In the fantasy world of LEGOLAND, youngsters have fun, while grown-ups return to the days of their childhood

November 01, 1992|By Ruth S. Britton | Ruth S. Britton,Contributing Writer

Friends in Copenhagen asked me, "Why are you going to LEGOLAND? That's for children." My response was equivocal. But after having been there, I can honestly answer that I know of two tourist attractions in the world where children may live in fantasy and where adults may become children -- Disney World and LEGOLAND.

More than 1 million people visited LEGOLAND in 1991, 70 percent of them adults, and last summer, my husband, Alex, and I joined the throng attending this amazing complex blending artistry and fun.

The LEGOLAND park, located in Billund in central Jutland, Denmark, is the only park of its kind in the world. It offers activities for every age level, and includes a Miniland, a Wild West area and a Pirateland, all constructed with LEGO bricks. In addition, a children's puppet theater, rides, indoor exhibits and opportunities to be creative add to the variety of things to do and see at LEGOLAND. Music emanating from brass bands augments the festive ambience.

The LEGO company was founded in the '30s by Ole Kirk Christiansen, under the motto "Leg godt," meaning "play well" in Danish. The original toys were wood, and it was in the mid-1950s that the LEGO system of play was launched.

The toy maker's philosophy was: "The world of a child is as infinite as that child's imagination. Give the child a free rein, and he or she will build a world richer and more imaginative than any adult can conceive."

Today, youngsters build their castles and assorted creations with these colorful plastic bricks with grooves that fit into each other. Children throughout the world are as familiar with LEGO bricks as they are with Mickey Mouse.

As we entered LEGOLAND, we were greeted by smaller replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Sitting Bull, the four presidents carved on Mount Rushmore and a monument to Hans Christian Anderson built with LEGO bricks by model designers and builders.

The Rhine Valley, a fishing village in Norway, the Grand Palace in Brussels, an Amsterdam canal scene, the port of Copenhagen, cathedrals of England and the Taj Mahal are only a few scenes that represent approximately 30 nations in LEGOLAND's Miniland. We wandered through miniature baroque, Gothic and Renaissance models built with LEGO bricks, and the eyes of the children, as well as our own, were mesmerized as computerized planes took off and landed, trains rode through mountains and tunnels, and boats cruised in harbors.

As adults, we could only marvel at the intricate detail and exemplary workmanship of the replicas of villages, ports, castles, cathedrals and monuments.

Rides, or "activities" as they are termed by the Danes, are designed to suit a child's size, age level and physical prowess, and manage to keep both children and adults happily occupied. Safari rides, cruises and trains provide views of the vast area of LEGOLAND.

In Legoredo, a Wild West village, we watched as children baked bread on an open flame, supervised by a Danish "Native American Indian." We looked on as children panned for gold at the Legoldmine, assisted by their parents, and observed their faces as their findings were pressed into medallions by a Western-attired prospector. Their parents were as intent as the children as they dipped their pans in the water and fished out the "gold" chips.

We cruised through the caves of Pirateland and were charmed by the treasures, battle scenes, voices and merriment of pirate life -- all scenes that were created with LEGO bricks.

The LEGOLAND traffic school for children ages 8-13 provides instructions in road safety in six languages before the actual "driving" experience. We were too old to attend, but we were able to watch the children practice their newly learned skills. Upon completion, they were awarded an official driver's license for LEGOLAND.

A small village geared to the size of small children is made up of shops, schools, a fire department and classrooms and provides a respite from the frenetic physical activity in the park. It's a make-believe village in bright colors, where children pretend and create.

Children of every age are encouraged to use their imagination and creativity with LEGO bricks at tables throughout the park. I watched parents revert to childhood, under the guise of "helping" their children, intensely fulfilling their own creative bents.

Within the LEGOLAND park are indoor exhibitions (not constructed with LEGO bricks). Titania's Palace, a doll collection and a motorized toy exhibition may be appreciated by adults and children alike.

We were captivated with Titania's Palace, a magnificent miniature palace with 18 rooms and halls filled with furniture, an example of diligence and talent. Sir Nevile Wilkinson built the palace for the Fairy Queen Titania, Prince Oberon and their seven children at the request of his daughter, Guendolen. It took 15 years to construct and to collect its treasures from all over the world.

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