Everything is Awesome at LEGOLAND Florida

Visiting LEGOLAND Florida was something my kids had been begging to do for MONTHS.  When we thought about Christmas presents, we remembered that we hated seeing a pile of toys that would later be unused.  Then we thought about turning a trip to LEGOLAND Florida theme park into our Christmas gift for the kids, and it made much more sense!  We couldn’t be happier with our choice!  Our kids loved their LEGOLAND visit, and we appreciated that it was the perfect getaway from the dreary Ohio January.

LEGOLAND says it’s geared for kids ages 2-12, but I’d say that it’s best for ages 3-9.  Here are some of our favorite parts of LEGOLAND Florida:

LEGOLAND Florida is awesoome for families. The LEGOLAND theme park has much to offer for small children, here are the things we enjoyed, plus tips for if you go.

Visiting LEGOLAND Florida

Miniland USA

Miniland USA is where great cities of the United States are built out of LEGO.  Not only is this fun for adults, there are interactive buttons for the kids! We had fun pointing out some of our favorite landmarks to the kids.  Since we visited LEGOLAND on a 2-day ticket, this is one place we visited on both days.  We didn’t realize how much we missed on our first walk-through.

LEGO City

If you were transported to LEGO City, this is what you’d find.  The boys received their driving license at Ford Driving School, then helped fight a fire at Rescue Academy.  Our favorite part of LEGO City wasn’t a ride, but Firehouse ice cream!  For $15, our family purchased a giant sundae in a reuseable LEGO container.  After a full breakfast buffet at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, this was what we shared for lunch! And hey, that’s a pretty affordable theme park lunch!

 

Character Meet & Greet

Upon entering the park, you’ll pick up a small brochure of the day’s activities.  Make sure you reference the park map and figure out where you need to be at each showtime.  We chose to hang out near the front of the park so we could meet Mr. Business!  We were able to watch the 4D Nexo Knights movie in the Wells Fargo 4D Theatre, then come out in time to line-up for Mr. Business.  I appreciated that the LEGOLAND employees took a photo with my phone and didn’t expect us to buy their park photo at a later time.

 

Character Meet & Greet at LEGOLAND Florida- This kid-friendly theme park is perfect for those ages 3-9. Here's more about our 2-day visit.

Rollercoasters

LEGOLAND has three roller coasters- Coastersaurus in Land of Adventure, The Dragon in Kingdoms and Project X in LEGO Technic.  All of the rollercoasters are rated for  40″ or 42″ and above, so our 5 year old was able to ride all three (with dad)!  I found The Dragon to be the most exhilarating and modern, what I don’t recommend is eating a giant ice cream cone at Kingdom Cones before you ride. #iturnedgreen

Olen & Brian rode Project X on our first day in the park, and the next day they closed the ride to begin it’s transition to The Great LEGO Race- a Virtual Reality coaster.  Here’s the video of what to expect:

Water show

One hit with the whole family was the Pirates’ Cove Water Ski Show!  I can hardly get up on waterskis, but this show involved guys in full-LEGO costumes doing tricks on their skis!  If you’re visiting LEGOLAND on a hot day, this would be a good way to get some shade and (possibly) get wet!

Cypress Gardens

This was not the favorite area for our kids, but a must-visit for the adults.  Cypress Gardens is a 75- year old botanical garden that has been integrated into the grounds of LEGOLAND. The sweeping oak trees, native bird life, and the site of a LEGO pirate ship, made for a relaxing getaway from the busy lands of the park.  If you’re traveling with children that get over-stimulated OR a nursing baby, this is the place to find a shaded park bench.

Shopping

LEGOLAND Florida has plenty of shopping opportunities throughout the theme park.  Before leaving the park we let our kids each pick out a small LEGO set.  I love that the LEGO souvenirs aren’t something that will just sit on a shelf, but they continue to be played with (and then entertained the kids on our next Florida stop).  While pin trading is a cornerstone of the Disney parks, LEGOLAND offers minifigure trading!  If you haven’t found a minifigure you’d like to trade with a park employee, you can go to the Big Shop’s check-out where there are trading boards to consider.

