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I Discovered Legoland at the Trafford Centre!
Legoland Discovery Centre (Manchester)
Member Name: jo1976
Legoland Discovery Centre (Manchester)
Date: 11/05/10, updated on 30/03/12 (3580 review reads)
Advantages: Enjoyable interactive day out for kids who love Lego
Disadvantages: Queuing system inside the centre, no hot food, standard entry costs are expensive
The Discovery Centre isn't a full blown copy of the Legoland theme park though and actually only features one 'ride', as such, as well as a 4D cinema. The majority of the centre is based around interactive Lego-themed activities which children are free to come and go and play on as they wish. This was fine for us as we have Alton Towers on our doorstep if we want rides and both my boys love playing with Lego.
We actually went for the first time just a few weeks after the centre had opened, over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. (The Centre is signposted although by the time we had spotted them we were already in the wrong lane and ended up parking at the opposite end of the Trafford Centre!) After a fifteen minute walk to get to the Barton Square side of the Trafford Centre and the new Lego Discovery Centre, we were greeted by a notice saying that only pre-booked tickets were being accepted for admission, given the high demand! Luckily, an assistant told us to remain in the queue as that would only actually come into effect later in the day.
Admittedly, we went during a peak period but I think our visit highlighted some of the weaknesses in the planning of this new attraction. The queueing system was quite poorly designed. Obviously, we expected to queue for tickets (and this was relatively swift and unproblematic) but after this we were ushered through into quite a small waiting area to join another queue for a lift up to the next floor for the 'factory tour.'
Even using two large lifts, we had quite a long wait as everybody needed to enter the centre via this process. It might have been a better option to provide alternative routes in and encourage people to start at a different part of the centre to avoid this bottle neck.
The 'factory tour' itself was more than a little disappointing and was a mere mock up of a series of wheels and pulleys, designed to give some sort of an impression of the way in which Lego is produced from tiny plastic shreds. It really doesn't last long at all and some of the children found it difficult to see and hear what was going on. The disappointment was eased a little by each child receiving a Lego 'Discovery Centre' branded block at the end of the process. This is not, however, like Cadbury World where each child receives a goody bag of free chocolate. That single block was the only Lego 'freebie' available throughout the day but my boys were both delighted with it.
**Laser Gun Ride**
After the disappointing tour, we were again ushered en masse to join yet another queue, this time for the laser gun ride. The wait for the ride was pretty tedious, especially as this was the third queue we had now joined and there was nothing at all to do or see during the wait as we were just waiting around in semi-darkness. It would have been more pleasurable had there been some staff dressed up in daft Lego-man outfits to distract the increasingly frustrated little ones or even pictures or information relating to Lego to look at on the way round, as this would have relieved the tedium of standing in yet another queue somewhat.
The ride itself was admittedly worth waiting for and my seven year old thoroughly enjoyed shooting at various 'baddies' from the comfort of our little chariot. The two year old was a little scared though as the ride itself was quite dark and he was more than a little unnerved by some of the scenes and unexpected villians round every corner. It is, essentially, a ghost train format with the added attraction of shooting with a laser gun but it was good fun for us all (apart from the little one!)
After the ride, we came out into the 'Mini land' area, a smaller replica of the one at Legoland Windsor. This is very clever, featuring lego models of lots of famous landmarks from around the world. The scene also changes from daylight to night-time every few minutes and features running vehicles. The attention to detail is fascinating and certainly puts our home-made efforts to shame. Sadly, some of the interactive aspects weren't working properly during our visit (including a boat and some racing models.) I appreciate that maintaining something of this nature will be difficult but I did expect that everything would be up and running properly, considering how recently the attraction had opened.
**Be a Lego Master!**
The remainder of the centre is free for the children to come and go, so thankfully no more queueing. My seven year old particularly enjoyed the Lego master class where he (as part of a small group) was shown how to create a specific character - in this case a well-made giraffe- block by block. Sadly, he wasn't allowed to keep his creation afterwards!
The 4D cinema was enjoyable. (The fourth dimension mainly comprising of blasts of cold air and other items being pumped out at relevant moments.) We watched two different short films, a generic Legoland one and a Bob the Builder film so quite a wide age group was catered for. It wasn't clear until you were actually inside the cinema which of the two films was being shown though so it would be useful to have the times and showings listed outside. (I suspect that many ten year olds would be reluctant to sit through the Bob the Builder version, even with the funky 3D glasses!)
Other attractions included a climbing/play area which was rebranded the 'Fire Academy' (although it was essentially a replica of most generic indoor kiddy play areas.) There was also an area where children could make their own towers and various constructions out of giant (albeit slightly softer) Duplo blocks as well as an area to build and 'test' different Lego vehicles. Many (if not all) of these attractions are also at the main Legoland in Windsor.
After all that playing, we all started to get a little hungry which is where we discovered some other flaws in the design of this attraction. The only eating/seating area is right in the middle of all of the various activities so kids were constantly racing through the area, trying to get two and from different activities. There were also far too few tables and chairs available, although any extra would have posed even more of a health and safety issue.
The main issue was that the cafeteria does not serve any hot food options which seems very strange and disappointing for a venue aimed specifically at young families. The only items available were hot and cold drinks and pre-packaged ready made sandwiches. These were quite limited in choice too, as there was only one vegetarian option available at the time of my purchase, as well as being over-priced (costing in general £3.50 each for a fairly mediocre sandwich.) I don't see why they can't offer a limited selection of hot food here - it seems such a letdown! More organised families might want to consider taking their own food with them (particularly as sandwiches are the only thing on offer here) although there didn't appear to be any areas set aside for eating your own food, so you might find yourself perched at the edge of the Duplo play area!
**What have I 'Discovered'?**
In retrospect, there doesn't appear to be all that much actually at the centre (particularly considering the admission charges) but there was surprisingly more than enough for us to spend the majority of the day there, without either of the boys becoming bored or agitated although, admittedly, a good chunk of the morning was spent queuing.
Despite the many criticisms that I've been able to make, it was actually an enjoyable day out for us all. The cynic in some people might think that this is a bit of a rip-off, as the bulk of the day is spent in free play activities with some Lego - which most kids can do at home for nothing! My boys (who do both love Lego) really enjoyed themselves and have actually asked to go back again since.
I think the admission charges are certainly on the steep side (standard 'on the day' prices are £13.95 for over 12s and £10.95 for children aged 3-11.) I used BOGOF vouchers which are quite readily available - mine came from WHSmith and I would certainly not be prepared to pay the full admission charge.
In all, this is a fun day out for young children who enjoy being creative with Lego. I wouldn't recommend travelling too far (unless you are going to combine it with a mammoth shopping session at the Trafford Centre) or paying full price and there are a number of key areas where this attraction seems incredibly ill thought-out. Despite that, it was an enjoyable day out and we will probably return at some point in the future.
Barton Square, The Trafford Centre, Manchester, M17 8AS
Tel: 0871 222 2662
Summary: Worth discovering but could have been planned better by Bob the Builder!
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