With not many weeks left of the summer vacation, we hit up another place on the Summer Wish List, Legoland Discovery Center in Westchester. There are a few routes north to get there – route 9A the Henry Hudson Parkway, route 87 or the Bronx River Parkway onto the Sprain Brook Parkway – each taking roughly 35 minutes from New York City depending on your starting borough (sorry Staten Island!).
Legoland is located at the back of Ridge Hill shopping complex in Yonkers. There is an indoor garage adjacent to Legoland and it’s $3 for all day parking. The first time we visited Ridge Hill a few years ago we were amazed by what we felt was a secret small oasis of stores, restaurants and a grassy play area. Since then it’s a little more developed and maybe some of the shine has worn off but it is still a great place to visit. There are roughly 50 stores including REI, Dicks, GAP, L.L.Bean, Wholefoods, the Apple Store, Loft, Lowes, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, T.J.Maxx and many more. For food there’s the Cheesecake Factory, Yard House, Angelos, Havana Central and a Subway.
When we visited Legoland a couple of years earlier our son was 3 years old and we wondered how this time the experience would be different.
We arrived a little early with surprisingly no traffic en route on a weekday morning. Soon, as it got closer to 10am opening time, more and more families appeared. We were the first in and after tickets were checked, we were ushered into the waiting area, just outside the “Lego Factory”. There was a timer outside the door counting down to when we would be let inside and screens to look at while we waited. Our son loved the upside down Lego character hanging from the pipe in the ceiling – Mario-style! During the waiting time, the staff offered to take pictures of families in front of the green screen in different poses.
Once inside the factory, a few exhibits focused on ‘brick education’ my term not theirs! You can see how tall you are in Lego bricks, how many bricks you weigh, and see how many bricks are being manufactured. There is some more information about Lego; cranks to turn and lastly, you can collect your souvenir Lego brick on the way out. I don’t know if there is usually some sort of official tour presented as families dispersed throughout the room as soon as they entered but with our crowd we pressed and turned things, then moved through to the next area.
As you enter the hall past the factory, you enter the line for “Kingdom Quest”, a car ride that takes you through a “quest” where you shoot laser guns at the bad guys to save the princess. The cars look like they can seat up to 4 or 5, there are two rows of seats. We had fun and competed for points, there are counters in front of the seats for how many bad guys you’ve hit. It’s dark and some characters on the screens look a little mean so might be a little scary for kids under 3.
Next up was the Miniland, which includes miniature versions of NYC landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Times Square, Met Museum and the Freedom Tower. There is also a super cute miniature of Ridge Hill Legoland! This area provided an opportunity for great kid conversation starters – How many bricks do you think it took to build Yankee Stadium? Or do you know the name of that building in New York? (Grand Central Station).
As you leave Miniland, you enter the main hall where all the other attractions are located. There is a large indoor playground that will keep your child busy for between 30 and 90 minutes depending on sugar intake. Also there’s the Duplo Village for younger kids, a café and eating area and also the 4D theater. There is also another ride here called Merlin’s Apprentice. This is similar to the small helicopter rides you see at carnivals and you have to pedal to lift up your seat and fly higher.
We watched the 4D movie which is always great fun, there’s water sprinkled on you and wind blown, synchronized with different scenes in the movie. They are currently playing a movie that features the main characters from the Lego movie; Emmett, Wyldstyle, Unikitty and Metalbeard. It was lots of fun and especially great for kids who have watched the movie and are familiar with the characters.
One area we all loved was the station to build and race your own Lego vehicle. There are several bins that provide the parts you need to construct a vehicle – later to be put to the test as family members compete down a ramp. Tip: dig deep in the lego-filled bins to get the wheels and axles that can be hard to find.
Parents be warned! On the way out you have to exit Lego Land through the gift shop so buying a souvenir (keychain, Duplo set or a $300 Porsche 911 GT3 RS set) is almost a given!
We purchased a Minecraft set to build at home so our son was pretty happy, he was also by then, tired from all the climbing, building and riding.
As expected, with more appreciation for Lego since he is older, Oliver had a blast this trip. He was unable to enter the Play Zone indoor playground last time due to height (and also older kids running around) but this time he was running around with the best of them, although there are always a few older kids that do play a little rough so we kept a close eye.
Overall, I have to say my favorite parts of the experience at Legoland Discovery Center were building and racing our vehicles against each other and the 4D movie.
Legoland Discovery Center is a great way to spend a free morning or afternoon with your kids. You can even get discounted tickets online. It makes for a great rainy day activity as well since the entire venue is enclosed and there is even a covered walkway from the parking garage so no one gets caught in the rain.
Tips: Do bring socks if your kids are not wearing any as they are required to enter the Play Zone. The café seating area fills up quick around lunchtime, outside food and drinks are not allowed. There are many eating options around the mall so you might be better off eating outside. Our entire visit was about 2-3 hours, if you have time after, the Ridge Hill shopping complex has some great stores and while in the area, if you get a chance, visit Stew Leonard’s nearby. Kids love the animatronics singing animals and you can get some groceries on the way home!
Full Disclosure: We received complimentary/discounted tickets in exchange for our honest, unbiased blog posting.