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Disneyland or Legoland with 5-year-old?

Jan 2008

I will be on a vacation with my almost 5 year old son in San Diego in March. We will have easy access to a car. We will absolutely go to the San Diego zoo, but we won't be able to afford *both* Disneyland and Legoland. Does anyone have any advice about either of these places and the pros/cons of taking an almost 5 year old boy? If it helps, he does enjoy rides and has had fun at kid amusement parks in the past. Jennifer


Disneyland and Legoland are very different experiences. IMHO, Legoland is much better for the younger set as most of the park is geared toward them. There are some rides but they are pretty mild. The attractions for toddlers at Disneyland are great, but the majority of the park is for older kids/adults. Your little guy will probably LOVE one section of Disneyland and you may never leave that corner of the park, but for the money, there is more hands-on stuff to do and play with in Legoland. My kids thought it had one of the best waterpark-like play areas they had ever been to (bring dry clothes to change into if you think it is not warm enough to just air dry)! Also, the drive to Disneyland from SD is not easy, especially in LA traffic, so you would be talking about one really long day or an overnight stay at a hotel. --one vote for legoland
If he's into Legos at all, I'd opt for Legoland. I went there with my son two years ago when he was nine, and he was just barely at the top end of the age range. That is, much of it was perfect for the 5-7 age group, especially the rides. The scale of the park is smaller and much less hectic than Disneyland, too. If he loves Disney characters (and Pixar, too) and is okay in a crowd, you'd do fine at Disneyland. I just thought Legoland had a particular kind of charm. Been There, Done That
I wanted to speak-up for Legoland and recommend that you give it a visit. (I have not been to Disneyland in years so I can't offer a comparison.)

Our family (with three children, who are now betw the ages of 7 and 12) has been to Legoland 3-4 times over the last few yrs and have enjoyed it each visit. The operators are taking care of the upkeep and the park is clean and safe. One of the things I like about it is that it is not overly huge, and you can see most of it on a one-day visit.

On its Web site, Legoland discourages bringing in outside food, but we have done it and it's not a big deal. It's good to have fruit and snacks for the kids when you are waiting in line for the rides, and I have also taken in sandwiches and drinks for lunch. The park itself has several eateries (of course) and prices seem to be reasonable.

If you go, be sure to get there when it opens and start at the opposite end of the park -- you might want to start at the Dragon, which is a 3- or 4-min. rollcoaster ride through a medieval castle. (Rides near the entrance gate are the ones that have the lenghty lines ... so that's why you want to start at the opposite end of the park.)

Legoland has a handful of shows for the kids and adults and I would recommend them. One of them is in a small theatre where we have seen a ventriloquist, Kevin Johnson, who does a little bit of magic (the show 20 mins long). There is also a 20-min. show about some fledgling firefighters in Funtown that our kids have enjoyed. The star of the show is Vernon, a clumsy nerd who gets lots of laughs with his pratfalls and slapstick humor as he tries to pass the firefigher test.

I think your 5-yr-old would find lots to do.

I offer you these comments as someone who does not typically enjoy amusement parks -- Legoland is OK in my book.

(Also, while you are in S.D., look around for discount coupons for Legoland, such as a free children's ticket w/ the purchase of an adult ticket. Places that have tourism info might have these coupons.) pgtorrez


We have been to Legoland and Disneyland whem my son was 4 years old, and to this day he two years latter he says he likes Legoland better. I actualy thought the rides were less overwelming and more for his age. Disneyland was better for taking pictures and mom and dad, he did not like the closed rides since he could not see what was going to happen. My two cents. Legoland
I can't say enough good about LegoLand! We first took our son there when he was 4, and now it's a regular destination. Of course you have more opportunities than you thought possible to buy toys, but that'll be the same at Disneyland. Anyway, Legoland has places to play and build, ride appropriate to different ages, and amazing creations made from Legos. It's a place that really has families in mind--bathroom stalls big enough for a parent AND a child, decent food, including a wonderful salad bar in Mini Town, and lots of stuff that works for smaller kids. It even has a sense of humor about it. Also--money tip--if you buy your tickets up here from AAA, you can get tickets for a second day free if you go to the booth just past the gate--you might check what other deals AAA has for the San Diego area. We love it there! Carolyn
We went to both Disneyland and Legoland in November. My kids are 8 and 6, and they both really enjoy Legos and are starting to outgrow some of the Disney characters and themes. Legoland was so clean, and well run, it was a really enjoyable experience and it was a full day. Downside: Legoland is only open from about 10-5, whereas Disneyland is open over 12 hours. But with a 5 year old, 7 hours may be more than enough. Other considerations:

1) Disneyland has the ''Fastpass'' where you get a ticket for a ride and go back later in the Express lane. That's wonderful. Legoland's most popular attractions had lines of 60 minutes or more the whole day, so there were a couple we didn't do. Others were fine with very little wait. Legoland had a number of water attractions, but it was really cold when we were there, so we missed those. 2) If you're a member, you might check Costco or Sam's for discount tickets to either.

