TRAVEL 2023 – When I became a parent, I didn’t anticipate how completely Legos would capture my son’s imagination.
Snapping the pieces together to build cars, houses and other fanciful structures came naturally to him. My husband retrieved a giant bin of his childhood Legos from our basement and relatives showered us with Lego sets. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t step on a Lego. They are everywhere — in the beds, the bathtub, the kitchen, the yard, the back seat of the car.
You might think I’d be sick of Legos. Not at all. Most toys are cheap, plastic junk, played with once or twice and never again. Legos are different. They’re durable and they inspire. My son builds beautiful things with them. Best of all, he can play with them for hours.
I’m not wild about crowded theme parks, but I was eager to take my son to Legoland New York, the 150-acre theme park that opened in the summer of 2021 in the Hudson Valley town of Goshen. It looked like something he would love and its proximity to Albany, where we live, made it seem manageable.
I initially planned a day trip but my friend Amy persuaded me to book an overnight stay at Legoland New York Resort, the 250-room hotel adjacent to the park.
“Staying at the hotel is such a big part of the experience,” said Amy, a New Hampshire resident who has visited the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, and Legoland California outside of San Diego. “Can we join you? We love Legoland.”
In speaking with friends and acquaintances about our trip, I became increasingly aware that we were part of a much larger community of Lego enthusiasts. I learned of teens who brought Legos with them to college and grown-up hobbyists who splurged on pricey and challenging sets. The more I talked with people about their love of Legos or observed my son’s absorption when he worked on his Lego projects, the more intrigued I became.
Would Legoland live up to our expectations? Could it?
The short answer: yes.
SHANGRI-LA WITH BRICKS
Legoland New York is a Shangri-La for the young Lego devotee, though I suspect all children, even those who have never touched a Lego, would enjoy the park’s aesthetic, rides and numerous other diversions.
Five years in the making, Legoland New York is the first major new outdoor theme park in the Northeast since Great Adventure opened in New Jersey in 1974. It is the largest of the world’s 10 Legolands, with room to expand, and on Memorial Day the park’s new water playground will open for the first time.
We set off for Legoland on a Friday evening last November, and though it was dark when we arrived the place was still dazzling. The hotel looked like a life-size Lego kit, with a colorful facade and whimsical entryway guarded by a green dragon.
Inside, the Lego look continued.
Kids thronged around a giant Lego castle, playing with Legos and running around. The carpeting was designed to look like the ocean and clouds were painted on the walls. After we checked in we made our way to our castle-themed room, which was divided into two sections: a kids’ area with bunk bed, Lego-filled bins and a safe that could be unlocked by completing a short scavenger hunt, and an adult area with a TV and bed.
The next morning we got up, ate breakfast at the hotel and walked around the corner to the park, arriving just as it opened. Built on a large hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, Legoland is big but never feels overwhelming.
It has seven different lands to explore — we spent a lot of time in pirate land, climbing on a giant pirate ship — and there are rides and activities suitable for almost all ages. My 5-year-old son walked the entire day, but families with younger children might want a stroller.
My son was wary of the rides, but there was still plenty for him to do. He drove a car around a track, spent hours on the climbable structures — the Coast Guard ship was a big hit — and generally enjoyed looking around.
If there’s a risk to planning a late-season Legoland New York trip, it’s the greater likelihood of unpleasant wintry weather. However, we lucked out with a lovely spring-like day. For our family, November was the perfect time to visit Legoland. The crowds were smaller, the lines were shorter and the park felt spacious and relaxed.
MADE FOR KIDS
It’s also worth noting that Legoland really is for kids. My friend Amy’s sons, both teenagers, were a little old for it, and I doubt even the most Lego-crazed adults would feel comfortable spending a day at the park sans children.
Capital Region families are fortunate in that they live close enough to Legoland to make a day trip out of it, but we felt our stay at Legoland New York Resort was worth the cost. Had we never left the hotel we still would have had a great time.
The amenities, which included a free complimentary breakfast and story time in the lobby before bed, enriched our trip. We also got a kick out of the Lego-themed toiletries that came with our room and the Lego-inspired beers from the Newburgh Brewing Company. I ordered an IPA called Build It Boss with my dinner.
The hotel also allows for a more leisurely approach. A friend from Niskayuna who did Legoland as a day trip told me her family “would have benefited from spreading out our time over two days to leave more time for rest and recovery.”
As for rest and recovery, you’ll likely need it.
My son cried when we informed him we were leaving; he was asleep in the car before we exited the park. Occasionally he asks to go back. At some point, we will. We made good, lifelong memories at Legoland. Like the plastic bricks the company is known for, they’re sure to stand the test of time.
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Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Travel 2023