Lorna Bradbury, The Daily Telegraph, March 19 2012
We were wet and cold, because the children had insisted we cap a full morning on the rides with a descent down one of the water flumes, where spectators are encouraged to spray you from the bank with water cannon as you descend the rapids.
We were hungry, too, and in the main Legoland theme park the lunch options – burgers, sausages, Mexican pastiche – were scarcely inviting.
Then I felt the room key in my pocket and remembered there was a way out for me, and my husband, daughter (7) and son (4), all of us weary.
A brief walk over the miniature railway line and we were back in the warm sanctuary of the Legoland hotel that opened on Saturday, ordering lunch.
The hotel, which backs on to the main park, takes much of the stress out of the experience of taking young children to Legoland, because everyone starts off the day fresh, without having lost their tempers on the M4. And an early bird ticket is part of any deal, meaning that you can enter the park at 9am, a full hour before other visitors.
Actually, the new hotel is fun in its own right – the Lego aficionado’s own piece of heaven. You enter beneath a huge dragon modelled from bricks, which roars and exhales real smoke, and the lobby is equipped with buckets of Lego to keep the children entertained as their parents check in.
Our room was not huge, but it was well kitted out with a pirate theme, and even had a treasure chest containing Lego goodies which the children managed to unlock by answering a quiz.
They had bunk beds and their own television – which proved superfluous in our case – in a separate area of the room, though it was not shut off from our part by door or curtain.
My husband grumbled that when he was a child, his parents would leave him in the room and go downstairs to dinner, because hotels used to have phone or intercom systems that could be left open to reception.
Presumably this service has fallen victim to legal liability obsessions, but surely in a hotel aimed specifically at children, a way could be found so parents don’t have to go to bed at 8pm. There was also no adequate reading light in our room, so we felt a bit trapped.
But these are quibbles because the measure of the hotel is the children’s reaction, and that was overwhelmingly positive.
You can have a drink in the main bar-restaurant area while they play in a well-designed indoor area, stocked, as you come to expect, with yet more Legoes. In the evening the family dine together in the self-service, eat-all-you-can restaurant (£19.95 for adults and £9.95 for children). Our light lunch in the bar area for the four of us cost just over £20 which we thought was better value than dinner – though I should note that the service on the opening weekend, though friendly, was extremely slow.
There’s a swimming centre with a main pool just long enough for a few laps, adjoining a play area, with a slide and water cannon where even a four-year-old can play safely only semi-supervised in shallow water.
Again, there were some teething problems when we visited, meaning we could only swim for a few minutes before the chemicals in the water became too uncomfortable.
The Lego theme is everywhere, in the pools, restaurants and corridors.
But it is not oppressive, and though there is a small shop, no strenuous effort has been made to induce children to nag their parents into buying merchandise.
As first timers at the theme park, we were impressed too by the range and quality of most of the rides.
Our daughter loved the driving school, where a “test” in a little car is preceded by a solemn video lesson. Our son was entranced by the new Atlantis submarine voyage where sharks and exotic fish swim right past your capsule. It’s just like being in an episode of Octonauts, a current cartoon series for three- to four-year-olds, and a more exciting experience, I thought, than that on offer at many aquariums.
They enjoyed the new Star Wars area – but their vote went without a doubt to anything involving water, especially the two log flumes: the Vikings river splash and the Pirate falls dynamite drench.
Perhaps even more of a destresser than starting the day in the hotel was a special ticket we were given meaning we could skip the often lengthy queues at individual rides. This can in part be replicated with a Q-Bot ticket, which doesn’t come as part of the hotel packages, and ranges in price from £15 to an eye-watering £70 per person – but it may be worth the money, especially in high season.
Overall, we found the hotel to be reasonable value, especially in low season when a family of four can stay for £247 bed and breakfast, including two days in the park. You could pay more than that for the park tickets alone if you bought them at full price.
And you can’t put a price on the magic of being able to retreat into the sanctuary of the hotel when the crowds and the careering thrills of the rides all gets too much.
The Legoland Windsor Resort hotel is priced from £247 low season or £337 high season for a family room sleeping two adults and two children. This includes breakfast and park tickets for two days, including special access to the park between 9am and 10am. For more information, see www.legoland.co.uk or call 0845 373 2640 to book tickets.
Regular tickets to Legoland, if you don’t stay at the hotel, are priced at £43.20 per adult and £34.20 per child per day, though you save 10 per cent if you book in advance online. The park is open from 10am to 6pm.