Ride-by-ride preview: Legoland Florida theme park to open in October 2011
Miniland USA will be the centerpiece of Legoland Florida. (Legoland)
In many ways, Legoland Florida will be similar to Legoland California in Carlsbad, which in turn is similar to other Legoland parks around the world: a kiddie theme park divided into lands based on adventure, exploration, imagination and, of course, Legos. Like all Legoland theme parks, the demographic will consist of 2- to 12-year-old kids and their minivan-driving, stroller-pushing parents.
Photo gallery: Top 10 Legoland California rides and attractions
The heart of any Legoland, and my favorite part of the California park, is Miniland. The Florida Miniland will feature landmarks from the Sunshine State. So it won't, for instance, bother with a New Orleans French Quarter area, which seems more exotic to Californians than to Floridians.
The most oft-asked question about Legoland Florida: Why Winter Haven? Which is another way of saying, "Nobody's going to drive that far for a theme park."
Much like Walt Disney's choices of Anaheim and Orlando decades ago, Legoland officials have a knack for choosing out-of-the-way locations that just happen to be between two big metropolitan areas. In California, it's Los Angeles and San Diego. In Florida, it's Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
Legoland chose the Cypress Gardens location in part because much of the necessary infrastructure, such as shops, restaurants and bathrooms, was already in place. The new park will re-theme and reuse several Cypress Gardens attractions, including the landmark gardens and three roller coasters.
Two former Cypress Gardens coasters have found new Florida homes: the Galaxy Spin spinning coaster has moved to Kissimmee, and the beloved Starliner appears headed back to Panama City, where the wooden coaster originated in 1963.
Meanwhile, Legoland California has seen rapid growth over the last decade in attractions and attendance. Additions have included entire new themed lands, a separate-admission Lego water park and a SeaLife aquarium (also separate admission), with a planned and approved Lego-themed hotel on the horizon. I wouldn't be the least surprised if all four – new lands, water park, aquarium and hotel – eventually show up at Legoland Florida.
Below I've compiled a land-by-land breakdown of attractions planned for Legoland Florida on opening day, scheduled for Oct. 15. Under each land, I've also included future possibilities, based on attractions found at other Legoland parks in California, Denmark, Germany and Britain. (It's important to emphasize these are long-term possibilities and by no means are official proposals for the Florida park.)
The entrance area will include shops and restaurants, including Granny's Apple Fries. Attractions include the Flying Island indoor viewing platform (formerly Island in the Sky), a Lego-themed carousel and a 4-D theater where four animated movies featuring Lego characters will be screened. The former Cypress Gardens conservatory will be converted into a gallery of Lego flowers and butterflies while the park's former mansion will eventually host private group meetings.
Future possibilities: Flight Squadron plane ride (California Denmark and Germany), Sky Patrol helicopter ride (California and Britain), train ride around the park (Denmark, Germany and Britain)
The centerpiece of the Florida park will feature scale-model Lego versions of Washington, D.C., landmarks, Las Vegas casinos and a stunning New York City skyline. Unique to Florida's Miniland will be a pirate ship battle (which replaces an ill-defined "harbor" area found in Legoland California) and famous Florida locales including Key West, the Kennedy Space Center and the Daytona 500 racetrack (but apparently no Disney World).
The preschooler playground will feature three kiddie rides: the Fire Brigade fire trucks, a plane ride similar to Cargo Ace at Legoland California and an as-yet-unnamed mini-truck ride.
Future possibilities: Fairy Tale Brook boat ride (California and Britain), Legoland Express train ride (California, Denmark, Germany and Britain)