During a visit with family in Atlanta, Georgia, the weather had taken a turn requiring us to get a bunch of stir-crazy kids out of the house and working off pent-up energy. But I have to admit my surprise when my sister-in-law suggested we go to the Legoland Discovery Center in Buckhead, Georgia to spend a most of the day.
Located in Phipps Plaza, an upscale shopping mall in Atlanta’s suburbs, the discovery center is one of the most recent U.S. additions to other Legoland locations that include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City and Westchester.
Pay Before You Play
Upon arrival there was a moment of sticker shock, until we discovered that because they live in the area, they had annual passes allowing them to use facilities all the time and those annual passes also came with a limited number of guest passes. (Definitely the way to go if you live in the area and your kids like Lego.) Without this option, be prepared to pay $19 per adult, and $15 per child over 3, unless you’ve booked online in advance in which case passes are as low as $11, and get you priority entrance. School groups have the ability to get in for much less, and teachers go free.
The first thing you’ll experience is a carnival-like ride called “Kingdom Quest,” where you’ll “zap” ogres, rats, skeletons and other bad guys with a laser gun of sorts.” I wasn’t so keen on the concept of gun play, but the targets came fast and furious and it became a game of quick hand-eye coordination for all. If you don’t want your kids handling any sort of gun, you’ll want to skip this ride.
From there, you’re ushered into a special room to be given the official “Factory Tour.” As we stood waiting for “Professor Brick-a-Brack,” to explain just how these many pieces (more than 2-million in the center) are created, I had a vague sensation that we were standing in some kind of alternative “Wonka World.” There were no freaky boat tours in the end, but kids did learn the mechanics of making the bricks.
Land of Miniatures
One of the most interesting features for both kids and adults alike, is the MiniLand area—made from almost 1.5 million bricks, and depicting various famous sites from throughout the Atlanta (and beyond) area. From the capital building, to Stone Mountain, to the Falcons’ Stadum—skylines and popular locations are depicted—built from the blocks, and rigged with moving elements and lights that come up when it’s “dark” in the town. Children are bound to be fascinated with the places they recognize, and adults will be impressed with the accuracy to which these models were built.
And There’s More
From a netted climbing maze, to the Lego Pit (billed as the “biggest box of Lego bricks ever!”), to Merlin’s Apprentice Ride (where your biking skill allows your car to get to the highest point) to workshops, open at various times of day in which kids work on building various skills including math and design—kids have plenty to do and get creative with right then and there.
As a few of the kids with us were fascinated with cars (the movie and the real deal), and they had a chance to test their race car building skills while building various incarnations. Once built, they took plenty of time to test and adjust on the speed race track, and various tracks to choose from provided alternative ways for the cars to move as well as instant races. A built-in stopwatch at the end of the tracks kept time to the second.
Although we hadn’t planned to see a movie that afternoon, after letting the kids play for a bunch of hours, we took a bit of time and saw the 4D movie (included in admission). The movie itself was fairly basic with fairytale-ish stories coming to life on the big screen using block-y Lego figurines in all of the roles. We were curious what the 4th “D” was going to be during the film, and we found out fairly quickly. Wind, rain, lightning, and fragrances were blasted out during appropriate scenes, with the “piece de resistance” being a mini-snowstorm coming down on us. While not all the adults seemed fully appreciative of this 4thdimension, there was no doubt the kids loved it.
The schedule advertises various events that take place month-to-month, ranging from costume contests and learning to build a Lego pumpkin in the month of October to “holiday inspired ornament builds” in December.
For those adults that are kids at heart, but prefer to play with other grown-ups—they hold “Adult nights”—where no kids are allowed!