Lego addicts, the wait is over: More than 3 million colorful, plastic bricks await eager hands and imaginations at Legoland Discovery Center Westchester at Ridge Hill.
The 32,300-square-foot indoor attraction features two rides, a miniature city, a 4-D theater and a play zone that's buzzing with Lego-themed activities designed to keep kids ages 3-10 happily occupied for hours. And as the only Legoland Discovery Center in the Northeast (and the fifth Legoland destination in the U.S.), you can expect crowds, but not chaos, said general manager Chris Mines, who noted that steps are taken to keep wait times under control. "We book in one-hour time slots," he said.
Ready to build, ride and play? Here's what you need to know before you go, based on a test run by one reporter and three kid reviewers -- Logan, 11; Anabela, 9; and Quinn Taveira, 7, of Chappaqua.
Upon entering Legoland, you hit a ticket counter where you can either purchase tickets by time or present tickets purchased online. After walking through a giant cutout in the shape of a Lego Minifigure, you'll hit a waiting area, from which groups are admitted according to ticketed time slots. Video screens, some larger-than-life Lego figures and other cute decor help you pass the time as you wait your turn.
When the door finally opens, the first three attractions are laid out in a progression devised to filter in the guests a handful at a time before they're unleashed into the main activity center. Lego Factory, a room full of oversized, cartoonish machinery depicting the Lego-making process, is up first. A guide in a white lab coat and multicolored eyeglasses made of Legos will show the kids around the colorful contraptions and provide a simplified description of how the famous plastic bricks are made while pointing out interactive levers and buttons.
Next comes the first of two rides, the curiously futuristic-yet-medieval Kingdom Quest. You'll ride in one of five laser gun-equipped chariots (each of which can hold up to five passengers) through a life-size video game, where you zap not-too-scary monsters, spiders and assorted bad guys to save the princess and protect the golden eggs. Look out for an adorable surprise to hatch at the end. "A baby dragon popped out," Quinn said . "It was really cute." Also at the end, you'll have the option to view -- and purchase -- a photo of yourself on the ride.
After Kingdom Quest comes Miniland, a mesmerizing, million-brick display of familiar New York scenes and landmarks, which took a team of 20 expert Lego model builders six months to complete. Interactive features allow youngsters to activate lights, sounds and moving parts.
The level of detail is impressive -- and amusing. Kids will giggle and adults will groan at strategically placed potty humor, such as a billboard in mini-Manhattan that says "iPood" -- a takeoff on those ubiquitous Apple iPad advertisements -- and an apartment window offering a peek at a Lego Minifigure sitting bare-bottomed on a Lego toilet. Stick around for at least five minutes to be treated to cool light effects as night falls on Miniland against a backdrop of video fireworks. When you exit Miniland, you'll enter the main play space, where there's less structure and more freewheeling fun.
The first thing you'll see is the Lego Racers: Build and Test Zone, where several tables hold about a dozen built-in tubs of Lego bricks, including wheels of all sizes. The kids can dig right in and choose any pieces they like to design and assemble a race car, and then see how fast it will zip down a track.
"It's cool because there are piles of Legos, and you're just allowed to walk over and build a vehicle," said Logan, noting that you can try to get your car to fly off the ramp into a box.
Just past the racing zone are the Earthquake Tables, where aspiring engineers can construct teetering towers. When they finish building, they can turn a knob to make the table surface tremble a little -- then a lot -- and see if their creations can withstand the quake.
In the Lego Master Builder Academy workshop, kids take a seat at long tables with built-in tubs of bricks and follow along as an instructor demonstrates how to build a model. The teacher's hands are enlarged on a video screen to ensure everyone can see, and a second instructor offers roaming assistance. To avoid meltdowns, make sure your children understand beforehand that their masterpieces will stay behind, to be taken apart for the next group to rebuild.
If you've got a toddler in tow and need to avoid small bricks or big kids, you can hang out in the animal-themed Duplo Village, where the pint-sized can play with large, tot-safe bricks and climb in a little red barn with a tube slide. The smallish play area is about enough to keep your youngest child somewhat contained and amused as older siblings explore and play, but if you only have toddlers, you're better off saving your ticket money until they're old enough to enjoy the other attractions.
