Legoland lays down (brick) gauntlet in Florida
The largest Legoland in the world opens Saturday in Florida with the children's haven having to compete in one of the world's busiest hubs for amusement parks.
Legoland Florida in Winter Haven, just outside of Orlando, will be the newest park themed around the Lego building brick, and aims at attracting children aged from two to 12.
It faces a tough challenge in a region in central Florida packed with theme parks -- including Disneyworld, Universal Studios, Seaworld, Harry Potter World and the Holy Land Experience.
Yet Legoland backers say it has its niche, and encourages more active participation with kids hoisting themselves up a tower with a rope on a pulley; steering a boat or driving a Lego-inspired electric car.
It has interactive zones where youngsters can build a Lego car, play with a robot hero, or build something from bricks.
"The whole proposition is about bringing the Lego toy to life and creating an interactive world," said Peter Ronchetti, general manager of Legoland California.
"We make the children the heroes. The children get in the car and drive. It's probably the first time the children have taken charge, driven a car, sailed a boat."
Legoland, based on the brick-building toys from the Danish manufacturers Lego, has "pink-knuckle" rides, giving young children a thrill without the scare they get at some other theme parks.
The first Legoland opened in 1968 in Billund, Denmark, followed by parks in England, California and Germany. A sixth will open next year in Malaysia.
The Danish toymaker operated the parks until 2005 then sold them to Britain's Merlin Entertainments, which operates Madame Tussauds waxwork museums, among other attractions.
The park will use some 30 million bricks, and even buildings and attractions not made of Legos will look as if they were.
"The opening of Legoland in Florida is expected to be one of the biggest grand openings in recent memory," said Sunil Govind, president of Orlandoescape.com, a regional vacation packager for the area.
The Lego brand, a family-owned company founded in 1934, based in the western Danish town of Billund, has seen several years of strong growth after a deep crisis in 2003-2004.
© 2011 AFP