The kids were bouncing gleefully in their seats. This is the moment they’ve waited for – and no, it’s not another episode of American Ninja Warrior, although that comes in a close second.
We were in Billund, the birthplace of of Lego, and as we pulled up to the gleaming brick-shaped shrine to all things Lego – the Lego House, which opened in September last year – they hopped out of the car and made a beeline for the entrance.
We immediately spotted Ole Kirk Christiansen, carpenter and founder of the Lego Group, and his posse…made from Lego of course. The real Christiansen was now no more, having kicked the bucket way back in 1958, without getting to see how immensely popular his toy had become.
Lego has a sketchy past: Christiansen, who started out making wooden toys before specializing in plastic ones, didn’t actually invent Lego bricks but “borrowed” the idea from a British toy company Kiddicraft in 1947. Kristiansen’s company would later improve on the brick’s versatility, design and material, making it the iconic toy we all know today.
This little brick is tougher than a tardigrade: it will never decompose and is also capable of supporting 375,000 other Lego bricks before it starts to buckle. Their propensity for inflicting grievous wounds upon reckless feet is also well documented, making it the most under-utilized weapon of war the world has ever known.
Anyway, Lego House was gearing up for its first anniversary celebrations when we arrived and there were a ton of bricks in the lobby for the kids to play with. The rest of the space was devoted to a store, two restaurants (Le Gourmet and Mini Chef) and a cafe (Brickaccino).
Advance reservations were required in the more upscale restaurant Le Gourmet even during lunchtime, so we headed to the world’s first Lego restaurant, Mini Chef, where we saw two robots hard at work handing out customer orders – actually, one was slacking off because he had presumably short circuited AND during peak hour, no less.
You gotta love technology.
It didn’t take long before a (human) waiter showed us to our table, where a most interesting menu awaited us.
Apparently, they don’t take orders in the conventional way here; you have to assemble your own lunch from the Lego packets provided and feed it into the computers at your table.
And, IF you manage to do that without two kids harassing you and without popping a blood vessel, then congratulations! Your order will now be scanned and “prepared” by a bunch of Lego minifigure chefs, as a reward for your massive patience and fortitude.
You are expected to pick up your own orders from the robots once it is ready. These bento-box style meals came neatly packaged in a Lego brick, and it was surprisingly delicious and healthy.
We then headed to the Lego store, where one could shop for the latest box sets and customize their own minifigurines. The store was crawling with big and little kids who were either busy making mini me versions of themselves in Lego or chewing on the plastic body parts. The store’s coolest feature, however, was its Mosaic Maker, a photo booth where you could get your picture taken and converted into your own customized Lego mosaic portrait – which you have to build yourself, of course, after receiving your own printed instructions and bricks.
Meanwhile, the ticketed part of Lego House is divided into four color-coded play zones that spans several floors, but it was already near closing time so we headed for the free play areas located at the rooftop instead. Featuring a rocket, a submarine and a hot air balloon, among others, the playground is super adorable – and of course, massive. There was also a small water play area in the public square outside the Lego House, should you be so inclined on getting soaked by cold water in 15 degree weather.
Thinking the kids had used up the last of their batteries, we checked into our accommodation, Bindesbolgard Farm, anticipating an evening of R&R ahead of us. Of course, our hopes were immediately dashed the moment we laid eyes on the farm – which was located at the end of a long driveway lined with shady trees like something out of a Danish fairytale – with its many animals and play equipment.
Sure, the backyard was unkempt (after the incident with the spiders, we were especially wary of cobwebs) and the buildings were a little rough around the edges but that meant little to the kids, who are now losing their minds on the trampoline.
The selection of restaurants in Billund town isn’t terribly exciting, and most tourists with young children almost always end up in Billund Pizza Steakhouse for dinner. This is not an Italian restaurant, but rather a strange kebab joint-pizza place hybrid, where you can find affable Middle Eastern waiters and a thousand and one offerings on the menu, including culinary abominations such as pizza topped with pasta or salad. No self-respecting Italian would walk through that door. But we’re Chinese and all the rumors you’ve heard about us are probably true.
The next day, with repurchased tickets in hand, we went to Legoland.
