Our last experience involving Legoland wasn’t the best. Expensive, too many queues, food running out, and Legoland hadn’t been prepared for the inset day and how busy it would be. I vowed never to visit again unless we every had a random inset day no one else has (we never do). But since then the Legoland Discover Centre has been opened in a few cities. These give the opportunities to enjoy a smaller version of Legoland without so much of the pressure of a full day out, and for less money.
Travel and parking
Over the summer we had a Saturday free and decided to visit the Legoland Discovery Centre in Birmingham. Usually we would travel to Birmingham by train but we were late in planning so the car it was. We’d driven to Sea Life Centre which is nearby, years ago, so knew the car park. Unfortunately I’d not counted on road closures leading to where we needed to get to, and new building work, so it took us a long time and random driving round back streets to get to the front of the Birmingham Arena South car park.
Since the last time we parked, there are now signs to show exits and levels needed for the Sea Life Centre (but not the Legoland Discovery Centre). My guess of it being the same floor as Sea Life exit worked, so you need floor 7.
Anytime before leaving you can enter your registration number in the payment machines and pay. It’s all done by number plate recognition and can be done by card, so is effortless, if a little pricy as expected for a city.
The Legoland Discovery Centre
Located beside the canal, the Discovery Centre is easy to find. As soon as you approach outside, you spot Lego with the life size giraffe. Inside you see all the walls decorated with Lego characters including inside the lift. We arrived not long after opening and had booked a time slot in advance, so didn’t have to queue for tickets.
Once on the correct floor, there’s plenty to see and do, with several different areas for cinema, rides, type of Lego and soft play. It’s not a large discovery centre so I did wonder how long we could actually spend there, but I needn’t have worried. We spent several hours there, and even then we didn’t do one of the rides, or make the 4D cinema show.
Legoland Discovery Centre is set up for doing. While there are information spots around the centre, it’s mostly about activities and taking part, rather than history or education. I missed this and would have quite liked a ‘history of Lego’ area to find out more about the background to the bricks.
The first area you see is the Kingdom Quest. It’s a laser shooting ride, where you get to shoot at all the baddies in order to save the princess. It was lots of fun, even though we were a bit rubbish at it. There’s another ride called Merlin’s Apprentice Ride, but N didn’t fancy it. Both rides are small and aimed at young children.
You can’t visit a Legoland site without seeing Miniland. This is all the Lego buildings and creations based on the famous Birmingham sites. The university, Edgbaston cricket ground, Aston Villa, The Bull Ring, the library, the Birmingham Arena and a rock concert and Warwick Castle, plus lots more. We loved exploring what we could see, making the canal boats moves.
When you first walk out of Miniland, you’ve got 2 building area options. The first is Lego Friends – I know nothing about Lego Friends and evidently not many people were that keen as there were only a few sitting at the building tables even once the centre was busier. It’s a bit of a shame as it’s a nice big area, compared with the main Test and Build area which was standing room only, and hard to get to the building spots and Lego tubs once it got busier. Obviously I had to get my photo taken with Emma.
N usually prefers to follow Lego instructions. He’ll make the odd creation from his imagination, but he sometimes struggles to know what to build. So watching him get to work straight away in the test and build area was really interesting. The task was to build a car then test it on the ramps, or race it down the track.
I got bored watching him, and decided I wanted to make my own vehicle. We ended up both opting for big wheels and 3 wheelers. And they were pretty epic – both beating others in races, with mine being the overall winner each time. There was plenty of Lego to use, but other children are ruthless stealing your pieces unless you keep an eye on them.
There’s a short and higher ramp to send your vehicle down – mine jumped nicely into the bucket at the end, until I added front wings and spoilers. Then other children were getting to my broken pieces first. Be prepared to be fighting through them to get back your pieces! Poor N had half of his removed before he’d even got down to the bottom of the steps, so we called it a day then.
What I liked was watching the ‘Creator’ window – where there’s a Lego modeller making items in their little room. You can look in and watch them work, and admire their wonderful Lego organisation storage.
