Raphael, our special correspondent from Brazil, visited California for the first time this July. As a Florida park-fan, he decided to visit the opposite coast, and visited almost every single park in the state. His enthusiasm and great re-telling of his Californian adventures continue in the fourth of many iCCK articles. Let him take you to Legoland California, SeaWorld San Diego, and Belmont Park, in this brand new article!
What better way to end a trip in a city that combines the best features of all you passed earlier? San Diego was a pleasant surprise since the first day. My first stop was at Balboa Park, the largest outdoor park in the city, much like the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Located within it are several museums such as the Natural History and Space ones. Besides them, the San Diego Zoo helps to increase the popularity of the place, with an amazing collection of animals. It was great to see and feel that California is a unison place, which gave me a lot of peace over the fortnight.
The coastline is vast and a little less crowded than Los Angeles. A little above San Diego, more specifically in Carlsbad, there is Legoland California.
The entrance of Legoland California already transports you to the LEGO universe with thematic elements that whoever was/is a fan of the colored pieces will easily recognize. Wavy flags, yellow guys and special bricks makes a very special decoration. Upon entering, children everywhere! Legoland was built especially for them, with most of its attractions aimed at children aged 2 to 12 years. However, just as the toys sold in stores, everyone can play!
The entrance area has the largest LEGOs shop in the park, The BIG Shop. In it, you can buy all the sets and LEGO bricks with discounts up to 50% on normal shops. It is simply amazing! The park got crowded very quickly, even on a weekday like Monday. As a result, most of the major attractions’ lines were about 40 to 60 minutes, making the day be a little bit overwhelming if you have not bought the Reserve ‘n’ Ride.
A friendly dinosaur (guess… made of LEGO!) Invites you for a little ride in Coastersaurus, the smallest roller coaster in the park. In it, many children end up having their first radical experiment! The playground made for them to dig “dinosaur fossils” was closed. The animal experience continues in the Safari Trek, a trip on a mini car safari stylized with zebra stripes. The animals are very well done in LEGO. Next to it, the Fairy Tale Brook leads through a boat to the scenarios of fairy tales.
The girls were super happy at the attractions of Heartlake City. From this area, the atmosphere of “LEGO throughout apart” will become increasingly visible with the carousel Mia’s Riding Camp and “stable” Heartlake Stables. In the center of Heartlake City there is a stage, which has entertainment shows with the characters of the series, and a fountain to kill some of the Californian heat. LEGO Friends Heartlake City scenarios are present in the store of ??the area.
“Everything is awesoooooooooooooome.” Who saw the film The Lego Movie (2014) surely remember this catchy song. In Heartlake City, The Lego Movie Experience shows the making of the film, including the audio used, the yellow guys (Batman!!!) and the original city that appears at the end of the film!
LEGO has made its name in the past when it launched models for the creation of cities, cars, gardens, etc. Thus, Legoland built the Fun Town, a giant area that faithfully reproduces a LEGO city. In Fun Town is nice to see how children are practically the park owners. Of all ages, they run from ride to ride (and parents running behind) with a beautiful smile. Surely, Legoland California has a cost/benefit much better than Disneyland when it comes to entertain children and charm them.
The fun starts at Duplo Playtown, a playground full of slides and LEGO pieces to exercise children’s imagination. And fun continues throughout Fun Town! In Skycruiser, visitors are taken round by the green of Legoland and the Kid Power Towers, a free fall ride.
There are several ride that represents “schools”. For example, the Sky Patrol is a school to pilot helicopters, the Junior Driving School (for children 3 to 5 years) and the Driving School (6 to 13 years) are the “learn-how-to-drive” schools and Fun Town Police and Fire Academy is the city’s defense school, where children need to catch bad guys and put out a fire at a given time. Awesome!
In addition to these, the Flight Squadron is the flight school and Skipper School is the navigation school. In my opinion, the Lego Factory is the attraction of Fun Town that most arouses the curiosity of children, showing how LEGOs are born, through the molding process, decoration and packaging.
