Legoland Florida: Pleasant, pre-opening surprises
I had a walking/riding tour of Legoland Florida, the soon-to-open theme park in Winter Haven, this week. I had been there during a couple of hard-hat tours, but this was the first time I had been with most attractions in place. Members of the hospitality industry were in the park, giving things a trial run.

Here are random notes from my most recent experience, and I'm filing them under "pleasant surprises."

+ When rising to the top of the Lego Technic Test Track, one of two new roller coasters in the park, you get a beautiful and unexpected view of Lake Eloise.

+ The Lego models are more animated than I expected. They've seemed to stagnant in still photos, but many of these figures move about, from steam-breathing dragons to marching bands outside the Lego White House. The streets around Miniland USA are much more populated that during my previous visits. They practicially teem and deserve further inspection. For instance, see mini beachgoers encounter crabs in the Florida section. It's like they all have little life stories.

+ Bigger than life: Buddy, a walkaround character mascot of the park. He's tall and generic and a kid-pleaser, one of thousands of photo opportunities at Legoland. There are two other characters: Mac and Stormer, who's based on Lego's Hero Factory line.

+ Lots of merchandise is on the shelf. A few things that caught my eye: alarm clock ($29.99), build-your-own watches ($24.99), Minifigure plush doll ($16.99), beach towel ($19.99), various T-shirts ($21.99) and zip-up sweatshirts ($39.99). But you can also get a Lego-styled water bottle, keychains, wallets, book bags, banks, birthday party kits and numerous building kits, of course.

+ I knew there was a driving course for kids, free of that annoying rail, where young drivers roam free, learn rules of the road, earn a Legoland drivers license. I didn't know the course had a roundabout. This may be why adults aren't allowed.

Legoland Florida opens to the general public on Oct. 15. There are some limited-attendance days this weekend for invited guests, and there will be previews for annual passholders on three dates next week ahead of the grand opening.

The grand opening date is Oct. 15, though there are some limited-admission events going on this weekend, plus annual passholder preview sessions on key dates next week.