Just like the song from The LEGO Movie says – everything is awesome at LEGOLAND California Resort. As a local mom who has visited frequently and helps people plan San Diego family vacations, I will share my best LEGOLAND California tips for what to do before arriving, how to maximize your time in the park, saving money on tickets and popular rides in addition to logistics like parking, hours, events, and more — all in great detail.
LEGOLAND California Resort consists of four parts: LEGOLAND California, LEGOLAND WATER PARK, SEA LIFE Aquarium, and the LEGOLAND Resort Hotels. We’ll address all of them here.
The Basics: Where Is LEGOLAND California and Why Should I Visit?
LEGOLAND California’s enduring appeal to kids means that many families and groups build trips specifically around visiting this San Diego theme park. Locals love it, too, with many holding annual passes. It’s operated by Merlin Entertainments, one of the largest family attraction groups in the world.
LEGOLAND California Resort is geared toward kids who are ages 2–12 but even those who think they’ve outgrown LEGO bricks end up enjoying the fun rides. It is also a STEM-based park where kids actually do exercise critical thinking and fine motor skills while building, playing, and contemplating how massive LEGO displays were made without realizing it.
LEGOLAND is in Carlsbad which is a coastal city in North San Diego County. It’s about 70 miles from Disneyland Resort in Anaheim (about an hour away without traffic) and an easy drive from many other California attractions.
LEGOLAND California Hours
I’m mentioning hours toward the top of this guide because you need to make sure that the park is open on the day you plan to visit! LEGOLAND California hours vary, depending on the time of year and day of the week. The park opens by 10 a.m. on most days but it is not open every day of the year. It’s usually closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the off-peak season. It is open daily during winter break, spring break, and the summer season.
Always check the online calendar advance to make sure the park is open on your preferred dates and also to check what time the park closes (times range from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.). SEA LIFE Aquarium is open daily but LEGOLAND WATER PARK is open seasonally.
Tips for Saving on LEGOLAND California Tickets
The best way to save on your LEGOLAND tickets is to buy them in advance. Unlike other theme parks and attractions, LEGOLAND California tickets are often less expensive when purchased early as there is usually a promotion available.
LEGOLAND California is an all-inclusive theme park so all main attractions, rides, and lands are included in the cost of a ticket. There may be special events or programs that require a separate ticket, but for the most part, your admission ticket allows you to access all parts of the park and to play all day.
I have a lot of detailed advice for buying LEGOLAND California discount tickets that I update weekly. The bottom line is that, usually, the best ways are through San Diego-based aRes Travel (an authorized ticket seller), through legoland.com (if they are running a promotion), or by purchasing a sightseeing pass.
Always buy from an authorized ticket seller and never buy secondhand or used tickets. You’ll end up losing your money or not being able to access the park at all (or both). When buying tickets, you’ll be given a choice of LEGOLAND only, LEGOLAND + SEA LIFE Aquarium, or a ticket that includes the water park as well (when it’s open).
At full price, expect to pay between $89 and $125 per person, but booking ahead or for multiple days can lower your per-day costs considerably.
Or, you can purchase a sightseeing pass that includes multiple San Diego attractions that you would visit in San Diego with kids like Go San Diego or multiple California attractions with California Explorer Pass. Many families who are visiting California pair LEGOLAND California with San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, and other well-known Southern California attractions.
Both sightseeing passes include general admission to LEGOLAND (which you can upgrade at the park to include the water park and SEA LIFE Aquarium).
If you’re embarking on a California theme park adventure, you may want to take a look at the California Explorer pass (use code LJMCAL10 for 10% off before August 31, 2020).
What to Know Before You Go
LEGOLAND is a popular destination that is home to over 60 attractions and rides. Some of these rides are extremely popular, so learning more about the park before you arrive will help you make the most of your time there. Reading this guide is the perfect start – you’ll discover which rides and attractions are most popular and which can wait until a more crowded part of the day.
Before your trip, you should discover or do the following.
Download the App
The LEGOLAND California app is useful for live updates regarding ride wait times and also contains helpful information like height requirements and dining locations. It will also mark where you’ve parked.