Don't worry, you'll have fun no matter which you choose. Cortney


I would recommend Legoland - this is almost the perfect age for it. The rides are much more accessible for someone that age, the scale is smaller so not as overwhelming, and it is geographically more accessible. Maggie
I would like to suggest that you take your child to Seaworld first. they have amazing petting dolphins and the best shamu shows. My son loved this at that age way more than the sd zoo and we went several times. I can't offer an opinion about disneyland v. lego, except that it is quite a drive to LA from SD. I'd say make it simple and go to Seaworld, the zoo and then legoland. amy
My kids are quite a bit older now but we've been to both Disneyland and Legoland. I would definitely recommend Legoland for a variety of reasons. First, it's closer to San Diego than Disneyland but also Legoland has a smaller age group as its focus. Disneyland will always be there for all ages but at some point, your kids will be too old for Legoland so I would take the opportunity now while you can. Judy
I think that Legoland may be a little cheaper, and could potentially be a little less busy. But if you're down there anyway, and your kid is a Disney nut, you might want to spring for D'land. It's really most kids' dream date. Get your ticket ahead of time (e.g AAA) so you don't have to waste time at the ticket booth, and get to the gates immediately when it opens and go straight to the busiest rides. Disneyland is just fine for a 5 yr old, especially one who likes rides. But it's also the characters. (e.g. buzz lightyear for his age, and the buzz lightyear ride is great fun). However, I'm guessing that since your first priority is the SD zoo, you may not really be disneyland nuts, and legoland is closer to the zoo than disneyland is (I think). maybe you should go to legoland this time, then next time buy yourself 3-day passes to disneyland (which also gets you one early entry day, and doesn't cost much more than one day), and you can easily spend the entire time at both! disneyland and california adventure, which is also fun. janet
Legoland is great for that age group. I just took my two daughters (ages almost three and almost five). They loved it! We went twice (they gave us a free return ticket). We purchased our tickets prior to going at a Navy Morale and Welfare office (Legoland gives a great discount to military families -- reserves, retirees or active duty, so if you have any military affiliation then buy before hand). We went on New Year's Eve and then again during the first week of January. It was crowded by Legoland standards but not Disney-esque. My advice is to get their when it opens to avoid lines. It starts getting busy around noon.

I have not taken the girls to Disneyland, but have taken both to Disneyworld. I hated that trip. I now let the grandparents take them. The lines were miserable. It was incredibly crowded. The traffic flow is sort of an afterthought there, unlike at Legoland where crowds move easily. That said, I don't know whether or not Disneyland is as as bad as Disneyworld. jan


If you only have one day for amusement park-ing, I would go to Legoland. Disneyland needs more than one day, and stay in the resort if possible. We just came back from Disneyland (our son is 4) and spent 4 days in the parks and didn't do it all. Jennifer
If you will spend only one day at an amusement park, then there is no question: Legoland. It's a much more manageable size and layout for a one-day trip, and there are more fun things to do without standing in line or fighting crowds. Not to mention it's cheaper. Much cheaper, last time I checked. The park offers a lot of fun stuff for everyone, infant through senior (our parties have included babies as young as 7 months and adults in their 60s), but five-year-old boys are a prime target audience. Mine last went at age 4, when he was tall enough to go on pretty much any ride (some accompanied, some alone), old enough to appreciate all the cool interactive stuff around the park and young enough to love the silly shows and tame rides too.

As an adult, I enjoyed Legoland more than Disneyland too. It's less....schlocky. And, as I said, a more manageable size. You could totally spend more than one day in a row there, but in one full day you can feel like you've ''done'' the park.

At Disneyland, by contrast, we felt as if we'd barely scratched the surface after one day, and the price of a one-day admission (''Park Hopper'' because we'd heard there's a lot of great stuff for kids at CA Adventure) just isn't a great value. We had fun, don't get me wrong, and there are some great things about Disneyland, but it felt like we DID less...and got more tired. You have to plan your route and your ride/attraction choices carefully, since things are more spread out and lines tend to be longer. Next time (assuming there is a next time, or two or three, in the next decade or so!) we will definitely buy a three-day pass in order to get our money's worth.

