On a recent PA Day, I decided to keep our son Harry home from daycare and go on an adventure. Ever since moving back to Toronto, one of the places we have been meaning to check out was LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto.
I have heard from other parents all about the good and the bad, but it was time to experience it for ourselves. Harry was all in as soon as I told him the news. In fact, he was more excited than he was for Christmas.
It’s not that we have been avoiding the place, but it always gave Katie and I a small dose of stress because we pictured it as thousands of kids running around crazily with Lego as the backdrop. Not really how we want to spend a few hours, but it is about the kids right?
So with Charlie being at daycare and Katie at work, I figured that Harry and I could take a quick strike approach. We of course think Katie and Charlie would have loved it, but with any busy place, it’s easier to move in small numbers.
Overall, I would have to say it was a lot of fun. Harry was tired when we got home, so that is always a win. I am not sure how many visits it would take before kids are utterly bored with the place, but I guess we will find out.
Here is the good and the bad of our first trip to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto.
Another reason we have put off the trip to LEGOLAND is that it just seemed really far away. It’s located in Vaughn and for those of us who live south of the subway line, that feels like another country. But I have to say, the drive was pretty easy and it took about 25 minutes. There is also the bonus of lots of free parking when you get there.
Pre Booking Times
One of the cool features I liked was you can pre book your entry time. When you buy tickets online ahead of time, not only do you get a discount, you choose when you walk in. No waiting in line and you can easily plan out your day. I learned later that this entry time deal only is needed on super busy days. We were early and went in before our time slot.
Photos Right Off The Bat
Once they tear your ticket and you enter, the first thing you do is pose for some silly Lego photo. It’s one of those capture the moment up sell deals. Everyone gets a few shots that you can buy later on. Harry was annoyed. He just wanted to get into LEGOLAND. Enough with the formalities. We also passed on our silly photos. I have enough of those.
The first room is a great way to start. It’s like a Lego production facility with stats on the walls of how many bricks are being made and it has this whole industry vibe. You can measure your height and weight in Lego bricks and stand next to a few Lego dudes hard at work. There were also a few iPads set up to play some Lego games. This of course grabbed Harry’s attention right away. We could have stayed at this station all day long. The great part was we were there early in the day and it was very empty.
The next part was where you could break off to go and see Lego buildings or take a ride on a fun interactive game. We went for the game. Basically you take a ride in a rollercoaster type vehicle and take a tour through four or five Lego scenarios. Each one has bad guys trying to bad things. There were different settings for each room and featured different Lego franchises. Harry and I each had a laser gun that marked little red dots on the screens and the game was to shoot the bad guys. Each time you blew up a baddie, you tallied points in front of you. I will openly say that Harry beat me. It was a short ride but a lot of fun.
The next room was where you saw some real Lego talent being put to use. It was basically a room full of Lego miniatures of Toronto and other Canadian landmarks. There was the Parliament Building from Ottawa, the CN Tower, the airport, Dundas Square, The ACC and even Honest Eds. There were buttons for each display that triggered some kind of moving Lego. The pinball Rogers Centre was Harry’s favourite. This part of LEGOLAND for me would only be interesting the first time. I am not sure how often they change it up, but if it is always the same, there is not much to see.
The Play Room
After following the hallway out of this room, you enter the real draw of LEGOLAND. The giant play area. Lego stations, an indoor playground and a small ride that goes around and around. Harry’s head kind of exploded and he went in nine directions all at once. It was a lot to choose from for sure. In this space was also a movie theatre and cafe. This is where you would come to if you came a lot. There were benches for parents and certainly enough to keep kids busy for a few hours. There were also a few party rooms and a classroom for learning how to build with Lego.
Master Builder Classes
We happen to walk by one of the classrooms just as a session was starting. We went in and Harry wanted to become a master builder. Sure. It was the day before Valentine’s Day, so the project was building a heart-shaped box. The instructor sits at the front with an overhead camera looking down onto the Lego. She went through the steps just like an instruction book and in the end Harry built his own box. He was very proud of it.
The movie theatre had a rotation of four 30 minute movies that were included in the price of admission. We went to see one that was about farming with the guys from Chima. What was fun for me was it was Harry’s first time seeing a 3D or 4D movie. Once we got the glasses adjusted properly, I think he liked it for the most part. It was funny to see all the kids waving their hands in front of their face each time something approached. What was new for me was each time there was rain or a puddle being splashed, there was actually a mist from the ceiling that hit you. Harry did not like that. I think a 25 minute movie is the perfect amount of time for kids in that setting. They are too hopped up on Lego and doing stuff to sit still any longer.
I was expecting it to be worse. Since you can’t leave LEGOLAND or bring in your own food, it was nice that they did not try to take advantage of that. I found the food to be somewhat healthy and priced reasonably. I had a chicken caesar wrap and Harry had a grilled cheese sandwich. They had a decent mix of fruit, snacks and drinks. Again, I was surprised and impressed that it wasn’t chicken fingers and fries.
Harry loved that there was a urinal for kids. Enough said. Oh and there were change tables in the men’s washroom. Points for that even though I did not need it.
Like any kid-centric place, when it is time to leave, you are funneled right into the gift shop. Oh how they get you with that. You just had this fun time playing with Lego and somehow you need to get your kid through the store without seeing something they want. I fell prey to this but not that bad. I got Harry a small Batman Lego thing and Charlie a construction rig. That damage was minimal. I finally convinced Harry to leave the gift shop and LEGOLAND and then you know what. You are in a mall with the Build a Bear store and the Disney Store staring you in the face. Well played mall designers, well played.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto was a lot of fun. They say the average time spent is around two hours. They were right. With lunch, we were there close to three hours. Harry had a great time. I think he would have had even more fun if his friends had been there. Going places with dad has drawbacks. The place lived up to the hype.
My only wonder is, how many times can you go before it is boring? I also feel that the ideal age for the place is about four. Charlie would not have as much fun as Harry would. Not yet. But when Charlie is in prime age for it, Harry will have certainly outgrown it.
Anyways, those are small things. The most important takeaway was, it was a lot of fun and Lego is awesome. For $20 each, it was worth the trip to Vaughn and to experience a place a lot of kids in Canada would love to have the chance to go to.
Learn more about LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto.
Here is the master builder with his new toy that he put together all on his own.