LEGO NINJAGO WORLD

LEGOLAND’s newest attraction is NINJAGO WORLD.  The centerpiece of this land is LEGO NINJAGO The Ride.  This is a 3D coaster in which riders must do their best ninja moves to throw fireballs and ward off villains.  The ride a little scary for our 4 year old daughter, and the first time I ended up holding her in my lap with my hands over her eyes #momfail.  So, think about how sensitive children might react.  However, our boys adored the ride,  as it scores your effectiveness in beating the “bad guys.”  Spoiler alert: I lost.

In NINJAGO WORLD, there are other active playground-like attractions to burn off steam, such as Kai’s Spinners, Cole’s Climbing Wall, and Jay’s Lightening Drill.LEGOLAND Florida is the theme park with perfect attractions for young children. The new LEGO NINJAGO WORLD was a hit with our family.

Tips for your visit to LEGOLAND

Thinking of staying on-site?  If your family loves LEGO, you shouldn’t miss a stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort.  Our family had a fantastic time and I found value in the on-site perks.

LEGOLAND allows you to bring snacks and plastic bottles into the park.  Lucky for guests, there is a Dollar Tree located just outside the park entrance.  We stopped here one morning and purchased cheap snacks and soda.

We visited LEGOLAND the second week of January.  The park was prctically a ghost town– It was amazing.  If able, I recommend visiting in the off-season. The theme park doesn’t seem that spacious, so I can’t imagine it packed to capacity.

Groupon is the place to look for package deals or discount tickets.

If you’re located near a LEGO store, you may also get a B1G1 coupon in the store.  I think upgrading to the 2-day ticket is worth it.  Our children were 7, 5, and 4 during a visit and there were things we missed on the first day that we’re glad we went back for on the second day.  The kids were also able to ride their favorite rides for a second time.

That’s a recap of our favorite rides and attractions at LEGOLAND Florida theme park.  Have you been to LEGOLAND?  What was your favorite ride?

** Our family was provided 2-day press passes.  All opinions are my own.**

 

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LEGOLAND Florida is a perfect theme park for young families. Here's my review of our visit to LEGOLAND Florida plus our favorite rides and attractions.

 

Kid-approved: Monster Truck Tour at The Showcase of Citrus

What checks all the boxes of a little boy’s dream, a science lesson, and an hour of fun?!  The answer: A Monster Truck tour at The Showcase of Citrus in Central Florida.

While researching things to do in the Orlando area, a friend recommended a family-friendly stop at The Showcase of Citrus.  We didn’t know if time would allow, but then we found a Groupon to save on the Monster Truck tour.  Once my husband saw the words “Monster Truck” and “save money” in the same sentence, he was sold on the experience.

Monster Truck Tour at The Showcase of Citrus in Central Florida. A short drive from all of Florida's theme parks, add this one to your Florida Bucket List.

Even with purchasing vouchers through Groupon, it’s best to call ahead and book your time for the Monster Truck tour.  We visited in the off season, so I had no problem booking the tour 24 hours in advance.  If you’re visiting during peak travel to Florida (i.e. holidays or Spring Break), make sure you call as soon as you know your schedule.

What to expect on your Monster Truck Tour

Upon arrival at The Showcase of Citrus, visit the cash register and get your tickets for the tour. (Even if you purchased a Groupon, you need to redeem the voucher).  While you’re waiting, a playground and petting zoo will keep the kids occupied, so feel free to arrive early and let the kids play around.  There’s also ample shopping opportunities, with Florida-specific gifts, wine-tasting and local honey. I was sad we were traveling via plane, because I wanted to try a few things! 😉

Monster Truck Tour- The Showcase of Citrus- A fun adventure in Central Florida, just minutes away from all the theme parks Monster Truck Tour- The Showcase of Citrus- A fun adventure in Central Florida

The Monster Trucks at Showcase of Citrus are actually modified school buses!  One perk of traveling at a slow time, we received an entire school bus to ourselves.  I felt anxious about taking a Monster Truck tour with kids, but it was nothing like the Monster Jam you see on TV! Lol.  No attempts were made to climb citrus trees or jump the wetland. (I know you knew that, but this lady has some serious #momanxiety).

I appreciated that our guide stopped along the way to tell us about the intricacies of the citrus farm and teach us a few things about oranges.  Who knew that in tropical climates, oranges never turn orange!? What?!

Monster Truck Tour at the Showcase of Citrus - a fun adventure in Central Florida that is kid-friendly.

