“I weigh 24,000 Lego bricks,” my son Justin informs me with a smile on his face. “And I’m 159 bricks tall.”
We’re at the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, a 34,000-foot indoor attraction in Vaughan, Ont., just north of Toronto. Filled with a whopping 3 million-plus Lego bricks, it is heaven for my 11-year-old, whose enthusiasm for these classic building blocks shows no sign of abating.
We begin our visit with the Kingdom Quest, an amusement park-style ride that has us using laser guns to fire at trolls and skeletons and rescue the princess.
It’s one of two rides at the center. The second is Merlin’s Apprentice, where kids pedal hard to lift themselves into the air.
Next, we head to MINILAND Toronto, a remarkably detailed replica of the city constructed from 1.5 million bricks. It fills a room, and we quickly pick out the city’s recognizable landmarks, including the Rogers Centre (complete with a full house of Lego-figure Blue Jay baseball fans), City Hall, Casa Loma, Queen’s Park, the Royal Ontario Museum and, of course, the CN Tower. We then peer more intently, studying the streets we know and the buildings we recognize. Other visitors are doing the same, and I overhear a couple pointing out to their preschooler the spot where they met. The lights begin to dim, and we watch as night falls on the miniature cityscape. I could stay longer, but my son is eager to move on to some of the more hands-on activities.
We’ve now entered the hub of the attraction. The atmosphere is birthday-party festive with Lego bricks strewn everywhere, kids dashing around and a buzzing hum of excited squeals. Justin stops for the briefest of periods, taking in the available activities – the climbing jungle gym, a DUPLO village for younger kids, earthquake tables where kids build structures before subjecting them to a simulated earthquake – then beelines to the LEGO racers, where he stays for at least an hour, building cars and racing them down various ramps. It’s a huge hit. He would stay longer, but a Lego Master Class awaits.
“I wish my school had desks like these!” says one of the students sitting down at the desk with a built-in bowl of Lego bricks. The kids follow the instruction to build “Star Wars” TIE Fighters with a focus I’ve never seen at any actual school.
When the class is over, we take in a 4-D movie featuring a Lego action-figure hero racing through obstacles, while we get sprayed with water right along with him. Then it’s time to head home – but not without a stop at a gift shop stocked with the latest Lego products. I rush through, ignoring the “Pleeeeaaaase, Mom, can I have …” but making note of the Stealth Starfighter he’s pining after for a possible Christmas gift.
I don’t think our family has seen the last of LEGOLAND.
Vaughan Mills Centre
LEGOLAND is situated within the Vaughan Mills Centre, which is an attraction in and of itself. The 1.2-million-square-foot complex has more than 200 retail and outlet stores, including Holt Renfrew, Calvin Klein Outlet, AIX Armani Exchange Outlet, Hugo Boss Factory Store, Pro Hockey Life and Tommy Hilfiger Outlet. Anchoring the complex is Bass Pro Outdoor World, a massive retailer that features a waterfall, a shooting gallery and, of course, absolutely everything to do with hunting and fishing.
What LEGOLAND is to kids like my son, Bass Pro is to hunters and anglers.
If you go:
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, located at the Vaughan Mills Centre; 1 Bass Pro Mills Drive, Vaughan, Ont. (855) 356-2150, www.legolanddiscoverycentre.ca/toronto
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: Adult are $22; children are $18; younger than 2 are free.