I find from time to time that having a young family can restrict the opportunity for spontaneity. That said we recently visited Legoland Windsor as a fairly last minute family outing. Our boys had been super all week and I had won a fabulous Merlin Annual Pass from Take it from Mummy so it seemed an opportune time to visit. Plus the sun was shining and, let's be honest, once you've had that thought to do something exciting you don't really need to find many excuses to actually do it.
So picnic packed, we set off. Unfortunately it seemed that most of the UK had the same idea and despite getting there early it was extremely busy. My husband didn't queue for too long but getting my annual pass sorted took nearly an hour! Once in it was equally frantic, children running around, adults hotly in pursuit, sun cream splashing, sandwiches falling, staff shouting out to be heard, families squeezing in to the little available shade to cool down. So we reiterated our one family rule that goes for any busy day out. We'd stick together.
It has been around 18 months since our last visit and in that time we've had the wonderful addition to our family of our youngest son. This was a flaw in our 'stick together' plan. As it happens, Legoland is somewhat difficult to fully enjoy if you have 3 or more very young children. It seemed that a lot of rides were only suitable for children 90cm and above (so baby couldn't join in) but children 130cm or below had to be accompanied by an adult (baby couldn't join in and an adult had to sit with eldest or middle child). This doesn't seem too bad but factor in that a lot of rides only had two to a 'car' and you will get the picture. Baby couldn't join in, adult had to sit with older children, but could only do so one at a time. This meant that I had two rides on DUPLO Valley Airport for example, whilst my husband and I busied about swapping children around under the impatient eye of the staff, but it also meant that it took longer to go on rides.
So we moved away from the rides and to Duplo Valley. Armed with swimwear my husband boldly strode into the throng, the two eldest tottering along at his side, and baby and I sat at a safe distance so I could nurse him. A few minutes later, or so it seemed, my hot and flustered husband trotted out of the splash area announcing that it was 'Valley of the Screams' and proceeded to re-clothe our biggest boys.
I must interject here that our boys were having a wonderful time. The middle one had forgotten all about the ‘stick together’ rule and kept attempting to join other families in their observations of the park, proceeding to offer his views to anyone who would listen, the eldest was delighted to be able to go on rides with his younger brother and tell him all about how they worked, and baby was happy to people watch. Even the hot sweaty messes that my husband and I melted into are slowly becoming standard for days out in the sun and should not be mistaken for a lack of enjoyment.
Having felt that we had made the most of the rides that we could on that visit, our final stop was Miniland. We thought that as our boys were starting to show the tell-tale signs of tiredness form the heat, queues, rides and general fun we'd spend just a few moments there en route back to the shop and the car but we were wrong. With the benefit of hindsight I don't know why we didn't just manoeuvre through the crowds to Miniland in the first place, we were finally away from the press of people and the queues and our boys loved it! The lorries delivering goods, the lifts moving up and down, the wind turbines, the boats, the roads, buildings and vehicles. They were entranced. Every busy, hot or tired moment of our day out disappeared. It was perfectly enchanting. We spent nearly an hour watching the models, chatting about how they might have been constructed and what we could make as a family once we returned home. My tip for anyone planning a trip to Legoland, including my future self, is to venture there first.
After a short stop at the shop we piled back into the car and headed home. A busy, hot but fun and interesting day out, and somewhere that we will return, perhaps once at least one child has made it to the 130cm mark.
N.B. Like many Merlin Entertainments attractions there are often deals to be found online for entry tickets. Worth checking before you visit.