Then we learned about the roughly 500 head of cattle that the farm serves as home.  Throughout the year, the farm will hire real “Florida Crackers” (cowboys) to round up the cattle and move them to new acres.  After feeding the cows some oranges (what else?), we continued our tour by rolling right through… a swamp!


The water was all the way up the tires, and even my husband was surprised we came right through without getting wet.  Swamp-crossing was the highlight for all the boys, the only bummer was that the cool Florida January meant no alligators coming out to say “hi.”

The Showcase of Citrus is home to exotic animals, too!  We also fed oranges to a zebra, water buffalo, and Texas Longohorn!

We stepped off of the Monster Truck with many fond memories.  This was not an inexpensive excursion, but probably one that we’ll talk about for quite a while.

My #1 tip

Before saying farewell to the Showcase of Citrus, try their World Famous Creamsicle frozen beverage.  This orange slushie mixed with frozen yogurt was attacked and consumed by our family.  I want another one ASAP!  I know that no one would object to a return visit.

The Showcase of Citrus in Central Florida- Get yourself a Creamsicle slushie. You're welcome.

Check Groupon for Monster Truck deals HERE

Have you ridden a Monster Truck?  Maybe you’ve had the World Famous Creamsicle?

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A Monster Truck Tour at the Showcase of Citrus in Central Florida is sure to please young and old. You'll learn about the citrus farm, view exotic animals, and even drive through a swamp!

Oh my G-O-S-H: A stay at LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort in Florida

Anyone else’s kids know every single line from The LEGO Movie?  Mine do!  Last year while Mr. YT and I were painting rooms and fixing up the new house, the kids watched a LOT of movies!  The LEGO Movie was on repeat, and in the previews, there’s a short commercial for LEGOLAND. This is where my kiddos became obsessed with the idea of visiting!  They begged and pleaded and told us that LEGOLAND was the ONLY place they really, really, wanted to go!

When thinking about Christmas and the load of items the children receive and then lose interest in, we decided that we would rather DO something with them- create family memories.  One of these memories would be a stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort in Winter Haven, Florida.  I’m so glad we choose to stay on-site at the resort, and I can’t wait to tell you why!

A stay at LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort in Florida is sure to be a hit with the entire family. Here are my pros and cons for staying at the Resort.

Why we chose to stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort

When visiting LEGOLAND Florida, parents have the option of booking either the LEGOLAND Hotel or the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort.  The LEGOLAND Hotel is right nextdoor to the park, I assume some rooms would have a view.  The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort is across the road from the park (not really walking distance), but offers a free shuttle to and from LEGOLAND.  Theming at the resorts is different- in the LEGOLAND Hotel they offer Pirate, Adventure, Friends, or Kingdom rooms, while at the Beach Resort, all rooms have the LEGO Beach theme.

We chose the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort because I knew that both my sons and daughter would like the style of the room.  I also liked the idea of having a colorful home and pool.  I’m always drawn to more of a Airbnb-style accommodation and the Beach Retreat Resort seemed to fit the bill.

Here is a list of all the things I enjoyed about Florida’s LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort, along with those things I didn’t like:

PROS:

The property is very family-friendly.  In the room, the bathroom has a toilet seat with the child’s potty seat attached. The bathtub was situated so that parents actually had room to bathe their children!

The bunk bed has a trundle underneath so the room will sleep 5 (a rarity in the hotel world).

In the center of each cove is a small playground.  In the mornings, while we packed up things for our day at LEGOLAND, the kids played on the playground and we watched them from the window in the room.

The pool is heated and has large, floating LEGO!  The zero-entry kids section is perfect for little ones.  There were 3 lifeguards on duty and a supply of life jackets for children.

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort, Florida. Staying here is perfect for families and a big hit with the kids. Here are my pros and cons to the resort.

A tour of our room:

The Resort restaurant, Sandy’s Castle Restaurant, offered meal deals!  These may change seasonally, but we took advantage on both nights of our stay.  The first night we were able to get 2 appetizers, 2 adult entrees, 3 kids meals, and Coke products for $50.  The second night the deal was 1 appetizer, 2 pizzas, and Cokes for $40.  We found these deals to be very helpful with our trip budget.  I will say, the food was pretty average.  The kids loved it (who doesn’t love pizza and cheeseburgers?), but at the price, I could not complain.  The nachos were our favorite- definitely try them!

