The LEGOLAND Hotel VIP Opening Night: A Review!
A few weeks ago, I was going about my daily life, when out of the blue an invite fell in to my inbox. An invite to the LEGOLAND Hotel VIP Opening Night. I was gobsmacked, and so grateful; I was already looking forward to the new LEGOLAND Windsor Resort season, but this made things 100 times more exciting!
Fast forward to last Friday, 16th March 2012, and I arrive at the hotel, with two friends and a boatload of excitement. I was first met by this chap:
We’ve seen the exterior to the hotel slowly emerging for some time now, but to see it finished, with no hoardings, and with the dragon puffing smoke at regular intervals, was exciting.
In to reception, where we were surrounded by colour, music and of course a lot of LEGO! The models on the central feature are particularly wonderful, with an Atlantis Submarine Voyage sub, a Ballooning School balloon and many other references to attractions within the park.
Check-in was easy, and it is at this point that I’ll mention the staff within the hotel: on the whole, they were superb. This was especially true of the reception staff, who we pestered a few times for trivialities like wi-fi and dinner reservations (by coincidence we were mostly served by Marta, a particularly helpful and friendly member of staff. She was amazing!) It was great to see such high levels of customer service from most of the staff.
The hotel rooms span four floors, with the smaller floors 1 and 2 decked out with ‘Kingdom’ theming, floor 3 ‘Pirate’, and floor 4 ‘Adventure’. We headed up to our room – a standard (or ‘themed’, as opposed to ‘fully themed’) Kingdom room.
Wow. Wow is the only way to describe the theming within our room, which don’t forget was on the lower tier of theming!
The first thing that hit us – and please do excuse our geekiness here – was the carpets. Much like those at the Alton Towers hotels, they are richly patterned, but LEGOLAND appear to have taken a massive step up from those at Alton Towers. They’re fluffy and warm, and yet they look like a work of art, with detailed images, ‘spilt’ jugs of drink, beetles and insects, and of course minifigs galore. On the Pirate floor, hey are patterned to look like planks, and were it not for their softness you would honestly think you’re walking along a ship’s deck! The wallpaper is also astounding - here again the Pirate floor triumphs, with a detailed treasure map covering all walls.
The rooms contain LEGO models galore, with (in our Kingdom room) a snail, frog, butterfly, dragonfly, coat of arms, crown... it really is much better than the one or two models I was expecting. There is, of course, a tub of LEGO in each room for kids and adults alike to have a go at emulating the skill on show.
The children’s area (themed to the same standard in ‘themed’ and ‘fully themed’ rooms, so that either way the kids don’t miss out) has fully themed wallpaper, a nicely themed TV area, and beds with carved wooden panels.
Of special note is the combination safe in each room:
On the kids bed is a set of cryptic clues (for instance, “How many orange bugs are on the floor?”). Completing these gives you the code to the safe, within which is a small LEGO gift, lanyard and pop-badge! A fantastic idea, and one which will really add to the overall experience at the hotel.
After gazing around the room and corridors for quite a while, we headed to the conference facilities for a look around.
The hotel is clearly primarily aimed at families on short breaks to the park and surrounding area, but another large market that the hotel is going to heavily tap in to is the corporate market. We were shown a series of very smart, functional rooms, with a clear LEGO quirkiness evident. I’m no expert on conferencing facilities, but these seemed top-notch.
We had a quick look at the pool, which was unfortunately closed for the night. Although a lot smaller than we had been expecting, it looked like good fun, with a ‘standard’ swimming pool and a fun, pirate themed splash play area next to it.
By now it was time for dinner in Bricks, the buffet restaurant. It’s located on level 2, in a large atrium which also contains the entertainments stage, a couple of kids play areas, and the Skyline Bar (more on that later). It backs on to a large patio area with plenty of seating and shade, and this in turn backs on to the decking around the Adventure Land Lake (starting to get your bearings?). There is a turnstile here for guests to enter the main park in the morning.
In the atrium, before entering Bricks, we quickly became aware of just how ‘VIP’ this event was, with the likes of Jason Bradbury, Tim Minchin, Warwick Davies, Dominic Wood, Vik Reeves and Zoë Ball, to name but a few, enjoying time with their families. Star-struck, we headed onwards into Bricks, where we were quickly seated.
The food was, in a word, lovely. I’m a fan of many of the on-park eateries at LEGOLAND, but this was quite clearly of a different quality altogether. There is no way I can list all the food available here, but to give you an idea: high-quality burgers and chips, chicken legs, LEGO fries, stir fry, roasted dinner with all the trimmings, kids options, salad, fruit desserts, cake, soft drinks, hot drinks (both included in the price) and, to cap it all off, an ICE CREAM MACHINE!!! The food was all hot (where it was meant to be :P ), fresh, and delicious. Tom (of CLLW’s Live-blog fame) is a celiac, and made it very clear how impressed he was with the selection on offer suitable for a gluten-free diet, which is good to know. At £19.95 for adults, and £14.95 for kids, the buffet isn’t what you could describe as cheap, but for that price you do get a very, very nice meal indeed.
After indulging in perhaps a few too many plate refills, it seemed a good time to ‘chill’ in the atrium. Pink Brick’s Disco – one of the entertainment shows on offer – was in full swing, and was being met with much enthusiasm by the many young children who were there.
We checked out the Skyline Bar, which was running a special service for the night. A quick glance at a menu showed that it serves a surprisingly large selection of pub-style food, along with a number of alcoholic and soft drinks and cocktails. For those unwilling or unable to pay for a buffet meal in Bricks, this would be a good alternative. Having already eaten, we grabbed a drink, sat down, and admired the surroundings.
We then retreated to our room, where we spent some time chatting and browsing the internet (wi-fi, though not free, is reasonable, at £5 for eight hours, allowing up to four devices to connect). The beds were comfortable, and before long we were fast asleep.
Come the morning, and we headed back to Bricks for our buffet breakfast – included in all room rates. The selection was as impressive as the night before, with full English options, pastries, cereals and fruit, along with juice and hot drinks.
We said goodbye to our room, resisted the urge to take too many things as souvenirs (I loved the ‘Welcome’ folder – yes, I’m that geeky – but I behaved...), checked out, and headed on-park for a day of fun.
Looking at the available prices, you could never call a stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel cheap, and some might even struggle to call it reasonable, however the experience on offer is unforgettable. The hotel is themed so, so well – it does not in any way feel like any other ‘bog-standard’ hotel. The atmosphere reflects that on park nicely – one of ‘family’, ‘LEGO-quirkiness’, and above all, ‘fun’. It is a lovely way to compliment a visit to LEGOLAND Windsor, and ensures that the park closing time does not signal an end to an unforgettable day.
Having watched the hotel slowly grow over the past year and more, seeing it complete, in the flesh (or perhaps mortar!), and full of life is great. It is a fantastic addition to what is now the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort!
CLLW would like to extend a massive thank you to LEGOLAND Windsor Resort for inviting us to this special opening night!