How to plan a fun-filled family day at Legoland California

Legoland California is in Carlsbad, California, less than an hour from San Diego International Airport (SAN). Whether you are planning to spend your vacation in Carlsbad or nearby San Diego, Legoland California is a must-do for families visiting Southern California.

I recently visited with my husband and three sons (ages 4, 6 and 10), and we left with lots of happy memories — as well as a few new Lego sets from the massive gift shop. Here are 10 ways to maximize your time at Legoland California and have the most “bricktastic” vacation ever.

Buy your tickets before you go

Whether you purchase one-day or multi-day Legoland California tickets, you will pay significantly less by purchasing them online ahead of time rather than at the front gate on the day of your visit.

For example, a one-day ticket to Legoland California starts at $89 (plus taxes and fees) online and $119 (plus taxes and fees) at the gate. You can also save on multi-park tickets that also include admission to the Legoland Waterpark and Sea Life Aquarium.

Related: The essential guide to Legoland Florida

You really need more than one day to experience all of Legoland California, and multi-day tickets are not that much more expensive than a one-day ticket. If you wanted to visit Legoland one day and the water park the following day, you would pay only $154 (plus taxes and fees) versus $119 (plus taxes and fees) for a one-day multi-park ticket. That’s a second day of brick-building fun for only $35 more than a one-day ticket.

You can also purchase ticket add-ons like VIP tours, water park cabanas, prepaid parking, Reserve ‘N’ Ride skip-the-line access, photo downloads and more before your visit. You can purchase most of these during your visit, but you’ll save money by getting them ahead of time. For example, you can save more than 30% on the one-day unlimited digital photo download package when you buy it online before your visit.

The rides are designed for young kids and families

At many theme parks, it feels like my youngest child isn’t tall enough for many of the rides. Sometimes, even when he is tall enough, the rides look too scary, and he doesn’t want to get on. (OK, that may have been our fault for convincing him to get on the Matterhorn at Disneyland earlier this year.)

All of the rides at Legoland California are designed with kids ages 2 to 12 in mind, and none are too intimidating for young kids. There were rides my whole family loved, some that appealed more to my 10-year-old and some that were just right for my 3-year-old.

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Of the park’s more than 50 rides and attractions, 24 have no minimum height or age requirement. The tallest height requirement for any ride is 42 inches on the Lego Technic Coaster (which my 4-year-old rode and loved). This is much lower than what you’d see at other major theme parks. Legoland’s rides truly are designed for guests of all heights and ages to enjoy.

Some rides, like the Lego Ninjago Ride and the Legoland Express Train, require guests under a certain height to ride with a “responsible rider” of a certain age and height, like a parent, sibling or other family member.

There’s a lot more to do than just rides

While my kids loved the rides at Legoland, there is so much more to do than hop from ride to ride all day.

Kids have a lot of energy — especially after a serving of delicious apple fries with whipped cream, a signature treat at Legoland parks — and they need places to burn that energy off. Luckily, Legoland is designed for these energetic kids and families.

There are multiple Lego-themed play areas around the park, including a sand pit for digging up dinosaur bones, a Duplo play town for preschoolers and a Ninjago-themed “training camp” play area with slides and obstacles.

Related: First look: We tried out the brand-new Peppa Pig Theme Park in Florida

In addition to the play areas, there are spots throughout the park where you can build your own Lego creations. You can build your own Lego boat at the Coast Guard Build-A-Boat area or test your own Lego moon rover at the Lego Moon Base. You don’t get to keep your creations (don’t worry, there are plenty of gift shops for that), but I appreciated the many opportunities for my kids to use their imaginations and get creative during our visit.

Of course, you can meet your favorite Lego characters during your visit, too.

Legoland California is accessible and autism-friendly


If you are visiting Legoland California with someone with special needs, know that the park is well-equipped and accommodating for all guests. As a Certified Autism Center, each attraction at Legoland California has a sensory guide that gives you detailed information on stimuli you may experience. All attractions are wheelchair accessible, though some require you to transfer from your wheelchair into the ride vehicle.

