My family and I attended the special members only preview of Legoland Discovery Center Westchester in Ridge Hill, N.Y., a much anticipated event in our household. (There are 10 Legoland Discovery Center’s worldwide, five in the United States, and this is the first in the Northeast.) Legoland Discovery Center Westchester opens officially on March 27.
Legoland Discovery Center Westchester review
After you enter, Legoland Discovery Center Westchester starts with a photo opportunity. You can get your picture taken as a family, and later they give you the option to buy the photo. An automatic door then opens into a factory for a hands-on exhibit/guided tour about how they make Legos. Your kid can push some buttons, crank a lever, and it will seem as if you were manufacturing some Legos.
From there you move into a “Save the Princess” moving/shooting ride. If you’ve been to Disney, it’s very similar to the Toy Story Shoot the Zorg ride. It’s pretty fun, and unlike Disney, this has some video game elements as well. (As to be expected, my wife got the high score! She’s a great shot.)
From there you move to the model area. Several architectural models of New York sites are displayed. It is very impressive.
Some of the highlights include: A Yankee Stadium pinball machine, where the Yankees are forever playing the Mets. The Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Times Square. Many of New York’s architectural landmarks are preserved entirely in Legos.
One weird part of this is that things are conflated. The MetLife building is on top of Grand Central Terminal. The Guggenheim, Met and the Natural History Planetarium are all right next to each other. And there’s even a Lego version of the Ridge Hill Mall. Even conflated, the buildings are astounding, especially the working subway and the floating police boats.
Also very cool: Every 20 minutes or so it becomes night time, and fireworks explode over the Statue of Liberty, and the buildings all light up. It’s really quite beautiful. Many of the exhibits are interactive. For example, you press a button to make the subway work.
From there you move the main area of Legoland Discovery Center Westchester. They have the Legoland Fire Academy, which is a play structure/maze. They have the Legoland Master Builders Academy, where you can go for Lego building lessons. They have a car building/racing area with places to build cars and then also test them. You can even go to a movie cinema where they show 4D Lego Movies (the fourth dimension is interactivity — you might get a little wet, or snowed on). You can also take a trip on Merlin’s Apprentice Ride — an indoor flying ride that you pedal to go up and down on as it goes around. Younger kids will love the Duplo area and Lego Friends area.
The center also contains a cafeteria for snacks and meals, and a couple of birthday party rooms to rent for events. As you exit, you pass through a Lego Store, also accessible without going through the LDC. You can buy all sorts of Lego kits and all things Lego here.
A COUPLE OF SUGGESTIONS
All in all, there was a lot to love about Legoland Discovery Center Westchester, especially if your kid is crazy for Legos. And we recommend it as an experience! However, there were some challenges at this preview. Perhaps I’m sensitive to this, particularly because I’m a “Disneyphile,” and Disney sets the experience bar extremely high.
- BATHROOMS — The Legoland Discovery Center Westchester bathrooms are well-designed, but with one fatal flaw. No kid-sized sinks! In a place that caters almost exclusively to kids, there is no excuse not to have kid-friendly plumbing. They need to get some step stools, pronto.
- SIGNAGE — Uneven and all over the place. The sign explaining that kids had to be a certain height to ride the Merlin’s Apprentice Ride was very far away from the actual ride. What was even worse is that the ride is a two-person ride, and kids under 4 feet have to be accompanied by an adult. A woman that we saw with three kids waited 15 minutes for the ride, only to find out that her two kids were too young to ride by themselves and that they couldn’t all ride together because she would have to leave one of the kids on the ground while she rode with the other kid. Fortunately, we saw the situation, and my wife volunteered me to ride with the extra kid. But she would have had a VERY BAD experience if we hadn’t been able to help out.
- STAFFING — Legoland Discovery Center Westchester did not have enough staff in the right places. The Lego Racers Build and Test area had nobody helping out. They were also very short on parts and wheels. You’d think with 10 of these worldwide, they’d have their staffing/Lego parts needs down to a science, but apparently not. Also, the guy who gave the factory tour (our first official experience of Legoland) didn’t have a great personality. As he was leading the tour, he was just kind of ineffectual. That first guy should be their best and most personable worker.
- RETAIL FAIL — I went on Friday to redeem our passes, and the two clerks were not very familiar with the retail computer system. They couldn’t restart or sign into their computers. Then they had a number of technical malfunctions they had no idea how to fix. Worse, they didn’t have manuals or cheat sheets on how to use their computers. It took them half an hour to figure it out. On Sunday, the day of our visit, the place wasn’t that crowded, but the waits were long as they tried to figure out how to get people in the door. They will figure it out, but once again, they have 10 venues already. These problems should already be solved!
There were a few other things that I could mention, but I don’t want to give people the wrong impression (and I’m cognizant that this was the shakedown, and 3 months from now, most of these logistical problems could be solved). Legoland Discovery Center Westchester was a fun experience and we expect to be back soon. It’s just that, compared to DisneyWorld or even nearby Sesame Place, these guys don’t have their act together yet.