5By 5TJT Staff

When I told my children–ages three to ten–that we were going to visit the brand new Legoland Discovery Center in Westchester, they were very excited. I was excited as well as I had friends from California who told me how great Legoland was. I envisioned an expansive Lego themed amusement park. That was a major misconception. Legoland and Legoland Discovery Centers are totally different creations. While Legoland in California is indeed an amusement park, Legoland Discovery Center is an indoor entertainment complex. This should clear up any confusion.

Before my family embarked on the trip, I read the online reviews at Yelp.com and was crestfallen. The reviews were so bad that I almost cancelled my visit. Yet my kids were really looking forward to Legoland Discovery Center, so I couldn’t let them down. At this point I will give away the ending and let you know that my kids had an awesome time.

Legoland Discovery Center is located in a newly built mall. Some navigation devices will have a hard time finding it. Our GPS did not have the mall in its list of places, but we were able to find a location close to it.

We entered Legoland Discovery Center and waited on line for our tickets. There is Lego available immediately for kids to play with while you are waiting on line. One daughter described even that playtime as fun. It was a nice touch that even the business card holders were made out of Lego.

Upon entering the actual exhibits, we encountered the Legoland Factory. There are various exhibits that explain how Lego is made. I found these very informative and intriguing. My kids too enjoyed the interactive exhibit. An employee gave every child a commemorative piece of Lego. My children really cherished those pieces. In the week after our visit, it was a family emergency if a child misplaced his or her precious commemorative Lego piece.

The next exhibit is the Kingdom Quest ride. Up to five family members can ride together in a car. The ride is a test of your aim. Everyone has to shoot the skeletons and trolls, which are Lego-inspired cartoon characters. If you aim correctly, the evil Legomen get blown up. There are no violent graphic images. Still, I’m sure there are some out there who would consider this inappropriate. You can proceed directly to the exhibition hall if you so desire.

After the ride, we entered Miniland. Miniland is composed of 1.5 million Lego pieces replicating various landmarks and locations in New York City and its suburbs. Every five minutes, Miniland completes a day to night cycle, with the building and landmark locations illuminated as appropriate for the time of day. Adding to the atmosphere are hundreds of interactive Lego minifigures and vehicles. There are moving mini cars, trucks, and boats; a working subway train accompanied by familiar sounds; and a mini rock band jamming in Central Park, among other sights and sounds.

All of my family members thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit and everyone had their own favorite part. My five year old son was enthralled with the half Citifield—half Yankee Stadium Lego creation. It is actually a pinball machine. He returned over and over during our visit to play the game. My ten-year-old daughter said the whole exhibit was “so cool.” I was surprised to hear from my eight-year-old daughter that she considered this the best part of Legoland. She liked playing with the interactive parts of Miniland. She loved the representation of Central Park. Even my wife commented that she was amazed at all the detail. Her favorite part was the fireworks after “nightfall.”

The newest landmark represented is an intricately detailed, 12-foot-tall model of One World Trade Center (One WTC) built out of more than 4,000 Lego bricks. Weighing in at nearly 100 lbs., the model recreates One WTC’s distinctive architecture and design, from its dynamic, shimmering glass surface all the way up to its magnificent spire, for which the Port Authority provided guidance.

Miniland exits directly into the main exhibit hall. It’s a little hard to find your way back into Miniland once you leave it, but there is nothing preventing you from returning for a second look. Just scan the exhibit hall and you’ll find the “hidden” entrance. My family went back at least three times.

In the main exhibit hall, my kids immediately wanted to start climbing at the Lego Fire Academy. It’s a jungle gym filled with giant foam Lego bricks.

There is a play area for young children called Duplo Village. My three-year-old definitely enjoyed the time he spent playing there. My eight-year-old daughter liked the karaoke microphone located right outside the village.

My children were not really interested in the Lego Racers attraction. Children have a chance to build their own Lego car and race it down the track. I imagine on the next visit my children will warm up to that. My kids did attend Lego Academy. Imagine sitting through a class on how to properly construct a Lego tower! All my kids enjoyed that except for my oldest.

The 4D Theater was exceptional and left my kids with huge grins. We only saw one of the movies available, though we did see that movie twice. My kids had never before seen a 3-D movie and that alone would have enthralled them. The elements of wind, snow, and water were added bonuses. I felt that the content was appropriate for my children. It was a 12-minute animated movie about a race. Adults will find the storyline somewhat predictable.

Merlin’s Apprentice Ride is an indoor ride taking its passengers around in circles. Adults may ride on this as well. There is a minimum height requirement to ride alone, so I took turns going on the ride with different children. All my children enjoyed this attraction except for my ten-year old.

The question that gnawed at me afterward was the incongruity between my wonderful visit and the negative reviews. After rereading the reviews, it became apparent that their chief complaint was about the lines. When I went, there were no lines. My kids went on the initial ride three or four times. Some reviewers said that the line for that initial ride was a half-hour long and therefore they never even bothered trying to go on a second time. As mentioned earlier, my kids went on that ride numerous times. My kids were able to see any movie they wanted in the 4D theater. There was a small line for the movies but everybody got in. One time, my kids had to wait on line for the Merlin ride. But all other times, as soon as the current ride ended, it was their turn. We went on a Friday when public school was in session, so it was not crowded. Also, the negative reviews were mostly from the opening weeks when it was probably a madhouse.

My kids are definitely looking forward to going again. v

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