In the Lego Friends area, there's a living room with a karaoke screen where kids can sing along to pop songs. "In the karaoke room, it was really cool because they made the couches exactly how they were in the Lego set, and they were really comfy," Anabela said. There's also a play kitchen to explore, where a plastic table holds a big bowl of Lego cupcake parts to assemble. Completed cupcakes can be "baked" or "refrigerated" in a play oven or fridge.
On the Merlin's Apprentice ride, six coaches seat two guests each. The riders control how high their coaches rise by pedaling faster or slower as they whirl through the wizardly world. There's a minimum height requirement of 36 inches, and guests between 36 and 48 inches must ride with an adult.
In the Lego Studios -- 4-D Cinema, up to 98 spectators can feel like they're part of the show as they watch animated Lego characters embark on a silly, action-packed adventure. The visual effects are excellent; kids will find themselves repeatedly ducking, dodging or reaching out to try to touch the objects that appear to fly off the screen and into the theater. Spraying mist, blowing breezes, flashing lights and whirling snowflakes create multisensory excitement during the 12-minute feature.
The centerpiece of the hub is a climbing structure, which is half construction-themed, half firehouse-themed. The maximum height limit is 36 inches for the Construction Site and 54 inches for the Fire Academy. There's a wrecking ball swing, a big pit of oversized, soft Duplo bricks, some satisfyingly fast ---- but uncomfortably static-y -- slides and enough bridges, steps and ramps for some seriously active fun. Parents and shoes aren't allowed inside the play area, and socks are required. Shoes can be stashed in hanging pouches along the mesh enclosure, which is gated and staff-monitored.
When your day of play is done, there's no choice but to exit through the Lego Shop, which is brimming with more than 900 products, including some exclusive items. So don't forget to bring your resolve ---- or your credit card.
The full experience takes about two to three hours and is highly recommended.
Outside food is not permitted at Legoland, but there's a cafe in the main hub with about 20 tables for four. The menu has the expected kid favorites such as pizza and pretzels, as well as salads, sandwiches and grab-and-go snacks like muffins and hummus. Both nut-free and gluten-free options are available. The $15 kids' meal includes a Smuckers Uncrustables sandwich, a juice box and a choice of chips or a fruit cup. You'll find greater variety -- and possibly a better bang for the buck -- if you can hold out till you leave the premises and explore Ridge Hill's numerous dining options, which range from burger joints to full-service restaurants.
FACILITIES, CLEANLINESS AND SAFETY
The restrooms are spacious enough, with six stalls decorated with funny Lego scenes on the doors. Efforts are made to keep the spread of germs to a minimum: there are no-touch paper towel dispensers in the restrooms, and hand sanitizer pumps are mounted on the walls throughout the attraction.
All children under 13 require supervision, but if you have a little escape artist on your hands, there are measures in place to keep kids contained. "All of our exits are either staffed by a team member or alarmed," Mines said. "We have a procedure in place for children who get separated from their guardians."
IF YOU GO
What: Legoland Discovery Center Westchester at Ridge Hill
Info: 39 Fitzgerald St., within the Ridge Hill shopping complex at 1 Ridge Hill Blvd., Yonkers; 866-243-0770; www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/westchester
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (last admission at 7:30 p.m.); Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last admission at 5 p.m.)
Cost: $18 for kids 3-12, $22 for ages 13 and up, free for kids 2 and under. There's an early-bird online-only discount through March 26 -- $13.50 tickets for children and adults. Prices are subject to tax.
Parking: The North Otis or South Otis parking garages offer the closest access to the attraction ($3.25 for up to six hours)
More: Birthday parties start at $25 per child, with a 10-guest minimum; upgrades are available. Annual passes start at $58.52 for an individual or $227.59 for a family of four and include admission, discounts for birthday parties, the shop and the cafe, and a subscription to Lego magazine.