Tip: If you run out of phone battery (which can happen with any heavy app usage) you can rent a phone locker for 2 hours at the cost of $3 for safe charging at Minifigure Market and Pirate Shores. They even have four different types of cords and can fit a tablet inside.
Plan Ahead for What You’ll Ride and See
Make a list of your top attractions and rides, and plan on heading there early. Look at a park map as you plan. Some rides, like the Knights’ Tournament and The Dragon coaster are close together, so visit these at the same time of the day.
Head to the busiest attractions first to be sure you get to enjoy as many as possible. Slower moving tours, self-guided expeditions, and discovery activities can often wait until later in the day and still be enjoyed without a lot of crowding.
Note Height Restrictions
The park is geared toward kids ages 2–12 so you’ll need to pay attention to which rides have height requirements that could impact younger kids. This helps manage expectations before arriving at the park.
Plan to Parent Swap
Parent Swap provides both parents the opportunity to enjoy rides and attractions when traveling with one child who meets the height requirement and another child who does not.
Wait in line per usual and let the front-of-the-line attendant know that you plan Parent Swap. They will allow parents to switch places so that they can each ride with the child who meets the height requirement.
LEGOLAND California has a mix of indoor and outdoor activities; be aware it can get very hot in the afternoon — and rain is always a possibility (though not common). Prepare for hot or inclement weather as you pack and you’ll be ready for anything. Bring water and sunscreen at any time of the year. You will have your bag checked by security prior to entering the park.
Buy Tickets in Advance
Not only do you get a better rate, but you will also avoid waiting in line. During peak days, that ticket booth line can have waits of over 45 minutes which is time you could better spend enjoying the park. We share more tips below for buying ahead so that you can go straight to the gate.
Consider Using Reserve N Ride
Those who want to make sure they can skip ahead and see as many rides and attractions as possible will find this premium pass well worth the cost. Reserve N Ride can dramatically reduce wait times and can be used on your own smartphone or on a supplied device. Prices range from $35 to $100 per person, per day, depending on just how fast you want to zip through the lines.
This is an ideal option if you are traveling in peak season, but one you may not need at all if you visit during a slow time. Be aware of the offering and determine if it makes sense for you to make the most of this premium offer. You can decide to add a Reserve N Ride pass after entering the park, which many people do after purchasing discounted tickets.
Check the Park Calendar
We’ve already mentioned that the park isn’t open daily, but you’ll want to check the calendar also for special events throughout the year (more on these below), tied to holidays and educational resources.
The park can be closed to those who are not attending a special event or require a separate ticket to attend a special event. Book a trip without checking and you could end up spending more time in your hotel than expected if the park is unavailable.
Don’t Stress Too Much About Rain
It doesn’t rain much in San Diego but rest assured that LEGOLAND offers a Rainy Day Promise if inclement weather impacts your day. If rides are closed for two hours or longer, or at the discretion of management, guests already in the park can come back on another day for free.
Best LEGOLAND California Rides
While every group is different, these are the rides that are most popular and fun. Head to them early to ensure you don’t have a long wait.
Thrill-seekers won’t want to miss the Knight’s Tournament or The Dragon Coaster, while little kids will love getting behind the wheel of a LEGO car or traversing fairyland in a sweet leaf boat. Here are just a few of our favorites LEGOLAND California rides.
Lost Kingdom Adventure
Location: Land of Adventure
This indoor, dark ride takes place in an old fashioned archeological find — an Egyptian tomb as seen by 1920’s archaeologists and explorers. This is not just a ride. You’ll get a fully equipped laser gun to help you blast away bad guys as you explore. You can’t miss this one — just look for the towering Pharoah and proceed if you dare.
The Dragon, located in LEGOLAND Castle
Location: Castle Hill
If you’ve seen any commercials or ads for LEGOLAND, then you’ve seen this whimsical and fun dragon ride. Soar through the air, enjoy gentle hills and turns as your dragon clambers around the track both indoors and outdoors. This is an ideal starter roller coaster for kids and an ideal place to start your day.
