Miniland U.S.A.WDW Today podcasts, set the GPS for Carlsbad, and headed south for the weekend. I also planned on visiting Sea World in San Diego and will report back on that next week.

The Beginning. Here are the basic services such as Guest Services, strollers, the photo center, a snack store, and a store called The Big Shop. A gathering space faces a lake with many LEGO models, including comical dinosaurs and LEGO people trying to build a bridge. I would later learn that these sculptures come alive with sound as the Coast Cruise Dino LandCoastersaurusDig Those Dinos. Need to buy dino related LEGO sets? They have a store for that.

The next destination is DUPLO Village. Passing between Dino Land and DUPLO Village

I must confess this trip is a lesson in the LEGO culture. I learned that DUPLO blocks are meant for children age 1.5 to 5. Therefore, DUPLO Village is geared to the toddler set. Personally, I found this frustrating at times. For example, a ride on the Safari Trek

Another attraction in DUPLO Village is the very surreal Fairy Tale Brook. What starts out as an innocent boat ride turns into a voyage into something that would have made proud. Prepare to see the Big Bad Wolf snorkeling, the Three Little Pigs working out to kick his butt, and Prince Charming on a cell phone. There is so much more.

I also discovered one of my favorite things in the entire park. In the Waterworks interactive play area is a fountain with LEGO model instruments and little pads that you step on. If you step on the pads quickly enough in the right order you can actually play a tune. Okay, so I ran around the fountain a few times. It was early. There are other interactive fountains that are activated by turning wheels, pressing buttons, or doing some other thing.

The lush landscaping fades away and we are in the middle of the urban LEGOLAND, Fun Town. There is a lot going on at this end of the park. The Volvo Driving SchoolAutopia; a place for kids to learn how to drive safely. With no tracks, children from 6 through 13 make their way around a street grid obeying the traffic rules or they get thrown into jail sanding down the rough edges of mutant LEGO blocks. There is even a Volvo Junior Driving School for the real little ones (3 to 5) that goes around an oval. Of course, the entrance is marked with a full-size Volvo which has been modeled out of the plastic bricks.

Buildings with clever LEGO characters line the edges. There is an amphitheater featuring a cute slapstick show that teaches us the proper way to put out a fire. Remember; put the wet stuff on the hot stuff.

I enjoyed walking through Adventurers Club and activating all of the special effects. The LEGO Factory Tour features machines that press out the blocks in incredible slow motion. Like many spots in the park, there are places where kids can sit and play with the blocks. Other activities include The Police and Fire AcademyKid Power Towers and the Sky Cruiser are family oriented people powered vehicles that give guests a chance to play and get an overview of the entire park.

Next door is Pirate Shores, a land of water-based attractions, including the Skipper SchoolSplash Battle

By the time you get to Castle Hill, at the backside of the park, you realize just how compact LEGOLAND is. This is one of the areas where people who got there early were running. The Dragon roller coaster was one of my favorite rides. It starts off slowly, moving through a castle where we encounter various crudely animated LEGO models. I was especially impressed with the dragon. As you exit the castle, the ride changes into a nice, reasonably long kiddie coaster.

The other big ride here is the . Two riders are placed at the end of a Kuka robotic arm. There are five levels of ride intensity. "One" is very mild and "five" will twist your brain. In some cases, the intensity of the ride is determined by the height of the rider. I kept picturing myself strapped in at the end of one of these on a moving track inside of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure.

The Wild Woods Golf is a lovely miniature golf course that fully takes advantage of the LEGO models. This is one of the repeatable features for locals. As much as I would like to have ridden the Royal Joust, The Hideaways. The variety of play areas is outstanding.

Castle HillLand of Adventure Lost Kingdom Adventure is like Buzz Lightyear at the Disney parks where you shoot at targets with a light gun and total up individual scores. Of course, all of the targets are LEGO models and the animation is limited or non-existent, but the ride is cute, good eye candy for the kids, and has that tongue in cheek humor that permeates this entire park.

The Imagination Zone is where you will find the LEGO Technic Test Track, an incredible wild mouse rollercoaster. What may seem like a harmless kiddie coaster is a butt tightener of the first order. There is also the very clever Aquazone, where you steer a hydrofoil while other guests are trying to get you wet with water cannons. The LEGO Mindstorms area is where the hardcore LEGO fans go and lots of youth groups. This is where you can board the Coast Cruise, which sails on the lake you see at the entrance. As it passes some of the huge models, they animate or make sounds that support the sculpture.

As I stated at the top of this piece, the heart of LEGOLAND is Miniland USA. The area is made up of six landscapes based on U.S. cities including New England, Las Vegas, New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans (under repair), and California. There is also a special area themed to the Star Wars series.

Of course, I had to look up the statistics and LEGO claims that it took more then 100,000 hours of model making to put together what you see today. More then 23 million bricks have been used to build these models. And they are spectacular. In general, they are built at a 1 to 20 scale. Most of the skyscraper are at a 1 to 70 scale.

In many cases, pushing a button will active some form of animation. Whether it is cows and chickens moving in a barn, a marching band in front of the U.S. Capital building, or making a Stormtrooper fly around a tree.

I found myself sitting on the ground to get a really good perspective of the models and their attention to detail. I was recently in San Francisco and was riveted by their version of that beautiful city. The New York skyline is an exhibit for an architecture class. The highlight of Washington D.C. is the animated marching band in front of the Capital building. Look deep inside of the Lincoln Memorial and you can see the statue of the legendary President. The Las Vegas scenes are as over the top as the city itself. My one let down was Southern California. Northern California is well represented by the San Francisco set but all points south are summed by RVs parked by the beach, the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Bowl, and LEGOLAND sign replacing the iconic Hollywood sign.

If you enjoyed today's article, then you will LOVE the new book written By Sam Gennawey, Walt and the Promise of Progress City.

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