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Attraction of the week: Legoland's Driving School

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Published: January 21, 2013 at 11:24 PM

Great theme park attractions leave you with something more than a moment's entertainment. Think about the first time you rode a "big" roller coaster. Or let a theme park ride truly surprise you. That sense of accomplishment -- that you not only went on a ride, but did something special during it -- elevates certain attractions into lifelong memories.

And as special as those moments can be for you, they're magnified when they happen for your children.

My attraction of the week this week is Legoland's Driving School, which my children experienced here in Southern California. But east coast theme park fans have a Driving School at Legoland Florida, too. (You'll find Driving Schools at the international Legolands, too.)

Driving School enables children between ages six and 12 to get behind the wheel of their own Lego car for a drive around a city street grid. I'll turn it over to Theme Park Insider Daughter (and Driving School veteran) Natalie to explain:

Natalie at the Legoland Driving School

"The thing that makes Driving School different from rides like Disneyland's Autopia is you're not on a track. You can drive the car wherever you want -- and run over things if you're not careful. So you have to learn to be careful, to stay in your lane. It's safe, but it doesn't feel safe when you first drive. You've got to be in control; there's no track to keep you from hitting things. But you're not scared when you drive. If you crash the cars, you're going to be fine.

"Legoland also made the ride look like the real world. They put in a lot of details -- like a gas station, and people walking and lots of traffic signs and signals, so you can feel all grown up while you're driving around. You even can get a license afterward."

Driving in the Big City

Driving School detail

Sure, a few kids treat the Driving School like a well-decorated bumper car ride, careening into everything in sight. But two of my great thrills as a parent in a theme park were watching each of my kids navigate the Driving School course perfectly for the first time, with no collisions and obeying every traffic signal correctly. (Yeah, that required a few evasive maneuvers from each of them -- but that's part of life in the real Big City, too.)

The Legoland theme parks target such a narrow range (basically, elementary-aged children and their families), that many theme park fans without kids in that age range tend to overlook or dismiss the Legoland parks. But if you have kids between ages 6 and 12 (especially in the younger half of that range), Legoland can delight. Rides such as Driving School demonstrate how theme park attractions can move beyond passive entertainment into active play... with a purpose.

Readers' Opinions

From 84.56.90.174 on January 22, 2013 at 12:22 AM
I remember that one in the original Danish version with mixed fealings. Somehow, i did not find the break for some minutes. The instructor in the middle was already trying to tell me where it is in the second or third language. He was right the first time since one did get country flags in Denmark. I was just so slow he must have thaught i had the wrong one. After that it was quite fun.

From Tony Perkins on January 22, 2013 at 4:06 AM
Driving school is a great attraction, and Disney's Autopia should take some lessons from it. There is also a Junior Driving School so kids as young as three years can drive. My oldest son loved to drive the little electric cars when he was three and would go on the attraction again and again. This a great pick for attraction of the week (I imagine the Fire Academy at Legoland will be another one in the future, it's Legoland as it's most inspired and best).
From 63.95.36.13 on January 22, 2013 at 6:25 AM
Great article Robert refreshing to see a balanced well written article on your posts not hiding away from who Legoland caters for (Not all themparks need to be "E" ticket mindless eye sores. Coming from the UK we have enjoyed LegoLand Windsor for many years whilst my children were younger and I highly recomend this themepark for those young families wanting a fabulous day out. If I may be so bold to ask you I would love you to write a similar piece of the virtues of the Disney Universal fued that is always evident in the posts on TPI. THe parks are like chalk and cheese would like to see more posts on here embracing the differences and diversity of theme parks, from LegoLand, through to seaworld, Disney and USF/IOA. Its clear from the previous post on who should own Seaworld that people dont want a one glove fits all approach to park ownership. Looking forward to anothe year with TPI and interesting posts.
From Ted Heumann on January 22, 2013 at 10:07 AM
I have always loved Legoland.
Legoland is one of the BEST examples of a THEME park that shows you can do theme (and do it VERY well) without spending "Disney" (or Universal) millions or billions. I wish other wannabe theme parks would follow Legoland's example.
From José María Sandoval on January 22, 2013 at 4:13 PM
I love attraction of the week
From AJ Hummel on January 22, 2013 at 5:29 PM
I remember doing this all the time when I was a kid, even though it usually had one of the longest lines in the park. I still think it's probably one of the best rides in the industry for elementary-age children or younger. Even though I'm well outside the target age range of the Legoland parks (currently 22), I still visit Legoland California every couple years because the park is so unique and very different from any other I have visited. Many of the attractions are interactive and are just different from what Disney, Universal, and the other premier theme parks offer.
From 98.24.31.68 on January 25, 2013 at 4:46 AM
This attraction was the sole reason why my boys begged to fly across the country to visit Legoland again. It is also why we rushed down to Florida when Legoland opened there before my oldest outgrew it. He would still love to do it again if he could (he is a normal 12 year old who is tall for his age. He looks 16).

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