Monday, March 30, 2015


We visited LEGOLAND Florida three times over the last year. While this park isn't for everyone, it certainly fills a big niche for families with younger children especially if anyone in the family is into LEGO.

The lines are very reasonable or at least they were on all three of our visits which included a holiday. We were pleasantly surprised by the fact that none of the rides were off-limits to our two children due to height requirements. I will confess that our daughter, who is our youngest and was 5 at the time of our first visit, is a little above average in height. Parents can check height requirements for the rides on the LEGOLAND website beforehand. If your kid is a thrill seeker, just wait until he/she reaches the 44 inches that will allow them to ride everything in the park. The rollercoaster rides in the park are Project X in LEGO TECHNIC, The Flying School in LEGO City, Coastersaurus in Land of Adventure and The Dragon in LEGO Kingdoms.

AQUAZONE Waveracer
When we visit a park for a day we mean business; we want to ride every ride and get all the experience out of the place that we can. This sometimes resembles a marathon of sorts. So, as is our want, we arrive before the gates open. Once inside, we make a beeline for the back of the park. Miniland USA is very distracting especially on the first visit, but we manage to keep even the 7 year old LEGO fanatic moving with promises to explore it all in full later in the day. Our first stop is LEGO TECHNIC where we find Project X, which, in our opinion, is the best roller coaster in the park. There is a nice drop toward the beginning of the ride and the Gs keep coming enough to make it enjoyable for kids and jaded parents alike. If you are taller than my 5'6" inch frame, I recommend the backseat. Even my knees touch when riding in the front row of the car. First thing in the morning, there is hardly any line for this ride allowing for multiple consecutive rides; by the afternoon, the line for Project X can reach 45 minutes. LEGO Technic also has the AQUAZONE Waveracers. It looks like an interesting ride and we rode it on our first two visits, but I will say it is probably my least favorite ride in the park. The lines get extraordinarily long and given the ride experience it just isn't worth a very long wait.

Driving School @LEGOLAND FL
From LEGO Technic, the best order of business is to walk on to LEGO City to the very back. Right before the entrance to the LEGOLAND Waterpark (additional entry fees required), you will find the Flying School. It looks like a great little roller coaster and for the kids it is an excellent introduction to suspended roller coasters - not too long and no 360 degree loops. However, the restraint system in this coaster is a migraine maker for adults. The large solid restraints come over the shoulder right at ear height. While suspended roller coasters are supposed to be known for their smoothness, there are a couple of places in the ride where you can't help but hit your head on the hard restraints. It's tolerable for one go around, but not for multiple consecutive rides. LEGO City also has the Driving School where kids drive small LEGO cars and learn the rules of the road. Boating School is for the whole family and was more fun than we anticipated.

Beetle Bounce @LEGOLAND Florida
Coastersaurus in Land of Adventure is a great little wooden roller coaster. Sit as far back as you can for more intense ups and downs. It's not a long ride but well worth it. If the timing is right, multiple consecutive rides can be had here as well. The Land of Adventure also has one of my kids favorite rides of all time - the Beetle Bounce. It's essentially a mini-drop tower. Only one parent is permitted per tower so, if your kids don't mind riding by themselves, they can often get to the front of the line much faster. The Lost Kingdom Adventure is in the same area. The lines can get rather long for this laser-tag type ride. My daughter finds it a bit scary, so we only ride this one if the line is practically non-existent and she rides with Daddy.

LEGO Kingdoms has The Dragon. This roller coaster is very smooth and fun for parents and kids. Merlin's Challenge is a nice carnival-type ride right nearby. The Medieval themed Royal Joust is also in LEGO Kingdoms. This is another one of those rides where the lines can be deceiving. There are only a handful of horses that allow one (child-only) rider. So what seems like a short line can easily turn into a 30-45 minute wait.

Royal Joust @ LEGOLAND
The main attraction in the World of Chima is The Quest for Chi - a water log type ride but much bigger. It provides a great opportunity to cool off on a warm day.

The Quest for Chi - Dad and kids trying to shoot water at me!
Construction of DUPLO Valley was completed between our 2nd and 3rd visit. It provides additional rides for the 2 to 5 year olds which was sorely needed on our second visit with friends who had a 2 year old. There were only a couple of rides appropriate for this age group before DUPLO Valley opened which included the Grand Carousel, a rather unique double decker carousel in Fun Town.