Unless you are die-hard Disney fans or your kid is just clamoring to go to Disneyland...do Legoland instead. (And the San Diego Wild Animal Park, while you're in the area.) Save DL for when the grandparents are paying ;-) or you can do a whole Disney vacation.

(By the way, I've visited both parks more than once since having kids because until recently my parents lived in Orange County. Makes the whole thing easier.) Mom of a Lego fanatic


I would pick Legoland, as it is a limited time that your son will enjoy it. Disneyland is for ALL ages...LegoLand is really for the 2-7 year olds. BeenThere

Legoland, Sea World, or Marine World?

June 2007

We have several outings planned for the summer, including a few days in San Diego, and are trying to figure out which place will be the most fun for all the money we'll have to spend! Has anyone recently been to Legoland, Sea World in San Diego, or Marine World in Vallejo? We're taking our two boys, aged 6 1/2 and nearly 9, and they're interested in both the rides AND the animals. Is Marine World (Vallejo) just another amusement park with animals as a smaller attraction? Is Sea World (S.D.) mainly animal shows with not much else to do? Is Legoland mainly geared toward younger kids? (My older son isn't particularly keen on super-thrill rides, but nor does he want the Oakland Zoo-type kiddie rides either.)Have seen earlier reviews but nothing too recent... muchin


We liked Legoland much better than Sea World. Helena
I went to Legoland over spring break, with my 10 yo son and my 11 and 7 yo nieces. We all had a great time. For the older kids there are a couple of classes that involves robotics and legos, that are an hour each and were great. The rides are short, and not especially scary, but still fun, and the lines move pretty quickly. The food is actually pretty good, and not overpriced. And most importantly, I didn't have that claustrophobic over stimulated feeling I usually get from amusement parks. We would have gone back for the second day ($1 if you get your tickets from AAA) if we'd had time.

We also like the Wild Animal Park. I wouldn't say it is a must see, but the tram tour is good (get in line first thing and early) but the setting is pretty cool and it is an easy way to spend a day. Kean


Legoland accomodations

April 2006

We have seen the glowing reviews of Legoland on this site and from friends who have been, so we are excited to take our two boys ages 3.9 and 2.2 years as an alternative to Disney this summer.

Don't see any recommendations about where to stay though, and I know it's a bit of a hike from San Diego, so we'd want to stay some place Carlsbad or near there.

We've found on recent trips that a suites hotel does work better just b/c the boys have an extra room to roam and play and chase..you get the picture.

Of course price is fairly important trying to keep it between $80 and $125 per night.

Embassy Suites vision, Motel 6 budget


Our family just went to Legoland a few weeks ago and stayed in the Best Western Inn & Suites in Encinitas. Price for a suite was about $120 for the AAA members price. It worked out great for us! Ocean view, just a short way down the highway from Legoland, maybe 4-5 miles, and a really nice hotel. Price included a good breakfast -- more than just nasty little pastries and coffee -- and the suite had a nice kitchen setup so we could store lunch and snack supplies. In fact, our 2nd day at Legoland we ended up out at the car making sandwiches (we had taken along a small cooler) rather than pay the expensive food prices inside the park. I'd highly recommend the Best Western for your trip. Erin
La Jolla is nice. About 20 minutes south of LegoLand, has nice beaches, and you can add a trip down to the zoo in San Diego, which I HIGHLY recommend.

Worth it to visit Lego Land?

July 2001

We are planing to visit south California next month, with our 3 and 5-year-old kids. We are not sure whether it is worth to visit Lego Land. Some people say it is great, while others say it is a waste of time and money. Thanks for any opinion / advise you can give us. Eli