While the adults appreciate the affordable dinner, the kids LOVED the visits from LEGO character “Max.”  The appearance is included in the cost of the dinner and you don’t have to make a reservation.  I researched getting breakfast with some silly-speaking yellow men at another resort, and the cost for our family would have been over $130!  For breakfast!?!  LEGO creates so much value to the on-site stay.

A buffet breakfast is included for resort guests.  From hot items like sausage and eggs, to cold cereals and yogurts, the variety was appreciated.  I found this to be a value-added item as most similar resorts will charge an arm and a leg for breakfast.  Also, during breakfast the servers tried to sit families close to the large sand castle building area.  This gave parents some time to actually eat their breakfast.

A stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort. Meals at the Lighthouse include time with Max. This was a highlight for our children and showed added value for staying on-site. A stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort. The sand castle provided a fun place to play after meals.

CONS:

The room felt small.  Even though it was half of a cottage, it was no bigger than a standard hotel room.  I liked that the kids had a separate space, but because the room is separated by a curtain, not a door, light and noise were an issue.  Mr YT and I tried to stay up and watch TV, but Olen could see and hear it, so we had to just turn everything off and try to sleep.  This isn’t a huge deal, but I definitely prefer a true suite.

The bathroom layout and potty seat were a hit, but for all the thoughtful things they provided, a stool for the sink and a soap dish would be so helpful.  I know that’s a little nit-picky.

As a mentioned above, the dinner items (esp steak and the pizza) were just okay.  The buffet breakfast, however, was ample and tasty.

SHOULD YOU STAY?

I’d definitely recommend a stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort, Florida.  Our kids were immersed in the LEGO culture for 2 days and they loved every moment.  The shuttle to and from the parks is convenient and easy.  A resort stay also includes free parking at LEGOLAND which we used on the last day after check-out.

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort offered so many on-site benefits – the meal deals, free breakfast, free LEGOLAND parking (normally $17), and the character dinners.  Our kids are already asking to go back and it’s not something that my husband nor I oppose!

Have you been to LEGOLAND?  Would you consider staying on-site?

** I was given a press rate for our stay.  All opinions are my own **

** Post contains affiliate links **

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A stay at Legoland Beach Retreat Resort in Florida is a fun escape for LEGO-loving kids and their fun parents! Here I share the pros and cons of staying on-site.

 

4 great {family} beaches near Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers, Florida was a place I’d never really dreamed of visiting.  Now I want to move there (no joke)!  After a great deal using points on nonstop flights to Southwest Florida, I found myself researching a place I knew little about yet planned to travel there with our three small children.

 Two themes I kept finding in my research were “great beaches” and “great sunsets.” I made it my goal to experience the best of both! That said, here are 4 great family beaches near Fort Myers, Florida.

 

4 great family beaches near Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers Beach

 Fort Myers Beach felt like a mix of Bob Marley and Bob Dole!  Ha!  The northern end of the island is home to numerous bars and restaurants that let you dine or drink beachside.  The southern end of the island is mostly home to condos and quiet beaches.  North or south, a sunset view is on the horizon (literally) and you’ll be glad you’ll pulled up a chair.  

While Sanibel gets noted for a shellers dream, I found numerous sand dollars on Fort Myers Beach that were just washed up on the shore.  Beach access points are throughout the island but they do contain metered parking and it’s $2/hour.  

4 great family beaches near Fort Myers, Florida

Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park is an island that received its name because it was so remote, only lovers would make the trek by boat. Now the drive to Lovers Key is just a quick jaunt south of Fort Myers Beach.  There’s so many things to do within the State Park:  hiking, birding, and kayaking, just to name a few.  We chose to spend our time on the beach!  

Lovers Key State Park charges an admission fee of $8 per car.  From the main parking area you can walk to mid beach or you can take a tram to the south beach.  Our family chose to take the 15-minute tram ride.  The south beach contains a concession stand and restrooms.  From there you can walk over 2 miles of unspoiled beach.  

Lovers Key State Park beach- 4 great family beaches of Fort Myers. Florida
Lovers Key State Park is a quiet spot for the family.

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island was listed in Patricia Schultz’s 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.  Driving into Sanibel, you’ll quickly understand why.  The island has strict zoning laws so it feels much more secluded than it is- couple that with white sand beaches and millions of seashells and you have a place that the entire family will enjoy- young or old.

