When I told my two children I was planning to take them to Legoland Windsor on Sunday, it was fair to say the excitement was building as we got nearer our day out.
We hadn’t been to the themepark, just 40 miles of motorway away, for a few years, so we set the alarm clock for 7.30am with the intention of being up and out and arriving at the entrance bang on for 10am opening.
I knew the 150-acre park was packed with activities and that we’d have our work cut out exploring every inch of fun and excitement on offer.
But the Sims family aren’t too keen on rude awakenings however and having met with a little resistance (they really shouldn’t have insisted on watching all of the X Factor the night before), I dragged my children (aged six and eight) out of their beds to get ready for adventure.
In the end we rolled up at about 10.40am, and, following Legoland’s own advice, decided to head to the rear of the park to some of the more popular rides before they got busier later on.
First stop was Adventure Land where our tactics paid off as we only had a couple of minutes to wait before we could hop aboard the Atlantis Submarine Voyage.
That took us on an amazing journey through an underwater world of colourful fish, sharks and, of course, Lego creations too.
Next we decided to wander across to the Pirates Shores area. New for 2014, Pirate Falls: Treasure Quest was inevitably going to be in demand, so we had a bit of a longer wait for this one - admittedly helped by the convenient placing of a pirate boat piece of play equipment to keep the kids entertained while the adults kept in the line.
The ride was one of several in the park warning you that you WILL get wet, and several people had opted to buy Legoland’s yellow macs... but where’s the fun in that!
We hopped on board, got squirted as we floated around the course, and then the grand finale the big climb and the adrenline rush of plunging at high speed down the ramp into the water below.
The children loved it and the action was all caught on the ride camera. The expression on my son’s face at the front of the boat looked like one of sheer terror, so we just had to buy the photo.
Having experienced two of the more popular rides we then returned to Adventureland for Squid Surfers – a high-speed spinning ride where those watching can push a button at the right moment to send a jet of water in your direction. We figured we were quite wet from the last ride, so there was no point drying off just yet!
Next port of call was Kingdom of the Pharaohs where we entered a temple and had our longest wait of the day for Laser Raiders.
The queue seemed to snake on forever, and while the ride itself was good, my son was getting a bit impatient at the wait which ended up being close on 30 minutes.
The game that followed involved zapping ghoulish creatures with your hairdryer, sorry, laser gun. I didn’t realise till we saw the ride photo why my son had managed a Eurovision score of ‘nil points’ –we could see on the picture that he’d held his gun the wrong way round!
A picnic lunch followed before we were right back into the action as we journeyed into the Knights Kingdom and joined a surprisingly short queue for what proved to be my family’s favourite, The Dragon rollercoaster.
After a warning that those who leaned out of their carriage would be fed to the dragon, we ambled through the dragon’s lair where we spotted the frightening red Lego beast, before we were sent careering around the track for a thrilling ride.
Once off, the kids demanded we do it again and mum and dad were happy to endulge them.
Loki’s Labyrinth and the Vikings’ River Splash (another wet one) followed as we entered the Land of the Vikings, before my son’s dreams came true as he entered the Star Wars Miniland Model Display.
In the past year or so he’s really become a Star Ware nerd, so he was in his element wandering around the stunning recreations of scenes from the six movies and explaining to his parents that this, in fact, was the Battle off Kashyyyk from Episode III.
We’d vowed to leave by 4pm as it was school the next day, but with so much still to see that master plan went out the window and we crammed in a visit to City Walk Pizza and Pasta to save us cooking/eating when we got home. That was one of several restaurants that do a great deal allowing kids to eat free after 4pm.
A quick whizz around the Spinning Spider and Longboat Invader was crammed in, along with a look around Miniland where you can walk around famous world landmarks made of 40 million Lego bricks, before it was time to dive into the massive shop and make an obligatory purchase or two to round off a day to remember.
We hadn’t even made it on many of the rides, we’d even not visited entire sections properly like the Imagination Centre, Traffic or watched one of the 4D Cinema films or Lego City Stunt Show, but the kids were happy and you can’t ask more than that. Maybe next time we’ll get out of our beds just that little bit more sharpish!
The other option would have been to hire a Q-Bot ride reservation device which allows you to skip the queue. There’s different levels from the basic grade which cost £15pp right up to Ultimate Q-Bot which is £70pp.
I guess it depends on your budget and how busy a day you’re likely to visit on. For our Sunday at the start of September it might been a useful purchase for a few of the bigger attractions, particularly Laser Raiders, but overall we were fine without it – although if you can lend your phone with Angry Birds on it to your kids if you’re facing a longer wait it does relieve the stress somewhat!
With Legoland Windsor constantly adding to its offer, and with the Sims family unable to make it around all the attractions this year, I’m sure we’ll be back a good number of times before they outgrow this park aimed at 2 to 12 year olds.
> The main summer season may be behind us, but there is a real treat awaiting Lego lovers at Hallowe’en.
Brick or Treat (October 18 to November 3) will feature the Forest of 5,000 Pumpkins, Frankie’s Monster Ball and a special visit from the wicked Lord Vampyre, plus a daily fancy dress competition, a Spooky Puppet show and the much-anticipated end of season fireworks this year extended to six nights on October 18/19, 25/26 and October 31 /November 1.
And over at the Legoland Windsor Resort Hotel there’s a special Hallowe’en “check under the bed” service to ensure young guests sleep tight. Bed-time thoughts of bogey-men, beasties and things that go bump in the night will be banished as a crack team of highly trained Under The Bed Checkers will be on hand in the hotel at bedtime.
> For more details see www.legoland.co.uk