Astronaut Harrison and I both are very big fans of LEGO. For us they aren’t just toys, they have been a pretty serious part of Harry’s Occupational Therapy progress. Building finger strength, strengthening cross brain connections, you name it and there is a way that LEGO can help meet OT goals without seeming like work. They are also just a great way for he and I to get some time together everyday and exercise our imaginations (yep, LEGOS are great for adult brains too).
Given that we are such big fans, it should be no surprise that when they announced the opening of a LEGOLAND Discovery Center (LDC) last year, we were both pretty excited. We were invited to the groundbreaking brick drop last February by our friends at M+A Architects and every visit to Easton Town Center since, Harry made sure we stopped to see where they were in the construction process.
Now that they are open, we stopped by on Sunday morning for a quick tour by LDC’s general manager Jacob Kristensen followed by several hours of playtime. I have to give a big thank you to Jacob and his entire staff for making sure we didn’t miss anything on our first visit and for giving us the low down on a tip that usually only seasoned visitors know. We’ll be sharing his tip as well as two others I figured out at the end of this blog post so make you stick around!
Welcome to MINILAND CBUS.
We started with a visit to LDC’s MINILAND, an amazing rendering of Columbus (as well of parts of Cleveland and Cincinnati) using 1.5 million LEGO bricks. For me, the MINILAND by itself is worth the cost of admission. I could (and probably will) spend a lot of time studying the techniques and pieces that LEGO’s master builders used to recreate so many of Columbus’s most notable sites in such amazing and realistic fashion.
Astronaut Harrison made a friend for life when Jacob asked if he wanted to take a “walk” (meaning stand very still) on Broad Street. Harry is still talking about it four days later!
In addition to LEGO versions of some of our favorite spots in the CBUS, every 15 minutes MINILAND goes from day to night complete with a fireworks display every cycle. Harry’s favorite part was the campus and stadium at OSU, the amphitheater at Columbus Commons (complete with rock concert), COSI and the boat races on the Scioto river, all of which you can interact with through push button display mounted near each feature.
It’s Time to Start Building!
After leaving MINILAND, we hopped on the elevator down to the lower level where the majority of the interactive activities are.
We started with a trip into the Creative Workshop where they hold daily classes (we’ll definitely be doing that every visit!), a stop by LDC’s Master Builders workshop which has a big window where you can watch Master Bulder Maxx Davidson as he works on the next masterpiece for their ongoing collection.
By this time Harry was itching to get building so we headed over to the LEGO Racers area where he and I built cars to test on their slope track (think pinewood derby racing), and the jump track where we tried to launch our cars into the bucket at the bottom. Plan on spending at LEAST an hour at this station.
Next up we headed to the Earthquake tables where we (ok, I held Harry’s astronaut helmet) built a tower that I am proud to say could withstand even the strongest temblor the table could produce!
Surprise…this place is fun for adults too!
LEGOLAND Discovery Center isn’t just for the kids. Even my wife, who is not a LEGO fan is looking forward to going back because it’s not JUST about the bricks! A few of the things that make this an adult friendly kids place include:
The Coffee Shop
4D LEGO Cinema
The 3-story LEGO CITY playland
This time around we didn’t have a chance to visit the coffee shop but I can tell you that on future visits, we’ll be giving it a full workout (they serve Starbucks!).
Also at the top of our list to catch on our next visit is a visit to the 4D LEGO Cinema. What’s 4D? Think 3D with actual rain, snow, wind, and lights thrown in. We’ll definitely be spending some serious time there.
Kingdom Quest is a trackless ride that carries you in a car through a magical land where you have to blast screens filled with skeletons, spiders, and rock throwing Ogres (I think, I was too busy blasting them to take notes).
I will say that the weight of the blasters and fast pace of each scene made it a little tough for Harry to rack up a very high score. I figured out a quick fix though that I’ll share in my “Three Secrets about LEGOLAND Discovery Center” at the bottom of this post.
Merlin’s Apprentice sends the rider around Merlin’s chamber in an enchanted cart, the faster you peddle the higher you go. For a ride that goes in a circle, it’s actually a lot of fun and a bit of cardio never hurts right?
“Say hello to my new favorite snow-day destination!”
The last area that we explored was the 3-story tall LEGO City play area. The Construction Zone/Police Station features everything that Harry loves about LEGO CiTY and has, as he calls them, “Life sized LEGOS” to build with throughout. There are also several nicely padded benches nearby for parents and only one way in or out so you don’t have to keep your head on a swivel the entire time making sure that you don’t have a shoeless little one making a fast break for the 4D movie theater.
As soon as I saw it I turned to my wife and said “Say hello to my new favorite snow day destination!”
Exit through the Gift Shop
After all of that, what better way to get a very worn out First grader moving again? Telling them that to get out of LEGOLAND Discovery Center, they have to leave through the LEGO Store! That definitely got Harrison moving faster than if I told him there was someone handing out free astronaut ice-cream (I so wish that was a thing btw).
“Three Secrets about LEGOLAND Discovery Center”
As I said at the top of the article, we were given a few tips on getting the most out of your first visit and here they are:
Help your kids get a higher score on Kingdom Quest
Visit the LEGO Store FIRST to save money on admission
LEGOLAND Discovery Center team members all wear minifigs on their brick name badges and they love to trade with guests! Just make sure that your minifig has a head, body (with arms, hands, and legs. Harry and I are keeping our tradable minifigs in a baggie in the car so we always remember to take them with us (and don’t lose any pieces). He made out really good on our first trip with two astronaut themed minifigs!
Kingdom Quest is a ton of fun but the guns can be a bit heavy for some kids, also the fast paced action can make it is bit tough for kids to focus. I recommend having them make sure they hold the blaster rifle style (one hand on the grip, one under the barrel) to make it easier to hold and aim.
How can visiting a LEGO Store save money? Near the registers they have “bagged” LEGO sets in a variety of themes (we got one Harry Potter and one Unikitty bag this trip) that have a coupon printed on the back that gives you a free kids ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket. So a $4 LEGO kit saves you $21 on admission, and your kids get new LEGOs as well.
We’ll definitely be visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center Columbus many more times (infinity times according to Astronaut Harrison) and will be sharing more of our adventures there and at other locations around Columbus on Instagram and Facebook so make sure you follow us there as well.
Do you have any tips or hacks on getting the most out of a LEGOLAND visit? Let me know in the comments!