Location: Fun Town
Cars that look like jumbo-sized LEGOs — it doesn’t get much better than this. Kids love being able to drive (and children as young as 6 can take the wheel). The official LEGOLAND driver’s license they receive when finished is a nice touch and makes a great souvenir, too.
Pirate Reef Riders
Location: Pirate Shores
Part boat ride, part flume, all fun, Pirate Reef Riders is a thrilling water adventure the whole family will enjoy. Note that you will get wet — so schedule this for a warmer part of the day! It is open seasonally.
Location: Castle Hill
You can set the intensity of this ride – and most set it for full throttle, making this one of the most popular destinations in the park. Expect to be flipped, spun and twirled at a frenetic pace if you go for the highest setting. This is one of the LEGOLAND California rides that appeals to teens and tweens.
Location: Explorer Island
This is a fun ride, but what really sets it apart is the collection of life-sized LEGO animals. How many LEGO bricks go into one of those amazing full-size elephants?! Take a gentle ride around a fully equipped safari park and enjoy a stunning collection of animals and builds.
LEGO Technic Coaster
Location: Imagination Zone
One of the most thrilling rides in the park, the LEGO Technic Coaster features a thrilling drop (the biggest in the park) and unexpected twists, turns and jolts as you traverse the oversized track.
LEGO CITY Deep Sea Adventure Submarine Ride
Location: Castle Hill
Climb aboard a submarine and explore the ocean floor as you travel through this indoor ride; you’ll see real sea life and hunt for hidden treasure during the new LEGO CITY: Deep Sea Adventure Submarine ride adventure, which is ideal for all ages.
LEGOLAND California Attractions to See
Not all of the fun at LEGOLAND is ride based. You’ll love taking self-paced tours and exploring some of the amazing builds of LEGO models, figures, and settings created by the builders at LEGOLAND.
As far as non-ride attractions go, Miniland USA is at the top. The intricate detail is woven through the scaled buildings of cities like New York, San Francisco, and others. (Note that the Star Wars section is no longer on display.)
Attractions are good for getting off of your feet and out of lines. You’ll want to see a 4D movie such as LEGO® NINJAGO® – MASTER OF THE 4TH DIMENSION.
If good old-fashioned play sounds good to younger kids, head over to the Duplo Playtown play structure in Fun Town. Take in a show at LEGO Friends Heartlake City or one of the other theaters and stages scattered around the park.
If you’re like to see Emmet and friends, head over to the new The LEGO® Movie 2 Experience where you can step on to an actual set that was used in the movie.
Minifigure trading is available throughout the park. Look for any team member with a minifig pin to launch a trade.
Restaurants in LEGOLAND California
You’ll find kid-friendly food throughout the park, and a surprising number of specialty options that appeal to adults and die-hard foodies, too. It’s not a hardship to eat at LEGOLAND California and I’ve always been impressed by the variety of healthy options for kids.
Kid fare is everywhere, but some of the best locations for food for adults are at the Garden Restaurant (the Caprese panini is particularly popular) and the ramen options at Wok and Bowl, located in Ninjago but closed for renovation until Spring 2020.
Snacks, water fountains and quick service restaurants are all available throughout the park and easily accessible, even during crowded parts of the day.
If you’re looking for a signature treat, Granny’s Apple Fries were invented at LEGOLAND. They’re Granny Smith apples sliced and cooked like french fries, dusted with cinnamon and some secret ingredients, and served with a vanilla dipping sauce. There is also a Churro Stand.
You won’t find many adult beverages in this kid-friendly park, but the Knights’ Smokehouse BBQ maintains a growing collection of craft beers (they serve wine, too) and is a popular dining location. (You can smoke in LEGOLAND, but only in the designated area — all other parts of the park are smoke and alcohol-free.)
You can’t bring outside food into the park with the exception of water, small snacks, or anything that’s a dietary, medical or religious requirement. If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, you can download their dietary guide and take it with you for easy reference while in the park.
Shoppers Pass + Other Shopping Tips
One of the first things you pass after entering the park is a giant LEGO store aptly called The Big Shop because it’s 8000 square feet and offers the biggest selection of LEGO products in the nation. And, of course, there are many more gift shops sprinkled throughout.
