As much as I love the holiday season, that week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve can really seem to drag on. The kids are off school, I feel guilty if I try to get any work done, and the weather conspires to keep us from going out. Cabin fever definitely starts to set in…
Luckily for us, we were able to get everyone out of the house by visiting The Legoland Discovery Centre at The Trafford Centre in Manchester. The kids loved the idea: Kaymi (8) is REALLY into the Lego Friends series, and Kaiden (11) enjoys the Architecture Series (Robie House, White House, etc), the Minecraft set, and would also love to get his hands on the grand structures like the London Bridge, Town Hall, etc. But, as parents, we still had the basic concerns that always come into play when planning a family road-trip and outing, and I wanted to share with you our experience.
Our Visit to Legoland Discovery Centre (LDC) – The Trafford Centre, Manchester
First impressions: Very easy to find, well-signposted, ample free parking and easy access
Located within the Trafford Centre, just off the M60 on the west side of Manchester, LDC is very easy to find and get to. However, for the easiest access I would recommend you use the BARTON SQUARE parking, as it is right outside the LDC entrance. (map link)
If you’re not familiar with the Trafford Centre, it is a very well-designed, attractive and large shopping centre. There are also restaurants, a dry ski slope, golf driving range, hotels and a cinema – all located within sight of each other. You can easily turn this into a day-out for all ages…
What you find inside:
Lego Factory Tour – This is a fun 5 minute introduction into how Lego is made, aimed at younger children. One great plus of this is that the kids are given a ‘little’ souvenir as they leave the tour, meaning that you don’t have to buy something in the shop just to prove you were there.
Miniland – Extremely well-crafted buildings and sights, highlighting Manchester, Blackpool, the Peak District, the Midlands and Northern England – including a mini Beatles playing at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. This is all the work of the Centre’s Master Builder, Alex.
Lego 4D Cinema – This is a must see and was fun for all of us. The 3D production was good and the extra ‘D’ came in by adding a physical element. Just avoid the front few rows of seats if you don’t wish to get wet!
Lego Racers area – The kids probably spent the most time here as they were able to build any type of vehicle they wanted and then test them on the various racing and jumping tracks.
Rides: Kingdom Quest, Forest Pursuit & Merlin’s Apprentice – All the rides were fun, but the Forest Pursuit – where you get to drive around a track, is definitely targeting the under 10’s. As he was just within the height limit, we persuaded Kaiden to give it a try; not only was he the oldest one there, but he also looked somewhat squashed!
Lego Fire Academy – This is actually a medium-sized soft play area, for the little ones.
Master Model Builder – A good opportunity for kids to sit in a fun teaching environment and be instructed on how to put together a small set. This was well done, with excellent tutelage and helped the kids see how you can step away from a ‘set’ and build something unique.
The other areas, while themed, were pretty much building stations where people could build to their heart’s content. This included a small pond of Lego (not dissimilar to a ‘ball pool’), pink and pastel coloured bricks in the Lego Friends area, an earthquake centre to test the strength of your constructions, and a Duplo area with large rubber bricks.
Café – Drinks and basic snacks can be purchased from the café, meaning that you don’t have to remember to bring a packed lunch. However, the seating area welcomes both café users and picnickers, offering you flexibility when planning your day.
Staff: The staff are EXTREMELY friendly and attentive, doing their utmost to ensure customers are enjoying their visit. This goes from the simple “Did you enjoy…?” to going out of their way to find you the special Lego piece you need to finish your racer.
Building Stations: As you wait to get in somewhere, you will find little building stations dotted along the walls – to keep the little ones engaged while you wait.
If you’re expecting a full theme-park like Legoland Windsor, you will be disappointed. The Discovery Centre is more of a play and explore centre than anything else, and while well worth a visit, I would strongly recommend looking at the special on-line, package, voucher and annual pass deals available.
While we did have a great time, the overall centre was smaller than we expected, and we felt we had squeezed in all the fun we could after about four hours (remembering the kids are 8 & 11). However, we then ventured across the enclosed bridge to enjoy all that The Trafford Centre has to offer.
What have you done over the holidays? Do you have anything you could recommend? Just let us know below…