Related: Travel for all: 7 autism-friendly vacation destinations

If you need any accommodations during your visit, speak with guest services at the entrance to the park. They can assist you with renting electric convenience vehicles, wheelchairs and strollers. They can also help you obtain an Assisted Access Pass that allows guests with physical and cognitive disabilities to reserve ride times throughout the day to limit the time spent waiting in line.

Leave your cash at home

Legoland California is part of the growing trend of cashless theme parks. The theme park, water park, aquarium and on-site hotels only accept credit cards and debit cards. If you do show up with cash in your wallet, you can convert it to a pre-paid Visa card at one of three cash-to-card kiosks at the park.

Visit during one of Legoland’s special events for even more fun


Legoland has themed seasonal events for major holidays like Independence Day, Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The events feature themed characters, decor and entertainment included in the regular ticket price.

Our most recent visit was during the Summer Block Party, which is being held through Sept. 4, 2023. We danced along to the Legoland Summer Jam dance party, and there was also a stunt show, a DJ, a dance party with Benny from “The Lego Movie” and more.

Check out Legoland’s seasonal events page for dates and details. If possible, I recommend visiting during one of these events for even more Lego-themed fun.

You need more than one day to do it all


We spent an entire day at Legoland California from open to close, and left with a full list of things we still wanted to do. We rode most of our favorite rides, but we didn’t have enough time to sneak over to the Sea Life Aquarium or the Legoland Water Park.

Next time we visit, I plan to add a second day so we have time to do it all. The aquarium and the water park are easy to access once inside the park. Lockers are available near the park’s main entrance and inside the water park, so you can bring along your swim gear without lugging it around all day

You can trade minifigures with Legoland’s “Model Citizens”


One of my kids’ favorite things about Legoland is trading Minifigures with Legoland employees (called Model Citizens). You can bring your own Minifigures from home or purchase them at the park to trade with Model Citizens.

You can ask any Model Citizen for a trade (most have minifigures on their name badges), or you can check out Minifigure trading posts around the park for a bigger selection. It’s a lot of fun seeing which Minifigures you can find, and it makes for an inexpensive (or free if you bring your own from home) souvenir from your trip.

You can skip the line with a Reserve ‘N’ Ride pass


Reserve ‘N’ Ride is Legoland California’s way to skip the line on its most popular attractions. There are three versions with three different price points. Essentially, the more you pay, the less time you spend waiting in line. Here’s a breakdown of pricing and details for each version:

  • Reserve ‘N’ Ride Ultimate: $100 per person, reduces wait time by up to 90%
  • Reserve ‘N’ Ride Deluxe: $55 per person, reduces wait time by up to 50%
  • Reserve ‘N’ Ride Express: $35 per person, reduces wait time by up to 25%

After you purchase Reserve ‘N’ Ride, you can reserve ride times throughout the day using the Legoland California mobile app. The service can sell out, so it’s best to purchase Reserve ‘N’ Ride ahead of time if you want to utilize it during your visit.

Stay at a nearby hotel for Legoland perks

Legoland California has two on-site hotels, the Legoland Hotel and the Legoland Castle Hotel. Both hotels have fun Lego theming, nightly entertainment, complimentary breakfast and outdoor pools. Every guest room has a separate sleeping area for kids and a kids’ scavenger hunt with prizes.

Both hotels sit right outside of Legoland’s main gates, and hotel guests get early access to select Legoland rides before the park opens to the public.

While not official Legoland hotels, there are a handful of hotels within walking distance (or a short drive away) that offer their own theme park perks. Options include The Westin Carlsbad Resort & Spa, Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa and the Hilton Grand Vacations Club MarBrisa Carlsbad.

Related: The best hotels in San Diego

Guests at each of these hotels can utilize a private entrance to Legoland (near the back of the park) that allows you to skip the longer lines at the front entrance. You can either walk to the entrance from your hotel or drive and park in the provided lot.

Bottom line


My family loved our time at Legoland California. Because our boys’ ages range from 4 to 10, it can be difficult to find vacation activities that they can all get excited about. Our oldest is into thrill rides, and our youngest is, well, not quite there yet.

Legoland California has rides and activities that our whole family can enjoy together, which is the key to a successful family vacation in my eyes. Well, that, and enjoying a heaping serving of warm, crispy apple fries.

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