Legoland Discovery Centre, at the Trafford Centre, in Manchester.
Ever since I was a little boy, I've had a fascination with Lego. Indeed, it is still consistently voted the number 1 toy.
There is the quality about it that makes it hard to compare to other toys. Unlike 'posable' figures (Action Man, GI Joe, Barbie or Cindy), Lego makes you use your imagination.
In todays' market, Lego have been forced to adapt, and their licenced tie-ins with famous film franchises (namely Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and now Toy Story), means a slight dilution of what Lego means. I'm sure there will be more deals in the future. However, if they can remain true to their values as a toy to inspire and encourage creativity, then I don't think they have much to worry about.
Lego also crosses the boundaries between girls and boys. No longer just a toy for boys, the girls like to get involved too, and Lego have met that market as well.
So, back to Legoland. Recently opened, by Merlin Entertainments, in Barton Square, next to the Trafford Centre; this is a fab day out for families young and old. There's plenty to do, including a 4D Cinema, play area, party rooms (for birthdays) a cafe and the obligatory shop; plus lots more besides.
Here's the trailer, from their website.
We arrived not long after it opened, and it was already busy. You start at the Lego Factory (where everyone, including adults, is presented with a souvenir brick!) then you can wander as you like to the cinema, the Kingdom Quest ride (you get a chance to 'shoot' the baddies!) the play area, and the Lego Racers area - here there are bricks galore and race tracks to 'test' your creation.
Miniland is delightful, with representations of Manchester (both United and City are sharing a stadium!!) and even Coronation Street is recreated. As is Blackpool tower and Alton Towers (another part of the Merlin Entertainment empire).
There is also the opportunity to spend 30 minutes with a Lego Master Model Builder, where they take you step-by-step building a small Lego model. I found this quite good fun, although it was very busy. Noise from the other parts of the attraction also made it a little difficult to hear at times.
However, it's a new attraction, which is bound to have teething problems. When we arrived, the ride wasn't working, and when it was, the transition from queue to ride wasn't particularly smooth. The show in the cinema suffered technical problems, but on the whole, it's harsh to complain at what is, essentially, a fun day out.
The area is not a big as the advertising would lead you to believe, but again, that's just a quibble. There's lots of empty space, which, when school holiday season is in full swing, will soon fill up.
Finally - as expected, when you leave, you are 'funnelled' into the shop. An Aladdin's cave of all things Lego. From the full kits, to buying individual Lego bricks, clothing and gift sets. It's a kaleidoscope of noise and colour.
If you think you'll visit again, and let's face it, this is the ultimate wet weather destination, you can purchase a one year pass (and get a refund on the current days tickets).
As a sentimental trip down memory lane, this is a fun way to spend a morning, afternoon, or indeed the whole day.
The kids will love it, but more importantly, I defy you to leave without having smiled just once as you remember your days as a child playing with the "worlds favourite toy".