Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Adventures in Legoland

In case you didn't notice, I was gone last week. My family was on vacation in Southern California while my husband attended a job-related conference.

If you have ever vacationed with small children, you know that there are no afternoons laying in the sun or leisurely window-shopping walks. If you do not entertain those munchkins, they will entertain themselves--by chasing each other into busy streets, begging for brightly colored pieces of plastic, throwing sand at innocent passers-by, and throwing temper tantrums. I knew I would have to fill in the week with a variety of amusing and hopefully cheap activities. Legoland sounded like the perfect theme park for a family of adventurous, slightly nerdy homeschoolers. To make matters even better, our hotel/resort was located just one serendipitous mile away.

Before I start slamming Legoland, let me concede that it is the PERFECT vacation spot for an eight to eleven year old in families with an adult-child ratio of 1:1. Provided, of course, that you don't go there in winter, spring, or autumn, when they close everything for annual upkeep but charge the exact same admission price.

So we started off on a sunny Friday morning with backpacks full of organic snacks and high hopes. I was a little daunted when sidewlaks kept appearing and disappearing for no apparent reason, forcing my little troupe to cross busy Southern California streets with no crosswalk in site. But they can't control the traffic situation outside their gates, right?

As I lined up to buy tickets, I noticed a sign with a list of attractions currently closed. I paid $180 for myself and three children--the baby was free--and was a little staggered by the cost because it was almost as much as Disneyland had cost. But this will be better than Disneyland, right? All the fun, none of the commercialism...

Being unfamiliar with the park (as are most tourits), I did not realize that the list of closed attractions was also a comprehensive list of what my 12 year old would later call "all the good rides".

Unhappy children: 1

We wandered with our map for the next several hours, looking at ride after ride. My three year old was not tall enough for any of them. The few that my five year old daughter could ride on wanted one parent per child. None of them allowed a baby on the lap. Because I am unable to make my two youngest conveniently disappear, this meant no one could ride. When I complained to an employee, he sent me to the pirate section, where he claimed there were several preschooler-friendly rides.

Pirates? We love pirates! The pirate features had in fact been one of the reasons Legoland sounded so fun.

When we arrived at Pirate's Cove or whatever they call it, all of the rides were closed. Which is no big deal because according the signs, these rides also required that 1:1 parent/child ratio that I could not produce.

Unhappy children: 3

Who was the happy child? The baby, for about three hours. Then she was tired, hot, and bored. Normally I'd expect her to take one for the team, which is why large families produce such good citizens. Except that the team was just as bored.

Unhappy children: 4

They had these rooms full of Legos that sounded cool... but they were closed until early afternoon for school groups. So we ate our sandwiches and toured a fake Lego factory. My kids drove little Volvos in a circle to get Legoland driver's licenses and concluded that the only attraction they were allowed to participate in was coincidentally the most boring ride in our solar system.

We went back to the rooms of Legos, where we found the exact same products we have in our own bedrooms at home. The kids were amused for a half-hour.

Unhappy mommies: 1

Why? I realized that I had paid almost $200 dollars for them to play with toys we had available at home. How many new Legos could I have bought with that money??? Certainly enough for more than a half-hour of entertainment, and I wouldn't have had to drag the baby out into the sun.

Was there more to do? I'll never know because we had to leave after that. Legoland was closing. They close early on off-seasons (which are most seasons). So we braved the treacherous roads home to rest from a long, frustrating day.