How to get early access to the park, where to swap those minifigs, and the best way to manage rides with little kids

These days, chances are you might be ready for a vacation. If a trip to LEGOLAND California is in the cards, then you won’t want to miss our LEGOLAND California secret tips. We’ve hit up the park, aquarium, and the best gift shops to bring you the inside scoop on making your trip to the brick capital the best ever.


1. LEGOLAND is open! You'll need to have a reservation and purchase tickets in advance to get in. Check out the packages here. 

2. MINILAND San Diego is open. Don't skip out on a visit to MINILAND, especially now that they've added San Diego to the land. See if you can spot all your favorite locations like the Coronado Bridge, Del Mar Racetrack, and PETCO Park. 

3. Get the app! Before you even pack for your trip, download the LEGOLAND app onto your phone. It has an interactive map to aid in exploring the park, gives your ride wait times, a height guide for rides, directions, and even a car finder to help you keep track of where you've parked.

4. Shop without a care (or a carry). The stores at LEGOLAND have one of the largest selections of LEGO and LEGOLAND products in the world! There are a couple of bigger stores closer to the entrance of the park, but you can purchase from any of the shops throughout LEGOLAND, and they will have your item(s) waiting for you when you are ready to leave.

5. Start at the back. Head to the end back of the park upon arrival. Lines for big rides Coastersaurus, Safari Trek, and Fairy Tale Brook are much bigger in the earlier part of the day. 


6. When to go. Check out the crowd calendar before you book your visit to see how busy the park will be. Our biggest tip is to plan your visit to LEGOLAND while the kids are still in school. Otherwise, you run the risk of enduring crowds. You'll also enjoy milder weather during the months of the school year versus the scorchers in summer. Spring and fall temperatures for Carlsbad, CA typically range between 60 to 70 degrees, perfect for wee-ones making their way around an amusement park. But if a summer trip it is, there are still plenty of ways to keep them cool when the mercury rises. 

7. Rent a stroller. If you've got kids that might not make the whole day on foot, save yourself space in the trunk for that giant LEGO set, and just rent a stroller on site. Strollers can be rented on a first-come, first-served basis at The Marketplace in The Beginning. Singles are $17, doubles are $20 and they even have infant strollers ($17).

8. How to get a discount on LEGOLAND tickets. Get your tickets in advance! Besides saving extra cash, pre-purchasing your tickets will also expedite your entry into the park. LEGOLAND offers an array of deals for customizing your theme park experience. You can choose between visiting the amusement park only or combining it with the water park, Sea Life Aquarium, or both. Purchasing your tickets from the LEGOLAND website is also the best choice if you're planning to visit the park for only one day. Costco members can also save big on ticket prices. Check if they have deals online and after you check out, your E-tickets will be sent to you within the hour (Psst ... there's a Costco store just two miles from the theme park if you prefer to purchase your tickets in person). Discounts are also offered to AAA members and Military with ID.

9. Where to stay. If you've got a LEGO maniac, or three, or four in your crew, and you don't mind shelling out the extra coin, then you won't want to miss staying at the LEGOLAND Hotel or LEGOLAND Castle Hotel. Your mini-master builders will go crazy over all of the resort's brick-tastic features including a choice of themed rooms to stay in, early entry to the park, nightly kiddie entertainment, plus a scavenger hunt to look for clues to unlock a treasure chest in your room. There's a huge breakfast buffet, restaurant, and pool, plus the hotel is nearly in the theme park itself—a great option if naps are still on the agenda.

If you want to save cash, but still have easy access to the park then you might want to try the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort. It has its very own entrance at the back of the park (Psst ... this is a great way to score first-in-line for some of the most popular rides), plus you won't have to deal with parking fees or hassles.

The Cassara Carlsbad is another great option that offers both standard rooms and family suites. The fully remodeled and redesigned hotel now has a private pedestrian entrance to LEGOLAND and perfect views of the Carlsbad flower fields. We bet your crew will head straight for the resort's family pool and kiddie splash pad once you arrive.


Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa

The Cassara Carlsbad | Tapestry Collection by Hilton

Kate Loweth

10. Bring the minifigs. Have you heard about Minifigure trading? If not, we bet you and your little sidekick will think it's the best thing to come along since Emmet's double-decker couch. Just have your kid bring their old minifigures to the park, including all the parts and accessories, and they can trade them up for new ones. Every LEGOLAND employee (Hint: They're called Model Citizens. Get it?) has a super cool LEGO name badge with minifigures fixed onto it. If your tyke wants one of the Model Citizen's guys, they'll gladly trade with them. You'll also find trading posts throughout the park that offer armies of mini-men to trade for, and if your kiddo doesn't have a minifigure for making a switcharoo, there are plenty available for purchase at LEGO stores throughout the park.

11. Get there early! Chances are your brick enthusiasts will be up by the crack of dawn and ready to go before you hit the button on the coffee maker, so why not take advantage of their excitement by heading to the park early? You're likely to score parking that's a stone's throw from the premium spots, plus you will spend less time waiting at the entrance. The best part? Even though LEGOLAND officially opens at 10 a.m., the turnstiles are rolling by 9 a.m., and by 9:30 a.m. some of the rides at the front of the park are already going.

12. Measuring up the rides. Most of LEGOLAND's rides and attractions are geared for the entertainment of kids ages 2 to 12, but if you've got an adrenaline junkie who has already taken on giant roller coasters and scream machines, the park will likely feel babyish to them. Still, there are a few great spots your older crew might try. The LEGO Technic Coaster has you sitting in a four-person car as you twist, turn, and drop. 

