With “resort positioning” a key strategy for Merlin Entertainment’s continued expansion, the hotel turns the hugely successful theme park into a destination resort.
From the moment we walked through the entrance to the hotel, guarded by a giant “fire breathing” dragon, my little boy was in LEGO heaven and any disappointment that the hotel was not actually made of LEGO bricks was quickly forgotten.
The whole hotel is themed with LEGO, from the reception desk with 6, 000 minifigures (and a large moving magnifying glass to view them), to the walls, carpets and rooms.
There is LEGO everywhere: over 15 million LEGO bricks were used to create the hotel’s 1, 600 models. The three floors of the hotel each have an iconic LEGO theme, Pirates, Kingdom or Adventure and each of the 150 themed bedrooms has hand-made LEGO models of parrots, monkeys, spiders and ladybirds.
The rooms are fantastic – cool theming but also really well thought out. Ours had a Pirate theme – skulls, buried treasure and cutlasses. The adult’s area is separated from the kids’ bunk beds so that bedtime can (theoretically) be enforced, and each area has its own TV. A nice touch is a room-based game where the solution is the combination for a safe containing LEGO goodies. There is even a big box of LEGO – it was hard to persuade our son to leave the bedroom.
In the restaurant a lot of planning has gone into creating an area where kids can play safely while their parents relax. The centrepiece is a huge castle play structure with other areas to play and build LEGO with new friends. All the kids seemed to be having a blast and getting on together.
The adjacent Skyline bar area had LEGO skyscrapers – complete with the odd bathing stormtrooper- set against a setting sun. The designers have done an excellent job incorporating the quirky humour of recent LEGO brands into the designs. The children’s entertainment, helpful staff and design of the space together with lifts that only work with room keys, means that parents can enjoy a pre-dinner drink and grown up snacks whilst the kids are having a great time in a safe environment.
The restaurant is bright and cheery with loads more funny LEGO figures to look at, and holes in the partitions to be climbed through. Dinner is buffet style, another huge relief for parents of fussy eaters. The kids’ food is at a low level with child-proof bowls and plates so little ones can help themselves. The food is good too – a nice selection, fresh and good quality, healthy options and an ice cream maker and LEGO shaped chips. Breakfast was also wonderful with gorgeous waffles.
Tables have paper tablecloths with crayons provided. The whole thing is just fun and relaxed and about having a good time as a family. No-one was bored and fidgety, and even if they did get fed up there was no problem with leaving the table, climbing through a wall or helping themselves to another bowl of cheesy pasta. There also were plenty of meet and greet LEGO characters for photo opportunities.
The only regret I have is that we were having such a good time we didn’t get to have a movie and popcorn back in the room.
I do have two older daughters (12 and 14) who although they have enjoyed playing with LEGO did wonder whether they’d like the weekend. In fact, they had a ball largely thanks to the lovely Karen (Customer Service) who was just brilliant at talking to them and making the whole experience fun.
The next day we hit the park. My son got his driving licence which he took for show-and-tell on Monday and we went on Atlantis (the park’s underwater aquarium experience/ride) twice –wide eyed amazement that we were under water. Staying in the hotel meant that we got in an hour early and being able to beat the queues for our favourite rides was much appreciated.
We had an illustration of why LEGOLAND is just so great at providing a perfect environment for younger children. We were standing in a (small) queue for a ride and my son was playing at being Ben 10 watched by another boy of a similar age. Suddenly my son slapped his wrist, saying “It’s time to go Ultimate!” with an appropriately grave countenance. The other little boy looked really impressed. “Uh, oh, ” he said, realising the seriousness of the situation. This is a place where boys can be boys and LEGOLAND understand. A refreshing change from hanging around with a bored small boy while my “cool” daughters queue for some mega coaster whilst listening to hip hop on their ipods. It was wonderful to be in a place just for pre-teens.
For the older kids, however, the dragon coaster was thrilling enough to be fun and we all absolutely loved the Star Wars film. Even in 2D LEGO have taken a brick from Pixar’s model and made family films with enough humour in to appeal to adults. We enjoy the LEGO Wii games at home for their humour as much as the hours of gaming fun. It’s a great move for LEGO to branch out into movies and ultimately create their own IP, for instance with Clutch Powers, star of LEGO’s first feature length character film. There is more of a link to the video games in LEGOLAND Billund, with a Wii area and I will be interested to see if this will be extended to the other parks as it’s definitely an element of the brand that our kids enjoy.
In an interview with Blooloop last year, LEGOLAND MD John Jakobsen explained that the appeal of LEGOLAND is to provide a “completely differentiated experience based on interactivity and engagement by all family members”. With this in mind, we battled as a family on the firetrucks, a race to put out a fire and get your fire engine back first. Like many families, the inter-family competition is fierce and we struggle to play games harmoniously: there was much taunting and jeering as the girls romped home to an easy victory.
In the shops the Star Wars range was a hit. Again the customer service is top notch. A very helpful girl at the Castle shop rang around to try to help me in my ultimately hopeless quest to get a Bellatrix minifigure.
With prices starting from £247 in low season to £337 in high season for a themed family room (2 adults / 2 children), including breakfast and park tickets for two days, this isn’t a cheap night away.
However, I would say that our trip was one of the best 24 hours we’ve had as a family with something for everyone. My little boy now wants to live at the LEGOLAND hotel and even the girls want to work at LEGOLAND when they grow up.
What’s a happy memory worth after all?