Stepping into the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel room was akin to entering a LEGO castle crafted from wallpaper and bricks. I knew whoever had designed was either under the age of 12, or must have had children of their own.
A cubby area with bunk beds, including a trundle for families with 3 kiddos, stood front in center. The room was decked out in a castle LEGO theme complete with a card that deemed the room, “Monster Free” for nervous travelers. Families can take their pick from kingdom themed rooms, adventure or pirate and immediately dive into a big box of Duplo LEGOS or watch their own TV while parents unpack and get ready to hit the lobby and pool.
But you may not be in the know that now LEGOLAND Florida has two different accommodations to choose from. So which one is better? They’re both within a 7-hour drive of Atlanta and is a relatively easy road trip for families. However, where to stay depends on what type of experience you’re looking for.
LEGOLAND Florida: Party Central
I was nearly bowled over by LEGO maniacs when we checked into the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel. Kids were busy with the “Brick Pit” and building creations throughout the lobby, as well as a giant LEGO themed Pirate Ship and brick building tables. The kids had universally fashioned LEGO swords and pistols on their own accord and were chasing each other around to claim the pirate ship as their own.
Outside a patio area for dining and swimming pool took center stage with — what else — giant floating LEGOS. We took an evening dip and got busy trying to create oversized houses to float away on. The LEGOLAND Florida Hotel lobby also features around-the-clock fun with dance parties, treats, and LEGO building competitions.
But there was a downside. The only elevator bank on the property gets crowded in a hurry and angsty toddlers acted as if they had not set foot in their hotel room in days. And yet was ultimately worth the wait. A strobe-light, song-filled party once the doors closed. The kids loved it, and we couldn’t help but hop around as we ascended to our kingdom room fit for royalty.
Two onsite restaurants offer family-favorite buffet style food or a slightly more upscale lounge experience. But sprint, don’t walk, to the buffet breakfast in the morning. The line gets long as the morning stretches on, and my feral little 2-year-old could barely contain his anticipation over being fed. Ultimately he turned into a sack of screaming potatoes that flailed backwards over my arm.
The buffet featured everything from coffee to scrambled eggs to pastries, but was chaotic. Of course, when you’re traveling with an almost 23-month-old, walking across the room is also a chaotic experience. Despite managing to launch his milk at an unsuspecting little girl who shrugged it off and said they were headed to the waterpark anyway, breakfast was mostly a success.
LEGOLAND Florida’s Great Outdoors
One of the completely fantastic parts about the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel is its immediate proximity to the theme park. However, guests opting for the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat ultimately gain a magical outdoor experience. The Retreat is about a two minute drive from LEGOLAND Florida Water Park, and boasts an adorable village-style layout resembling a real-life LEGO set come to life. Every piece resembled a LEGO brick built to precision scale, including slats of the white picket fences around the little bungalows. The beach-themed bungalows hold 166 separate rooms with an obsessive attention to detail when it comes to LEGO decor.
Planning Tip: LEGOLAND Florida Waterpark staff confided that the majority of their business come from Florida resents. To beat the crowds and enjoy low wait times, go directly after their spring break ends.
Beach Retreat ooms are right out of a LEGO box with decorations and LEGO movie wallpaper with a guy eating an ice cream cone. My almost 2-year-old pointed at it and declared, “Mmmhmmm!!!” which is how he says something looks or tastes good.
And just like in the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel, A tub of of Duplo style LEGOS entertained the kids while we got settled in our room. There was also a kid-sized cubby with bunkbeds and this time came with a privacy curtain decorated with themes from the LEGO movie. That piece of flimsy fabric did wonders for our vacation. It made it easy to sit on the porch of our bungalow with the door open while our little guy slept. He couldn’t see what we were doing, and eventually settled down after pouting about the injustice of a nap. Meanwhile, my daughter was able to play at a small playground area directly in line sight of the porch.
My daughter did point out, with a heavy sigh, that there was no TV in her little room behind the curtain. Instead, she was forced to walk two feet to the central television and curl up in our bed. We told her it was a hard life, but she would survive.
It’s worth mentioning that the bungalows were much smaller than I would have expected from the outside, but we didn’t mind. I actually prefer staying in cozy settings because it makes it easier to keep track of all of our things and pack-up quickly. However, families shouldn’t pick the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat if they think the rooms will offer more space. In fact, the bungalows are more or less the same size of a standard hotel room, along with a kids cubby with bunk beds. But what the Beach Retreat offers that hotels don’t, are privacy and an outdoorsy experience.
LEGO Swimming Pools, Floating Bricks and Playgrounds
We took some time to stroll through each section of the resort with vividly painted LEGO-inspired colors situated along a circular path. We were really grateful for the small, wooden playgrounds located centrally in the courtyards of the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat. It made it easy to access, fun to play on and were just outside our room.
And I noticed something a LEGO team member later confirmed. The front doors of all of the bungalows align perfectly so the playground is directly within your line of sight. This makes it easy for one child to play on the playground, and another to nap or watch television inside while you sit on the porch and watch both of them at the same time.
My daughter was nervous the pool wouldn’t be as awesome as the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel. And to be fair, the Beach Retreat pool is smaller. But what she really wanted was the floating LEGOS. The Beach Retreat delivered, and she quickly got busy building LEGOS and delighting in the teenagers building enormous LEGO cabins that they then floated across the pool. A sandy beach area aligns the pool, and my daughter made sand angels while still in her wet life jacket. A larger playground more suited for ages 5 on up sat behind the pool for a break from the water.
The pool is also conveniently located directly in front of the property’s only restaurant and gift shop. It’s topped by a picture-perfect LEGO lighthouse — built to scale — that lights up at night. Parents can also walk up to the restaurant side window and order up a snack or drink while older kids play at the pool playground or beach within their sight.
LEGOLAND Florida Hotel Or Beach Retreat? Which is Better?
It’s a tough call to decide if the LEGOLAND Hotel or Beach Retreat is better, because my family enjoyed them for very different reasons. The convenience of walking from the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel to the park was hands-down unbeatable, but I loved being able to just walk outside and enjoy the Florida air at night over at the Beach Retreat without a care in the world. The lobby was certainly a lively party over at the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel, and a great fit if your kids want a lot of kids to play with and a majestic LEGO ship to run around on.
Based on convenience, I would recommend families stay at the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel if you need to completely streamline getting to and from the amusement park without worrying about packing up the car. But I personally preferred the whimsical magic of the Beach Retreat and the ability to enjoy the starry sky at night while having Florida at my fingertips.
Do you prefer the LEGOLAND Florida Hotel or Beach Retreat? Let me know by leaving a comment below!
(I was provided accommodations, some meals and tickets in exchange for an honest review and media coverage. This post also contains affiliate links to promote a product or service I believe in. As always, my opinions are my own)