I don't like being critical in this blog - there's enough nastiness in the world without me adding to it. But having said that, I've just had such a vile day at Legoland Windsor that want to tell you how horrid we thought it was. So if you don't want to read a load of grouching, feel free to go to the next blog!
The good news first. We had special offer tickets, so instead of paying the gate day-pass price of about £170 (about $260) for two adults and two kids we "only" paid £78 ($120). Bad news is that there was an extra three pounds parking fee. Parking involved crawling aimlessly around with all the other cars, with nobody to direct us, trying to find a parking space. After half an hour of this, little A. was sobbing, and so I drove up a steep kerb onto a soft grass verge, and just dumped the car. A few other people had had the same idea.
Here's a picture of £3-worth of parking at Legoland Windsor.
And here's a picture of burning money....
Then we queued for tickets - half an hour .After that, there was a fifteen minute line at the entrance gate because the scanners didn't work. Total, an hour and a quarter of waiting, but finally, we were in!
The park's rides all had waiting times of at least an hour each. Pretty standard fairground rides, too - rocking galleon, a flume etc. We queued 2 hours for 2 five minute rides. Three and a quarter hours gone - and were we having fun?
I discovered we should have bought "Q-bot." to avoid those appalling lines. It's a virtual queuing system resembling Disney's Fast Past except that it's free at Walt Disney World, but at Legoland Windsor it costs (as far as I can work it out) between £60 and £280 for a party of four, (PLUS admission PLUS parking) depending on how much less you want to wait.
So headed to a food kiosk to buy a couple of bottles of water. £2.50 ($3.88 each) - £5.
They kids asked for icecreams. There were special soft scoop icecreams available - specially small. About half the normal size . £2.50 ($3.88) each.
What's that picture again - oh yes....
and they said they didn't take credit cards. I know it saves them a few pennies per transaction, but ....oh well. We didn't have the large amount of cash they were asking for their fast food, so we just bought one bottle of water and did without the rest.
There wouldn't have been such long lines if the company had opened all its food outlets (like the one below) on this very hot and extremely busy day.
GROUCH GROUCH GROUCH. By now we were feeling like truly valued customers *
S and A remembered an earlier trip to Legoland in 2009. They were looking forward to seeing their favourite things, Top of S's list was the underground station which had fascinated him. So we went in search of it.
And it was bust. A train stuck in the tunnel, what looks like a hole bashed in the station wall, some kids lingering hopefully, but nothing happening.
S swallowed his disappointment and went off to find his second favourite thing, a little harbour with boats. Alas, the water was shallow and brown with a sinister scum, scattered with litter, and the little ships bleached pale by the sun. I mentally christened it Poo Lake, though I am sure it was only silt, really.. Look at it, though.
Some boats were stuck on the top of poles, to look as if they were floating, or they would have done if there'd been any water for them to float in, instead of dirty muddy ...stuff.
S had also loved the train system. And okay, some of the trains were still running, but ... well, notice what's missing in the train below? In case you can't see the detail, the whole cab has come off. The hollow interior is on show, because it's broken and nobody has cared enough to sort it out.
The train below obviously hadn't been anywhere for some time, abandoned on its weedy track.
Did there really have to be so many weeds? Surely this exhibit below wasn't meant to be a model of a derelict scrapyard,.even though it looks like it.
And oh dear, the"medical emergencies" we saw among so many of the Lego figures!
Some of the exhibits were noticeably old and faded. Lego bricks are only plastic, and, as any parent knows, if they're left outside for years, they'll lose their colour.
And talking of Lego bricks, the boys had good memories of well equipped playrooms with special tables containing bowls of Lego bricks. So off we went and found them. But can you see? There were no Lego bricks in the yellow bowls. Even the kids who had found some bricks didn't have many, as you can also see in the photo below. It was so disappointing - Legoland minus the Lego.
S crawled around on hands and knees under the table for a while in case he could find enough Lego on the floor to make something with, but he couldn't. The few kids who had managed to make something were rolling their creations down a tatty slide with part of the surface ripped off .
Dispiriting, I can assure you. And this is the beginning of the annual season, when the repairs and maintenance are supposed to be complete, and the park should be at its best.
Now to be fair, the gardens and landscaping are still nice. The grounds, once part of an old stately home, are clean and well maintained. You see how pretty it looks here
And you have to admire the skill that went into so many of the buildings.
I'm told the whole park was once as attractive as this, but ....taking a closer look, we noticed that parts of "London" are badly out of date. The Swiss Centre (below) was demolished in real life in 2008.
There's no "Shard" - one of London's major landmarks these days. And Legoland's Eurostar still terminates at Waterloo, which it hasn't done in real life since 2007. (Nor does the real Waterloo have a giant weed inside the shed, like Legoland's.) At this rate, Lego's London will soon be a historical curiosity. I couldn't find any information about plans to update it. Perhaps there aren't any.
Legoland Windsor was originally set up and owned by the Lego toy company of Denmark. But Lego sold it to the private equity Blackstone group in 2005 and has been under the operational control since then of Blackstone's Merlin Entertainments.
Anyway, we ate our home made sandwiches, and little A queued another hour for another ride. S and I looked around Miniland a bit more - and that was it . As we trailed off to see if we could locate the verge where we'd left the car, S said that when he grew up he might become manager of Legoland Windsor, and rescue the park by having regular inspections and maintenance.
Little A merely said philosophically, "Well, it could have been worse. The park could have caught fire and we could have got burned to death, couldn't we?"
Just so we do not finish on a sour note, here is where we went the next day - above the village of Wye in Kent, completely free, with lots of space to explore, and have adventures . It was absolutely lovely!
PS. I just re-checked what we paid for Walt Disney World park day-passes in Florida, where we took A in February. Our WDW day passes cost us £57 ($87) and £61 ($94) respectively including free Fast Pass in WDW and free parking. With that kind of competition, I'm betting that Legoland Orlando is way better than the one in Windsor. (Or do they have broken water fountains, faded obsolete stuff and no credit card facilities in the food outlets in Orlando Legoland too? If you've been there, let me know!)