Disclosure: I received five free passes to LEGOLAND® Florida Resort and LEGOLAND Waterpark in exchange for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
Jack turned 12 (TWELVE?!!) on March 22nd, so for his birthday, we took him to LEGOLAND® Florida in Winter Haven, just about four hours north of our home in Miami.
WARNING: THIS IS A PICTURE-HEAVY POST, BECAUSE THIS TRIP WAS AWESOME. EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!! ;)
Jack, who is absolutely crazy about all things LEGO® City and who has been asking to go to LEGOLAND® Florida for the entirety of the two years since we moved to this state (okay, actually longer than that, but incessantly for that timeframe), was the first chap out of the car when we finally arrived about noon on Tuesday.
The girls, who wanted to visit the waterpark area toward the back of the main resort first, insisted on changing into their bathing suits right there in the parking lot. Jack was impatient to GET GOING ALREADY and huffed and puffed the whole time!
Sophie, the little sweetie pie, tied Daddy's shoes when he couldn't do it on our way up to the entrance. Rob had a really rough day that day and, in fact, ended up back in the hospital the following day. He's still there and will be there for at least a few more days, but possibly much longer. I really don't know at this point.
Can you tell these kids were super excited to get into the the park? LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is an interactive theme park where LEGO® comes to life and kids take control. It is a 150-acre multi-day destination offering more than 50 rides, shows and attractions designed for families with children ages 2-12.
Just as soon as we could, I got into the entrance, made a sharp left and rented a wheelchair for Rob. Thanks to issues with his cerebellar cavernous hemangioma, Cyberknife radiation surgery, and craniotomy to remove the tumor and surrounding cerebellar tissue, his recovery and progress has been one step forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one step back, and so on. Right now, we're looking forward but moving backward, so... a wheelchair was necessary.
Fortunately, the LEGOLAND® team members were awesome. They let me park Rob, Chloë, and Jack outside the entrance whilst Sophie and I fetched the chair, and a team member came out with us to wheel him back in and breeze us through the check-in point. The resort is very accessible, and the only problems I had getting him around were a few hilly areas where inertia had us going faster (or slower) than I would have liked. Other than that, it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
We found lots of really cool structures built out of regular-sized LEGO® bricks, in front of which the kids wanted to pose. Naturally, my Nikon and I were ready and willing to point, aim, shoot! The models in LEGOLAND Florida are made up of more than 58 million LEGO bricks! I want to know, who counted?!
Our first stop, once inside, was the marketplace in The Beginning. Jack had birthday money from both of his grandpas to spend, and of course he wanted to spend it here. Sophia and Chloë adore LEGO Friends®, so the girls had no problems stopping to shop and look around, themselves. Sophie looks so cute posing here, no?
We'll have to come back this summer, because the girls will love when Heartlake City opens at the resort!
All the kids really wanted to stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel, but it doesn't open in Florida until May 15th, so we'll have to do that, too, when we go back for another visit. I can't wait!
Jack was excited, and a bit overwhelmed, by all the LEGO City choices. He didn't know where to start!
Jack just about gave up on choosing, before a nice store team member came over to help him decide. I'll show you what he selected later in the post...
One of many photo ops in the park, of which we had to take advantage
Kinda like at the Disney Parks, kids can trade LEGO Minifigures with Model Citizens (aka LEGOLAND Employees, who sport them on their name badges). Jack wasn't interested, saying to me, "I keep all mine, Moooom," but the girls were all about it!
Unfortunately, we forgot to bring them, so I bought both girls a four-pack for $14.99 apiece in The BIG Shop in The Beginning. I told them to buy sets they didn't care about, since they likely wouldn't be coming home with those minifigs! Chloë chose a LEGO Chima Pack.
Because Sophia chose a LEGO City minifigure pack, Jack took it upon himself to help her set up the four figures. She was happy to let him, maybe because we were there celebrating his birthday, or maybe just because she actually loves the little twerp? I dunno.
At The Grand Carousel in Fun Town, just past The Beginning, we found arrows pointing every which way and took the direction for the Waterpark. Y'know, I personally love riding a beautiful carousel such as this double-decker, but the kids didn't want to waste precious daylight, so we skipped it and never got back to it. Rats!
The lady-babies thought this "old lady in curlers" watering her flowers was amusing, so they "forced" me to snap a picture of her. So much to see at LEGOLAND Florida!
We bumped right on past Fun Town and on into Miniland USA on our way to the Waterpark. The heart of every LEGOLAND Park, Miniland USA is home to seven specially themed areas. Jack, especially, but all the kids were like, "WOOOOOWWWWWW!" when they first saw it. We spent a bit of time at the beginning of our visit on one side, and a bit more time at the end of the day exploring the other side.
