Racers, start your engines! You are about to experience a ride like no other. LEGOLAND in Florida has waved the green flag and its brand new virtual reality roller coaster, The Great LEGO Race, is now moving full speed ahead!
ATTENDING THE OPENING DAY MEDIA EVENT AT LEGOLAND FLORIDA
Disclaimer: I was invited to represent Coupon Mamacita at a media event for the opening of The Great LEGO Race at LEGOLAND in Florida. However, all of the opinions below are mine and mine alone.
It was a chilly morning here in Florida on March 23rd when my family packed into the car to head towards Winter Haven for opening day festivities. LEGOLAND in Florida was introducing a first of its kind virtual reality roller coaster experience designed for kids and I was fortunate to be attending the event for my friend, Myrah, at Coupon Mamacita. What made this event even more fascinating was that this represented the first time the LEGO brand and minifigure characters were being integrated with virtual reality technology in a theme park attraction.
BEFORE THE RACE
We headed out early to avoid traffic and, I’ll admit, I’m always nervous when it comes to crowds. I wanted to get through the registration process quickly and smoothly. As this was innovation at work, I figured it was going to be newsworthy and attract a large amount of media. Besides, I am one who holds tight to the adage, “Early is on time, on time is late and late is unacceptable” ~ or something to that effect. You get the picture.
Actually, getting there early was not an issue at all. We arrived, were registered and, before we knew it, were being led to the LEGO Technic Area farther back on the grounds. This was where the opening ceremonies were to take place. While we waited for everyone to arrive, Media and their families were treated to coffee, water, fruit and muffins.
The presentation itself lasted just shy of sixteen minutes and was broadcast LIVE on the LEGOLAND in Florida Facebook page. During that brief segment, we were introduced to life-sized versions of the five teams featured in The Great LEGO Race. We were also given brief instructions on how the attraction worked, what to do when entering the “vehicle”and what to expect when it came to our turn at the “wheel.” The life-size LEGO figures (not featured below, but here in my Facebook book live video) also creatively wove into the performance the height requirements and goggle restrictions.
SO THAT YOU KNOW:
- Under 42 inches (1.06 m): Not tall enough to ride yet!
- Riders between 42 and 47 inches (1.06 m – 1.19 m): Can ride without the VR headset when accompanied by a responsible rider 14 years of age or older and at least 48 inches tall (1.21 m). The responsible rider must ride without the VR headset in order to supervise his/her companion.
- Riders 48 inches (1.21 m) and above: Can ride unaccompanied with or without the VR headset.
- Guests must be at least 6 years old and 48 inches tall (1.21 m) to qualify to wear the VR headset.
- Guests in wheelchairs must be able to transfer to the ride vehicle with assistance from someone in their party. LEGOLAND members would love to assist, but are not permitted to lift guests into or out of the ride vehicles.
- If riders 48 inches or above wish to not wear the VR headset, that is acceptable if he or she is riding alone. Just remember that, if he or she is supervising a companion between 42 and 47 inches, neither rider can wear the VR headset.
IN THE MOMENTS BEFORE THE RACE
Once the presentation was complete, Media guests were rotated through the attraction in groups designated by a colored dot on our placards. Those of us who were in the later group took opportunity to catch up on social channels. Meanwhile, their families enjoyed some of the attractions in the vicinity that had been opened early just for those in attendance. My boys were able to enjoy the Technicycle and the AQUAZONE Wave Racer while I chatted with a few of my friends who were also there covering the event. It was a nice breather before jumping into the race.
ON YOUR MARK!
At last, the time had come! We placed ourselves in line and awaited our turn at the “wheel.” When we reached the front, we were guided up a small flight of stairs to a platform. There, a staff member demonstrated how to use the goggles:
- Keep “eyes” up.
- Lower lap bar.
- Clip hook to lap bar.
- Place goggles on head.
- Tighten the wheel on the back to secure (righty tighty, lefty loosey).
- Use the dial at the top (see photo below) to adjust focus.
- Prepare for the race to begin.
Quick note: The goggles were designed to cover the racer’s ears. This allows you to hear the announcer during the race, but it may impair your ability to hear anything else around you, including your ride companion and the “pit crew.”
THE FIRST RACE
Okay – CONFESSION TIME!!! The first time I rode the VR coaster, I saw nothing ~ absolutely NADA! My VR device had malfunctioned at the start and all I saw was pitch black the entire time. Of course, I had no clue until the race was underway because this was my first experience ever on the coaster and had nothing to which I could compare. I was riding a brand new roller coaster “virtually” BLIND!! I could not hear anything, could not see anything.
It was a bit of a disappointment at first, but I simply mentioned to the “pit crew” what had happened. I also explained (and chuckled) that it would be difficult to write a review without truly experiencing the ride. After they chuckled, they took great care of me. Within minutes, my “team” was entering the race once more…this time with working VR goggles!!!
THE SECOND RACE
Okay – so….let me tell you….(cue music)
EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!!!!
Once the goggles were in place, we saw ourselves waiting in an illustrated garage. If we turned our heads to either side, we saw the walls of the garage lined with tires and tools. It was pretty neat to experience!
Once everyone in our “car” was set, we were literally thrust into the middle of LEGO figures and landscapes!! It was like being in an animated movie! We were racing right along Pirates, Wizards, Surfers, Pharaohs and Trendies, all vying for first place. We were dodging bricks and magic and breaking barriers everywhere. It was an amazing experience! Definitely something we would want to ride again! The boys loved it!
POST RACE FESTIVITIES ~ BEYOND THE GREAT LEGO RACE
When the media festivities surrounding the new VR coaster were over, we had the rest of the day to enjoy the park as a family. We strolled through the quiet Cypress Gardens, where we encountered the Banyan Tree, a collection of native plants and a few scattered LEGO statues.
We grabbed some apple fries earlier in the day and then a quick personal pizza at Pepper and Roni’s a bit later. Of course, there is everything from a pizza buffet and fried chicken to paninis. When it comes to food options, it would not be difficult to find something for everyone here.
FOOD ALLERGY NOTE: I am working on making arrangements to chat with the LEGOLAND Food & Beverage department through LEGOLAND PR. I hope to have more information regarding their provisions for those with food allergies and dietary restrictions in the near future.
We rode a few more attractions, such as the Coastersaurus, the Flying School suspended coaster and Mia’s Riding Adventure.
At one point, we caught a 12 minute movie at the Wells Fargo Fun Town 4D Theater. This featured the LEGO movie characters in a crazy adventure at Brick World. Please note: This feature does have flashing lights and loud noises. If you have a member in your party who may be sensitive to such, please take this into consideration. They do announce this prior to the showing.
Something my boys REALLY enjoyed ~ including the big kid I call my husband ~ was walking through MINILAND USA. Since infancy, my boys have been building with LEGOS, from DUPLO on up. This just stirred the desire to build even more. My youngest taught himself how to follow numbered instructions this way. In fact, I kid you not. He came home that day, pulled out his LEGO containers and started creating all over again.
REACHING THE FINISH LINE
It was a long day of coasters, snacks, shows and fun. However, the checkered flag had to wave at one point. As we left the world of brick and wonder, we stopped at photo services to grab a 5×7 photo of our experience on The Great LEGO Race. It was certainly an event we will never forget and are grateful to have had together as a family.
If you have littles and either live in the Lakeland / Winter Haven area or are visiting between Tampa and Orlando, stop by LEGOLAND in Florida. The theme park is definitely geared more towards the younger generation and packed with excitement and fun. However, there are a few thrills in there to keep the older siblings and (eh-hem) adults entertained.
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