Hotel Online Special Report

After 6 Years Research and Construction - 
LEGOLAND Theme Park Opens
 CARLSBAD, Calif - March 20, 1999--After six years of research, planning, construction and testing, LEGOLAND California is officially open.

The 128-acre family theme Park opened its gates an hour early this morning to welcome 2,000 guests already waiting out front to enter the first LEGOLAND Park in the United States.

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, grandson of the founder of The LEGO Group and the company's Chairman and CEO, was on hand for the historic  opening ceremony. "The LEGOLAND Park truly represents LEGO exuberance, ideas and values. It has exceeded my highest expectations," he said.

Early reports indicated traffic was flowing smoothly from the Interstate to the Cannon Road exit and LEGO Drive into the Park.

Among the eager youngsters racing inside this morning were the Wright family from Ireland and the Umplebys from England. Jessica Umpleby and Christopher Wright were both winners of the LEGO Challenge, a global contest where kids designed a fantasy home.

Also eager to get into the Park was Thomas Michon. The 11-year-old Irvine, Calif. boy was sworn in as LEGOLAND California's Kid President for a Day during the opening ceremonies. Michon won the honor when he was named the nation's championship LEGO Builder in a competition last year.

Six-year-old Bryce Quick came all the way from Canada. The little guy was hard pressed to say what his favorite part of the family theme park was. "I like all of it!" he said. "All the rides, all the stuff to see -- it's so fun here!"

Jugglers and Balloon Artists greeted children just inside the main entrance at "The Beginning." From there, families fanned out into the Park's main six themed areas, or, in LEGO language, "blocks."

"Miniland" amazed first-time visitors with its amazingly accurate 1:20 scale LEGO representation of geographical regions throughout the nation. Guests delightedly pointed out the LEGOLAND salute to tomorrow's academy awards -- foot-tall yellow-brick "Buddies," the Park mascot, flanking a tiny replica of Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. LEGO brick celebrities on a red plastic "carpet" were posing for a tiny entourage of photographers while LEGO brick limos lined the street.

"I am so impressed with this," said premiere week guest Caryn Erzinger of Carlsbad. "The detail is incredible. I could stay in Miniland for hours."

The first stop for many families was the Village Green Block to the left of The Beginning. Zebra-striped vehicles on the Safari Trek ride took young adventurers through a simulated Africa to see real sized LEGO giraffes, zebras, lions and baboons.

"It's amazing how they put the animals together," said 10-year-old Andrew Hurley of Carlsbad as his jeep whizzed by the life-like wildlife.

"There's so much detail. I want to build models like that!" Andrew said he appreciated the LEGO gorilla the most on the Safari Trek. "Gorillas are my favorite animals. They're big and strong. No one messes with gorillas."

Youngsters were quick to point out the subtle humor built into the Fairy Tale Brook ride, where large "leaf" boats took youngsters through their favorite story book adventures. "Little Read Riding Hood is dancing with the wolf!" a toddler squealed. She also laughed when she saw Prince Charming was astride his white horse, holding a cell phone.

A few yards away at the Waterworks attraction, families took turns aiming huge water squirters at targets in a fountain. Every time a direct hit was scored, a LEGO elephant wiggled its ears, or an alligator gave a toothy grin. Other groups of kids and parents together hopped up and down on colored circles surrounding a large oval fountain. Each hop produced a musical tone from the LEGO instrument in the fountain directly in front of the circle.

"Joey loves water and music and LEGOs," said Jan Freeman of Carlsbad as she pointed to her four-year old son who was busy running from pad to pad and back again. "This is a perfect combination for him. We could be here all day!"

Aaron Stiles and Linea Stern, both Carlsbad four-year-olds, giggled at the LEGO instruments that made music and squirted water. "This is so fun!" they squealed. Even the "older" set of visitors enjoyed the interactive water games. After successfully hitting the elephant target for the third time, ten-year-old Josh Lovollo said, "that was cool."

Over at The DUPLO(R) Playtown, little Madison Heney, four, went lunging into a soft bed of red spongy LEGO blocks at the bottom of a Playtown slide, and came up laughing as she ran over to make sure her mom saw her latest feat.

Eight-year-old Ruben Perez of Carlsbad took The Kid Power Tower challenge. He and his companion pulled themselves up the 30-foot Kid Power Tower in a chair contraption at least half a dozen times before their turn on the ride ended.

Aspiring drivers flocked to The "Fun Town" block to learn the rules of the road and earn their own driver's license behind the wheel of an electric LEGO car. The marine-minded got a lesson in navigation at Skipper School. "The boats and cars aren't on tracks here," observed parent Kent Chidester. "I think that's great for the kids. They really are driving on their own."

A snoozing guard made of LEGO bricks sitting at the entrance to the "Castle Hill" block elicited a giggle from one young passer-by. "That sounds like Daddy when he's sleeping!" he said. Seven-year-old Nicolas Petrovski of Carlsbad, an experienced roller coaster rider who said he's been on rides that go upside down more than once, eyed the Dragon Coaster on Castle Hill with some skepticism. However, after his ride on the coaster, which speeds guests on an adventure right through the imposing castle, Nicolas gave it his stamp of approval with a single word--"Cool!"

While munching on her lunch of chicken fingers, chips and cookies at the Knight's Table restaurant in Castle Hill, six-year-old Alanna Cassidy reviewed her favorite parts of LEGOLAND. "I liked the jesters and the princess on the stage over there," she said, pointing to a group of performers just yards away from the market-style restaurant. "I got called on stage. They called me 'the girl in the overalls,'" she said.

LEGO maniacs were immediately drawn to the workshop sessions at the "Imagination Zone." At the same time four-and-a-half-year-old Dani Ashcraft was lining up DUPLO dinosaurs and playing house, Justin Joseph, 10, and Spenser Bartlett, 12, both of Carlsbad, were creating battery-powered race cars across the hallway. And, eight-year-old Alex Elahi was racing his LEGO contraptions down a timed track in the next room.

On a culinary note, many guests commented on the food is throughout the Park. "The pizza is great," said Eric Bravender, 11, of San Juan Capistrano. Eric's grandparents had brought him to LEGOLAND for the day, and their smiles said they were enjoying the Park as much as he was.

Guests were unanimous in their enthusiasm for the Park. "This really is a safe zone for kids," said grandparent Steve Sneaker. "I appreciate that a lot. It's so interactive here, so family-oriented. I like what LEGOLAND stands for. The organization cares about the kids. This is a good place to be."

LEGOLAND California's Park admission is $32 for adults, and $25 for youngsters ages three through 16 and senior citizens 60+. There are only two other LEGOLAND parks in the world -- LEGOLAND Billund in Denmark marked its 30th anniversary in 1998; LEGOLAND Windsor outside of London opened in 1996, and was just awarded the British Government's top honor for excellence in academic programs in 1998.

LEGOLAND is a division of the LEGO Group. One of the world's largest toy manufacturers, the LEGO Group is comprised of 50 companies on six continents with more than 9,000 employees, including more than 1,600 in the United States. All products and activities that bear the LEGO logo are based on the LEGO vision of "Idea, Exuberance and Values," and the belief that "Children are our vital concern." The company also continues to observe the motto adopted in the 1930's by founder Ole Kirk Christiansen: "Only the best is good enough."

LEGOLAND California
Jonna Rae Bartges
Also See: Tokyo Disney Resort: From a Theme Park to a Theme Resort / Oct 1998 

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