Checking in to the Castle Hotel at Legoland California Resort was a trumpet-and-banners affair as the theme park unveiled its new 250-room spread that could very well represent a design-peak collab between Lego engineers, Medieval Times, and Minecraft.
Inside and out, the hotel supplied the sort of eye candy any kid is keen on, including three lodging themes — Knights & Dragons, Royal Princess, and Magic Wizard — anchored by a courtyard climbing structure and an expansive swimming pool heavily lifeguarded and loaded with fun water features and oversized Lego blocks made of rubber. Our ground-floor room offered just enough square footage to accommodate unpacking, bathing, channel surfing, and, as my kids would say, “vegging,” after we arrived in San Diego County across greater Los Angeles and through the Orange Curtain.
Inside the park, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next spring, my two young daughters found themselves sprinting in several directions through a mellow Friday crowd. The morning quickly filled with solo car rides at Volvo Driving School, a leisurely excursion on Coast Cruise, and a teacup spin on Bionicle Blaster, among many other attractions.
As big fans of the ocean and its otherworldly plants and animals, we were particularly enchanted by the park’s Sea Life Aquarium, which sent us on a self-guided tour with long stops at Southern California Rockpool, Ocean Tunnel, Shark Mission, and Kingdom of the Seahorse. The octopuses were active, and well-fed potato grouper lumbered among pacing zebra sharks. Last month, the park added another aquatic draw — stocked with blacktip reef shark, cownose stingray, and foxface rabbitfish — with the grand opening of the Deep Sea Adventure submarine ride. During the four-minute subsurface tour, riders can interact with a Lego mini-figure dive team through porthole touchscreens to hunt for gems, pearls, and other hidden sea treasures.
Another surprising highlight — one that grown-ups were particularly drawn to — was the attention to detail at Miniland USA, a sprawling collection of 1:20-scale Lego models of municipal landmarks, including Grand Central Station, New Orleans, the Vegas Strip, and Washington, D.C. Most of the intricate renditions are landscaped with living shrubs and trees pruned to scale, bonsai-style, adding the cool touch of nature to a deliberately constructed fantasyland.