The success of the LEGO company is quite clear for many to see as it has expanded its foothold the world and here in New York throughout the past several years. When I emerged from my Dark Ages back in 2006 there was only 1 LEGO Store in New York, now there are five. When I became an AFOL I made it a goal of mine to get to LEGOLAND in California but this seemed like a stretch as it is so far away and then LEGOLAND Florida opened. Up until this week however, there was no LEGOLAND in New York.
On March 27th, 2013, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester officially opened its doors, or should I smashed through a wall of bricks to reveal its doors and open them to the public as the attraction’s mascot “Bertie” ran through a 7′ by 10′ wall of LEGO bricks! I was fortunate enough to get the last two tickets for Opening Day as I’d been trying to do so online at legolanddiscoverycenter.com/westchester for a while and tickets were not available for day 1.
On Opening Day, my family and I made our way up to Westchester. The ride from Eastern Nassau County only took shortly over an hour which was not bad at all. Upon entering the Ridge Hill shopping area I then made my way to the parking garage. Parking for the amount of time I expected to stay at LEGOLAND would have cost $8.00 but LEGOLAND validates your parking and you only have to pay $1.75 so be sure to ask for this when picking up your tickets.
My wife, son and I waited online starting at 12:20 so we could enter the attraction at 1:00 which was our timed entry on our tickets. We didn’t get in until 1:40 as the crowds were quite large for Opening Day. While waiting I learned about the Parking Validation, received a LEGO Club Jr. magazine, an attraction guide/pamphlet, and my son played with the loose LEGO and Duplo bricks. Employees were all very friendly and apologetic for the lengthy wait.
As we approached the entry I noticed that the doors for the LEGO Store were opened and told my wife I’d be right back. The LEGO Store has a great selection of all current sets and some that have been harder to find recently such as the Red Passenger Train. The store also has tons of key chains and cool parts in the Build a Mini Bar such as gold crowns and dark red capes. I inquired right away about exclusive items such as printed bricks, key chains or magnets that might feature a logo for the LDC and was told that nothing like this was available. There was a pen and pencil set I hadn’t seen before and a rose that I knew existed but never saw in person. At the back of the store was a nicely arranged Pick a Brick Wall. At this LEGO Store you fill a bag with loose elements, unlike the PaB Walls at the LEGO Brand Retail Stores where you fill PaB cups. I didn’t bother filling a bag to see how heavy it would be because there wasn’t much on the wall I needed. Here you pay $11.75 per quarter pound of LEGO. This wall had pepto pink 1×4 bricks as well as light bluish gray 1×4 bricks that I considered buying but I needed to get back to my spot on the line to join my family.
At 1:40 my family and I made our way inside the lobby and had our tickets printed. The cashier was from the LDC in Chicago and she told us about being able to trade minifigures with LDC employees, much like the fun pin trading that guests and cast members do at Disney theme parks. We then excitedly made our way into the attraction.
After the obligatory photo opp you walk into the LEGO Factory Tour room which is an interactive area that shows you the making of a LEGO brick from little ABS pellets, to the molding block to the actual brick. An employee dressed in a white lab coat and funky LEGO glasses is on hand to answer questions AND give out a printed “LEGO Factory Tour” Duplo Brick!
Upon completing the Factory Tour you enter the area for the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride. This is a fun ride where you hop on a LEGO chariot and travel through the Kingdom to battle trolls and skeletons with your “medieval” laser gun. Much like the Toy Story ride at Disney World’s Disney Studios, you aim your laser to shoot at objects in the attraction and your score is kept on the dash board of your chariot.
When you depart the Kingdom you enter LEGO Miniland. This is where the area’s landmarks are transformed into miniature LEGO versions of themselves. According to the pamphlet I received while waiting on line, this exhibit is made from nearly 1.5 million LEGO bricks. The local landmarks featured here are New York icons Times Square, the Flat Iron Building, Wall Street, Citi Field and a Yankee Stadium model split down the middle sort of like Batman’s enemy Two-Face, a Statue of Liberty, the Ridge Hill shopping center, and Lyndhurst Castle to name a few. This is the spot for us AFOLs as the building techniques and attention to detail in these models is not only top notch but also inspiring. Over all it felt as if there could have been more models on display in this area but what was on display was absolutely spectacular.
Just outside Miniland is the large area that houses a LEGO Racers: Build and Test section that lets visitors build a race car out of LEGO and then race them down long ramps. There is a large jungle gym featuring different LEGO City themes such as Fire, Coast Guard and Construction. There is a Friends area that looks like a life size version of Olivia’s House. There are soft play bricks inside the Duplo area and a slide which my 2 year old son enjoyed to the point of wanting to go on again and again. Also housed in this area is the LEGO Master Builder Academy where visitors take a building class in order to complete a mini model with a LDC Master Model Builder. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to keep the model that we built, in this case a LEGO buddy which resembled a miniland scale figure. Perhaps the management can take this into account and offer visitors the opportunity to purchase a ticket that allows them to buy the models they build in this class so not to disappoint the young (and young at heart) builders. Merlin’s Apprentice Ride was in this area as well. Next to Merlin’s ride is the LEGO Studios 4D Cinema where we were treated to a CGI LEGO Castle 10-15 minute video centered around an unlikely hero who must battle an evil sorcerer and save the LEGO Kingdom. The movie tells the story without any dialogue (I think this is so that it can be shown in LDC and LEGOLANDs across the globe without having to translate what the characters are saying). The movie is lots of fun and shares the LEGO humor that we have come to love and expect from LEGO. According to a friend who works at the LDC, he said there are 4 different films playing throughout the day and your film might be different than the film I saw.
Outside the cinema I was blown away by the ticket agent minifig built out of LEGO and booth straight from the Town Plan set from 2008 (10184) along with the Cinema sign from this set. Next to the Cinema is a corner cafe modeled to look like the Cafe Corner with a sign that reads CAFE much like the HOTEL sign on the Cafe Corner set. The menu here was limited but we noticed hot dogs, pizza and kids meals that came packaged inside an oversized 2×2 LEGO brick. The kids meal cost $15 for the brick container, an Uncrustables PBJ sandwhich, Capri-Sun drink and small bag of potato chips. The container itself sells next door at the LEGO Store for $8.
After eating lunch we exited the attraction, making our way back to the entrance because I was on a mission. When I called to see if anything was given out on Opening Day I was told there would be a small LEGO brick. I noticed people were given Duplo bricks with the Grand Opening information printed on them. I backtracked to the entrance and asked a cashier about this and was given the Opening Day Duplo brick.
I would highly recommend a visit to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center whether you are an AFOL or not. Miniland alone is worth the price of admission for us AFOLs. At this time there are no plans for the LDC to let adults enter the attraction without children so if you are an AFOL be sure to attend with your children or you will not be let in (according to their website).
If you have children who love LEGO they will love visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Yonkers. Kids were smiling and running all around the grounds having a blast.
A huge bonus for us AFOLs however is that we basically have another LEGO store in New York to shop for Pick a Brick elements.
Some tips to keep in mind when visiting LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Westchester:
1-As of now, there are no plans to admit adults without accompanying a child. Bring your family! LDC will have special days for adult fans of LEGO without children in the future.
2-Don’t forget to pick up your printed promotional Duplo LDC Factory brick at the LEGO Factory Tour
3-Bring minifigures to trade with the LDC employees
4-PURCHASE TICKETS IN ADVANCE ONLINE as the walk up line was sold out early in the day and according to the LDC website tickets are now only available online.
5-Validate your parking pass at LDC for a discount on parking.