Want to visit Legoland in San Diego? Not wanting to spend a lot of money? Check out these tried and true tips for enjoying Legoland on a budget.
I once asked my kids which they liked better: Disneyland or Legoland? I was stunned when most of them — except the child who wanted to get on Mama’s good side — said Legoland. They said that it is more relaxed and therefore more fun to go to it.
I have a couple theories as to why this is, but mainly I think it’s because their mama is a Disneymaniac and it’s go-go-go from the time we arrive to the minute we leave because I love it so much.
I am a Disneyland girl through and through. I grew up a short drive from the Magic Kingdom and we went at least once a year. Disneyland holds my heart even though we go only once every few years.
The irony is not lost on me that my Disneymania may be one of the reasons why they prefer Legoland!
I am more relaxed at Legoland for many reasons, one of them being that it is easier to do the budget thing at Legoland. Yes, really. Though the regular ticket prices at the parks are both sky high, it’s easier for me to make the day great without spending a ton of money.
After living almost 10 years in Legoland’s back yard, we’ve made it a habit to go at least once a year, if not more often than that some years. I didn’t set out to make it that way, but honestly, living this close, it’s hard not to. Legoland is closer — and believe it or not, cheaper, in many ways.
While we have received press passes on some visits to Legoland, one of our most recent visits was all out of our pocket, so I know Legoland on a budget can be replicated. Just for the record, this post is not sponsored.
How to do Legoland on a Budget
Please remember that your mileage may vary. If you’ve got some tips for how you visit Legoland or other theme parks inexpensively, please let us know in the comments. Know that theme parks change their policies from season to season; please keep this in mind when you plan your trip.
Save on Legoland tickets.
There are a number of ways to save on Legoland tickets. It’s generally cheaper to buy your tickets online, however this varies with the day and season. Legoland offers a variety of packages for their different parks (Legoland, SeaLife, and the Water Park) as well as “come back again” pricing.
Currently walk-up pricing starts at $95 for those 13 and over; $89 for children. Ouch! This is subject to change without notice and varies from day to day. Notice the “starts at”.
In order to keep your adventure at Legoland on a budget, it’s in your best interests to find tickets at a discount.
Here are some of the discounts available:
In the past we have been able to join a private school field trip where tickets were $8. (The price has since gone up with field trips starting at $10.) If your school plans an educational visit, similar pricing applies, depending on what season you go. Field trips are available year-round.
Legoland offers group pricing for homeschoolers (currently $28) on weekdays during the off-season. You need to preregister online or via phone for the group pricing coupon; the discount is available in the months of September through June, except for winter and spring breaks.
Verify your military service in advance and you can receive discounted pricing.
LEGO Magazine Free Child’s Coupon
If your kids get the free Lego Magazine, there is almost always a coupon for a free child’s ticket with purchase of an adult ticket.
This probably isn’t a nationwide deal, but San Diego area Costcos sell Legoland hopper passes for a discounted rate. If you’re coming in from elsewhere, never fear, there is a Costco located just around the corner from the Legoland California park as well as two other Costcos within 20 miles.
A number of hotels offer accommodation + park ticket packages. Since Legoland now maintains its own hotel properties, the Legoland website no longer lists local options.
Legoland annual passes range over three levels from $159 to $279. The upper level passes get you into all three areas of the park (regular park, water park, and aquarium) with free parking as well as give you discounts on accommodations, food, gift shop purchases and special events.
If you live nearby and want to go often — or plan to visit the other Merlin Entertainment parks in North America and overseas, then it’s worth your while.
Save on snacks and meals at Legoland.
Okay, so you got in. I bet you someone will be hungry within 20 minutes. Food is not cheap in the park! Oh my!
While we do not typically buy meals inside the park, there have been occasions when we needed to. Kids meals (either a burger or sandwich plus chips, treat and soda) are $8 to $10. Adult meals start a few bucks higher.
That said, years ago we had gift cards for the Aquarium cafe. The food was quite good, especially for theme park dining! FishBoy13 loved his Castle Burger, and I must say the ice cream shop was primo.
While food in the park is pricey, it’s better quality than typical canteen food.
However, I recommend that you pack a picnic lunch or send a parent to the nearby Costco for pizzas. Costco is literally a short walk from the park with an outdoor food court. I’m not sure if they require you to have a membership to buy food outdoors.
Usually I pack sandwiches, chips, and drinks and keep those in a cooler in the car. There are several shaded, grassy lawns outside the entrance to the park where we sit and picnic. This is what we did last week. It’s a nice, quiet break from the sunny walkways inside Legoland.
Inside the park my kids wear fanny packs (yes, really!) equipped with all the snacks they want. I stock up on treats like gummies, applesauce pouches, and bunny crackers. The kids fill their packs, and they can have what they want when they want it.
Without bugging me for food.
(And yes, small snacks are permitted.)