Concessions at the park are decent. I recommend the vegi panini at I-Zone Panini in Imagination Zone between LEGO Technic and LEGO City. Alternatively, the Market Restaurant near the main entrance has a huge condiment bar and the best selection of food in the park. We've patronized only one additional eatery in the park, The Lakeside Sandwich shop. It's mediocre at best, but then what can you expect of soggy, pre-made sandwiches. There are several other food options in the park that may be more promising. Check out the full list of food options on the LEGOLAND Florida website. On our last couple of visits, we brought along a few snacks and a refillable water bottle. I didn't see security confiscating any such items at the gate.

Don't miss the Pirate's Cove Live Water Ski Show. It is reminiscent of the water ski shows that were performed on the site when it was Cypress Gardens. A section of the lush gardens still remain and the Island in the Sky is another hold over from the site's Cypress Gardens days.

The park isn't huge, which is good when you have younger kids that don't need a stroller but still get tired feet. Compared with other parks, it is quite manageable for young families to get all they want out of this park in a day. This is not the case if your ticket includes the LEGOLAND Waterpark.

Management is doing their best to make this a multi-day park experience with the addition of another LEGO "land" called Heartlake City based on the Friends LEGO line. To accommodate multi-day visitors, construction of a LEGO themed hotel on the premises is well underway with completion expected summer 2015. Giant sized photos of what the different themed rooms will look like grace the barrier walls surrounding the construction zone and certainly grabbed the attention of my children.

If you haven't been, I recommend making a visit now before the park grows and the average visitation catches up to what LEGOLAND officials are hoping for.

Friday, March 27, 2015

First Sleepover

The kids just hosted their first sleepover. Their cousin, who is on spring break, stayed with us. Yesterday, we went to two parks and Chickfila. They had a Minecraft marathon, played Lego and watched Night at the Museum 3.

I would entitle it, "I survived our first sleepover," but we still have more on tap for today. Highlights include jumping around at double down athletics and visiting Grandmas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Story of the World: Superbly Illustrated Literature Suggestions

We continue to work through The Story of the World curriculum when we can. Each Chapter lists corresponding literature suggestions, but often times I can't find those books at our library. So I look for others. It just so happens that I ran across a couple of books that are the perfect complement to Chapter 14: The Israelites Leave Egypt. You might think any old bible story books would do, but given that this chapter comes after studying the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms of Egypt, it is nice to have illustrations true to the culture. The Moses Basket by Jenny Koralek with illustrations by Pauline Baynes and Exodus which is written and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith are great examples. Both illustrators have won awards for their work. Take a look inside the books at Amazon for a glimpse of their work.


Monday, March 09, 2015

My Budding Naturalist

This was Elisabeth this afternoon. 
After collecting items to put in her jar, she documented her findings here.
A naturalist in the making.  

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Milestone Bike Ride

We just had a lovely family bike ride around Lake Baldwin. It is significant because my 6-yr old pedaled her bike the whole way. She has been using her bike as a balance bike for a long time and today we decided to put the pedals on. She did great and completed the 2.5 mile trail with a smile on her face! Kudos to Daddy for successfully helping her with the transition. Way to go Elisabeth!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Lake Lotus Park

Lake Lotus Park Map
Occasionally, we find urban parks operated by county and municipal governments that offer high quality nature experiences. We visited one of those this past weekend. Lake Lotus Park is a 150-acre nature preserve operated by the town of Altamonte Springs. There is a playground and picnic shelters with restroom facilities - these are set back from the lake in a forest that somewhat resembles a subtropical jungle. From there a boardwalk takes you to the lake where it widens out into a very large fishing area and then back into boardwalk again before looping back to the picnic area. There are actually a couple of different loops but none are very long. I found the "you are here" signs to be a joke, but never fear, you can't really get lost as all paths lead back to the picnic area.
Playground at Lake Lotus Nature Park
Monday through Wednesday the park is closed to the public in order to provide STEM focused field trips to Seminole County Public School students called Altamonte Springs Science Incubator program. The rest of the week it is open to from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. It is a lovely place to get away from the congestion of the greater Orlando area and experience nature. No dogs or bikes are allowed. Parking is located on the other side of Maitland Avenue. It is only a short walk via an underpass into the park or visitors can ride the tram.