Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Hmmm.. Legoland Windsor.

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.
Anyway we didn't have Q-Bot and it was very hot and we'd drunk all our water and needed a refill - but the water fountains were broken. Went into the restroom (long line) but the taps were all labelled "Not Drinking Water" - even though actually they DO have safe mains water in Windsor, just like everywhere else in Britain.

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....

But we didn't get to buy any of the mini-icecreams, because after queueing for 35 minutes, we reached the front, with its ketchup and mayonnaise-splashed dispensers.

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.

 But no.

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.

Lego has kept a 30 percent share, so it cannot completely wash its hands of this place, and I can't help wondering how the company feels the tattiness of Legoland Windsor reflects on their brand, which is expensive but aims to convey high quality and fun.

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!)


  1. I've never been to a Legoland but it does seem that the one you visited wasn't up to snuff. Glad you made it up to the kids the next day in Kent. Take care. I still enjoyed your pictures.

  2. Goodness this sounds just dreadful. I would be concerned that the rides were not safe.
    The lego table is so sad.

    Glad the next day was better.

    cheers, parsnip

  3. Been there once some years back and utterly hated it. Never again!

  4. We've been to Disney and always loved it, but i haven't seen the Orlando Legoland. They do have a Lego outlet store at WDW, and i remember it as being fun for the kids, lots of fun, large Lego displays to see and bricks to play with.

  5. breaking my heart a bit...we love legos...and to see the lack of care...and attention to detail...blech...the whole qbot line jumping...what a rip off..and park food is too...ridiculous after you pay so much to get in...

  6. Fortunately my kids are too old for Legoland now but boy does it look rundown! I'm quite shocked. And having to wait for an hour to go on each ride is just crazy. My two were never interested in going but they both loved Thorpe Park.

  7. That sounds absolutely dire - extortionate prices, long queues, exhibits not properly maintained and out-of-date etc etc. I honestly don't know how they get away with it - so many visitors must come once and then say "Never again." As you may know, Jenny, tourist attractions in Northern Ireland are much more user-friendly. Less crowded, cheaper prices, seldom any queues, exhibits properly looked-after. Nothing much to complain about!

  8. The 'river' running through Lego London looks like pea soup :o/
    To be frank, it sounds like a horrid time.....

  9. I've never heard of Legoland but from your description I seriously doubt if I'd ever include it on my travel agenda. Much of the experience sounds like it's a reasonable facsimile of the far side of hell - - not to mention being devilishly expensive.

    No need to ever apologize for being critical or grouchy in your blog. I'm the king of grouchiness and criticism. My blog wouldn't exist without it.

  10. Very sad. Any amusement park tends to look tatty without a whole lot of attention and maintenance.

  11. How disappointing! My heart sank at A's comment of how it could have been worse. I can really relate to this when my then boyfriend (now husband) & I paid a decent admittance to a zoo in a major city, only to find that had on a few animals on display!

  12. Oh dear, dispiriting indeed! I've not been to Legoland Orlando but I did envision the Disneyworld queues at the beginning of your post...though of course Fast Pass makes the comparison a bit weaker. I do hope someone takes on the job of actually maintaining it, you can see how amazing it can be. So glad you all ended on a high note!

  13. how sad


  14. Well, that wasn't already one of my "must see" spots when I get to England (although Windsor is on the list). But I've got to say your grouching is well placed, just by the tickets.

    Oh, ugh. I would have been furious -- and I hope this post goes very, VERY viral!

  15. Jenny - I'm laughing out loud at this review! Every time you put the "burning money" picture up - I was in stitches! What a horror story of a day out - and yes - way too much money for very little return. The parking would have had me in tears, too - not the best in such situations. I feel trapped, you know? Anyway - glad the English countryside made everything all better. It sure would for me . . . always wishing I was there, ya know . . .

  16. Greetings human, Jenny,

    I'm assuming you wont be working for the Legoland Windsor promotional campaign. Me thinks I shall continue to send my humans to Alton Towers.

    What rip-off prices and no wonder this is called "Treasure Island".

    Thank goodness you left off with a pleasant photo of Kent and the price was right.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! :)

  17. You've given me new appreciation for Tokyo's Disneyland. Not that I've ever been there - I avoid theme parks like the plague - but I've heard enough first-hand reports and seen enough photos to deduce it's done with the usual Japanese perfection.

    I've also read glowing reports about Legoland Malaysia. Perhaps Asia has a few lessons for Europe? ;)

  18. What a ghastly time...I'm glad you had the nice day out in Kent. This just shows how little by comparison is needed for one's enjoyment. Sometimes I think the trappings of modern life are highly overrated.

  19. Blackstone is the kiss of death to all it touches....we've seen what it has done in Africa.

  20. I'm so sorry that Legoland was such a disappointment! I wonder why they don't keep the place better maintained? I hope S really does become the manager when he grows up and makes it much nicer.

    I do remember going to Disneyland with a dance group in high school and found it to be disappointing too. I remember thinking about how it was supposed to be the happiest place on earth and wondering why I was so unhappy. I'm glad I went once, but I wouldn't go again.

