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With closed season no more than 3 weeks in and the blues, I was in major need of a major themepark kick to keep me going during this bleak season. Seeing as many are off (or even been already) to Disney Land Paris , something which for me is sadly not an option (at least at the moment (roll on 2015)). Apart from Winter Wonderland & the midway attractions (places I'll hopefully get to see next month), there was one other option left. Legoland Christmas event. Arriving just after 12:30pm (as a full day here isn't really required), my party and I headed towards the Hill Train area where after checking our tickets in the mostly unrecognisable Sweet shop building, we boarded the Hill Train where the overly enthusiastic station master helped us move the train with some magic words down to the wonderland that lay below! Above is the map of the park and what was open during the day. 14 attractions were opened up to guests including Laser Raiders, Spinning Spider and The Dragons Apprentice [amongst others]. There was also an elves workshop and Santas grotto for kids and several shops and restaurants also open too. Heading first to the Egyptian area and taking a ride the shooting ride Laser Raiders then Scarab Bouncers, we had now entered the park wonderland, however there wasn't too much to see greatly apart from the tree as it wasn't dark yet and the weather wasn't great. Several Caroulsel rides followed And a ride on the Big Wheel. Followed by numerous other attractions and the like, before having a sit down festive meal at the Knights Table. The food was pretty nice here, whilst certainly not the best it was still good quality. They even had some Christmas music playing inside which had it not been clashing with another nearby P.A system playing another somg wouldve made the perfect Christmas dinner atmosphere. And here's the castle area, which was home to the Grotto which was located around the pathway near the bug Dragon. Sadly the ride wasn't opened for the event. After doing a few more rides, my party and I took the train back to the top for some Christmas shopping in the Big Shop, wander through the Star Wars Walkthrough and claiming our free drink (given with the ticket) which was a needed relief before heading back down to the main park again where it was getting dark and really came to life with its beutiful lighting. And here is some of the many views of the Christmas lights you can see, and this is before we've even got in to the main park too. Snd this was the furthest point of the park accessible as Lego City and places beyond were off access during this event, infact theres a few bits of work going on in the area and the train's carriages were all missing. '241111_852667978117233_7606062392746846913_o' to? - See more at: http://s798.photobucket.com/user/mattthemepark/media/Facebook/Legoland%20Christmas%202014/241111_852667978117233_7606062392746846913_o.jpg.html? "]http://s798.photobucket.com/user/mattthemepark/media/Facebook/Legoland%20Christmas%202014/241111_852667978117233_7606062392746846913_o.jpg.html] But if you think this section of the park looks great at night, just wait until you enter the Castle area! The area is just so magical at night. If it had any more magic, it could almost be Disneyland. The park was really quiet when I went. So quiet not just could you get on a ride without queuing, but quite often have it to yourself [which was very often the case when I was here that day]. I also managed to ride Dragons Apprentice 3 times without even having to queue up and all by myself. I received 7 laps each time I rode meaning [Yes that's right], I got an impressive 21 laps on the ride without even leaving my seat, which is something you definitely couldn't do in main season, even on the quietest of days [which of course there are few]. Due to all the festive magic, we all stayed right until the end of the event which closed at 6pm. After taking the incline on the Brickmas Express back to the Beginning [which is the only way in and out of the park on these events], we headed towards the exit seeing yet more loverly park christmas lights. And we shall end this update on a Buzz [because he is Disney[. So, what were my thoughts? Legoland have done a fantastic job this year decorating the park in magic lights and making it look all festive and beautiful, not to mention all the christmassy atmosphere and getting a decent chunk of the park up and running to guests which is far better the previous years where only the shops are open [with perhaps just one ride too]. We had a great day out which due to the atmosphere and lack of guests felt far more relaxing than a normal day at Legoland which is something I thought I would never say. Staff there were absolutely fantastic and really helpful and not just were there no queues for pretty much everything but quite often we would get whole rides to ourselves and be the only ones on there, which