Send Purchases to the Exit
Rest assured that you do not have to carry purchases for the entire day. You can have packages sent to the exit for pick up before you leave for the day.
You may want to set kids’ expectations about sending purchases to the exit in advance. I know many LEGOLAND parents who have had to carry giant LEGO sets around the park because excited children would not separate from them, even unopened. We had this issue also with a giant stuffed animal won in a carnival game (that many staff members offered to send to the exit).
If your child can’t stop thinking about new LEGOs they saw in The Big Shop, you can call to make purchases online and have it shipped to you. Or, you may take advantage of the LEGOLAND California Shoppers Pass, which is available on most days.
Here’s how it works. You’ll pay for parking and then visit a ticket booth to explain that you’d like a Shoppers Pass. You’ll purchase a 1-Day ticket and be allowed to enter the park to shop for one hour. Return to the ticket booth with a receipt for $25 or more in retail purchases and they will refund you the cost of the 1-Day ticket plus parking.
One of the things to do at LEGOLAND that kids tend to love most is Minifigure trading with staff members. If you forgot to bring yours or would like new Minifigs to add to your collection, stop into the Minifigure Market at The Beginning, right near the entrance. You can build-your-own Minifigure at dedicated tables inside the store.
Holiday Annual Events
One of the best times of the year to visit LEGOLAND California is during the holiday season, starting in the fall with Brick-or-Treat Party Nights.
The entire park gets decked out for Halloween for guests to enjoy during the day. In the evening, you’ll need a separate Brick-or-Treat party nights ticket to stop by the various trick-or-treat stations around the park, see Halloween-themed shows, and ride rides after dark. PG costumes are encouraged.
Next comes Holidays at LEGOLAND which includes the world’s largest LEGO tree, holiday character meet and greets, a holiday light show, and decorations throughout the park.
Parents can rejoice because New Year’s Eve is celebrated with a bang at LEGOLAND California and so that everyone gets to bed early. The giant LEGO ball drops at 6 p.m. during Kids New Year’s Eve on December 31. You’ll also enjoy fireworks and live music.
LEGOLAND WATER PARK Tips
Any LEGOLAND California ticket can be upgraded for $30 at the park to include LEGOLAND WATER PARK. The water park is open on select dates, spring through fall though usually daily in the summertime. You will definitely need to check the park calendar to verify open dates and times.
One day is typically enough to visit LEGOLAND California and SEA LIFE Aquarium. If you’re lucky enough to visit the water park, too, this is when a second day comes in handy. Kids love water play and it can be tiring, especially when the sun is shining.
Popular water park rides and attractions include a wave pool, a lazy river full of floating LEGO bricks, single rider water slides, side-by-side tube water slides, water slides for young kids, splash pads and much more. It’s sort of like two water parks in one because of the dedicated LEGO CHIMA Water Park inside.
LEGOLAND provides life jackets (first come, first served) but you must bring your own towel. Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase one. Also, keep in mind that you can upgrade your day by booking a cabana (you may want the shade).
Tip: Save the water park until the afternoon, when The Dragon and other thrillers are packed with guests. Enjoy collaborative and racing rides, an expanded play zone for kids and plenty of chances to cool off in this fun and detailed part of the park.
SEA LIFE Aquarium Tips
Any LEGOLAND California ticket can be upgraded at the park for $25 to include SEA LIFE Aquarium. Note that strollers are not permitted due to space constraints on days that both LEGOLAND California and SEA LIFE Aquarium are open.
The average visit to SEA LIFE Aquarium is about 45 minutes and there’s a path to follow through 16 interactive zones from the entrance to a separate exit (through Ocean Journey Café). I recommend timing your visit around various feedings and shows.
You can’t touch any of the animals with the exception of tide pool creatures under the supervision of staff at the Interactive Touchpool. You’ll pass by jellyfish, sharks, seahorses and more including some LEGO creatures and larger Minifigures in the tanks.
SEA LIFE Aquarium is open daily, a good thing to do if you’re staying at the resort hotels when the main park is closed. While it is adjacent to a theme park, it’s important to remember that this aquarium participates in conservation programs such as the rescue, rehabilitation, and release animals.