  21. Thank you for the warning. I do hope that all concerned read your posting and DO something about the terrible smell of burning money.

  22. You really should send your observations (incl. photos) to the Merlin Entertainment people, Jenny. Sometimes it helps to speak to "the management", whoever they are! This is sad, what should have been a fun-filled day was disappointing in almost every respect. Little A has such a philosophical outlook on it, what a great kid!

  23. Shocking and disgusting! I was actually thinking of taking my grandson as he is a great lover of lego -- And it's terribly expensive, too! I hope you send a copy of this to everyone concerned with running the place.

  24. Thank you for this - now I don't have to feel I'm a bad grandmother taking the children walking on the Downs and not to Legoland.

  25. I think you should be happy to report what you find. It does appear that cost cutting (privatised companies eh?) has ruined the park. The charges and services sound atrocious! Nothing wrong in writing about this, indeed many will now be saved a poor day out because of this. It might even cause the company to do their job, but I doubt it. I must say if I went anywhere I would tend to provide for myself rather than trust the overpriced services.

    Glad you had a better day, for free, elsewhere.

  26. Jenny, the pictures are dispiriting...
    I think any amusement park becomes miserable and dangerous for visitors
    if the owners do not care and do not repair it.

  27. You should forward this blog to the Legoland folk then they might do something about it. We visited Legoland in Denmark about 35 years ago when it was a fairly new attraction and it was wonderful. Times move on and kids want something much more exciting and up to date, but the money they are charging is atrocious.

  28. :( Sad that it has been let go, I can't imagine people will be lining up much longer if this continues.

  29. What a shame about Legoland - how depressing for all the kids. You should definitely write to Legoland - the one in Denmark is supposed to be really good.

    Love that last shot.

  30. Thanks for all the comments. I did consider forwarding my blog to them, but I am absolutely sure they will take no notice. I think it's irrelevant to them what the customer experience is. So many people on the UK Tripadvisor site make the same points as I did, over and over again, and there is never a response from Legoland and obviously nothing changes.

    It's probably part of the business strategy for this park to run the "just because it's nice" Lego stuff into the ground and focus on the bog-standard theme park rides instead, boosting profits by cutting staff, not taking credit cards, providing bad value food, etc. People will come for the roller coasters and Lego marketing rather than beautiful models and well equipped play rooms. After all, Lego sold the parks because their strategy of being nice to visit wasn't working. Nobody seeing the crowds could say the present strategy isn't working.

    If visitor numbers start dropping, then will be time to drop the prices, fix the water fountains. train the staff and make the visitors feel cherished... wow what an old cynic I am. But I used to write about theme parks a lot, and most of them are pretty bad.

    Anyway I'm hoping someone who's been to Legoland Florida can review it for me. I am guessing Legoland wouldn't get away with being scruffy, unpleasant and expensive anywhere that people have the option to go to good parks. The Florida Legoland Tripadvisor reviews sure are bettet and management respond to the bad comments, unlike at Windsor.

    1. You've made me wonder, Jenny, if Blackstone will milk it while they can and then when numbers fall and it ceases to be profitable sell the land for some more profitable use. I take it that providing planning consent can be obtained that is a pretty valuable piece of real estate.

  31. Jenny, you have totally convinced me that Legoland is a waste of money and I will never visit... It is so expensive and the queuing for everything sounds like a complete nightmare on a hot day, especially with children.
    I used to love playing lego when I was a kid too, but I don't think I would have enjoyed this day out that cost so much. That is rip off Britain for you these days!
    I'm an old cynic too, so don't worry, I can keep you company! ;-)

  32. That sounds totally ghastly. I'm glad your children are such stoics; they thoroughly deserved that lovely 'free' day out next day in such a lovely spot.

  33. I am astonished! I have shared this to facebook.

  34. Thank you for visiting my blog earlier! Sorry, Legoland was a disappoiintment. I don't know if a place like this receives reviews like restaurants do, but if affirmative, I hope you rwrite one -they should know this!

  35. What a shame that you had such a disappointing experience and that nobody in charge at Legoland seems to care about it!

    Legoland in Florida is a fairly new park. It is located in Winter Haven (about 50 miles from Orlando) - just 18 miles from my house! Come visit this Legoland and hopefully you won't be disappointed.

  36. In another life I took my two grandsons a few times. There seem to be some new models there -- not much else has changed! It all came back so clearly...

  37. It sounds just horrendous. Might it be the worst attraction in Europe?

  38. While I appreciate your attempt to put a good spin on this experience, you were right to criticize it. I stay away from tourist attractions for the reasons you expressed, although it is difficult if you have little ones. It is quite sad. Disney can also be a nightmare, if you don't know how to get around the high prices. At least Disney does allow fantastic specials now and then, and the water is potable. Europe itself is an attraction, so it surprises me that Legolands are popping up there too. Progress?

  39. What a place! Even with the discounted entrance fees it was still not worth going.
    I must say that S and A's attitudes are to be commended after such a disappointing visit.
    Such a shame that it is all going to rack and ruin.
    Good to see that the next days' venue was much better :D)

  40. That sounds just horrible! What a disappointment! I would be tempted to send them a copy of your blog with all the pictures and ask for a refund.

