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Located in Winter Haven, less than one hour from both Orlando and Tampa, Legoland Florida is North America’s newest theme park. The fifth and largest property in Merlin Entertainments’ global Legoland portfolio, it features 50 rides, shows and attractions, and more than 50 million Lego bricks. Paul Ruben reports

utting kids in the centre of the action, the new park on the former site of Cypress Gardens was officially opened to the public on October 15 after around a month of soft opening. Merlin company leaders say they are pleased with the reception Legoland Florida has already received from local residents in the sunshine state. “In essence,” says Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments chief executive, "we’re establishing an entirely new category in this market because every ride, show and attraction within Legoland Florida has been designed exclusively with kids aged two to 12 in mind. It’s a real game-changer for Central Florida because young families can finally plan that first theme park vacation assured that even their youngest child will enjoy a memorable experience." “We’ve had tremendous success with the Legoland concept both domestically and abroad,” highlights Adrian Jones, the park’s British general manager. “With Winter Haven as our epicentre, there are more than eight million residents in Central Florida that can reach the park as a day trip, not to mention the 50 million visitors to the area each year. We think we’re perfectly situated.”

The Florida destination, which joins the original

High five: general manager Adrian Jones celebrates the park’s opening

Legoland in Billund, Denmark, and sister parks in Carlsbad, California; Günzburg, Germany; and Windsor near London, plus five indoor Legoland Discovery Centres, is the first full Legoland park to be built by Merlin since it acquired the Legoland business in 2005. By taking on the existing Cypress

Gardens infrastructure, the attractions giant has been able to complete the transformation, the cost of which remains a company secret, in just 21 months. Divided into 10 interactive zones, Legoland Florida aims to provide many young visitors with their first theme park thrill – or ‘pink knuckle’ – experience. Featured among the line-up of attractions are four family-friendly rollercoasters, multiple interactive experiences, Lego building opportunities and many tried and tested Legoland attractions. “At 150 acres," notes Jones, “Legoland Florida is the largest Legoland park in the world. We’ve incorporated a number of ‘must-have’ attractions, like the Technic Coaster and Aquazone Racers, but there are also those unique to this park, like the wooden Coastersaurus, a double-decker carousel and Flight School. It’s impossible to predict but, in our soft opening, Boating School got some very high marks. I think it’s because kids are powering their own boats without any interference from mom and dad and that sense of freedom is exhilarating.”

Brick-based fun in the sunshine state P

10 Interactive Zones Guests arrive at The Beginning, which serves as Legoland Florida’s entry area and features the Island in the Sky, a 100ft-tall rotating platform ride by Intamin (ex-Cypress Gardens) that offers a 360- degree view of the entire property, and beyond. Also found here are The Big Shop, one of the largest Lego stores in the world. Fun Town offers families a firsthand look at how



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