LEGOLAND California with Special Needs
Like all California theme parks, LEGOLAND is fully ADA compliant, so you can expect to be able to easily navigate paths, bathrooms and even ride and attraction queues with ease. The park goes beyond simple compliance, however, they also recognize that not all disabilities are visible or physical and have created a program designed for those with special needs beyond mobility issues.
LEGOLAND’s Hero Pass program is designed to help those who have sensory difficulties or who could become overwhelmed while waiting in line enjoy the park and the attractions it offers. While the Hero Pass (the official name is the Associated Access Pass) is available to anyone, it is most commonly used and helpful for those traveling with a family member with autism or with sensory concerns.
How the Hero Pass Works
Stop by guest services, to request a pass and to describe the accommodations you’ll need to fully experience the park. The Hero Pass will grant your party immediate admission to your first ride and then provide you with return times for each ride or attraction you want to enjoy throughout the day. If you only need mobility assistance or help with a wheelchair, you do not need this pass.
You do not have to provide any prescriptions or doctor’s notes to be approved for the Hero Pass, you simply need to relay your needs to the guest services team member you speak to. Since LEGOLAND is in full compliance with the ADA, they will not require documentation or even an explanation of your exact medical history, just details about the assistance you need to enjoy the park.
Some typical accommodations include the Hero Pass, which can reduce wait times and sensory overloads, a pass that will allow you to use a stroller as a wheelchair (perfect for even older kids that elope or wander from the group) and the use of noise muffling headphones where they can be safely used.
Working service animals are welcome at LEGOLAND California and all related attractions. Service dogs must be officially working and performing a task for one member of your party. There are service dog rest stations throughout the park and while there are some areas that stock pet gifts, you should pack a water bowl, food bowl and treats as you would for any other destination.
Your service dog may accompany you to almost any park location. Since they can not be safely restrained, service animals are not permitted on fast-moving attractions. Emotional support animals and therapy animals are not permitted in the park at this time. You can read more about the park’s disabled guest policies.
LEGOLAND Resort Hotels
One of the main benefits of staying at a LEGOLAND Resort Hotel on your San Diego vacation or staycation is early access to the park, at least 30 minutes prior to when it opens to the public.
There are two hotels to choose from: LEGOLAND Hotel and LEGOLAND Castle Hotel. Each offer guests the opportunity to choose between a variety of LEGO-themed rooms and immerse completely in the LEGOLAND California experience.
You’ll find LEGO pits in each hotel, scavenger hunts to take, swimming pools, Minifigure trading with staff and more (including a favorite in-floor Whoopie cushion near the elevator at LEGOLAND Hotel). Be sure to check the hotel’s entertainment guides to see what’s on offer during your stay and book ahead to avoid disappointment and to make sure your child’s favorite themed room is available.
If you prefer an offsite hotel, rest assured that Carlsbad offers a variety of excellent hotels near LEGOLAND.
LEGOLAND California Address, Directions, and Parking
LEGOLAND California Resort Address
One LEGOLAND Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Directions to LEGOLAND California from the I-5 freeway are quite easy because the resort is right off of the freeway.
From I-5 North (La Jolla, Coronado, downtown San Diego): Take the Canon Exit and head East. Make a right on to LEGOLAND Drive and follow the signs to the resort.
From I-5 South (Orange County and Oceanside): Take the Canon Exit and head East. Make a right on to LEGOLAND Drive and follow the signs to the resort.
It takes about 45 minutes to reach the park from the San Diego International Airport.
LEGOLAND California parking is very easy once you arrive. Parking attendant booths are located on LEGOLAND Drive so keep following the road and you will run into them. Parking costs at the time of this writing are below.
- Cars: $25
- Campers/RVs: $35
- Motorcycles: $25
- Preferred Parking: $35
Preferred Parking is closer to the park’s main entrance but you will still have to walk a little bit to the gate. I don’t find regular parking to be too far away but it is worth considering if anyone in your party has limited mobility or if you predict running back and forth to your car throughout the day.
Most importantly, have fun! Let me know if you have any questions.