Part of Legoland Detroit
This last weekend we took our son to the Legoland Discovery Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan. This center opened last year and we finally managed to make it up to go. My son had been excited ever since he first heard about it. He did have a hard time reconciling the difference between the Legoland Discovery Center and the official Legoland Theme Park. However, we reaffirmed expectations every step of the way so he didn’t expect something the size of Cedar Point. In fairness the size seems to be about the size of a couple grocery stores combined. This isn’t to negate it, but if you are going to spend the time and money to go – you should know what you are getting into.
We drove up the night before so we didn’t arrive exhausted. Since it was a three hour drive I’m not sure how my son would have taken six hours of driving and fun time in between. We stayed at the same hotel that my wife and I stayed at last summer when we saw Weezer in concert. It’s a fairly nice suite hotel. My son was over the moon that there was a kitchen in the room. Since I wasn’t lucky enough to get a room upgrade, my son slept on a sofa bed. Luckily, he is still the age where he thought that was the coolest thing in the room. I don’t think he has ever seen a sofa bed before. So it was all a new experience.
On our last trip my wife and I found out my son won’t sleep if he notices anything else going on in the room. So we setup the laptop away from him and put on wireless headphones. We did have difficulty making it work, but as I wrote earlier, we did manage to get it all worked out. After about ninety minutes he managed to go to sleep, we went to bed at our time. In the morning the hotel offered a free breakfast. My son thought that was the coolest thing in the world. He piled a plat high with food. My wife and I abstained, since we know how the food is at hotels when it’s free. It’s passable, but not something you would ever crave. We did save money though since I managed to cover the hotel room on rewards points.
We stated to headed over to Great Lakes Crossing which literally was just across the parking lot form the hotel. This is listed as the largest outlet mall in Michigan, luckily the whole thing is indoors. This is different than most outlet malls. To be fair, this is one of the largest malls I’ve been to. It makes we regret not driving the extra distance to see Mall of America when I was in Minnesota. On top of a very large number of stores, inside there are multiple restaurants, an aquarium, a 25 screen theater, and the Legoland Discovery Center. Since my wife and I toured the place last summer, we had no inclination to do the whole loop again. Since only my son had eaten, we wandered over to the food court across from Legoland and had some Starbucks.
At this point my son was getting impatient. He could see Legoland. It was so close he could taste it. Yet, we were sitting there having drinks. I think he finished his vanilla steamer in under a minute. While my wife and I attempted to engage him in conversation, it was clear that his 8 year old mind was just trapped in another world of block building. We relented and headed over to the center. One thing I should note is that all adults that want to enter into a Legoland Discovery Center or Legoland Theme Park must be accompanied by a child. After visiting the Discovery Center, this is a good thing to keep down the crowds. However, in theme parks though, there is more to spread out. For Lego loving adults, this is just annoying. They do have special adult nights though for those people that don’t want to hijack a child that isn’t their own for the day.
Entrance just past the ticket booth to the Legoland Discovery Center
As we waited in line we just took it all in. The ropes to mark off the lines were made of clear hollow tubes. Inside these tubes random bricks were dumped. It was all 2×2’s and 2×4’s at a glance featuring just the standard bright colored red, yellow, blue, and green bricks. I would suggest buying tickets before you go so you can save some money. One thing they offered for another four dollars was an activity book on a lanyard. Of course almost every parent (ourselves included) purchased that for their child. It would be nice if it was just something included with the price of a child’s ticket.
They shuttled us to the waiting area that existed right after walking through the giant minifig shaped alcove. At this point, just like any other amusement park, you are accosted to get a group picture taken. This was one we opted not to do. They keep you in the waiting in this area because the attraction you go through is the Lego Factory tour. Later I noticed a way to bypass this attraction if you really wanted to. However, if this is your first trip there is no reason to skip this. As you enter in, an attendant handed Lego with the center name on it to keep for your collection. They only offered them to children, so I did not get my own.
The factory tour room is a round room divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant has a row of controls facing a wall sized screen. Part of the time there is a movie playing on the screen, but it interspersed with a few activities that the controls use. These include designing your minifig and stamping out additional minifigs on the screen. It was cute, but if you have watched any of the Lego documentaries, you will have better understanding of the whole process.
