See those kids? They’re richer than you, they are
It’s half term, it’s raining, it barely gets light before it gets dark again and the traffic’s gridlocked in every direction. Let’s head for a theme park! Now then, what’s that noise back there? Ah, you’ve sprayed curdled milk across the luxurious velour trim of our 52-reg MPV. But hey, we’re on holiday, so gimme a high five, little sister! What did you say? You’re going to throw a full-on hissy fit unless you get Gangnam Style on a loop? Saddle-up, here it comes! Blimey, are we “there” yet?
If “there” is Legoland, and you’re me, then this day out had a lot in common with acupuncture, offal, and a couple of things that will remain between me and the wife – ‘tried it once, didn’t like it’. And if you already think I’m a curmudgeon who shouldn’t have been allowed to procreate, wait ‘til I tell you this – we had free tickets [thank you, school gate friend!]. So yep, it wasn’t a bad day exactly, and it wasn’t Merlin’s fault that it lashed down as soon as we queued for our first ride.
But it could have been so much worse. We didn’t spend £130 quid at the gate to get 3 of us and a toddler in. We didn’t spunk an extra £210 on three Q-BOTs to give us official “up yours” rights (see below). And we didn’t compound the UK’s obesity problem by chowing down on their greasy nachos.
An aside, before I let rip: I love theme parks. More specifically, I love Alton Towers (also owned by Merlin). And this isn’t just because I met my wife there, although I didn’t manage to get her in The Black Hole until the second trip. So I’m genetically predisposed towards them, and I went to Legoland with a spring in my step.
Grumpy people are revolting
But after a bit of retrospective Googling (which is as much use as those devastating put-downs I come up with in the shower after an argument at work) – I can see I’m not alone in my disappointment.
“If you have a three year old who wants to do driving school, make sure you practise them saying their age. The staff will ask each child to say their age and i saw several children turned away for not being able to say how old they are.”
“Buy your parking ticket on the way in so you don’t have to queue at the end to buy a ticket.“ Mumsnet
“The park is looking very tired, with only the odd bus or van looking good in miniland, the rest is very faded and old looking. It really seems to have come away from the Legoland that it was when it first opened and is now just trying to make as much money as possible while spending as little as possible.” Tripadvisor
That Mumsnet thread, by the way, also shows that we probably missed some of the best rides. But we had that suspicion on the day, by the way that the queues for those attractions snaked their way round half of Berkshire. And we’d already learned that a queue at Legoland is not what it seems… it has a phantom extra dimension. As you crawl excruciatingly slowly towards the front – and let’s not forget you have the minis in tow, who are hardly known for their queuing prowess – these gorillas appear out of the mist in their bright yellow ponchos, waving their Q-BOT queue-jumping devices and launching themselves onto the ride, gurning like idiots.
“Why are they getting on first, daddy?”
“Because they’re considerably richer than us,” I might have said, “or aren’t planning on eating for the next two weeks.”
That’s pretty unpalatable, even when you put aside the financials and the unwelcome juxtaposition of children’s pleasure and naked capitalism. Some of these rides are seriously lame – I’ve ridden better at village fêtes. If I’m going to queue for an hour, I want the ride to cost £6 bazillion and be one of only two in the universe, just like you get at Alton Towers (for the same price). Yet at Legoland, for a ride my two-year-old thought rather tame, we spent 45 minutes in a queue of 30 people for a ride that carries 24 on each five-minute pass. All on account of the queue-jumping hordes.
That parking is a right scam, too: it’s £3 on top (or £8 if you want to park closer, you lazy git. Oh sorry, I didn’t see the crutches), with a queue on the way out to buy your ticket as a final slap around the chops. And the miniature lego world is a faded masterpiece; the lifespan of each brick may well be 37,112 uses, but after a few years in the sun and all those primary colours have begun to look a little beige.
But Dadhacks is supposed to be about helping, not whingeing, so in that spirit – and knowing you’ll go anyway – here are the top 10 tips I’ve gleaned from sods less miserable than myself.
- Take your sandwiches and drinks, or at least buy them at a petrol station en route.
- Don’t take the hill train down to the main park: the steps all have groovy slides next to them.
- Take your buggy: you’ll need it for tired legs, and to cart around the waterproofs and changes of clothes you shouldn’t forget, either.
- The pirate show plays several times a day, and is apparently a winner.
- If you’re made of money, guests at the Legoland hotel get an extra 30 minutes inside the park, during which some of the rides will be open.
- The newish Star Wars Miniland is worth it for fans and non-fans alike, not least because it’s inside
- Apparently, on the rapids, strangers actually pay to spray jets of water at small children. I am so sad I missed this I could cry.
- Duplo Valley Splash looks f**ing amazing. It’s a playpark version of those bath toys with the funnels and the waterwheels. Sadly November is not the time to go there, and in midsummer you’ll need sharp elbows.
- Check out the rides, and all the tips, at the great Unoffical Guide to Legoland. That’s how I know we missed some of the best bits (now), and, umm, might just go again…
- …as long as we never have to pay full price. Buy ‘em with Tesco Clubcard tickets, get 2-for-1 tickets, or catapult your offspring from the ramparts of Windsor Castle.
Have we got it all wrong? Was Legoland the best day out you’ve ever had with your kids? Tell us what we missed. And what about other theme parks – which are the sure-fire hits, which are the stinkers?