For long time Theme Park Insider readers, you’ve probably read my trip reports before that detail my family’s adventures to themed attractions around North America. To celebrate our son’s Bar Mitzvah, we decided to up the ante this year by taking a trip to England, not only to visit some of that country’s best themed attractions but also to experience an English Premier League match. Since the EPL season runs primarily through the traditional American school year, we were pretty limited in times where matches were happening and the big theme parks were open, and when that didn’t conflict with the school calendar (i.e. not over the summer). That made Spring Break the most logistically feasible period for us to make the hop across the Pond. We knew we would face some crowds because English schools take a two-week break around Easter, and we were preparing for less-than-ideal weather, but in the end, we could not have asked for a better experience over our nine days.
When planning this trip, we knew we wanted to visit Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, and when researching the best ticket deals for those parks, we realized that they’re both operated by Merlin. We discovered that the chain has various levels of annual passes, some of which not only grant admission to the two big English theme parks, but tons of other attractions around the country. That’s how we found ourselves at Legoland Windsor on Saturday morning shortly after touching down at Heathrow and grabbing our rental car. We were considering a possible visit to Chessington World of Adventures, another London-area theme park operated by Merlin (though geared more towards families with smaller children), to experience their new Jumanji Land and B&M’s first launching shuttle wing coaster, Mandril Mayhem, but the park announced in March that the new land would not be open until May. While Zach’s starting to outgrow many of the attractions at Legoland, there were plenty of things for us to do for a few hours before we had to head to north London for our pre-scheduled tour of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Legoland Windsor is a short, 20-minute drive from the airport, and even if you don’t want to rent a car, the park can be reached by bus. The one thing I found interesting as we drove to the theme parks in England is that instead of having guests pay for parking when arriving, guests pay their parking fee when leaving the lot at the end of the day. My guess is that since unlike most US theme parks, the three English theme parks we visited were all located in residential neighborhoods with narrow streets where lines of cars at toll booths is probably frowned upon. With our trusty MG parked and locked, we made our way to the front gate. Legoland Windsor shares a lot of design elements and attractions with the American parks we’ve visited in California and Florida. However, Legoland Windsor is situated on the side of a hill that provides views of London in the distance from the entrance plaza at the top of the hill, but with a long and winding walk to the attractions predominantly situated at the bottom of the hill.
The overall layout of Legoland Windsor is similar to the American Legoland parks with numerous mini-lands with little transition when walking from one themed area to the next. Since our time was limited to just a few hours, we wanted to make sure to experience all of the attractions unique to this park and hit some of the best attractions also found in the American parks. Ninjago is one of our favorite attractions we’ve ridden at both Legoland Florida and California, and this version uses the same ride system. However, the ride layout and video are quite a bit different from those found here in the States, and for some reason, I was having a difficult time getting the sensors to pick up my hand motions to score (perhaps it was the jet lag). If we had more time to spend in the park, we probably would have ridden a few more times, but despite a relatively short line, we only had time to ride Ninjago once.
The next ride we headed towards was The Dragon. This is another staple of the Legoland parks, but the version here fully embraces its Medieval theming with a massive castle housing the queue, station, and dark ride portion of the ride.
Like the American versions, The Dragon in Windsor starts with a slow-moving dark ride section containing numerous scenes depicting knights, wizards, and massive Lego dragon before the train ascends a lift hill, which sends riders outside through a number of twists, turns, hills, and even a tunnel before returning to the station. As with the coasters here in the US, the second half of the ride is not super intense or intimidating but is pretty good for a decidedly "kiddie" coaster.
As we continued to make our way around the back portion of the park, we also rode Laser Raiders, an Egyptian-themed shooting gallery style dark ride that’s similar to Lost Kingdom Adventure in California. The one odd aspect with this attraction is that the ride is on the opposite side of the train tracks from where the queue starts, which means a team member has to manage the line to ensure guests are not blocking the tracks while standing in line. The ride itself is good, but I feel that they could have figured out a better way to configure and manage the queue. Nearby was Heartlake City, and Mia’s Riding Adventure, which is a stock outward-facing Disc-O ride. There’s not much to these types of rides, but I always enjoy going for a spin on these fun little flat rides.
Near the very back of the park is one of the attractions fully unique to Legoland Windsor, Flight of the Skylion.
This ride is the newest attraction in the park and is themed around the Mythica brand of Lego that takes inspiration from fantastical creatures imagined by Lego fans and master builders. When you reach the load platform for the attraction, you will instantly think you’re about to ride Soarin’, because the seats and ride apparatus look practically identical to Disney’s ride system. However, instead of being lifted up and in front of a massive parabolic screen, each row of seats simply rotates (think revolving door) to face the screen (guests load into three levels, so those climbing two flights of stairs load into seats at the top of the screen). It’s a clever improvement on Soarin’s ride system that obviously eliminates the need for massive mechanisms to lift more than 100 guests up and in front of the screen. The experience loses that magical "takeoff" experience, but everything else about the subtle movements of the seats along with wind/water/smell effects are pretty much the same. We really enjoyed the ride, and we were lucky to get positioned on the top row, which just like Soarin’ offers the best visual experience.
The next ride we came to is also unique to Legoland Windsor, Haunted House Monster Party. We honestly had no idea what to expect from this attraction and had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. The outside of the ride is extremely well themed, and I initially thought it was going to be some type of omnimover dark ride, similar to Haunted Mansion, given the exterior styling.
However, after climbing some stairs (you learn pretty quickly in England that the ADA doesn’t exist here), guests watch a brief pre-show starring Lego mini-figures and are led to the "Party room." This is when I realized we were about to ride a Vekoma Madhouse attraction, similar to Houdini's Great Escape at Six Flags Great Adventure. Considering that Hex at Alton Towers would be closed on our visit later in this trip, it was quite fortuitous that we took the time to experience the same ride system at Legoland. Personally, I prefer the Houdini theming on this attraction, but the more playful Lego theme works well on an attraction that is one of the cleverest flat ride systems I’ve ever experienced. I won't spoil the surprise, because the surprise is what makes this type of attraction so fun.
Eventually we made our way to Miniland, which for my money is the best part of any Legoland park.
This Miniland obviously leans heavily into European-based locations but has a pretty large section devoted to American cities as well as a sizable area representing Kennedy Space Center.
As you would expect, the attention to detail in these massive diorama’s are amazing, and the depictions of real buildings and iconic structures with Lego bricks are uncanny.
I could spend an hour or more being wowed with the level of detail of Miniland, but our brief visit to Legoland Windsor was about over. On our winding climb back towards the entrance, we passed by what will eventually be another installation of the Ferrari Build and Race experience that debuted at the California park last year. My guess is that it will probably be billed as a 2024 addition, but the construction didn’t look to be too far from completion.
While we only spent about three hours at Legoland Windsor, most guests could probably expect to spend a solid 5-8 hours in the park, particularly if they have smaller children who would want to ride all of the pint-sized attractions, which are plentiful. For us, it might have been nice to have another hour or two to ride a couple more attractions like Lego City Deep Sea Adventure and the Lego 4-D Theater, but with a teenager in tow, waiting 20-30 minutes for a "kiddie" ride or something we've experience elsewhere becomes less interesting rather quickly. Nonetheless, I was pretty impressed with this park and the number of unique attractions compared to other Legoland parks we’ve visited. Even for American guests who have visited Legoland parks before, it's a worthy diversion when in London.
* * *
For more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.