For those who want to get wet without paying a little more for the water park, the area of ??Pirate Shores fulfills the role. The area star is Pirate Reef, a fantastic boat ride and the Splash Battle, a soaking ride very similar with the Tsunami Soaker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The area also has two very fun playgrounds.
Those who like to stay dry can swing by several directions at Captain Cranky’s Challenge. My friend loved the nearby Garden Restaurant. Refrigerated, it offers 100% healthy food as fresh vegetables. Point to Legoland California for being the only park to have a restaurant of this type! The food of the park is very good, ranging from fast-food and classic pizza to delicious barbecue done in Castle Hill area, that is dedicated to the kingdoms of the Middle Ages. By the way, the food of Castle Hill is so goooooood! The ice cream and the apple fries are something I will never forget.
In fact, it is the Middle Ages, so have to have adrenaline (of course, in a very light way)! The first stop to have it is The Dragon rollercoaster, where even the train is in the shape of a dragon made of LEGO! I loved the scenario that the coaster has before hitting up the lift.
In the world, many children thinks that the more radical, the better. For them, carousel or boats are not nearly sufficient, and thinking about them, Legoland California built in Castle Hill the most mind-blowing attraction of the entire park – the Knight’s Tournament. Six robotic arms whirling in all directions over the water! Each has 5 intensities available to choose from, and the higher the level selected, the greater are the chances of many upside down moments and sudden movements!
Returning to the usual tranquility of Legoland, the Royal Joust takes children mounted on small horses for funny scenarios of the Middle Ages. Th. Enchanted Walk trail shows the natural animals California reproduced in LEGO models. While the children practice their climbing skills and balance themselves at The Hideaways, parents can stay playing golf at Wild Woods Golf.
All amusement park has its heart, its symbol. In Legoland, is not a castle, no extreme ride nor a rollercoaster. What makes Legoland pulse are the Minilands. It is hard to explain in words the perfection of every city modeled on the LEGO Minilands. The models are very rich in detail and have life, that is, the dynamism of the city is represented by movements of the LEGO guys and cars. The cities and regions represented are New England, Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles (Hollywood) and Washington.
Star Wars battles reproduced also pluck the same looks of astonishment and admiration that the cities mentioned above. Miniature of the Millennium Falcon? Has. Miniature of Stormtroopers? Has. Miniature Leia, Luke, RD-D2 and C3PO? Has. A giant Death Star? Yes, this too. Each set is a key scene from one of the six films, as well the animated one, Clone Wars. However, my favorite sculptures were the main characters of the saga, just unbelievable! Unfortunately, I really missed C3PO in this. 🙁
Legoland is a giant salad. The park environment interacts with the most things acclaimed by audiences around the world. We have seen dinosaurs, animals, pirates, cities, Star Wars, Middle Ages and now Egypt. The Land of Adventure focuses its architecture on hieroglyphics and Egyptian garb. Its main attraction, the Lost Kingdom Adventure, is a dark ride that simulates the interior of a pyramid. Did not like the theme inside very much.
The area is very small, and with the capacity increasing, a little confusion formed in small moments. Besides, Land of Adventure attractions do not help to absorb the public, since their capacity is small. The Dune Raiders is the classic slide, Pharaoh’s Revenge is a playground where a battle between parents and children is made with bazookas and Cargo Ace are small swinging planes that runs in a circle track.
As much as each area makes our imagination go to the extreme, Legoland wanted to have an area exclusively dedicated to push limits. The Imagination Zone has very creative attractions such as the Aquazone Wave Racers, where you, being in a boat, need to avoid the water blast that comes from nowhere, and BIONICLE Blaster, the classic tea cups ride.
Legoland California is located very close to the coast, and you can view it at LEGO Technic Coaster, having the most beautiful view of the entire park. The attraction has a good drop, but like all the other coasters in the park, offers a very low level of adrenaline for teenagers and adults. Some open mind is necessary (and spirit to be re-child) for people of these age at Legoland, but the day may prove to be a drag and with a great sense of loss of money.
