Monday, October 10, 2011

An 8 Year Old Evaluates Legoland Florida

Merlin's Challenge
Tampa Bay Online: Sure, the new theme park near Winter Haven sounds like a lot of fun. Smaller rides built for kids, a pirate waterskiing show, deep-fried apple strips dunked in sugar.

But what do kids think of the park? We set out to find out the only way possible — with a kid.

Opening day is Saturday, but I purchased tickets for myself and my daughter, Anna, 8, for a preview day. Here's what she thought of it, from a kid's-eye view.

Merlin's Challenge
Our first stop was the Kingdom area, because it has princesses and face painting. ($5 to $10) The small ride is Merlin's Challenge, a merry-go-round that also rolls up and down.

Anna said, "It was pretty fun how it went up and down, and wasn't too scary if you're a little, little kid."

Anna's verdict: 4 blocks out of 5

We try Coastersaurus
Coastersaurus, a wooden roller coaster, was "super, super loud, and it rattles all over," Anna said. "I liked how it was so fast. At the first drop, it feels like you're in midair.

"Not too scary for a kid that's 8."

The cars hold two people, pretty snugly, and there are drop-down bars and seat belts.

Anna's verdict: 5 blocks out of 5

Safari Trek
Safari Trek is a much calmer ride. It has buggies that follow a flat track past huge Lego animals: lions, giraffes and ostriches.

"Kind of boring, because all you did was roll around. I did like the cool animals, like the big giraffe," Anna said.

Anna's verdict: 2 blocks out of 5

The new water show
The waterskiing show attracted lots of fans at the old Cypress Gardens, but this show is different.

The crowd helps the lovely Miranda and her crew of stubby Lego soldiers rescue Pirate's Cove from the dastardly, and stinky, Brickbeard pirate. There's plenty of zipping about on water scooters and a few ski jumps. The show lasts about 20 minutes.

Get there early and you might get to one of three water cannons along the front row to shoot at the actors. Anna warns: If you sit within five rows of the front, you will get soaked.

Anna's verdict: 4 blocks out of 5

Time to nibble
The Legoland signature snack is Granny's Apple Fries, which are strips of apple, fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar, served with thick whipped cream.

"The apple flavor kind of builds up on you, but the whipped cream cuts the flavor," she said. Given the chance, she would pick french fries.

As for the other food, there are the expected fries and cheeseburgers, but they have a variety of healthy food, including fruit sides and unbreaded chicken filets on whole wheat. That was a surprise.

Anna's verdict: 2 blocks out of 5. (Dad says the apple fries rock!)

Wave Racer a blast
For sheer laughs, one of the best rides is the Aquazone Wave Racer.

You ride standing up in a water scooter attached to a merry-go-round, spinning around as water bombs explode around and soak you.

Even waiting in line, you're likely to get soaked, and people walking by can hit buttons to blast the water fountains.

"I really like how it went so fast, but watch out," she said, "there is a bonk at the end!"

Anna's verdict: 5 blocks out of 5

Driving school
Anna tried the driving school, and I nearly had a heart attack.

The wait was at least an hour, and then I nearly passed out watching her blow through red lights. The driving course lasted about three of the longest minutes of my life.

"I was kind of nervous," Anna said. "My legs were kind of wiggly when I was done. The other drivers were kind of crazy."

With the wait so long, make sure your children really want to drive a car or get the plastic driver's license with their picture on it ($15.)

Anna's verdict: 4 blocks out of 5

Flying School coaster
The Flying School coaster is like a mini-SheiKra, where your legs hang in midair. But it rolls rather than dives in one big drop. This is at the far end of the park.

"It went so fast I could barely keep my eyes open. And it felt like if I put my arms out, they would hit the poles," Anna said.

Anna's verdict: 4 blocks out of 5

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