29 August 2011
This is the second time I've visited Legoland Windsor, but the first was many years ago. This time it was with a nursery trip with our 3 year old son's nursery school. We also took our 6 year old daughter.
We travelled by coach and ate a picnic lunch with others from nursery, but otherwise spent most of the time exploring alone. It did however mean that we had to leave quite early. It's worth noting that during the summer some of the rides are open until 8pm which gives longer to go on rides.
We went during a weekday during the school summer holidays which is a busy time, although I expect not as busy as weekends would be.
There are a good range of rides catering for all ages. Many of the rides for younger children have an educational theme. The first ones our children went on were the driving school (for children aged 6+) and L-school (for children under 6). Although we arrived quite early the queue for the driving school was already building up and our son was able to have 2 goes on the L-school and still be waiting for our daughter to come off the driving school. They both enjoyed the rides which were much more realistic than most other driving rides for that age group.
We then went on the Fire Training academy. Due to technical difficulties this was only running at half capacity so the queue moved very slowly. They advised people to come back later in the day, but from what I see it didn't appear to get fixed that day. The Fire Training Academy was a very much hands-on ride for the whole family, where we had to pump a handle to move the fire engine before then pumping some water that the kids squirted at the fire. It was good fun and good exercise.
After lunch we went on the wave surfer which is the same as a ride that we'd been on at Beekse Bergen in Holland, although this one had a lego shape on the front. We did get a little wet on this ride, but it's not too wet that you would need to have a spare set of clothes.
Next up was the new Atlantis Submarine Voyage. This had a long queue, but was worth going on. It was effectively a boat ride with glass panels in the bottom of the boat and enclosed to look like a submarine. The kids got very excited on the ride looking out and finding a mix of real fish (including a shark and rays) and submerged lego models.
We then had a brief look at some of the models in mini-land and went up the Space Tower. The Space Tower is a sit-in ride where you pull yourself up using the (partially assisted) rope. This is the same as a ride at Duinrell amusement park, but the one at Legoland had extra health and safety measures (seatbelt that was operator controlled) in addition to the normal safety bar which made the queue move much slower.
We then split up so that I could take my daughter onto some of the more exciting rides which our son would not be tall enough for. We hoped to go on one of the roller-coasters and/or river splash ride, but with queues lasting between 45 minutes and 1 hour we instead decided to go on three less busy rides: Jolly Rocker, Spinning Spider and Longboat Invader, which were all similar to rides at other parks and the queues were only 1 ride long.
A big issue with Legoland is the size of the queues. We were only able to go on so many rides by choosing some popular rides first and then not going on the big rides, but that in some way defeats the point of going to Legoland. I'm sure the queues would have got a little shorter if we'd been able to stay later, but that would have meant a late night for the younger children.
Legoland operate a Q-Bots system to help with the queues, but this is not provided free. There is a substantial additional cost if you choose to use the Q-bot system, available either as a regular Q-Bot (which provides the same queuing time, but without physically standing in the queue) or the Express and Ultimate Q-bots which cost more but reduce the queuing time.
By charging for the Q-Bots this effectively becomes authorised queue jumping for those willing to pay, particularly for the Express Q-bot and Ultimate Q-Bot.
We did not use a Q-Bot during our visit so I don't have first hand experience. I'm sure that the more expensive ones help reduce the queuing for those willing to pay (at the expensive of other visitors queuing times), but the regular one will perhaps be less useful although will help squeeze some extra rides in if you can find a different ride with a much shorter queue in the meantime, or perhaps do some shopping whilst waiting for the Q-bot.
I think that the free virtual queuing used at some other places (such as the FastPass system at Disneyland Paris) is much fairer, although obviously doesn't get extra money for the park.
We enjoyed our day at Legoland, but were not able to go on some of the rides we wanted due to queue lengths. You'd probably need to spend two days to get around many of the rides and activities on. It's also very expensive compared to some other parks.
On the plus side if you able to stay until later some rides are open until 8pm providing extra time to go on some rides when the queues are hopefully much shorter.