The creativity of the children are put to the test in LEGO Mindstorms, a laboratory where you can create LEGOS robots that respond to your commands; and also in the LEGO Hero Factory, where children can create their own heroes and define their missions and at Build & Test, where they can build cars and test in a circuit. For younger guests, a playground provides DUPLO bricks to build their first structures. To close the day, the best option is the Coast Cruise, a tour by the main lake of Legoland, passing by Miniland. At this point, after going through all these rides, children will be dead tired, but with a big smile on his face. A great tip to make the heart of them happier is going to The BIG Shop and buy a present.
The environment of Legoland California is very cozy, full of trees and obviously very creative! LEGO at every corner! In fact, there are 45 million LEGO bricks used throughout the park. Just think about it! The employees know very well how to deal with children: always smiling and making jokes.
Legoland encourages the parent-child fun, with few child-only attractions. This is an extremely positive point, because the entrance of Legoland is not cheap ($84). It is noteworthy that the layout of the park is confusing, which is potentially dangerous if a child is lost. Local conservation is impeccable as all rides operated, the gardens were trimmed and flowered, and kudos to the mechanical team agility that whenever any scenario of Miniland stopped working, they came quickly to fix.
The Legoland fun factor is immeasurable for a child! There are so many attractions that challenge and put them in parallel world that is difficult to have any problems in maintaining the desire to have fun, even with the long lines. All major attractions in the early afternoon had one hour queues, and the others a maximum of 40 minutes. Nevertheless, park opening hours (10am to 8pm) allows the guests to experience all attractions.
The final word on Legoland is: if you are an adolescent or adult, and want to hang out with your friends to go back to childhood, go without fear. If you want thrilling rides, Legoland will not satisfy you. The whole place is a paradise for children, something that’s hardly seen at another park.
After Legoland, time to hit the first SeaWorld ever. Its entrance were decorated with the celebration of 50 years of the park and consequently the chain. You can see everywhere the promotional activities of #SeaWorldCares campaign, which shows the company’s efforts to have a strong relationship with the marine environment, making rescues, animal care with sea reestablishment and research on their behavior.
After going through short and peaceful lines, I was face to face with the Explorer’s Reef, an aquarium full of fish-cleaners. This species feeds microscopic parasites and debris that accumulate in the oceans. An interaction with these fish is allowed to put your hand inside your swimming area. Despite this being fun, SeaWorld had much more exciting and educational attractions.
The layout of the park is confusing and can be very easy to get lost, so the use of a map was important. The first stop of the visit was Manta, quite different from the version in Orlando! In California, passengers undergo three launch sections at high speed with unexpected drops, generating an incredible airtime. Manta does not reach great heights, but is fun for the whole family.
The rays and similar animals aquarium is located right next to the roller coaster entry. It is possible to feed the stingrays and learn about preservation of these animals in the ocean.
After, I headed to the Dolphin Stadium for the Blue Horizons presentation. (Blue Horizons is no longer to be seen at SeaWorld San Diego, only at SeaWorld Orlando. SeaWorld San Diego switched to a new show; ‘Dolphin Days’). The artists along with the bottle-nose dolphins, macaws and pilot whales promote beautiful scenes of fellowship and friendship with animals.
The big problem of the stadiums of SeaWorld San Diego is already noticeable in Dolphin Stadium: lack of shade. In the heat of California, waiting and watching the show turns out to be quite unpleasant.
Adrenaline returned on the aquatic roller coaster Journey to Atlantis, the only of its kind in California. Themed according to the lost city of Atlantis, it has good falls that inevitably leave all soaked! The differential of this attraction is that after his first fall, the lift to continue the route is totally in the dark and… swings.
Slightly ahead of Journey to Atlantis, the Wild Arctic offers an opportunity to see the main animals of the Arctic Ocean region: polar bear, walrus and belugas. This attraction offers the “motionless” way, which is only a walk through the displays of each animal, and the “with motion” way, where an outdated simulator precedes the walk. Despite being old, I enjoyed little bumps.