was such a fantastic experience plus also getting night rides on just about everything [which you could never do during the main season even during fireworks]. This was such a good event and definitely kept the closed season blues at bay and hopefully one day we will see the return of a near full lineup at the park for christmas events [like back in the early days 99-2000]. All I could ask for more to make this event the perfect trip would be for the big Dragon to be open and perhaps a show. The Big Question- Is it worth the money? The answer to this question is Yes! Whilst at first glance, paying almost £19 for pass holders to get in to the park during the winter season to only experience around a quarter of it's attractions does sound quite steep and expensive, the park offers quite a lot to guests. This includes, 1 14 rides and attractions open 2 Free hot drink 3/ beautiful park lights and atmosphere 4/ night rides 5/ no queues to any rides [you have them to yourself] 6/ much more relaxed day 6/ no queue when leaving the park 7/ park discounts 8/ festive activities So if you fancy any other theme park based activities this closed festive season [apart from Winter Wonderland etc.] and can't go across sea to the likes of Euro Disney. I would recommend visiting Legoland for it's Christmas event.
After accomplishing a sufficient amount of work at uni, I thought it was time for a visit to Legoland Windsor. Supposedly my home park (as this is where my pass is sorted), this would be my first visit to the park for 2014 to see what changes had taken place and to check out the new (re-themed) attractions at the park. In the near distance lies Pirate Shores, the re-themed Pirate area of Legolañd and also the area's 3rd retheme since it's existence. I was rather impressed with the parks recent additions such as the hotel, Star Wars Walkthrough and Duplo Valley and hoping this years updates would continue that good standard. After entering the park, here is the entrance to Pirate Shores (formerly Pirates Landing). The sign looks bright, striking and an improvement of the pirate landings one. The support structure remains the same though. Apart from the slightly changed sign, the first change to notice in the area, is a new selection of models located just in front of the Jolly a Rocker. They're ok I guess, nothing too striking however a pretty good addition theming wise. And now it's time to try out the first re-themed attraction, Pirate Falls- Treasure Quest (formerly Pirate Falls), the 2nd re-theme of the park's log flume ride (however not much actually changed on the 1st). First we are welcomed by This bright new sign welcoming us to the entrance to the ride. The queue area for the ride. This section has seen a number of changes including the rebuilding of the queue shelters. Whilst having a similar design to the original ones, these make look nice and fresh compared to the old ones which did look a little worn. That being said, the empty area in the middle of the queue looks rather dull at the moment, which used to be home to building blocks for kids previously and despite some theming being added, it just looks a mess, dirty and unfinished. The shaft above the drop has also been completely rebuilt in the same style of the original, which was good to see (as the old one was starting to look pretty worn). And finally (it's difficult to see from here), some new models. Almost every model on the ride has been replaced for the retheme, making the ride almost new again. But Here's The Big Question, How does it compare to the original theme? Despite being re-themed in 2010, most of the ride remained the same and though many models were looking rather worn and some effects not always working, the ride was still very entertaining with its humour, creative storyline and animated figures. Unfortunately, I cannot really say the same for the new one as what's been delivered in the new one compared that above can only be described as dry and bittersweet. The ride's new storyline is less amusing, diverts off to pointless characters and situations which don't add to the storyline and lacks any kind of humour. The animatronic side is just as disappointing as there are few things animated in the ride compared to the old one which in comparison to the ride now was flooded with them. Scenes such as pirates mistreating a monkey being replaced with the (apparent) protagonist and antagonist of the new story fighting, which whilst sound effects are included, not a single movement is included in this scene. Whilst there are numerous new water effects on the ride such as squirting skull heads (after the squirting mice) and frog fountains at the drop (Legoland love their water) plus a new piratey soundtrack and improved audio around the ride, this sadly cannot make up for the disappointment in the rest of the ride. It's almost like they had loads of ideas for the re-theme for the ride to start, but then suddenly lost motivation and