on screen, as opposed to gently tilting to the left and right whilst ‘soaring’ over some landmarks (every, single other one I’ve done so far). I rather liked this one and it just goes to show that there’s still hope for the ride type yet.
I’m guessing some recent rain had put most people off the idea of the rapids, so we took the opportunity of a 10 minute queue to get reacquainted with an old friend Viking River Splash. I’ve always enjoyed the excessive violence on this ride, it collides with the walls far too hard in certain places and generally gives an above average rapids experience. Sadly most of the other water effects are turned off these days for what I’m led to believe are safety reasons.
Suddenly we were on a roll, the new for 2020 cred #1 DUPLO Dino Coaster was basically a walk on after having been reported at some ridiculous queuetimes earlier in the day. The ride hardware is about as +1 as you can get, though the theming is of course higher than the usual standard for this scale of attraction. One thing I noted was that the audio doesnt follow the entire layout – if the dinosaur you’re riding is supposed to be the one making all the “wahey” noises, then it sounds a bit strange onboard because this only projects from the far end of the layout, even though there are speakers available throughout the lift hill (the ones used for other audio in the introductory lap). Basically it sounds better off-ride. Am I overthinking a children’s coaster? Yes.
Would have felt rude not to give the nearby Fairy Tale Brook a go for old times sake, particularly as didn’t seem to be garnering much attention from other guests amongst all the latest and greatest. Can’t go wrong with the simple elegance of a storybook boat ride (other than when the boats happen to be full of water).
The Atlantis submarine attraction has undergone a retheme into Deep Sea Adventure since I last visited. I didn’t really care for the ride before, it’s a cool concept that’s rather underwhelming as a visual spectacle, nothing more than a good sit down. I didn’t notice any real difference here other than the building exterior, though I’m guessing the narration had changed as well. It still has that same issue of announcing “wow, look now, we’re in Atlantis” when there’s really nothing wow about the moment, and then it ends.
Also Poseidon has lost his trident.
Ninjago The Ride has been kicking around here for a few years now, though I never found the need to come and try it after experiencing the Legoland Billund equivalent prior to this ones existence. I did always like these for the sights and sounds, it’s a solid enough dark ride attraction in its own right. The interactive part – shooting by flailing your arms like a ninja as opposed to with a gun is a fascinating concept but rather difficult to get the hang of (for some at least, myself included). I always try many techniques and inevitably end up shooting directly into the floor or straight up into the sky, never inbetween. Sometimes it’s better to just sit and watch.
Which is what I chose to do for Laser Raiders. This Windsor version is more advanced in the layout (not difficult) and theming department than many of it’s worldwide counterparts so I thought I’d take the opportunity to soak that up a bit. One thing I noted is the presence of some cartoon mice at the bottom of some walls, in the cracks, mice that don’t seem to fit the theme or even the concept of Lego one bit. Strange.
Of course we had to ride the other classics before the day was out. The Dragon holds fond memories for me as my first ever rollercoaster, even though the truth behind that sentiment was shattered by a Wacky Worm I don’t recall at all. The dark ride section at the start was in surprisingly good shape, with the Dragon himself being all in one piece and operating fully as far as I could tell – haven’t seen him that way for a long time. The outdoor section with its over abundance of lift hills is always a laugh and a welcome change from any of the other stock model equivalents used these days.
Spinning Spider can easily become the most intense ride in the park at the hands of the right individuals. I could potentially attribute my yearning for strong forces and violent attractions to taking multiple laps on this as a 6 year old whilst my Dad relentlessly cranked out a dangerously fast spin. We channeled that spirit again of course and by means of taking turns probably hit about 50% of his output back in the day – still felt like too much.
All that was left now before the park closure announcement was to spend some time in Miniland. Here’s a photo dump.
They’ve added a few new areas recently to cover some further reaches of the globe as well as some easter eggs based on the new Mythica stuff. It was an educational experience, as I now know to look out for that giant arch that I’d never heard of before, if I ever make it to St. Louis this century.
Overall it was a solid visit and probably my favourite UK park so far this year. I expected grim things based given the more recent reputation for excessive crowding and poor value days out, but they seem to have reached a crucial tipping point at which there’s more now than enough major attractions to disperse the numbers fairly effectively and it’s actually a far more decent lineup than I ever give it credit for these days.
Your move Alton.