We had the opportunity to spend the day as guests of LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg. I wanted to give you all the inside scoop on what to expect when you take advantage of the Homeschool Days on Wednesdays. I did not attend the homeschool workshop, so I cannot give you information on that item, but I will share about the facility in general.
We arrived around 10:30 and after a quick stop at the register we entered an amazing recreation of the city of Chicago. Over a million bricks went into building this mini-city. If only one person worked on it, it would have taken 15 years to complete! It is impressive, to put it mildly. We probably spent at least 15 minutes just soaking it in. It gradually fades from night to day and back again. You could stand there all day and still not take it all in. On the wall behind you as you view the skyline are various facts about the city of Chicago, some of its landmarks, and all that went into recreating it in miniature (including the 1,000 Lego people that wander the streets!)
That is only just the beginning. You will also find these exhibits and rides in LEGOLAND (this is a long section, but I put many pictures in the album and wrote in detail to give you as much as possible a good picture of what to expect when you arrive):
Jungle Adventure — If you follow the natural layout you will find yourself in the jungle just past mini-Chicago. After a brief introduction from the guide, you head into the jungle to find tigers, hippos, monkeys, and snakes, and one really big spider, all Lego of course. Take your time and enjoy the sites. They even have some wildlife trivia that the kids can answer on their own scratch off sheet and learn something along the way. We found the lighting a little too dim at times in this area, but enjoyed marveling and learning along the way.
Factory Tour — (upstairs) A fun trip “through” the factory. This quick one room tour gives you an idea of what goes into creating a Lego brick. From granules to the finished product, volunteers get to “help” by pushing buttons along the route. The staff host is generally entertaining and plays their part well. Our kids especially liked the special Lego piece they each walk away with — LEGOLAND’S very own, stamped and all. You can even get these individually engraved for $2 each.
4D Cinema — (upstairs) Two films available in 4D (3D plus water, wind, lighting, and other miscellaneous effects). Some of these at other places have scared my kids, but these are pretty mild, although you will get splashed a bit. If your child is young and might get upset by that, you can warn them, and you can usually tell when it is about to happen (like when Bob shakes his Thermos to try to get the water out, you just know it’s coming). We enjoyed both of the films — Bob the builder makes a roller coaster and Spellbreaker (a Lego exclusive with good and evil battling it out). Very young or sensitive children might be scared by the evil wizard type character and the skeleton army, all Lego pieces, but still loud and surprising at times. My four year old sat in my lap and jumped a couple times, but he loved it.
Dragon Ride — (first floor) My older daughter was a little disappointed as from the picture on the website she kind of expected a little roller coaster. This is more of a relaxing story journey. The dragon shaped car takes you through the wizard’s tale of knights and kings and end’s in the dragon’s lair where you might get a puff of “steam.” Despite the disappointment, it was a cute ride and my kids generally enjoyed it. The older ones thought once was enough though. My younger daughter was scared at the start of the ride, but the attendant gave her a shield to ward off anything scary, and she went on again without the shield.
Build and Test — (upstairs) We spent the bulk of our day here. Free to come and go from this area, you will find bowls full of Legos, stools all around work tables, and a challenge. Each hour or so the employees post a new Creative Challenge for the builders. The winner received a cardstock LEGOLAND crown, that my kids were quite proud of. Sometimes an animal, sometimes “Cartoon vs. Video Games” (take your pick), anything that rhymes with “sat,” and various other themed builds. It was fun to see what the kids would come up with when pushed to build something outside of their typical “really cool car.” One important note: there are not wheels out for use in this area. However, you can get wheels. You just need to turn in some form of ID and they will give you a set of wheels from their stash. We didn’t know this at first and were surprised that there were no wheels in this build room. So, now you know. There are wheels, you just need to ask for them and leave something in exchange. After building a car you can test them on the large ramps and race track.
Technicycle – (upstairs) a carnival type ride that rises when you peddle. My kids all enjoyed this and rode it repeated times. If your kids are really into the simple carnival rides this alone could make your admission worthwhile, although the line can move slowly when crowded. On a weekday we did not have any lines at all to worry about.
Model Builders Workshop — (upstairs) Throughout the day they offer mini workshops to show you how to build a special Lego creation. We were a little disappointed that the day we went it was just how to make a large Lego block out of eight smaller Legos. Then these were all combined into one large candle for LEGOLAND’s first birthday. But, August is over now, so you should have something different. Previously they had the Sears’ tower, monkeys, and other items. You don’t take the items with you, just the skills you learned.
Hall of Fame — (first floor) a small assortment of various Lego creations of famous personalities (R2D2, Batman, etc.) Great for picure taking. For other amateur photographers, photographing Lego statues is a challenge, because the flash really glares off of them if not done just right.
Physical Play — (upstairs) small indoor playground, perfect for the little ones to run and slide
Girls Play — a small corner of the build area has girly type Lego pieces including castle pieces and lots of pink. Cute, and my girls enjoyed it, but kind of small. However, probably fitting since the large portion of their guests seem to be boys.
There is also an area designed with the younger set in mind — Duplos (LOTS of them!), and big soft Legos. Great for the younger siblings that are tagging along.
And, to make your visit more comfortable, you will find lockers, coat hooks, plenty of tables and chairs for resting or snacking at, bathrooms (boy, girl, and family) and a drinking fountain upstairs, and a little cafe (meals range from just over $4 to just over $7 a piece — hot dogs, pizza, or sandwiches).
Walking around the museum you can’t help but stand amazed at the huge Lego statues and structures throughout the building. Bob the Builder, giraffes, Star Wars and Harry Potter characters, recreations of famous paintings, and even some of the floor mats. Legos find themselves all over this building starting with the large giraffe that straddles the front door.
All in all we enjoyed our time at LEGOLAND. The kids had a great time interacting with each other and with us. The many opportunities to build stretched and rewarded their creative abilities. Our oldest, a twelve year old, is on the top end of the ages I would recommend this trip for. From Bob the Builder movies to the jungle display, they seem to target a younger set. I would say kids that enjoy Legos and fall in the 3-10 age range would have an entertaining time. My 12 year old did enjoy taking the littler ones on the rides, and helping them build, and in that way it was a great day for all of us.
The staff were cheery, polite and interactive. The facility is clean and easy to navigate, and the gift shop isn’t too overpriced! We took a break for lunch which we brought with us, but otherwise easily spent 5 1/2 hours enjoying the “sites.” Rush hour traffic on the way home was another story . . .