What could lie behind those giant Lego doors?
The excitement was palpable as we gathered, our little group of big ones and little ones, waiting to go through the magical doors to meet Professor Brick to show us round the Lego factory and take us beyond, into the world of Legoland Discovery.
As a kid a giant pool full of Lego bricks and bits where I could sit and build whatever I fancied would have been Nirvana, some things don’t change! In those days my goal was to find enough matching roof tiles to finish the bungalow before one of my siblings demanded I break it up as they needed a “four-er” or a “six-er” to finish something far more exotic.
Lego, that crazy colourful Danish invention was then just a toy - and not the superpower it is today. But to fly through the air sitting on a giant Lego sofa or ride in a car made of Lego, along a Lego road, through a Lego landscape would have been beyond my wildest brick-shaped dreams.
But here at Legoland Discovery Centre, Manchester, dreams really do come true.
All you need is a child to accompany you, so, fully chaperoned by three nephews aged from seven to 10 (the eldest autistic, and about to turn 11) off we went.
Our carload of excitement was soon down the M62 and M60 and parked easily (for free) at the Trafford Centre.
It’s advisable to get there early (but even on a Saturday it never got so packed that you were waiting too long for a go on anything).
So, after practically breaking down the doors to get in at 10am we picked up our badges and stamp cards (kids can collect a stamp on every ride) and in the time it takes to snap on some Lego hair we were outside the “Lego factory”.
Professor Brick (well, his assistant at least) told us all about problems at the Lego factory and got the kids to help fix a fault. This mainly involved jumping up and down and pulling levers but, the reward was their very own Lego brick. Next we took our seats on the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride.
It’s all indoors, not huge and the rides are gentle, Kingdom Quest perhaps the most exciting, given that it involved shooting things with Laser guns as we trundled along. We could have spent more time looking at the terrific model towns (spotting the landmarks to work out which was which) but beyond were yet more Lego delights.
A large central room is the main part and houses the cafe, Merlin’s Apprentice Ride (be ready to cycle those legs), building areas, Lego Friends Olivia’s House (lots of pink and a Karaoke machine) Lego Forest Pursuit cars, a play gym and party rooms.
Lego City Forest Pursuit is an electric go-cart ride which was a favourite for seven-year-old Toby.
Some rides had height restrictions and there were a few disappointed little faces who found out they were too big for the play gym or too small for the rides, so it’s worth checking before you go.
Parents can sit down for a coffee here and let the kids get on with it - or get stuck in themselves (have a go at the earthquake table - build a Lego structure then set it wobbling to see just how strong it is).
I was really looking forward to the 4D Lego film - various showings throughout the day - definitely one not to miss. I’m not going to give the ending away but will say sit in the front rows only if you don’t mind getting wet!
Lego Star Wars particularly delighted 10-year-old Gabriel (who is now 11) and the Ninja Training Camp (have a go at getting through the laser beams without setting them off) was terrific fun for all.
Having said all that, Barnaby still seemed happy to spend a significant part of the visit just building away. Which perhaps goes to show that this Danish-born plastic stuff is still a fantastic toy, to fire the imagination and keep the kids quiet - it’s not lost its roots, despite its superstar status!
Lunch was as expensive as we expected, and limited, but, once you’ve paid your money you can go in and out all day so there’s no reason why you couldn’t pack a picnic.
The kids will be tempted to rush round but can always go back to areas for another look and once our three had got their bearings they were more than happy to get on with it on their own.
As it’s in the Trafford Centre you could get someone to take the kids while you help Santa out in the shops - but you’d be missing a treat.
Be warned though, you may spend as long in the Lego shop as you did in discoveryland!
The ideal age is around six to eight but all three loved the day, so the last words should go to them:
Gabriel, aged 10 at time of visit, said: “My favourite part was the laser castle ride where you travelled in a cart with a laser gun and zapped bad guys.
“I also liked the Star Wars mini land, it was so cool. I loved the Lego Makers.”
Barnaby, aged eight, added: “It was great! Stacking bricks all over! There was even a Lego factory to make your own brick!”
And Toby, aged seven, said: “The City Police go carts were awesome! The horse racing was amazing.”