This idea is thanks to the wonderful Unofficial Guide to Disneyland that I bought years ago based on reader suggestions. Trust me, that book will pay for itself.
I bought these fanny packs for the smaller kids and some like these fanny packs for the bigger kids years ago. They’ve been super useful over the last seven or eight years and have more than paid for themselves.
We actually have a range of quirky, but effective practices for making amusement parks safe, cheap, and more fun for our kids. Check out my Amusement Park Survival Guide if you haven’t already.
I do think that it’s part of the memory-making to splurge on some fun food at amusement parks. If I were at Magic Mountain (where I worked as a teen), it would be the waffle cone or the big soft pretzels. At Disneyland: the beignets or the frozen lemonade.
At Legoland the apple fries are a must-do. They also have some churros with chocolate to dip them in that look pretty yummy.
Save on photos at Legoland.
Personally, I steer clear of the peeps with the cameras at amusement parks. I’ll just take my own pictures, thank you.
But, my friend Sharon, a professional photographer, buys the photo pass every year. She gets unlimited digital images of the kids on rides, at the entrance, with the Lego people, etc. It’s a GREAT value, she says.
Save on accommodations near Legoland.
We live about a 20-minute drive from Legoland, so it’s not necessary for our family to have accommodations, though I would really like to stay at one of the Legoland Hotels sometime.
On one occasion our family had the chance to stay at the Grand Pacific Palisades across the street from Legoland. It’s a time-share type resort, but non-owners can still find accommodations there. My brother and his family often stay at Las Brisas on the other side of the park.
Both resorts have plenty to do without even going to the theme park. They have a number of special packages to offer reduced rates depending on the length of your stay or what you want to do in the area. Since all rooms have kitchens, you can save money on food costs. This is why we usually rent a condo on vacation; we save so much on feeding this crew!
There are a number of local hotels that have partnered with Legoland who offer reduced rates. My friend Christie stayed at the Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel and had this to say:
Carlsbad by the Sea hotel was good!! Much cheaper than the ones on the hill, free hot breakfast, free parking, free shuttle to the gate and directly across the street from the Outlets. It was only 15 minutes to walk there, which we did, but it wasn’t the easiest of walks with two little ones.
It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on Groupon deals. I’ve seen package deals that include hotel and park ticket packages as well as hotel only discounts.
Make the most of your day at the park.
Part of getting a good deal on something is getting out of it all that you hope an imagine. So, even if you don’t get cheap tickets, you can “get your money’s worth” by enjoying it to the fullest. Here’s how:
The park hours are currently 10-6 on the weekdays with later closing times on the weekends and during school vacations.The toll and ticket booths open 45 minutes earlier which means you can walk around, get the lay of the land, take some pictures, and otherwise run off some of your kids’ excitement before they get on an actual ride.
Legoland California is not very big but the wait times can be long, even when it’s not crowded. Do not expect the high tech speed of a Disney park. We rarely go on many rides in one day, but again, Legoland is very relaxed, especially if you go in the off-season during the week.
For better or for worse, this is not Disneyland.
Be aware of ride restrictions.
Legoland is rife with ride restrictions. You can’t take belonging on some rides. You can’t take small children on others. There are height as well as age requirements on the rides.
All these things slow down the ride — they interrogate children as to their ages — and make it difficult for families with many small children to go on rides.
Many times one adult is required for each child under a certain height. Oy!
Ride your favorites first.
Moving from ride to ride is pretty slow going, so make sure you hit your favorites first. My kids love to be able to drive. They all love the Beetle Bounce. The boys particularly love the Project X roller coaster.
If your kids have some high-priority rides, go on those first. You don’t know what the day holds, so be sure to hit the important things.
Avoid the high ticket items you can do elsewhere.
There are many things to do at Legoland that you can do elsewhere, like carnival games, mini golf, and a climbing wall. Not only do these things cost extra, but they are attractions that you can do somewhere else, most likely for cheaper.
Unless it’s really an important part of the outing, I’d save those for when you’ve done all the free things or for another time.
Enjoy the quiet spaces.
There are lots of restful places throughout Legoland. That is one of its beauties. While it doesn’t have the energized frenzy of Disneyland, it doesn’t have much frenzied chaos, either. Unless you go during Brick-or-Treat. God bless you.
Our kids have always loved playing in the Knight’s Kingdom Playground, a quiet, shaded spot at the north of the park.
The miniland is another fun space to walk through, particularly for Lego Maniacs of all ages. Seriously, grown men geek out in here.
Legoland really is a quaint amusement park. In my experience it’s vastly different from its Anaheim cousin, Disneyland. However, if you plan well, you can have a great day and not go into hock.
How do YOU enjoy Legoland on a budget?
Tell us your tips and tricks for exploring the park without spending a lot of money.
Originally published March 26, 2015. Updated March 14, 2018.