Jack, of course, headed to the track first to watch the mini-races some other kids were actually playing! Miniland USA was pretty cool, you guys.
Of course, it didn't surprise me when Jack found himself at the NASA section of Miniland USA, nor when he stayed a while... he's fascinated by such things. I really need to get him up to Cape Canaveral to watch a launch!
Las Vegas was representin', as you can see. More on that in a bit!
The girls found Manhattan a treat, and they loved that the Statue of Liberty was front and center!
Treasure Island in Las Vegas, where Chloë was fascinated to learned I've actually stayed, once upon a time. "Did you see all this, out front, and watch the pirates fighting on the ships and everything?" Yep, kiddo. I sure did.
Jack insisted I take a picture of the Space Needle, another fascination of us.
After Miniland USA, the girls were able to complete their first Minifigure swaps. How fun that was! The Model Citizens were always happy to oblige.
Chloë's turn: This Model Citizen happened to have more than one LEGO Minifigure on his name badge, but some only have one - and some have none. Just in case you're going and your Littles want to swap, too, you'll know. ;)
Walking along, past Miniland USA, we found this really cool replica of Earth, with minifigures of various world-renowned iconic places represented all over it. Jack and the girls ran around the whole thing, calling out everything they spotted. It was pretty cool.
One of the kiddos insisted I take a picture of the whales somewhere in the South Pacific, I think. Cool, huh?!
Another fun photo-op
Natch, I had to snap a pic of the LEGO Einstein in Imagination Zone. I mean, really.
This LEGO giraffe peeked out of the other side of Imagination Zone's entrance. Sophie went up for a touch!
Before we arrived at the Waterpark, we found ourselves in LEGO City. Of course, that being Jack's favorite thing on the planet, we had to go! The first thing we did was get in line for the very fun Rescue Academy ride, and the first thing the girls did was conduct Minifigure swaps. Sophie went first.
... and Chloë swapped with the Model Citizen who talked them through the rescue operation. He was fun.
Jack chose the police car for their Rescue Academy operation. Small surprise there!
A wasp flew by just before the rescue was set to begin, so Jack jumped out of the police car, terrified as he is of things that sting, and refused to go back. No worries! This Model Citizen stepped up to help the girls get moving!
Team Odettelettes to the rescue! They're on the far left, but I couldn't get close enough for you to be able to see them. Just pretend. They're there, I promise.
Midway back to the beginning of the adventure, Chloë stopped for a pose. That girl loves the lens, I tell ya!
Across from Rescue Academy was Ford Jr. Driving School, and inside the shop there was a Model Citizen willing to swap Minifigures with Chloë. As you can see, she was smiling. All the Model Citizens were smiling. Not one grumpy Model Citizen in the whole resort. What a pleasant experience we had because of them!
Both girls examining their new Minifigures, post-swap
As you can see, lots more swaps happened in the park until the bitter end! The girls loved it, and they had fun each and every time they swapped.
At last, we made it to the Water Park! Admission is an extra $15 normally, I think, but we had our free passes and got right in, no problem. Rob had opted not to swim that day, and wanting to stay with him in his wheelchair, I opted out, too. The kids headed straight for Build-a-Raft, which as you'll see in a moment, was cool because there were foam LEGO bricks that could be built right ON the raft. Neato-mosquito, eh?!
The kiddos picked up their brick-laden tubes and headed for the lazy river's entrance.
Loose LEGO bricks floated in the lazy river, for kids to snatch up and add to their tubes. So cool.
While the kids were in the river, I parked Rob in his wheelchair nearby and visited the Beach-n-Brick Grill. I purchased a kids' chicken tender meal with fries, applesauce squeezy thingy, and a chocolate milk for Jack, a grape Uncrustables sandwich meal for Sophia, and nachos and a chocolate milk for Chloë. Jack had a pretzel and cheese, too, since Daddy ate both the chicken tenders AND the sandwich! He hadn't had much of an appetite for days, so I was just glad he ate, but LOL...
(True confessions: I ate half the fries, myself. Hey, the kids just wanted to swim, anyway!)
The jellies hanging from the inside roof of the Grill were among my favorite LEGO brick structures in the whole entire resort! Guess the marine biologist in me is not dead, after all.
This girl. Sophia, not for the first time, disappeared on me. I could watch the Build-A-Raft Lazy River from the Grill table where I was sitting with Daddy, but only Jack and Chloë came out after the roughly 8-minute tour around the Water Park. Well, after two, then three, turns around the River, and still no Sophie, I got nervous.