I had lunch at Cafe 64, which housed a museum of the park and the chain. The choices were not many, being essentially different types of sandwiches with french fries. The food quality is not incredible, but if you want a more refined choice, I recommend booking at Guest Services a meal at Dine with Shamu (serves lunch and dinner). On site, you can see while eating, orcas being cared for.
Speaking of orcas, the best option for me after lunch was the great spectacle of SeaWorld San Diego: One Ocean. In the largest stadium in the park, orcas leap and make pirouettes in the air, causing the vibe of the whole audience. A highlight of the presentation was the presence of a baby orca accompanied his/her mother. The two were together all the time! The big moment was when orcas swam and splashed water with their fins in the people who were close to the water.
The One Ocean, besides the pirouettes, stressed the importance of preserving the marine environment where the orcas and other aquatic creatures live. Today, these places suffer from pollution and desalination, as well as hunting and over-fishing.
Unfortunately, for personal reasons, I had to leave the park in the early afternoon. 🙁
Among all the highlights of California, one of the most interesting for tourists are the entertainment complexes in the seaside. Belmont Park at Mission Beach in San Diego had the mission to close my trip to California with a big smile on my face. PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO AN INCOMING STORM, RAPHAEL WAS UNABLE TO TAKE PICTURES BESIDES THOSE SHOWN HERE. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE!
Located at the most famous beach of San Diego, Belmont Park is significantly smaller than the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier, featuring only 11 rides. However, other interactive features are available. It is clear that the park is not an attractive place for children. Classic radical rides as the Beach Blaster, a KMG pendulum that reaches approximately 20 meters high, and the Tilt-A-Whril, completely nauseating as ever, are present.
Besides them, Belmont has unusual surprises. Control Freak is a kind of a small extreme swing ride: their ends are chairs that rotate back and forth at higher speed! A “lovely” unicoaster, Octotron made me many times upside down! In addition, I did not even throw up!
The same free fall tower present in the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and Pacific Park is also in Belmont, just like the traditional bumper cars. The only options for kids are the Speedway, the Crazy Submarine, and a historic carousel.
The highlight of the park is an old coaster that crosses the generations of San Diego: the Giant Dipper. Built in 1925, its reserve good elements, such as a start totally in the dark! However, it is very uncomfortable, shivering all the way. Moreover, it has small airtimes on their falls and its speed is very good.
Lazer Maze labyrinth is very challenging as you need to go through extremely tight rooms without touching the lasers, Mission Impossible style. The Belmont also uses lasers in laser tag, an indoor battlefield with laser weapons. The arcade close the trio of technological attractions. Extreme sports inspired the other attractions of Belmont, as the Zip Line, the Leap of Faith (mini bungee jumping) and the entire Skyclimb and Speedwall, both being climbing walls. The Speedwall differentiates itself by promoting a competition of who gets faster to the top. Besides these, the Sky Ropes awakens the next Indiana Jones on every visitor, as it challenges you to walk several small row vines.
San Diego (and all of California) breathes surfing, then the Belmont Park created two sensational simulators waves, critically acclaimed sports. By this time, I was already out of money, so I could not try this. Around the park there are some AMAZING restaurants and a few shops with official products of surfing and San Diego. Although the prices of shops and restaurants are quite high due to the official products (detected tourist inflation), the individual prices of rides (ranging from $ 3 to $ 6) and wristbands are okay.
During 15 days, I visited cities, met people and hit parks that will take a little bit with me for my entire life. I will never forget the kindness of each park, as well the hospitality of Californians, their education and respect. This state taught me (and showed) a lot. I deeply hope to show to many people in the coming years. This state of many faces, many cultures, many kinds, many people. Where everything is different, and being different, turns out to be more special than it is. To the California people, I owe a huge THANK YOU for having me in their lands!
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