Legoland Florida deserves success because it caters to kids more any other Orlando park. However, Orlando is a cutthroat town for theme parks, and “deserves success” doesn’t always mean “makes a profit.”
Legoland replaces Cypress Gardens, which prospered until Disney arrived, but it failed in the shadow of the iconic mouse, as did the park that followed in its wake. While most Central Floridians hope for Legoland’s success, some have unspoken doubts that a tourist attraction based on plastic building blocks can’t turn history around.
Why Legoland could make it
1. It’s new. Returning tourists who’ve visited the other Orlando parks want a fresh reason to vacation here, and Legoland’s debut will benefit the entire region.
2. Exclusively for kids younger than 12. Doting parents who consider an Orlando vacation a gift to their children will flock to a park that does the same thing.
3. Reputation. While advertised as the world’s biggest Legoland park, it’s not the first. Owner Merlin Entertainment does quality work, and people already expect top-notch rides. The company has not yet made a bad Lego decision.
4. Love of Legos. Many kids and an impressive number of adults love building all kinds of things with Legos. The blocks themselves will pull in visitors.
Why Legoland could have trouble
1. Location. You can easily fill a two-week vacation in Orlando without driving more than 20 minutes to anything. Legoland’s Winter Haven location requires a car or bus reservation, and a round-trip visit eats up about one-and-a-half hours in commute time. (Though parents could consider that a benefit.)
2. Exclusively for kids younger than 12. While this qualifies as a “pro” to some parents, others opt for an Orlando vacation because the parks cater to all ages. They don’t want to give up their own happiness and money without getting more in return. And while Legoland may exclusively target younger kids, the other parks don’t exactly skimp on their offerings for that age group.
3. Legoland won’t be new forever. In 10 years, the park must attract repeat visitors or a new generation of kids. If a family loves Legoland and comes back six years later, the kids probably grew to tweens or teenagers, and the appeal of Legoland fades in deference to the Orlando water parks.
4. Limited time. Tourists want to see all the Orlando parks, but money and time force them to make tough choices. One-week vacations include six full days of theme parking and Orlando already has eight parks. No one can do it all, and the math might not add up for Legoland.
5. Gardens not enough. Legoland retained the signature attraction from the now-defunct Cypress Gardens – the gardens themselves – but it doesn’t have much else that appeals to the area’s large older-adult population. Retirees probably won’t pony up money for season passes or return often except when young grandchildren visit. Retiree demand wasn’t enough to keep Cypress Gardens open, and it will do even less for Legoland.
Legoland’s biggest problem
This should be reason No. 6 above, but if anything deals a knockout blow to Legoland, this is it: Disney and Universal’s ticket price structure.
While a one-day visit can cost $90 at Disney, the per-day price grows progressively smaller if, on the first day, visitors buy a multiple-day pass. If a one-week vacation is spent exclusively at Disney, for example, the increased ticket cost for the sixth day is only $5 per family member. (See Orlando ticket prices go up and Ticket Prices: It’s all a game) Most families know they’ll spend three or four days at Disney. It will come down to a choice between “one more day for $5” or Legoland. If the Disney option saves the family close to $300, more than a few will say hello to Winnie the Pooh one more time.