“No Mommy, Nooooooo!” my four-year-old daughter screamed as I approached an 8-foot-tall Santa Claus styled as a LEGO mini-figure.

The Holidays at Legoland California

LEGO Santa at LEGOLAND California. Photo by Jill Footz

My kids are not fans of mascots. Or Santa Claus. They love what he does, of course, but would prefer he do it from afar. We’ve had to write notes asking him to leave gifts on the doorstep, to avoid having him enter our home. But I digress. It was not surprising that my daughter didn’t want me stepping one inch closer to the oversized red creature with funny hands. I told her that she didn’t have to come with me, but that I wanted a photo with Lego Santa.

She hesitated, then to my surprise, she joined me and managed to convince her twin sister to come as well. A family photo with a Santa Claus! Chalk it up to the magic that is LEGOLAND California.

The Holidays at Legoland California

Legoland California, photo by Jill Footz

When we told people we were taking a trip to Southern California, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was “Oh, are you going to Disneyland?” The aforementioned fear of mascots was just one of the reasons we decided to save the Magic Kingdom for down the road, and instead, give our children their first theme park experience at LEGOLAND.

The Holidays at Legoland California

Meet a Minifigure. Photo by Jill Footz

LEGOLAND is an ideal choice for the under-8-crowd. At four, our twins could ride nearly everything in the park. (There are measuring sticks everywhere, with ride restrictions for under 36”, 40” and 42”. At 40”, the girls only missed out on a couple of the “big kid” rides.) The park is big enough to feel like an out of this world experience for the kids – but small enough to do in a day, though I highly recommend two to give you ample time to see and do everything, AND revisit your favourites.

The Holidays at Legoland California

Kids as young as three can drive their own cars at LEGOLAND California! Photo by Jill Footz

The ride selection is perfect for this age group. The kid coasters are wild enough for two theme park rookies, yet gentle enough for two forty-something parents who haven’t been on rides in, ahem, a while.

The Holidays at Legoland California

The Rainbow Dragon at Legoland’s front entrance. Photo by Jill Footz

It goes without saying that if you like Lego, this is the place for you – the incredible array of Lego creations is genuinely astounding. From the astonishing rainbow dragon at the park gates, to the full complement of jungle critters on the safari ride, to ocean life and sunken treasure on the impressive Deep Sea Adventure and more.

The Holidays at Legoland California

The world’s largest LEGO Christmas Tree! Photo by Jill Footz

We were lucky enough to visit during the holidays. The world’s largest Lego Christmas tree is a sight to be seen, and its array of decorations, including ornaments dated for every year of LEGOLAND’s existence, is impressive. It must be seen from all sides to catch the reindeer, elves and other surprises popping out of present boxes.

The Holidays at Legoland California

Take a seat next to LEGO Santa! Photo by Jill Footz

Jump aboard Santa’s sleigh – it, along with Old St. Nick and the reindeer, are made entirely of, you guessed it, Lego! Plus, a team member is standing nearby just waiting to snap your picture and scan it to the photo wristband that will let you purchase all your memories at the end of your visit.

The holidays at Legoland California

Giant LEGO Christmas trees and wreaths decorated with LEGO pieces are everywhere! Photo by Jill Footz

Christmas trees (oversized versions of the Lego evergreens I remember from my building days as a child) line the paths, and lego wreaths hang from lampposts. Catch Lego Santa and the Toy Soldier, who rotate in shifts at a character meeting spot. Twinkling lights line buildings and trees, and if you look closely, you just might spot “snow” flakes fluttering down from the sky.

The Holidays at Legoland California

LEGO Soldier. Photo by Jill Footz

I have no doubt kids will love LEGOLAND at any time of year, but a visit during the holidays is just that much more special. And you can probably guess the photo that will be on my Christmas cards this year!

The Holidays at Legoland California

Surprises are everywhere at LEGOLAND California. Photo by Jill Footz

The Holidays at LEGOLAND – Be in the Know:

-Plan your visit: The holiday season kicks off in late November at LEGOLAND. If you can make your visit between the Thanksgiving and Christmas rush, as we did, you will enjoy low wait times and short lines. BUT, before you book, double check the park dates! They are closed many Tuesdays and Wednesdays between September and February!

-BONUS for 2019 – LEGOLAND is turning 20, and to celebrate that big birthday, kids 12 and under can get in FREE on their birthdays!

-Your backpack will be checked when you enter. Park rules state no outside food or drink is allowed, but water bottles and small snacks were not problems. Exceptions will also be made for special dietary requirements.

-Even if you don’t think you’ll want to purchase photos, slap a handy photo band onto your wrist at the start of the day. You never know when you might snap that perfect picture with Santa, or of the kids experiencing the thrill of their very first roller coaster!

-Have some old mini-figures? Bring them along! LEGOLAND Team Members (called “Model Citizens”) will trade you for new ones!

-Visiting with a really tiny tot? LEGOLAND has a special brochure just for the littles called “What to do when you are two!”

-Arrive with lots of juice in your cellphone battery – you’re going to need it for all the adorable photo ops. But if you run low, don’t stress. There are cell phone charging lockers at the Minifigure Market so you can power up in no time!

-Speaking of cell phones, visitors can download a free LEGOLAND App, which offers helpful guidance including ride wait times and a park map. I downloaded the app but didn’t end up using it while we were there. However, I would have found it useful had the day of our visit been during a busier time.

The Holidays at Legoland California

Charge up that cell phone – you wouldn’t want to miss memories like this! Photo by Jill Footz