Part of Lego Detroit
After you exit out of the factory tour you end up face to face with the Kingdom’s Quest ride. Unfortunately when we exited the ride was out of order. My son managed to get the stamps in his activity book for the The Factory tour. We then moved onto Miniland. This room is a minifig scale representation of Detroit. Not being a resident of the area, or familiarity with the city, I didn’t truly understand the landmarks. I don’t know how realistic it is layout to Detroit either. That being said, it was a great setup.
The next thing we looked at was the Duplo Area. This was setup with a farm theme. While my son is a bit too old for this area, it was awesome to see Quatro bricks. I was always annoyed that Quatro bricks were out of production when my son was young. Quatro bricks are twice the size of Duplo bricks. Duplo bricks themselves are twice the size of standard Lego bricks.
Lego Friends Area Pictures
Next to the Duplo section was The Lego Friends area. I’ll leave a note here that I personally dislike The Lego Friends series. I don’t dislike them on general principle. There are some really cool sets in all the series that is targeted to young girls. What I dislike is they have a different style of figure than the minifig. If they used standard Lego figures, I would think these sets were great. It’s all a general peeve.
There were building stations in The Lego Friends area and my son went through the flip chart. The problem was the pieces he needed were not in the bucket in the center. So if anyone was attempting to work through the building activities won’t be able to complete them. These buckets should be stocked heavily with the pieces referenced on the books. My son was a little disappointed but wanted to move on to the next adventure. Just about this time an announcement was made that Kingdom Quest was back in operation. We headed over there to get on the ride.
Kingdom’s Quest Ride Sign
The first thing I should mention is how the line is structured. I mentioned earlier that The Factory Tour exited right by the entrance to this ride. This causes a general mess as this the Factory Tour group exits and people are trying to get into line for Kingdom’s Quest. It took a bit of yelling by the ride attendant to get people moving out of the way and organized. While we waited in line a little animated feature ran explaining the story.
A princess has been kidnapped. It is your job to rescue the princess. This involves chasing down zombies, skeletons, and goblins. The ride is a dark ride. You go through different scenes of the story and are handed a blaster to take out the bad guys. Different bad guys are worth different points. Each car can carry up to five people. My wife and son sat in the front seat, and I handled covering our flank in the rear. One thing I noticed is that even though I was shooting straight on, it didn’t always register a hit. Since there is a laser pointer showing where you are shooting, I know I was shooting dead on. By the end of the ride, my wife had the hide score. I think I came in second, but I’m not sure. It was time to go check out the other ride, Merlin’s Apprentice.
To me this was the best experience of the day. I’m a sucker for dark rides. I’ve mentioned this before in my Cedar Point pieces on The Pirate Ride and Earthquake. I loved all the dark rides at Disneyworld, but the Cedar Point ones were in my regular rotations for years. I keep hoping they will bring a new one back.
Merlin’s Apprentice Pictures
Merlin’s Apprentice is a lego themed spinning ride like you would find at the carnival. It had consistent lines throughout the day. My son did not want to ride it, so we never rode it. From the outside it looks like you control the height of your “car” by pedaling away. I’ve done enough of these rides at Cedar Point to say it looks enjoyable and not too fast for young ones.
The playground is where my son spent most of his time. My wife and I sat and watched while he climbed around for an hour, making friends, and exploring the structure. This seems to be one his major highlights of the day. The playground is Lego City themed with a Police station, a Fire Station, and a construction area. There are large Lego bricks spread about and building seems to be occurring between all the climbing and swinging.
Since we decided that he had spent enough time in the playground, it did take some coaxing to get him out. It did help that he wanted a drink. So this meant he had to put his shoes back on and wander to the drink himself. By the time he did all of this it was easier to keep him moving along. Since we don’t know if we will ever return, we wanted to make sure he had a chance to experience everything.
Me in the 4D Theater
The next attraction we went to was the 4D theater. Luckily they have a sign that let’s you know how many minutes until the next showing. We got in line with 8 minutes until the next showing. The theater rotates through three features. They are Chima themed, Medieval themed, and Lego Movie themed. The one my won wanted to see was Lego Movie themed – and he lucked out. That was where we ended up. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but there is wind, rain, and snow. It was cute and enjoyable. It really was the second best thing I experienced that day.
Buildings in the Center of the Earthquake Table
By the theater there is a earthquake table. My son had done something similar at COSI in Columbus. There is a platform that shakes and you are to build a structure on top of it. There was either four or six stations at this table (I can’t remember). Kids would build their structures and start the shaking slow and then ramp it up with the dial. My son built a tower (not pictured) and showed off the survivability of his tower.