I went over to a Model Citizen lifeguarding the DUPLO Splash Safari directly in front of me and said, "I can't find my daughter." TWEEEEEEET!!! He immediately blew hard on his whistle, and said another Model Citizen would come right over to help me out.
I don't remember his name, but the MC who came over was right on cue fewer than 10 seconds later. He took Sophia's name, last-seen location, age, physical description, and what she was wearing, and then walked me over to park ourselves on the bridge overlooking Lazy River. He talked Sophia's description into the Walkie-Talkie, and we waited.
And while we waited, we watched out for Sophie in the river. And then, boom, my expertly-spotting Model Citizen friend pointed at a child coming down to the ride's Exit. BOOM! That was her! I screamed, "That's her! Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!" as I ran away, toward my girl.
Sophia walked up to me, out of the lazy river, saying brightly with a broad smile on her face, "HI, MOM!" Um. Okay. Dude. Heart attack city here! We hugged, I admonished her for not checking in like she was supposed to and not staying with her siblings like she was supposed to and for giving me a heart attack, hugged her again, and then brought her over to the table for a bite to eat. She managed one bite of Uncrustables before grabbing Jack and Chloë out of the DUPLO Splash Safari and heading for the Wave Pool.
Le sigh. That's life with Sophie.
There's life vest-adorned Jack in the red shorts, heading into the LEGO Lazy River, where his sisters were already waiting for him...somewhere. Thankfully, we brought along plenty of sunscreen. Despite the overcast and sometimes-rainy drive up, the day turned hot, sunny, and beautiful once we were in the Water Park. As my mama-in-law says, "It's a God thing."
Stopping to pick out and adjust their life vests. All of them can swim now, but perhaps they wanted a little help floating in the Wave Pool?
[Click to embiggerate] Lots of fun was had in the Wave Pool. We stayed there nearly an hour, I think!
Chloë took a break from the wave pool to steal her nachos back from Daddy, who was still eating, and to wonder, "Mom, why are you taking my picture while I'm eating?" Because, my love, it's what I do.
Somewhere in there, the Joker Soaker, were my children after they finished playing in the Wave Pool. Again, take my word for it, 'cause I didn't go in enough to find them and photograph them. Jack loved the big bucket, which he likened to the one at Williamsburg's Great Wolf Lodge. (Maybe all the GWLs have them, but we've only been to that one!)
Jack got tired of playing in the water and, while he was waiting for his sisters to finish playing in the Water Park and get back to the main LEGOLAND Florida Resort, wanted to look at his new LEGO City sets he'd purchased in The Beginning. But first, I made him show me his muscles. Because, why not?!
With his birthday money, Jack chose not one but two sets The first one was set #60057, the LEGO City Camper Van.
Set number two was #60012 LEGO City 4X4 & Diving Boat.
He didn't want to build the sets yet, and risk losing a piece at the park, but he wanted to look at them and admire the accompanying stickers. This boy loooooves his LEGO City!
Jack thought the canoe in this first set was super cool. I had to agree. It's ONE brick!
The bitty boy decided to twirl Daddy's cane after he finished looking at his new LEGO City sets and before the girls came over to get back to more fun outside the Water Park. Pretty good at it, too!
When we were leaving the Water Park, the girls did another Minifigure Swap. This little boy walked up and wanted to swap with the Model Citizen, too, but he didn't have a Minifigure to swap. I explained about it quickly to the dad, and Chloë decided to bequeath one of her Minis to the little boy so he could swap. It made my day!
And thus, the boy completed his first LEGO Minifigure Swap with a Model Citizen. Everything is awesome!
We went back out of the Water Park to LEGO City, and Jack and his sisters made a beeline for the Ford Jr. Driving School. Inside, in the waiting line, there was a stop-and-play area where Sophia quickly hopped in to rearrange the DUPLO Bricks already there.
Inside, the kids learned about the "Stop" and "Go" pedals in their cars, as well as various traffic signals and signs. And then, it was time to drive!
[Click to embiggerate] Driving School was so fun! Chloë ran a YIELD sign, and got embarrassed when I pointed it out (oops), but other than that, it was smooth sailing for all the new drivers out there. This was a much-loved activity by all.
The kids posed with their new "Driver Licenses," which was a fun touch. For about $15, one could purchase a real copy with their pictures on it, but I had to decline that expenditure.
Sophia stopping for a Photo Op on her way to another ride - this time, the roller coaster she sought since The Beginning! Jack and Chloë were too chicken to go, so they decided on a different ride.
At Boating School, Jack drove their dinghy while Chloë, you know, posed.
The day turned hot, so Jack and Chloë visited one of the misters while we were off in search of rollercoastering Sophie.