I vote yes on a visit to Legoland. We took our 19-month-old son there last month, and he had a blast. The park gears its amusements for kids ages 3 to 12, but we found there was more than enough there to captivate a slightly younger guy. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because I checked out the Web site, and it struck me that it was just another amusement park. But my Southern California friend, whose son is just a month younger than mine, talked me into it. (She's got a year-long pass for her boy.) Here are some of the things we really, REALLY liked: The park is very clean. All restrooms have changing tables. All restrooms have sinks that little ones can reach. The restaurants serve pretty healthy, fun food. (We went to a pasta place. The pasta was cooked as we watched, and it tasted really good. But it was pricey.) The high chairs are clean, on wheels, safe, and roll away easily. Someone came over and cleaned our table as soon as we got up. The security is great. A little boy near us was in tears because he'd lost his family. We barely had time to ask him what the matter was before an attendant showed up with a walkie-talkie and took over. (We later saw a the boy with his family.) It was also a really comfortable atmosphere for families. It seemed everywhere I looked someone was changing a little one's diaper. And people didn't go crazy because your kid was making too much noise. My son loved the choo-choo train; we couldn't get him off of it. He loved an area that had climbing things and little huts. There are places where kids can play with Legos (imagine that!). He loved the huge Lego elephant that moved. And he went bonkers for little jets of water that shot up from the ground. The kids are supposed to plant themselves on a spot, and the water goes off every couple of minutes. But Watson just went running from spot to spot to spot. He was soaking wet, and his grin wouldn't quit. I should warn you that it isn't inexpensive. They don't give you discounts for younger kids, and they don't let toddlers in free. I imagine that would be foolish, because there were an awful lot of toddlers at the park and that's a lot of revenue. But be sure to bring your Triple-A card, if you're a member, because that will give you a bit of a break. Be aware, too, that it's a bit of a drive from most places. It's in Carlsbad. We came from Orange County and had an hour and a half drive. But that made for a really good nap for our little one on the way home. :-) Gwynne and Mark
We went to Southern California in late May. We spent a day at Lego Land with 3 kids aged 18 months, 3 1/2 and 4 1/2. The kids really loved it! We got there fairly early and the little one crashed about 2pm but the other two went until 4:30p. I think it would be perfect for your age range. Some of the rides would be too big for them but there were plenty they could go on. My guess is with older kids (above 9 or 10) it might be too "little kids" for them. Look for coupons on the web or in the local brochures. The food was pretty inexpensive in the park, but there's plenty of picnicking places as well. Bring a change of clothes because there's a big water play area where ours got soaked. Donna
We went last year with our 4 year old and 1 yr old. We loved it. It is clean, well organized, has fresh food, and is lots of fun. We lucked out and went on a weekday (non-summer) and it wasn't too crowded. It is expensive ($30/person or so), though. Anon
We are big fans of Legoland, having visited there when my son was 2.5 and again when he turned 3. I am generally not a fan of 'theme parks', but Legoland left an impression on me. There are plenty of opportunities to play with legos of all sizes of course (primo, duplo, lego, and large soft pre-primo size), but the special attractions including Miniland (replicas of places around the US done in Legos) are fascinating. Also, especially nice during hot summers, there is a participatory water park with structures all made of Legos. So bring bathing suits and a change of clothes if you go. The park is clean, the food is several cuts above junkfood (fresh salads and fruit as well as decent prepared sandwiches and other food), and there are plenty of clean restrooms - all of which is important when traveling with young children. The web-site is pretty informative, in case you haven't already looked at it. I think it's www.legoland.com or something close to that. Finally, though it isn't cheap, if you're thinking of going to a theme park anyway, you'd be spending just about that much money anywhere else. Jane
We went to Lego Land Feb. 2000 for my son's 9th bd. Our younger son was 4 1/2. We LOVED it. I think I especially loved it more than anyone. We were there in winter on a gorgeous day and the place was spotless and almost empty. There were some fun rides for kids and a very entertaining show. There were plenty of activities kids could do with leggos. One activity was building leggo race cars and then racing them against your own time on a track with a timer. My favorite was "mini land". I'm sure you've heard about it....cities of leggos with leggo people, leggo dogs, miniature landscaping, leggo marching bands with music playing, leggo mardi gras, leggo Wash. DC, parades with cars moving on tracks with leggo people waving from cars.....I think the whole idea is ingenious. My kids liked it but they were more interested in the activities and rides than mini land. Even the restaurant we ate in had what I considered reasonably healthy food (I usually HATE eating in amusement or theme park food places....greasy, unhealthy and expensive). We combined it with a visit to some friends and the San Diego Zoo. June
We've been to Lego Land twice - once when our daughter was 3 and once when she was 4. We enjoyed it both times, but she got more out of it the second time. As these type of expensive "attractions" go, I would recommend it. If you go, be sure to start in the area specifically for little kids with your 3-year-old. Our first time there we were a bit disappointed until we found that area because much of the park is designed to be enjoyed and appreciated by older kids. My daughter still asks if we can go back to Lego Land and the San Diego Zoo, but has never mentioned Sea World again - so those would be my 2 top picks in that area. Have fun. jill
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