effort to finish the ride, gave up and just plonked everything in, Compared to Fairy Tale Brook's re-theme, the ride is quite a let down. The only good points are the new audio and sound system and that the ride now looks fresh and new (except a few areas). Overall rating, 3/10. Moving on disappointing Treasure Queuer, it seems Burger Kitchen has now invaded Legoland. Gone is the Crossed Ribs BBQ, an awesome restaurant that sold food similar to Calypso BBQ and existed at the park from day one. Seeing that it looked little more than a metal shed when being built, the facade they've used to conceal it isn't bad and makes it fit in the surrounding area much better. Which is a pity they couldn't hide it from above, even painting it brown would've done the job. The inside isn't any better either. Whilst Crossed Ribs was never (what I call) heavily themed, it was at least more related and coherent to a pirate setting. This interior and design though, has as much coherence to pirate shores as much as Tesco or Primark does. Whilst the area so far isn't that great, let's take a look at the new play area they're building, which doesn't appear to be open yet. And is still under construction. Not a single part of the new area has even been constructed, plus there's still some leftovers from the old (and removed) Rat Trap still in existence. Apparently the play area was supposed to be open for April. However by the looks of things, that will probably be closer to June. Meanwhile in Lego City, Burger Ranch has also been replaced by- (wait for it), another Burger Kitchen. Personsly I think it looks horrible outside, it ruins the character of the area, doesn't connect the remaining rock theming and just sticks out like a sore thumb. Whilst the indoor section is perhaps marginally better than the interior of Pirate Shores, I'm not that impressed by it, although I suppose the fact there's more undercover seating is good for when's there's heavy rain at the park. Amity Fish and Chips at Thorpe (in comparison) looks much better than either of these though and that isn't perfect either. Elsewhere in Lego city, the Xbox gaming zone has had a makeover. Whilst I've never been a fan of the gaming zone (and never will), I can say this a slight improvement over the old one. A big improvement would be to rip it out and bring back an awesome walk through similar to the Magic Theatre! We finish this update with a look at the miniland area of the park, one of the few parts of Lego that are still magical and done right. Miniland is such a nice place to visit whilst at the park, the buildings and creations the model makers have built are excellent. It's a shame this area doesn't always get the love and attention it deserves. However, hopefully those years of neglect will be coming to an end, as part of the area (now completed) will become a brand new Paris area in miniland (although it looks like it has replaced a former area). The attention to detail is incredible and it looks very well done. So far this looks like the only thing the park has done right this year. Hopefully it will look very nice when completed. Overall, although I had a good day when I went, I felt rather let down and disappointed by all the new changes to the park this year except the Paris miniland. Pirate Shores has replaced all the soul and character of the area with bland generic pirate settings, the burger kitchens just don't fit in and the Xbox zone is still an a X box zone, if I wanted to play on an Xbox, I'd just play on one at home instead of using it at a themepark. Legoland was always a park I associated with good theming and upkeep in it's years open (though far from the likes of Disney) and the park always had a 'mostly' well kept look at the best of times. However this appears to have changed for the worse in 2014 with many effects not being fixed and repaired and new outlets with little to no theming appearing. It's saddening to see one of your loved childhood parks ripped of soul and character and not just blandly themed burger kitchens and life-less theming replacing once amazing theming on one of your favourite rides, but also things like the giraffe model being removed from the train just for a marginal increase in capacity and the toilet signs (previously Lego figures) replaced by a more simple and generic design replacing them (m for male f for female). "]http://s798.photobucket.com/user/mattthemepark/media/DSCF1274_zpsaed4990e.jpg.html] Overall unless you have an annual pass and/or live within less than an hours distance of the park, I would perhaps not bother visiting Legoland, for 2014 at least. I've always been a big fan/supporter of the park, but most of he changes at the park for this year are just so disappointing and the park sadly at the moment is little more than a corporate money pit and not really worth entry at half price (forget full price). If you're thinking of going to Legoland, visit Chessington instead as it's much better!