Monday, June 25, 2007


I have just returned from Legoland with my older son. It was almost exactly what I expected: a soulless, corporate theme park in which the concept of adventure has been commodified, stripped of risk and regurgitated as a bland, postmodern succession of experiences. My son loved it and wants to go back as today's trip was cut short by torrential rain. I shall try to stall him.

I paid £47 for our two tickets, which was extortionate. However I kept telling myself that once you paid up front, everything was free and you could go on as many rides as you liked. If only. The 'free' bus from Windsor to Legoland cost £5.80, lockers could only be opened with a one pound coin which was non-refundable and a booth with hot air dryers for victims of water rides cost £2 per 30-second blast of hot air. And as for going on as many rides as you like, if a 20-minute queue was the norm for a very wet day in term time, how many rides could you conceivably go on during weekends and school holidays? I'd heard that families spent up to five hours queuing for less than 20 minutes' worth of rides. Indeed, psychologists have identified the new phenomenon of 'ride rage' caused by the stress of queuing in theme parks.

In addition to getting very wet, my son and I had to endure the humiliation of beating our way through the crowds to get away from the front of the queue, once we discovered that our ride was a big dipper. We're both thenthitive individuals and don't need that sort of adrenaline rush.

I hate theme parks. Once upon a time children could go off into the countryside and have real adventures. My father grew-up only eight miles away from the centre of London but in those days - the 1930s - he was on the edge of the urban environment and could cycle out to fields and woods within less than half an hour. Today many children live in shoddy, grey suburbs, denied a normal childhood by parents who are paranoid about cars and paedophiles. Spontaneity, adventure and fun has been denied to many of today's children. Their craving to visit places like Legoland is understandable and very, very sad.


Sara said...

I believe that I read somewhere that Legoland is officially the most expensive tourist attraction in the country.It all sounds ghastly. Last year I had to endure a day in Butlins and that was similar in that I assumed the hefty entrance fee would mean that most things were included. Sadly that wasn't the case and my twins ricocheted from one more money thing to another. Plus it was like a glimpse of hell. Not keen to ever go back, but the boys speak fondly of it as one of the best days ever.

Andrew MishMash said...

Steerforth I intended to apologise on behalf of Scotland for the appalling lack of service from our railway franchise, but never quite got round to it. Shameful [them not me]; I think someone made the plaintive point that scots have to put up with it all the time.

And now this - my wee guy is nearly five and I must now thank you for saving me a fortune going to Legoland, which I'd heard was quite good.

Not easy being a parent from the 'make your own fun' era is it?

More soon

Drew Mishmash

Steerforth said...

Sara, I too have endured the delights of Butlins - my parents took me there for a weekend, twice. I was 12 years old and bored to death with the place, although I enjoyed forcing my dad to enter the Hairy Legs competition. I ended up going to the bingo with my mum and won a Hay Wain to go with the one we already had in the hall.

The game of bingo was farcical. A boy with Down's Syndrome was there and kept making noises that could have been 'house', so we had to keep stopping the game every minute. The caller took it all very seriously and said 'Please can we let the game proceed without any further interruptions.'

Andrew, good to hear from you. I think John Major is the one who should apologise, as he's responsible for the farce that is the privatised rail network.

I was probably being a bit harsh on Legoland. However, if I was having to queue for rides on a term time Monday morning when it was pissing down with rain, I dread to think what a sunny weekend would be like. The mini Legoland displays were very good. There was a particularly good one of Scotland which was very realistic apart from one feature: the trains all ran on time ;)

Michael said...

I did Legoland this weekend, and was unlucky enoungh to hit the best weather of the year. My wife and I spent all day taking turns lining up for the rides for the kids. Food was extortionate - 70 pound for lunch and dinner, and the number of rides you had to pay extra for (and the prices) was more than a bit off. My boys enjoyed it - although the younger one was too young and only could really play in the water park area. The older one wants to go back again - but spending £150 for one days "entertainment" for the family is too much. The day before, we'd spent the day at Kew Gardens, had just as much fun, and spent £30.

ON the up side, the food WAS good, and the Miniland exhibit was something special.

Chippy Minton said...

Had the misfortune to visit yesterday and found the whole place utterly depressing.

The Mini Lego World is looking very sad. One of the bridges has collapsed, most of the trains and cars no longer work and some of the houses appear to be suffering subsidence. All of the Lego looks like Lego looks when it's been left outside in all weathers for a number of years. I guess whilst you're looking at Mini World it is hard for the park to take money off you - so where is their incentive to fix it?

How can a park that charges so much for admission also charge for parking??! It's petty, annoying, insulting and sums up the cheap, tawdry, money grabbing nature of this low life park.

The food was crap and overpriced, with no sandwiches or low cost alternatives to nasty burgers or expensive pizza's. Try £7.50 for a cheeseburger and fries (including undercooked onion rings).

The queues were extraordinary, even in term time. I think we managed 6 rides but spent several hours standing in line with bored kids.

I'd also like to mention the Q-Bot. This is a device that allows you to jump the queues, providing you pay another £15. That's right - having parted with over £100 to get in, they want another £60 off you so you don't have to spend your day standing in line.

The new Atlantis ride was fun and er... that was about it.

This is one of the most depressing places I've ever been to. Even the kids didn't really seem to enjoy it that much. You're much better off going somewhere like Paulton's in Southampton. Smaller, friendlier and with a sense of fun that Legoland appears to have lost.

Glad to get that off my chest.