I’ve been stepping on LEGO bricks for nearly 15 years, which is as long as my kids have been playing with the pieces of plastic that always seem to end up under my feet. I can’t begin to remember all the things they’ve built, but I can safely say none were like the spaceships at LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta this week.
They started off just like any other LEGO creation born out of bricks and imagination, but scanning them transported digital versions of each to a big overhead screen, where we could move them around with a joystick like a video game. That’s just one of the experiences debuting Friday at the first of several new LEGO Discovery Centers across the country.
“We’re the next generation,” said LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta General Manager Jamica Butler. Here’s what LEGO fans should know.
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What is a LEGO Discovery Center?
LEGOLAND Discovery Centers are billed as the “ultimate indoor LEGO playground,” with larger-than-life LEGO attractions, build stations, Minilands of local landmarks made of LEGO bricks, classes from LEGO master model builders and other LEGO-themed entertainment.
There were 14 such centers sprinkled across the country, but three have undergone multi-million dollar renovations and are reopening as LEGO Discovery Centers with new attractions and enhancements. The Atlanta location opens first on Friday. Boston’s opens later this spring.
LEGO Discovery Center Washington, D.C., which is actually in Northern Virginia, opens this summer.
Will there be more?
At this point, only the three have been announced, but a statement from their parent company to USA TODAY said, “Merlin Entertainments is continuously reimagining its attractions to ensure the most magical experiences and will be looking at LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta and Boston as a blueprint for future renovations.”
In addition to the spaceship experience, LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta features an expanded DUPLO Park for the youngest guests, a Minifigure Creator area for building custom Minifigures to take around the facility, a new Build Adventures area with tracks for putting LEGO creations to the test, and a new window in the Miniland area where guests can watch a master model builder at work and ask questions.
There are also new seats in the 4D theater that shows short LEGO movies, new enhancements in the Kingdom Quest ride, and upgraded pods for the Great LEGO Race virtual reality experience, which is not included with admission, among other refreshers.
New vegetarian options have also been added to the LEGO Cafe menu. “We’re trying very hard to ensure that everyone is included,” Butler said.
What is the best age for LEGO Discovery Center?
Preschoolers and elementary school-age children will have plenty to do at LEGO Discovery Center, but Butler stresses it’s not just for kids.
“It’s a place for kids and their parents,” she said. “It’s completely 100% interactive for the entire family.”
Both of my elementary schoolers loved the Kingdom Quest ride, even though my husband got the top score.
Our third grader also liked building the Minifigure, though she didn’t get to keep it. You turn them in at the end and get a souvenir brick to take home. Our fifth grader enjoyed the spaceship experience, which I found delightful.
It was gratifying seeing my very own rocket on screen, especially since I’m not much of a builder, unlike my husband whose favorite activity was making a LEGO car and racing our kids. Our eldest is in college and couldn’t join us, but I suspect he would have enjoyed racing, too.
How long do you spend at LEGO Discovery Center?
On average, Butler said guests spend around two hours at the Atlanta location.
My family spent 2.5 hours there during a press preview Wednesday and felt that was just right. We had time for the Kingdom Quest ride, 4D movie, a class from a master model builder, and all the big kid activities, aside from the VR experience, which costs extra.
How much does LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta cost?
Single-day admission starts at $28.99 per person age 3 and up. Admission is free to children under 3.
Is it accessible?
All three LEGO Discovery Centers are opening as Certified Autism Centers, meaning staff will have recieved specialized training by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, which includes autistic self-advocates in its trainings and on its advisory board.
While details about the Boston and Washington, D.C. locations remain under wraps, we know sensory guides and posted signs will be available for all of the Atlanta attractions to advise guests of what kinds and levels of stimuli to expect. Low sensory areas and ear plugs will also be available.
Additionally, LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta’s Spaceship Build & Scan area has an accessible station specifically designed for guests in wheelchairs and ramps throughout the facility.
“We’re welcoming kids and families of all different walks of life, all different backgrounds, all different challenges to come together and play and have fun in this one place,” Butler said. “They’re children just like everyone else’s children. They want to be included.”
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What is the difference between LEGOLAND Discovery Center and LEGOLAND?
LEGO and LEGOLAND Discovery Centers are indoor play spaces. LEGOLAND generally refers to the three larger theme parks in Florida, California and New York.