Because of my fondness for boutique hotels, we have rarely taken our kids to a hotel with one of the things they long for most on vacation ….other children. Perhaps that is why, when I saw the initial press release for a new themed Legoland Hotel in Carslbad, California…I had a weak moment. My son adores LEGO, and despite my concerns over gender stereotyping, my daughter has also fallen quite in love with LEGO Friends. After finding a great deal on Allegiant Air, taking advantage of a special grand opening price, and using some credit card points, we were on our way (no free ride for this blogger).
My first impression of this Crayola colored castle, was that I was going to need to brace myself, and do some kind of deep breathing exercises to remain calm over the coming 48 hours. Interestingly enough, however, what initially looked like mayhem, was actually quite civilized. There were so many things to entertain and excite little people, that as a parent, you could actually just sit back and relax. My own children were in heaven from the moment they lay their eyes on the large play castle in the lobby, surrounded by pools of LEGO. Add to this thousands of LEGO sculptures around the hotel (some that move and talk), a wall of miniature figurines at the front desk, a disco elevator that turned a regular ride into a dance party, the odd whoopee cushion planted under the carpet, and this place was going to be hard to top.
The hotel has several dining options, the most popular being Bricks Family Restaurant with it’s colorful LEGO characters and color-me table cloths. It’s popular breakfast buffet even has a special lower kids station, allowing little ones to help themselves (careful….my delighted children helped themselves to a breakfast of fruit loops and Coke). If you are looking for something even more casual, the Skyline Cafe offers an a-la-carte menu all day. In the evenings, the coffee bar situated next to the large play castle in the lobby, miraculously transforms into a real bar, where parents can relax while kids enjoy the nightly entertainment and dance party. I couldn’t help but think that it seemed like a little nightclub for kids….. and they were loving it !
The rooms are a big thrill for kids and LEGO loving parents alike. With three different themes (kingdom, pirate and adventure), they are chockerblock full of little surprises. Some of the things we liked best included the separate sleeping area for kids (bunk beds and their own tv), the complimentary water, coffee, tea and apple juice, the LEGO set for use in room (from which kids can enter the nightly model building competition), the many LEGO sculptures around the room, and the thoughtful details such as the built in kid’s potty and step stool. Being that the hotel is brand new, a few things were naturally amiss, including the fact that there was no mini fridge in the room (it had not arrived yet), and an in-room treasure hunt with no actual hunt (due to a malfunctioning password protected treasure chest). This made no difference to my children as they were simply thrilled with the booty that had been left out in the open.
Also important to note is that you have the option of a standard or a premium room (both sleeping 5). The only real difference between the two (other than about $80), is that the premium rooms are decked out with a little more in the way of themed decorations. Other room upgrades include preferential pool views (Ours did not have a view and I was thankful to realize that the worker outside my window was actually made of LEGO.). Larger family suites are also available. The 250 rooms, cover three stories with kingdom themed rooms being on the bottom floor, pirate rooms on the 2nd, and adventure rooms on the 3rd. When you book a room and Legoland pass package, you are also allowed entry to the park 1/2 an hour before the general public.
The pool area is quite lovely with a gradual entry shallow end for babies and toddlers, and a deeper, roped off area for older children. On our visit to the hotel, two lifeguards patrolled the pool area at all open times. There were also several families enjoying the pool while they waited for their check-in time (with luggage storage being offered by the concierge). Waiter service is available poolside for families to enjoy a little snack and relaxation after a long day at the park. If you have had a little too much sun, renting a poolside cabana is also an option.
The Legoland hotel is run by the Merlin Entertainment Group, and if I have one criticism of the property it is that the service was a little weak. While the staff members were very friendly, they seemed, even after a month of the hotel being open, to be a little lost. I was also disappointed by the fact that when I called the hotel to make changes to my reservation, I was unable to reach anyone after 5pm (more typical of an office, not a hotel). When I then tried instead to reach the hotel by email, my two emails were never responded to (although with a further phone call during their business hours I was able to confirm that the changes had been made). The long and short of it is, that the Merlin Entertainment Group is in the business of entertainment, and entertain you they will. If, however, you expect the staff to know your name, and what you like in your coffee, you will probably be disappointed.
We felt, all in all, that the hotel provided fairly good value, with a huge perk being early access to Legoland itself. While other families we spoke to also commented on some service issues, they all said that they would recommend the hotel to their friends. So, the verdict is….love it… or at least like it….because your kids sure will !
As a final note, I would like to say that if you can visit the hotel on a weekday, do so. Both the Legoland Hotel and the park itself were quite relaxed on the weekdays, but as soon as Friday night came, and the families started arriving for the weekend…the tempo increased, as did the length of the lines.
more about the legoland hotel california:
Here is a little video I made of the hotel (I promise to get better at this) :
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