If you've got Littles tagging along on your adventure you'll want to check how tall they are before you go. Many of the rides have minimum height restrictions starting at 34 inches, and some require an adult or at least a responsible big kid to ride along with. Even if your wee ones fall below the line, there's still plenty of fun to be had—no rides necessary.

13. Use Ride Swapping. If your kiddos find themselves not meeting the height requirement, or they just aren't into thrill rides, parents can use the Ride Swapping system. One parent will ride with the tall enough child, then when the ride is over they can swap right away so the second parent can ride without waiting in the line again.

Karly Wood

14. Avoid the wait with Reserve 'N' Ride. If you think you'll need good tactical maneuvers in order to avoid encountering a meltdown from waiting in long lines, here are a few solutions to try. LEGOLAND offers a Reserve 'N' Ride system, which allows you to hold a spot in line for their most popular rides without having to be in the queue. To set up a Reserve 'N' Ride, check out their website to learn more. When you purchase the pass, you'll get to choose between Express, Deluxe, and Ultimate. Download their mobile app to take advantage of Reserve 'N' Ride.

15. More tips on skipping the wait. To avoid long lines without having to pay reservation fees, you'll need to plan ahead and be prepared to check out some of the non-ride attractions at the park. To start, when you arrive at the resort, head to the back and avoid the buildup for the Coastersaurus and Safari Trek. At mid-day, when the park is at its busiest, you'll want to head into Fun Town and visit some of the area's less popular, but surprisingly enjoyable, attractions, including the LEGO Factory tour, Police and Fire Academy, or DUPLO Playtown. You can also make your way over to the Imagination Zone where your kids will spend hours building and racing their own LEGO car. And don't forget to check out MINILAND, where your pint-sized squirt will love wandering along paths passing world-famous cities and attractions scaled to just about their height.

Kate Loweth

16. LEGOLAND California is a certified autism center. Guests with autism can obtain an Assisted Access Pass from Guest Services located in The Beginning which allows easier access to rides without having to wait in line. You'll also see sensory guides throughout the park that will alert you to noise levels, smells, and other sensory triggers. Consult the Access Guide for additional information about accommodations at the park. 

17. The Hideways play area is a great spot to get some energy out. If your little ones have been antsy after waiting in lines for the rides, head to the Hideways play area for some all-ages fun. They can climb, slide, and run to their heart's content while you set up shop in a shady area. The Hideaways is right next to Granny's Apple Fries—a great bribe if you need to get the kids out of there. 

Karly Wood

18. Bring a change of clothes. Even if you don't plan to splash around at the water park, you'll want to bring swimsuits, towels, and extra clothes to keep in the car—just in case. Pirate Shores has a few wet rides, a splash pad, and a play structure with mini waterslides and several dowsing features to cool off in when things heat up. If you don't want to carry your gear with you, there are lockers located at Pirate Shores for $10 (Psst ... this is the cheapest in the park), and for a quick dry try one of the family dryers afterward.

19. No outside food and drink. Outside food and drinks are not allowed in the park, but LEGOLAND does make exceptions for dietary restrictions and infants. There is a bag check at the entrance, but the staff typically turn the other cheek if you bring in your own water bottles and a couple of snacks. And speaking of food, you'll likely find LEGOLAND's dining choices are decent by theme park standards with options including pizza, burgers, and hot dogs, as well as some spots for BBQ, Ramen, and healthy snack items. Go ahead and splurge on those Granny's Apple Fries for your crew and don't forget the vanilla cream dipping sauce. They're delish!


20. What about the waterpark? Compared to other water parks you may have visited, many of LEGOLAND's slides and features will seem scaled back and probably best for the small fries, but if the hotel or condo you're staying at doesn't have a pool then it's definitely worth getting a Park Hopper pass. Peak hours are between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., so try for before or after those hours for the most low-key experience. Kids love the lazy river where they can build with soft, oversized LEGO right on their tube, and the CHIMA area will keep them busy for hours as they frolic in the Lion Temple wave pool or slide through the massive crocodile's jaw in Cragger's Swamp. You'll find several spots kids can play with LEGO, which are nice diversions when the park does its routine 10-minute pool break for lifeguard rotations. If you do plan to visit the water park, be sure to check their schedule ahead of time. The pools are typically open from spring break through Labor Day, plus weekends during the fall, but mid-week black-out dates aren't unusual.

21. Don't skip SEA LIFE Aquarium. If you've never been before, the SEA LIFE Aquarium is definitely getting the Park Hopper pass. Although it's a quick trip through the whole thing (typically an hour), it's the perfect size for small attention spans. Most of the exhibits are indoors with the exception of the touch tanks, so it's also a great way to escape warmer daytime temperatures. At the aquarium, you'll see jellyfish, seahorses, eels, and a Giant Pacific Octopus. There's also a large underwater tunnel that wanders through the Lost City of Atlantis, a 200,000-gallon tank filled with sharks, rays, and tropical fish to give you a scuba diver's perspective of these thrilling sea creatures. Kids can learn more about their favorite underwater animals during one of the special Tank Talks or Feeding Times, plus take part in an educational scavenger hunt to earn a special prize when they've found all the clues.

22. Pack extra clothes. Even if you're bypassing the water park, LEGOLAND has plenty of water features that kids won't be able to pass up. If your kiddos find themselves enjoying the several splash pads and play area but don't want to stay soggy, check out the cheapest lockers to stow your stuff, as well as dryers near Pirate Shores.

LEGOLAND California
Carlsbad, CA

Additional reporting by Taylor Clifton, Rachael Brandon & Karly Wood

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