The two of them also tried their luck at this "Extreme" knock-em-down ball game, four plays for $10. Chloë managed to knock one down, but you had to get two, so they didn't win prizes there. Wah.
By this point, we were in LEGO Technic, the most extreme area of LEGOLAND Florida. Sophia came off the Project X racetrack roller coaster after about three rides in a row, and she went off with her sister on yet another ride there. I parked Jack with Daddy and went off to the Robot Pit Stop for ice cream.
The girls had great fun on the AQUAZONE Wave Racers, dodging in and out of waves - but be forewarned! Passers-by can get quite soaked if they come too close! ;)
Chloë chose this patriotic Popsicle for her treat. Yummo!
Still in LEGO Technic, the girls rode on the Technicycle while Jack waited with Daddy. He was starting to get worn out, I think, and frustrated. He didn't want to go to the toddler zone, DUPLO Valley, because, "That's for babies!" He didn't want to go on anything else either, though, because, "I don't want to get wet. The line is too long. I don't like going up in the air. It goes too fast." Yadda yadda yadda. Time for a break for the birthday kid.
Sophia's turn to play a game: this time, a guaranteed-win game. The object was to pick up something like four ducks and whatever numbers they had on the bottom were added up to equal different prize levels. Sophia misunderstood and tried picking up ALL THE DUCKS at once. Hahaha!! Oopsss... #FAIL
Jack wasn't thrilled that Sophie won enough for a prize for each of them, keeping the pink snake for herself, giving him a green one and Chloë the unicorn, but whatevs. Can't please him ALL the time, after all, and I'm used to his grumpy nature.
Bye-bye, LEGO City and LEGO Technic! Time for more adventures ahead.
Of course, you may know we collect pressed pennies when able, so Jack was delighted when we found this machine outside Land of Adventure's Coastersaurus, where the girls went. YES! Sophia convinced Chloë to go on a real, honest-to-goodness roller coaster. I could NOT believe she went and figured she would either back out or come back out screaming and crying.
You can almost but not quite see them at the back, whizzing by me.
But look. LOOK AT THIS PICTURE. Does that look like a girl who did NOT have fun with Sophia? NOOOOOO. Chloë, in red, came off exclaiming, "That was FUN! I want to go again!" and she did! I can scarcely believe that happened. I am still so, so proud of her!
By this point, Jack was in full-on pout mode. I had told everyone that our goal for the day was to make him smile, laugh, and admit he'd had a good time. Uh-oh. Fun was definitely had, and you've already seen the photographic evidence of that, but I was losing this battle. Trust me, it's not LEGOLAND's fault. This boy chooses to be grumpy. Life is not fair. Life is hard. He sees the glass as half-empty. My mission in life, where he is concerned, is to fill up that glass!
The girls, on the other hand, refused to not have fun, despite grumpy Jack's mood. So they continued onward, going on the Safari Trek in Land of Adventure.
Okay, they went on Safari Trek twice. Jack scoffed. Meh.
These LEGO parrot figures actually talked to us! They did NOT want crackers, they told us. Ha!
While the girls went back for their second ride on Coastersaurus, Jack needed another peek at his two LEGO City sets. Just to make sure they were still there, I guess. They were. Phew!
In the Land of Adventure, I found just the cure for Jack's ills: Pharaoh's Revenge. Oh, my word, y'all, it was close to the 7 PM closing time for the Resort, and I thought the day was beyond saving. But then, suddenly, there it was: a play structure where HE could decide what speed to go, whether up or down, in or out, or all around. Did he want to go? YES! He smiled, he DID!
He was all smiles after that. Whew Whew Whew!!! I was so relieved. He even climbed the LEGO Camel for a last-minute photo op!
Sophie decided she needed to climb on the Ship of the Desert, too.
We wended our way back up to Miniland USA to head toward the park entrance, as it was after closing time. But, we kinda meandered a little, taking our sweet time to look at Miami's Little Havana in Miniland, and no Model Citizens rushed us along. Quite nice, quite nice.
We ended up outside Sunny's Ice Cream Shop in Fun Town, and despite it being after 7 PM, they let us in and served us ice cream. Scoops for everyone!
Yes, we totally had ice cream twice that day. What of it? ;)
So, Jack River, did you have fun at LEGOLAND Florida Resort for your 12th birthday? He NEVER voluntarily throws me a thumbs-up sign, so I think this is a very good sign that he did! And he admitted that he had fun. Whoop, whoop! SUCCESS!
Many thanks go to the Model Citizens of LEGOLAND Florida, who made our day, along with the Media Team who granted us five free passes to visit the resort in exchange for my opinions and this post. Also, special thanks to my friends Luis and Samantha Z. for helping us enjoy Jack's special day!