Here's what awaits at Legoland New York, opening this summer
GOSHEN - We know the where and the what and plenty of the wow, but the one unknown about Legoland New York — the Northeast's first new theme park in decades — is the when.
Merlin Entertainments, the British firm building the $500 million theme park in Orange County, welcomed media to its 150-acre site on Wednesday for a hard-hat tour of the progress, with one key reveal yet to come.
The park's divisional director Stephanie Johnson stood under the park's welcoming arch and said: "Legoland New York will open this summer. We are pursuing a phased opening model, which means we will gradually open areas of our theme park and increase guest capacity along with it."
That opening-date detail seemed to be one of the rare things left unaccounted for, on a day that showed a park still under construction, with crews painting and polishing and planting, taking a break now and then to see the new (masked) faces of actual park visitors.
When the park opens, whenever it opens, those who will be admitted first will be those who've been waiting the longest: people who bought "First to Play" passes they had hoped to use last July 4, the park's original opening date scuttled by the pandemic.
Ticket prices will be pro-rated until the park's official opening.
So much to see at Legoland New York
There was so much to see, in a sea of primary colors, that it was hard to take in.
The hillside park is divided into seven lands, five of which were open to tours on Wednesday.
There's Brick Street and Bricktopia, Ninjago World of Lego ninjas, a Lego Castle with the park's signature Dragon roller coaster, Legocity, Lego Pirates with water attractions, and Miniland, a recreation of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas in tiny bricks.
And, everywhere, sculptures.
They are the handiwork of model-building masters like Ryan Wood, the model shop manager, who oversees the deployment of 30 million bricks to create 15,000 Lego models.
- a massive dinosaur at the entrance named Brad, for "Big Red Awesome Dino," made of 182,000 Lego and Duplo bricks;
- a tiny mouse hiding inside the Lego Castle, awaiting coaster riders;
- a trail populated by Lego deer and foxes and stylized trees;
- a giant colorful panda, a rainbow zebra, a Lego ostrich and two massive and imposing Lego gargoyles.
Each adds a "how'd-they-do-that" wonder that is bound to have kids trying to figure out how many bricks each took to make. And there's a Build & Test building and the Lego Creative workshop, where pint-sized modelers can try their hand at building and learn from the pros.
And that's the thing about Legoland that Ryan Wood remembered on Wednesday: Yes, these sculptures are amazing, but they all start with one brick.
Wood recalled growing up in Los Angeles and getting a bucket of Legos for Christmas one year — not a set, just a bucket — a bucket that led him to his eventual career.
If Legos give imaginations a workout, one Legoland New York exclusive will let kids do what no one's done before: see themselves as a Lego character.
It happens in Prof. Brick's LEGO Factory Adventure Ride, an exclusive to this, the latest of nine Legoland parks worldwide and only the third in the U.S., behind Florida and California.
As the Prof. Brick line snakes through its building, visitors track the history of the simple building block that was born in the Denmark workshop of carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen and was eventually named "Toy of the Century" for the 20th century.
After tracking the progression of the Lego brand, they jump into a ride that takes them through six "factory" rooms to see how the bricks are made.
Andy Martin, one of Legoland's creative leads and a chief designer for the factory ride, was excited about the ride's use of facial-recognition technology that will show riders themselves in all their Lego finery.
Lego bricks are so central to this Legoland experience — tailored to those age 2 to 12, and their families — that things at Legoland are declared to be "bricktastic." And visitors will hear the word "awesome" regularly.
Legoland is built on a hill, with its seven "lands" on different levels. (A stroller would seem to be a must, and they're available to rent for those who don't bring their own.)
The COVID-19 pandemic that led to construction delays has left its mark on the park.
There are mask mandates and social distancing signs all over the property. The park will be cashless, with debit and credit cards and contactless payment accepted. Tickets will be digital and food purchases will be handled via an app or kiosk.
Guests at the adjoining 250-room Legoland Hotel will also see limited human contact, checking in via app and even encountering a digital voice assistant in their rooms, an assistant capable of ordering more towels, or room service, or telling an interactive bedtime story.
Phased opening, pro-rated fees
Because the park, whenever it opens, will open gradually, the ticket prices will be prorated, said Connor McCully, senior manager of admissions and park presentation.
Full-price single-day tickets — $79.99 for adults, $69.99 for children — won't be in effect until the park's Grand Opening, which is "this summer."
He said Legolands typically see one-third of their visitors on day passes, a third on multi-day, and a third on annual passes.
There are season-ticket packages that permit 30 admissions ($279.99) but Lego fans should check the park's website — www.LEGOLAND.com/new-york — for discounts and rates.
A glimpse of highlights from LEGO history.
1932: Ole Kirk Christiansen starts making wooden toys in Billund, Denmark.
1934: Christiansen names his company "EGO, from the Danish "leg godt," for "play well."
1949: First plastic LEGO brick is made.
1958: Godtfried Kirk, Christiansen's son, patents the LEGO brick design.
1968: First LEGOLAND park opens in Billund.
1998: U.S. National Toy Hall of Fame puts LEGO bricks in its inaugural class of inductees.
2000: LEGO bricks are named “Toy of the Century” by Fortune magazine and the British Association of Toy Retailers.