 We parked near the Sanibel Lighthouse and walked along the bay.  The bay contains the same beautiful beach but is nearly wave-free, making it great for the little ones.  This area also is home to a short fishing pier.  If you’re looking for a beach that is away from the high-rises and nightlife, you may consider staying on Sanibel Island!

Sanibel Island bridge- 4 great beaches of Fort Myers, Florida
The view of the bridge leading you onto secluded Sanibel Island.

Naples Beach

While Naples is known for its designer shopping outlets and historical fishing pier, it should also be known for its 7 miles of white sand beach. Naples is a known for its wealth, and the well-kept beaches are a testimony to this.  There is public access at many different points, but entering at Lowdermilk Park gives you access to two playgrounds and sand volleyball courts, plus concession stands and restrooms.  You’ll have to pay a meter, but you’re family will be happy to have more than just the beach available!

What’s your family’s favorite beach near Fort Myers, Florida?  Any tips you would add?

For your continued reading:  3 Family-Friendly Places to View Wildlife in Southwest Florida

 

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3 Family-Friendly Places to View Wildlife in Southwest Florida

I’ll admit it, we booked our flight to Fort Myers only because we wanted a inexpensive way to try flying with three kids  (before our long long flight over the Pacific)!  We also wanted someplace we could get to non-stop.  While I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with Southwest Florida, I did fall…and fell hard.  You don’t need to head to the theme park capital of Orlando– Southwest Florida is so family-friendly!

Kids love seeing animals.  The zoo is “meh” in my book.  You’ve been once, you can cross it off of the list!  I want to experience nature “like the natives.”  So… when researching things to do in the Fort Myers area, I found so many nature walks and drives and sightseeing opportunities.  The list was actually too long.  Here are 3 places we actually visited, plus two we didn’t get to (but may still fit your fancy).

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One of our friends at the JN Ding Darling refuge. I believe he is an Anhinga.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Within the sleepy island of Sanibel lies a gem of a Wildlife Refuge.  You’ll hear about J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge just about everywhere you look.  Within the refuge are trails, a lookout tower, and a driving tour.  We tasted all three- and while we didn’t spot an alligator, we did see enough birds, fish, and crabs to reconcile that loss.

The refuge is 6,400 acres, which explains how it took us roughly two hours to explore, even though we traveled by car.  If you’re staying on Sanibel Island, this would be a great area to ride bikes with your family!  We walked the shellmound trail (more like a boardwalk than a trail- great for kids AND a stroller), and hoped to spot a bobcat but I’m fairly certain our three rowdy kids scared them all away.

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These mangrove tree crabs were fun for the boy to spot! I was a little apprehensive to walk under the trees after realizing we were outnumbered! Yikes!

Go here if:  You are a bird lover or enjoy fishing.  Consult the visitor center for fishing/boating rules.

Everglades Airboat Tour

Truth:  The airboat tours you take in the Everglades aren’t really IN the Everglades- they are not allowed within the parameters of the National Park.  Nonetheless, getting out on the water will allow you to see things you may not see from an observation deck- i.e. GATORS!  I gave a full recap of our airboat tour HERE but we also saw lots of fish and plenty of water birds like this egret.  There are numerous tour operators  throughout southwest Florida- from just south of Naples all the way to Everglades City.

Go here if:  You need a little more adventure.

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Lovers Key State Park

Located between Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key feels miles away from civilization.  We took the tram from the main parking lot just to access the south beach.   The shelling is fantastic, too.  While we didn’t SEE any wildlife on our trip (not even a dolphin), the State Park is known for it’s fantastic bird watching (catching a theme here?) and can even host a few manatees.  The best time for viewing manatees is December to February so that’s probably why we missed ’em.

Go here if: You’d like to combine a trip to the beach with some wildlife viewing.

Other places we desired to go (but ran out of time):

Manatee Park– A great place to view manatees in a non-captive enviroment.  The water stays a little warmer thanks to a nearby power plant, so when the gulf cools below 68 degrees, the manatees head here.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary– A 2.25 mile boardwalk through protected swamp which includes the largest old growth Bald Cypress Swamp in America.

Any places you would add to the list?  What’s your families’ favorite part of southwest Florida?

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