...or the 'discovering' centre as Eli kept referring to it! Once we had clarified that we weren't, unfortunately, heading to the big theme park version of Legoland. Although a trip there might well be in the near future for us.
Thanks to the wonders of the Council and the school system, our Easter holidays this year ended up being much later than most other places and so we decided to take advantage of this with a trip to the Legoland Discovery Centre at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. We knew that the schools in Manchester had already gone back so we were fairly certain that it would be quiet.
If only we had known just how quiet it would really be!
The Legoland Discovery Centre is basically a rather large soft play with a few rides and attractions thrown in for good measure. I had very little expectation when we arrived but I have to admit that it far exceeded what I had thought. This might have been helped by the fact that we pretty much had the run of the place to ourselves but nonetheless, it was a fantastic day out.
On arrival, I was pleased to notice that there were little tables set up with Duplo and Lego bricks to keep children occupied whilst queuing to get in. There weren't any queues when we arrived but we were waiting for another friend and her daughter to arrive so Eli made the most of the time. After getting our tickets scanned we headed through to a small area where we were made to sit and have our photograph taken before heading down in a nearby lift for the Factory Tour.
The Factory Tour is just a little video clip followed by a demonstration by a rather enthusiastic member of staff on how Lego bricks are made. The guy we had was great at getting the kids involved and at the end of the process we were each handed a little Lego brick which said 'Legoland Discovery Centre' on it; a nice (free) souvenir to take home which was a lovely touch.
Once through you are met with the first ride in the Centre; the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride. Unfortunately I was prevented from taking any photos whilst we were on the ride but you are basically shooting laser guns at bad guys as you go around a little track. The kids all loved this ride and we ended up going on it two more times during the course of the day.
After that we walked through into an area which had lots of the UK's most famous landmarks created out of Lego. The kids were a bit less interested in this but I thought it was utterly fascinating; many of them didn't even look like they were made of Lego until you got up close to them.
Once through this section you are into the main part of the Discovery Centre with the Fire Academy soft play area taking centre stage surrounded by an area where you could build and race your own cars, the Forest Pursuit driving school, the entrance to the 4D cinema and Merlin's Apprentice Ride as well as a few more attractions.
As I said, we had the place almost to ourselves so we were able to grab some seats and let the kids explore. They had great fun going into the soft play and around the driving school although the winner was definitely the Lego Racers' section. I think all of the 5 children who went would have happily spent hours building and destroying their cars along the tracks.
After we had exhausted the delights of the centre section (and popped outside for a picnic in the sun) we re-rode the Kingdom Quest ride before heading into the 4D show. This was by the best attraction of the day for me, although you do probably need to have watched the Lego Movie to give the short film some context.
After all of that, we spent a brief time in the Ninjago Laser Camp; again this proved really popular with the children...who wouldn't want to test their wits against laser beams? And we spent around 45 minutes with them all taking turns on the different levels before we were interrupted by another family.
It signalled a good time to head on home and we passed through the Lego Discovery Shop, picking up some reasonably priced souvenirs to take home before returning to the car.
Overall I was really impressed with this day out. However I would say there are a few things which you could do to ensure your visit is just as enjoyable:-
* Avoid school holidays if possible. The Discovery Centre is not that big and I can see how it would become frustrating if you had to queue for everything. If you can't avoid the holidays then try and arrive first thing before the majority of others do; it was definitely quieter in the morning and busier by the afternoon.
* Look out for good deals. We got a great deal because we were visiting during term time and I know there are plenty of online deals to be found, even if it's just booking tickets in advance (sometimes you can get up to 45% off walk up prices)
* Don't expect it to be like Legoland Windsor. I have since read a number of reviews slating the Discovery Centre because it wasn't how people expected it. This isn't a theme park. So don't expect the rides to be epic; they are good for children aged 10 and under but not to the standard of a theme park by any stretch of the imagination.
And if you want a more rounded view of what we got up to then do check out the video below:-