  41. Legoland Windsor is definitely crossed off my "must see" list. Oh, wait a minute...it was never on it! So much the better. But I am sorry that you and yours had such a disappointing day. Not fun!

  42. Hello Jenny , I came over to thank you for coming to see my blog .. not sure how you found me,, but it is great anyway .. I went to Monaco to see the Formula 1, always wanted to go to this rich mans playground, just to experience it,, and you don't have to be rich either , just helps. And I can thank you for something else now,, I wanted to take my grandsons to LEGOLAND , Windsor,, I definitely wont now, they both want to go to Paris too, so I think I will take them there (they are only ages 9 and 8) LOL

  43. Having just read the whole post , I WOULD send this to who ever owns the company AND LEGO. The gardens may be nice, but children do not go to look at gardens , they go for LEGO ,, This country is such a rip off on all counts , especially when it comes to food outlets,, absolutely disgusting,. I am going to share this on my facebook page , if that is ok with you, Just let me know, Anne

  44. For the most part, it sounds like a perfectly hideous day. I agree with the poster above me. Send this to someone in charge. At the least, they should be made aware. At best, you may score a refund or a free pass or something else of value in compensation.

  45. Wow!!! did you see my jaw drop? So sorry for your loss, as we all succumb to burning money, at least we're getting something for it - but what a disappointment for you! It's like they don't even care about their park - We've been to Disney land and yes it is expensive, but since it's the happiest place on earth, they make you feel good about 'burning money'

    Thanks for visiting my blog!!

  46. I agree with the previous commenter: DO send this to the CO of the company and possibly to any of the guides who may be advertising Legoland Windsor.
    You are totally justified in being cheesed off, this is a prime example of rip-off Britain.

  47. Well, perhaps I will send my comment off to Legoland Windsor. I'll keep you guys posted. Thank you for the further comments

  48. Sad to hear of your disappointing day Jenny - so disappointing for the little ones especially.
    Even if Legoland had been in a good state of repair - prices paid (plus all those little expensive extras) = daylight robbery.
    Thank heavens Wye was free!
    Anna :o]

  49. That's such a shame! I know what you mean about preferring to write about happy things (I try to keep my blog a happy place, too) but I'm *so* glad you shared this. I had thought I would like to visit some day! If I hadn't seen the pictures I'd struggle to believe it was in such bad shape. An awful waste of what should be a busy, bustling, profitable-by-being-popular attraction.

  50. I think you've highlighted a point of rip off Britain, every theme park etc seems so expensive these days, and such basics as water they want to charge for as well.
    Sometimes finding a nice park, having a picnic and some fresh air is all the kids really need.
    Lego should be ashamed but I doubt they'll reply or refund you they don't seem to care as long as the money continues to come in!

  51. Just had the exact same experience - but with a 2.5 hr traffic queue to get in (it was a sunny Friday in half term).

    Utterly horrible experience that turned a excitable Dad with kids in tow, into a grumpy old sod who kept biting his lip about, well just about everything.

    Boycott this place, its a scam of epic proportions.

  52. I read this whole account shaking my head in disbelief. How can they hold their heads up at Legoland? How can they charge so much money and present a heavily paying public with broken attractions and unkempt exhibits. This is a very sorry story, Jenny. I am truly shocked, and yes, I agree, you should complain! Vociferously!

  53. Sounds to me, Jenny, like you earned the right to express every grouse you wrote here. We have a Legoland in Southern California and even though I've never been there, friends made their trips there annually when their kids were young, almost like a pilgrimage just as others do the same going to Disneyland.

  54. My twin sis took my boy's there 15 years ago and they were raving madly about it. Totally loved it. Rides, foods, the lot. You'd think this far on they would have moved with the times and added and improved features. Shocking pictures!

  55. That is so terribly disappointing! Legoland without the Lego, but with a few extra weeds. I hope Legoland management becomes aware of your gripes. It's bad enough treating paying adults poorly, but it is absolutely unforgivable to dash children's enthusiasm and anticipation this way.

  56. Wow. That is just horrifying. The cost is dreadful, but so too is the total lack of joy around Lego itself - I've heard such wonderful things about the park in Denmark that this half-arsed British attempt is rather shaming. Hope they sort themselves out and get back on track for the rest of the season. This crummy British summer is no excuse to let things slip.

  57. Is this the same place?


  58. As a Florida resident, I would say that the Orlando park has significantly shorter wait times at about 15 min per ride (except during Winter holidays, but visiting an Orlando theme park during Christmas is sheer insanity).

    Food and tickets are still expensive but people are allowed to bring their own coolers. (Also a lot of people end up purchasing a yearly pass because those are actually a very good deal.)

    Some complaints I've heard are completely unwarranted though and are the product of a lack of research. For instance, a lot of tourists have complained that the rides close for thunderstorms. Another person complained about a "bad" water smell. Legoland sits directly on the shore of Lake Eloise; the water has an organic smell sometimes, because Florida is swampland.

    Also, many decide to skip the botanical gardens which is a travesty.


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