Somewhere in the middle of Florida lies a Lego wonder land. It's a bit of a pain to get to since it's not off any major highway but for those of you out there with kids between the ages of 5-11yrs old, it's the place to be. Legoland, FL is located in Winter Haven which is about 1hr away from Florida's turnpike Yeehaw Junction exit or about an hour away from I75 Tampa exit. There isn't much else to do in Winter Haven but indulge in the typical franchise faire or shop at Walmart but Legoland is a one stop shop for a 1-2 night family vacation.
My 9yr old son and I have been to Legoland a few times already and last year became annual passholders (which makes more sense than the daily admission rate if you plan to visit more than one day in a year, and especially if you like water parks). We've stayed at both resort locations and off property. Here is the low down on each:
Legoland Hotel: The convinenence of the location is notable since you walk right into the theme park from the lobby's connecting sidewalk and individual security check point, this is also quite helpful in the event that the park gets shut down for lightning (which happens often). The resort is expensive but includes a nice breakfast buffet with omelet station (my favorite) and the interior decor of the rooms is especially made for the littles. Each bunk bed is set with a lego gift at check-in and the rooms accommodate two adults in a king or queen sized bed and up to three children in a bunk bed and trundle combo which is divided from the adults' bed by a little wall and curtain. Even the elevator ride up to the rooms is fun, with a disco theme dance party during the ride. They offer activities in the lobby throughout the day with a nice bar area for the adults while the kids play. The pool is just okay but give the kids huge floating lego pieces and they are playing for hours. Overall, a great stay if you don't mind the line for one of two elevators to access all rooms and are in the mood to splurge plus it gets pretty packed on weekends.
Legoland Beach Retreat (my favorite): This spot is about a half mile from the theme park but offers a free shuttle service as well as includes theme park parking pass (in case you don't want to wait for the shuttle which comes every 15mins or so). The bungalows are spread out throughout the property without an official lobby area (you check in as you drive up) and are cute as heck. The pool area here is great with a little fire pit where they offer s'mores kits in the afternoons. Breakfast is also included and not as hectic as the Legoland resort since the area is a bit wider and occupancy isn't as heavy on site but no omelet station. There is an outdoor play area right outside each set of bungalows where kids look out for each other and end up playing at all hours. This resort is perfect for family reunions or larger family groups traveling together with kids. My only complaint was that the ice machines are located ALL the way by the pool section which is the furthest point from the rooms for every room. But we truly enjoyed the outdoor area of the bungalow with a patio perfect for take-out pizza dinner. Check-in also includes the same treats as the hotel and the rooms are configured in a similar fashion but decorated with water themes instead.
Off property: There are not many options available since the area is still under development but the closet hotel to the theme park is the Shergill Grand Hotel, it's so close that it shares a fence with Legoland but there isn't much grandness to the place. It is inexpensive, serves a decent breakfast in the price of the night's stay and is clean. It served its purpose when we were on a budget and preferred to forgo the resort amenities.
Legoland itself is a great time for little guys. It is not to be compared with the likes of Universal, Disney or even Busch Gardens as it is a modest concept truly focusing on the Lego theme. I imagine that their insurance coverage is also not on par with the bigger theme parks as they often shut everything down when lightning is at bay (you may not even see a storm or hear the thunder and….boom! Shutdown anyways with no rain checks). To eliminate the stress of getting closed out we started to plan for two day visits; staying on property helps to keep the Lego fun going even in spite of the weather.
I would recommend the water park access pass as well as it makes for the perfect combo day. We pack some towels and basic water needs and tote around a small bag. When the temperature goes up (because, Florida) we hit the wave pool or lazy river and leave our dry clothes in the lockers for rent.
Legoland is close enough to Miami that we have even driven up for the day and come back home in the evening. The water park section has showers where you can freshen up before you head back home from a day full of fun in the crazy Florida sun and since it closes on most nights at 7pm you can be back in the 305 by 10pm(ish).
Multi-tasking over-thinker that is, as you can imagine, often running late.