The first thing this really shows off is the clutch power (gripping ability) of Lego bricks. You then run into the issue that unless you really build haphazardly on purpose, there isn’t really enough bricks to make it large enough to implode. So you just watch a building shake a bit. Kid’s are amused, but a bigger building surface with many more pieces would encourage them to push the limits more.
Lego Build and Test Pictures
Immediately next to the earthquake simulator is the build and test area. This was where kids would build cars and race them. There was a track that allowed 5-6 kids to line up their cars. Then the wall would come down and they would race down the track. This is something else my son had done before at COSI when they had their lego exhibit.
My son worked and sharpened his design. The first one had some dud wheels on it that would hardly role. After he was done losing at the races (his car kept doing a hard left turn into the wall. He went over to the large ramps. On the largest he would watch his car crash into pieces at the bottom. Then he would rebuild it and do it all over again.
Like the playground, he would have stayed here an done this for the rest of the day. We wanted to make he experienced everything, so we were on a timer. He had about fifteen minutes before The Master Builder class was starting.
Master Builder Pictures
They run the Master Builder Class every 30 minutes. The class seems to run 20-25 minutes long. In it a instructor leads classroom in building the lego model of the month. While my son was working through his session he seemed to be having a friendly competition with another boy sitting boy sitting next to him.
Originally my son did not know if he wanted to do the class. He stated that he knew everything there was to building. Being the one that has to guide him sometimes – I can tell you this is not the case. Regardless after doing it he seemed to truly enjoy the class. After class I helped him disassemble the model to get it ready for the next class. On the way out of the center you have an option of purchasing the pieces for the model you built in class so you can have it for home. I wonder if these models are the same across all the Lego centers or if it is unique to each one.
Clock in the Cafeteria
On thing I didn’t mention is the cafeteria. This area is central to all the lands. Look at it as the rest area to get your kids focused to go onto to the next one. Almost all of the foods offered looked healthy. My wife had a snack of rolled Tostitos and guacamole. You also have the option of purchasing a plastic Lego bento box for your food shaped like a 2×2 lego. At first I thought this was a packed meal, nope – just an extra box for your food.
Around the edges of the cafeteria are stools, so you can easily watch your kids in different attractions. This allows you to give them some freedom and step away from the crowds for a little while. This is where my wife and I watched our son on the playground, there was probably 50 people crowded around the playground watching their kids. This escape allowed a reprieve from the madness.
Another Shot of Lego Detroit
On the way out my son did one of the penny presses that embossed a Lego image onto a penny. This is something he likes to collect when we go to different places. He chose the medieval figure as his choice. To exit you have to go through Miniland again. If the factory tour has recently let out, this once again will lead to a bit of congestion in the room as people are heading in different directions.
Finally as you exit you enter into a the Lego Store (which you can visit just by going to the Outlet Mall). There were a few sets I wanted, but it wasn’t in the budget. The ones I’ll make note of is the 1960’s Batman Bat Cave Set, The Disneyland Castle Set, and the Ghostbusters Headquarters. I wasn’t going to let my son leave empty handed, so we managed to get him a smaller Lego City set. Later he was happy he had so many souvenirs. He managed to walk away with the activity book, the penny, brochures about the center, and a Lego set. Best of all we all survived the madness of hte crowds. I think that might be the best take away.
The original plan after going to the Lego Discovery Center was to eat at the Rainforest Cafe. After seeing the outside and the souvenir section, my son was really excited. That was until we get the host. Since we didn’t make a reservation (because we didn’t know how long we would be playing with Lego), it was a four hour wait. If we had been part of their paid membership group we could have gotten priority seating. We weren’t going to wait four hours to eat. We could have been home in a shorter time frame than that. We opted to move on. Making reservations and sticking to the schedule is something you should make note of if you want to eat here.
We asked my son what he wanted and at first he stated he wanted to go the Steak and Shake. As we were heading back to the car to go, we noticed a Johnny Rockets in the mall. My son opted to go there instead. While it was crowded, we lucked out and managed to score a booth. He drank is milkshake, had a his burger, and life was good. We left and headed on the drive home. He passed out happy about halfway home clutching his trophies from the day. All in all it was a great experience.