"Why are we at Legoland on a Friday night?"
My nine-year-old son's face was a mixture of confusion and delight in my rear view mirror as we drove into the Legoland complex at dusk last week. We live just 20 minutes up the road from the the park, but don't often go, due to my terminal fear of theme parks, 'family attractions', hyper kids, and buggies being rammed into my ankles.
But I made a concession when we were invited along on the opening night of the Legoland Hotel situated within the park. There were two reasons for this: 1) I love staying in hotels. 2) My son LOVES Lego. So really, they had our stamp of approval from the moment the invitation appeared in my inbox.
Because my son loves Lego SO much, I kept the details of our jaunt secret - he only realised where we were going when we pulled up in the car park, and even then was a little confused as to why we were there so late in the day. Once all was revealed ("There is ACTUALLY a Legoland Hotel? Since when? And we are REALLY staying there?") he was beside himself. Even more so when I revealed HE would be writing and videoing the review... but more on that later.
Check-in was painless - swift, friendly and efficient - and we were issued with key-cards for our room and the lift. We were up on the fourth floor in an 'Adventure' room, which had a king-size bed for me, and a separate sleeping area for William, consisting of bunk beds and a pull-out truckle bed. The whole room was fabulous, but the bathroom especially so (for me!) - beautifully kitted out in the Adventure theme with scenic painted walls, and real Lego decorations.
William's 'area' had its own TV, Adventure themed bedding (Pharaoh pillows), and handy touches like night-lights on the wall next to his bunk for him to operate whilst in bed.
A word about the lighting though - unless I just could not find it, there seemed to be no central lighting for the main room. The kiddies' room was well lit enough - and the dimmed lighting actually added to the ambiance, and the bathroom was well lit, but the main bedroom was very dark with only lamps to the side of the bed. Which was a bit irritating.
Despite being starving, William was reluctant to leave the room and go down to dinner, which we were having in the Bricks restaurant within the hotel. I eventually persuaded him away from his bunk and we had a wander around before grabbing our table. I had wondered just how 'Lego' the hotel would be - thinking it might just have the brand name a few nods towards brick based decoration. But no. It is Lego central. From the Lego carpet ("Can we buy some for my bedroom?") through to Lego figures in the hallways, framed pics of Lego people, down to an amazing flying Lego mobile in the reception area, and a huge Lego kingdom climbing/play structure in the bar and restaurant. So have no doubts to its Lego-ness.
Bricks restaurant is deffo one for the family - it operates on a buffet system with a fairly wide range of foods (lots of fruit and veg, hot meals, such as curry and rice, salads, finger foods for little ones, desserts and an ice cream machine) and certainly enough variety to keep children happy. Probably not much of a gourmet experience for adults, but hey, it's a family focused hotel. And the bar appeared to do some good 'bar food' alternatives (judging by the menu - I did not get around to trying).
So, faces stuffed with an odd assortment of scran (working on the basis we needed to try everything) it was time for William to grab his video camera and produce his review for these pages... Now, it could have been the excitement of the surprise trip, perhaps it was the two helpings of ice cream, the presence of celebrities (we spotted Warwick Davis and family, Zoe Ball and son, Vic Reeves and twin daughters, Michael Mcintyre, Jeff Brazier, Phillipa Forrester, Kate Ford, Emily Maitlis and Tom Hardy) or it could have been a bit of ill-timed picking, but William was suddenly rendered helpless by a prolific nose-bleed. As napkins were snatched from unoccupied dining tables, and Legoland staff rallied to help, my son showed his appreciation for the hotel literally via blood, sweat and tears.
After a swift clean up we decided to head to our room for fear of another nasal explosion leaving our very own stamp on the place. We did a short detour for another wander around the corridors and down into the reception area to check out the little on-site shop, but our early night meant there was lots we did not get around to seeing - the Pirate-themed indoor water play area and the swimming pool for example.
Our room continued to enthrall William and his poorly nose though, as he discovered a safe containing Lego figures (he had to solve a puzzle to crack the code) just before bedtime. And whilst he got comfy in his top bunk, I spurned the sumptuous looking king-sized bed to share his quarters, spending the night in the bottom bed.
We left before the buffet breakfast the next morning, but peeked in at Bricks restaurant where it was being served, and found it to be as vibrant and full of happy families at 8am as it had been at 8pm the night before. Nose not withstanding, we had a lovely overnight stay, and I reckon I could probably endure a day in the park itself if I was coming back to a night at the hotel. Even if I do live just a few miles away...
Best bits (according to William):
Staying the night!
The monkey's treasure chest in the room and working out the code then finding small Lego Creator models inside!
The restaurant and bar - there was a play area which I could climb inside and build Lego in.
The ice cream machine in Bricks, although I wish I could have tried the drinks machine too, but there was a queue.
The fact I had a TV in my room and that the light switch was right next to my bed.
Nothing (apart from my nose bleed!) Would have liked to have stayed longer!
Best Bits (according to Mum):
Very friendly and helpful staff from check-in onwards.
Excellent bar facilities with a play area at one end, but a quieter area at the other - respite!
Lovely rooms with quality furnishing, fixtures and fittings - and not at all tacky despite being themed.
Very good bathroom.
Main area of room was very dark.
Card operated lifts were a pain - great security measure for kids, but a bit of a bind for adults
We loved it and think it would make a fab place to stay for anyone coming to London/south east - so much to see and do on your doorstep (as well as Legoland!) and central London just a short train trip away.
See Legoland resort website for more details. Prices start from £248 for a family of 4 for a themed bedroom, including breakfast and 2 days entrance into the park.