Since every great theme park has a mascot – Disneyland has Mickey Mouse, Europapark has Euromaus and Universal Studios has its minions – so I’ve been busting my brain conjuring up the various zany characters I’ll encounter in the kingdom of Lego. I certainly hadn’t expected coming face-to-face with…oh, wait for ittt….a human-sized Lego brick.
On the upside, the rides were a lot more compelling, if geared towards tots below 12. I almost threw up on the Caterpillar, a modern-day torture device disguised as a high-speed merry-go-round, and….
…earned a massive bruise from competing against other families in the Fire Brigade, which isn’t a ride, but more of an opportunity for moms and dads to flex their little-used muscles (I can’t help it, I’m that competitive). Of course, it was tough to win first place with a 2-year-old clinging onto you for dear life, thinking you were about to do battle with a real fire.
The park was divided into 9 zones: we thought the Legoredo town was cultural appropriation at its finest, with its wild, wild west influence and mini replica of Mount Rushmore. You can even bake campfire bread over an open fire with a ginger-haired Viking descendent impersonating a Red Indian chief – no doubt an activity on any toddler’s bucket list.
Meanwhile, the husband and I took turns accompanying our 2-year-old in Duploland, the most exciting area of Legoland FOR 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UNDER, while our 5-year-old explored the one ride and one laser maze that makes up the diminutive Ninjago Land.
Miniland was great as usual – the miniature cityscapes have everything, from airplanes circling the tarmac to trains chugging through tunnels and whales leaping out of the “ocean” to squirt water at shrieking children from their blowholes.
Come noontime, we had substandard Italian pizza and pasta at this restaurant called Italian Pizza & Pasta (I kid you not) and, by this point, I had an awful feeling that Legoland doesn’t give a shit about trying harder.
We didn’t catch the show (the castle show isn’t on in the low season) and our 2-year-old was either too short and too scared to go on most of the rides, so we were done by early evening. We were all Lego-ed out and were glad to return to the farm, where we finally got the R&R we so badly wanted.
There is only so much Lego one can take, I thought, feeling relieved as I kicked back on the living room couch. Of course that was before the progeny began ripping open their newly purchased box sets to play with…you guessed it.
Hotel Legoland The most expensive option in Billund offers discounts in low season. Its proximity to the park, themed rooms, as well as on-site children’s facilities such as playroom and playground makes it a good bet for those traveling with children. $$$$
Legoland Holiday Village Another cheaper option is to stay in one of the more basi self-catering cabin, motel, barrels or even teepees located on Legoland’s campground. Expect plenty of outdoor activities like bouncy castles, mini golf and playgrounds. Breakfast can be purchased for an additional fee. $$$
Bindesbolgard Farm Get more bang for your buck at one of the many child-friendly farms within 10 minutes of Legoland. Cheap and cheerful, with several distractions like playground, toys and animals to keep the kids occupied on those non-Lego days, it’s usually run by hospitable farmers who might even let you hop on one of their tractors if you’re lucky. $$
- The opening hours of Legoland and Lego House vary greatly with the season, and some days these attractions don’t even open at all. Check their website to get the exact opening and closing times, and always purchase tickets in advance for experience zones in Lego House because only a limited number of tickets is issued each day.
- You need at least 2 nights if you want to experience both Legoland and the Lego House, or even 3 if you’re thinking of popping by Lalandia Billund, Scandinavia’s largest waterpark. But if you’re short on time, you might want to skip Legoland entirely and head straight for Lego House because there’s only one like it in the world. Many people say it’s the highlight of their trip, although the experience zones are more suitable for older children.
- Legoland Billund can be comfortably seen in one day. It’s not as big as Legoland Windsor and you can rent an additional stroller near the entrance. You child will be permitted to go on all of the rides if he / she is 120cm and above, and most of the rides if he / she is 100cm and above.
- Prices of box sets at the Lego store in both Legoland and Lego House are similarly priced to Singapore or Malaysia. Instead, Lego fans might want to keep their eyes peeled for any exclusive box sets at the Lego House – because they won’t be able to buy these anywhere else.
- Eateries in Billund are largely uninspiring and cater to tourists, so those with young children / who stay multiple days will find it easier to prepare their own meals.