There’s also Creator Workshops running. In there, you are given a set build to make, and can set to work following the instructions at your own pace. The racing car one on our day was really easy for N. But parents were helping younger children who probably weren’t used to using proper Lego. You have the choice of buying your make afterwards. Some children were struggling with the concept that they couldn’t take away their car, so either explain up front if you’re not buying, or be prepared to stump up the cash.
Lego soft play
N had a brief play on the soft play frame. It’s not huge but was plenty big enough for the children wanting to go on when we were there. Like most of the non-building activities, N’s probably at the upper age limit of enjoying a simple softplay frame. He enjoyed it, but said it was too easy to go round.
We did keep checking into the 4D cinema for when the next showing was. There was a countdown clock, and a sign with the films being show, but no times. It would have been helpful to know exact starts rather than having to loiter regularly. In the end we gave up and didn’t bother. There was too much building needing to be done.
Eventually N had had enough and it was approaching lunchtime, so it was time to check out the shop. Legoland Discovery Centre has a small café serving drinks and sandwiches, but we ate elsewhere as we wanted something more substantial (and quieter from screaming children).
On the way out to the shop, they have a Lego honesty box to make sure little hands haven’t stolen away with any Lego.
Of course there’s a Lego shop. N was excited because he wanted to buy another set as our local shops didn’t have much in. But he hadn’t realised how much Lego actually costs. So the pick and mix wall drew him to it instead. You can either fill an £8 or £14 cup with mostly little pieces of different shapes and colours. It’s probably not the best value, as the pieces are small and N’s unlikely to create much just from that tub, but he was pleased with his purchase and it’s a useful little tub to take away on holiday with us.
Overall we had a great morning. There’s plenty to do, opportunities to build lots of creations, although you are fairly limited to what’s in the test and build area. I presume the Lego Friends area was a more open building option, rather than only being supplied with lots of dark colours and tyres.
If you buy online in advance you get a reduction in cost and guarantee your slot time. It does get busy so definitely worth buying tickets ahead of time. Arriving early is good to avoid the crowds, however this is the first place I’ve seen where you get charged more the earlier you arrive. It starts at £18, then by later in the afternoon you only paying £15.
You can’t take your own food and drinks in (we did have water though), I presume because they want you to buy food from there, plus it’s not a large enough space to have a picnic area.
The location is opposite the Sea Life centre and you can buy cheaper combination tickets, plus there are plenty of restaurants within short walking distance.
For a few spare hours, it was worth a visit, but you wouldn’t be able to make a whole day of it. If you want a good excuse to build Lego with the children, then it’s a great family option.
Have you ever been to one of the Legoland Discovery Centres?
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The LEGO giraffe is certainly impressive! Glad you managed to find it in the end – Manchester is full of road closures and temporary traffic lights at the moment too, drives me insane! We have visted the LDC in Manchester many times over the years – when Liv was smaller I was never really a fan, didn’t seem to be too much there and as you state, it isn’t an all day thing, especially considering the price. However they had a refurb a couple of years ago and there seemed to be so much more to do. Unfortunately Liv is a little too old for it now, so isn’t our go to place but would love to go back at some point… even for me! 🙂 Sim x
It’s definitely great for adults to get involved too, although mostly dads when we were there. Very few mums helping out. I get really competitive – I think I was the only parent building for me, vs the others all helping kids lol. I’m not sure N wouldn’t be too old in a year’s time. Lego is timeless, but most of the activities are focused on younger. But it’s lovely to have them as an alternative to having to do the full theme park.
I’ll have to look in to whether we have any of these local to us. We’re still at the Duplo stage right now, but I know my husband is looking forward to the day we can introduce our boy to Lego. Legoland isn’t practical for us to get to so a Discovery Centre would be a great compromise.
Hi Cait, I think there’re only the ones in Manchester and Birmingham. But if you’re visiting the areas, they’re worth a look once children get to 4/5. Definitely once they’re using proper lego to get the most out of it, although the rides are suitable for younger, and the cinema, plus there’s a Duplo building area.