Legoland on a Budget? Why, Yes, Yes, You Can!

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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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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:

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

Educational Visit

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.

Homeschool Days

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.

Military Discounts

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.

Costco Passes

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.

Hotel packages

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.

Membership

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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:

Go early.

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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!

Extra reading: Legoland with a Two-Year Old. God bless you.

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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.

Legoland on a Budget | Life as Mom

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.

Legoland on a Budget

Originally published March 26, 2015. Updated March 14, 2018.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe you can get great meals on the table -- and still keep that pretty smile on your face.

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Comments

  1. Susan says:

    I am wondering if anyone has also visited one of the Lego Discovery Centers? One just opened in Boston and it looks like there are several around the country. It seems much more scaled down like a children’s museum but the price is too (About $20/person).

    • Amanda says:

      We visited the Lego Discovery Center in Grapevine, Tx July 2014. It was a great first Legoland like experience. My boys were 7 and 4 when we went. We sent about 2.5 hours and did everything a few times. It was a fun but expensive outing. We probably will only go back once a year.

    • Tabitha says:

      We have visited Lego Discovery in Atlanta. Great experience for our family (ages 2-8) – they have a small scale Lego town, two small rides, a 4D theatre, a “large” Duplo area, climbing area, lego car race track and, my older boys’ favorite, the learning area, where a master builder teaches kids different skills (like creating a sphere, building a sword and sheath, etc). The master builders we have had during the classes, which are included in your ticket price, have all been super patient, very informed and encouraging to both my boys. Two warnings: certain days and times have been so busy that my kids felt a little “trampled” and once you leave for the day you cannot return, so if you are there during lunch, you will have to eat in their café (the food was terrible). My wrap up definitely worth the cost – hope you have a great experience too!

    • Laura says:

      We visited the Discovery Center in Boston this past March. My kids are 5 and 7 and they loved it. We used the free child’s ticket w/ adult ticket from the Lego Magazine for both kids tickets, but it still was about $60 for my husband and my tickets. You can’t purchase tickets ahead of time if you want to use the coupons, so it is a good idea to get there about 15 minutes before they open to get tickets. Be prepared to get a time to come back later in the day as they often sell out on weekends. We were there when they opened at 10 and our tickets were for 1 pm. We ended up going back to the Science Museum for a little while before heading back to the Lego Discovery Center. We spent maybe 2 hours, the one in Boston is pretty small, but it has 2 rides and a 4D movie theater, a climbing/playground area, Ninjago training area, and lots of Legos to play with. We bought the Passport lanyard, but I wouldn’t recommend it because none of the stamps worked, so it ended up being a waste of money. All in all though, it was a fun afternoon!

  2. Theresa Ellis says:

    I bought season tickets to Magic Springs Amusement and Waterpark. I plan on camping at nearby Degray Lake. Fortunately, we love tent camping which is very cheap and even free in some spots on the lake (with nearby bathrooms and showers). I plan on making a couple of weekends of it and even take a week vacation over there at the lake. So we can hit Magic Springs a bunch. My boys are 15 and 13, so I don’t have much longer to spoil them. I lived in Hot Springs while I was going to college at nearby HSU and love it. We have lots of friends between there and home, so we won’t have enough time to loaf around and enjoy.

  3. Theresa Ellis says:

    When traveling I always research where the good camping spots are. Most even have showers. Our tents are tiny and we can throw them up in a minute or two. Some comfy lawn chairs. Better than $100 a night for a motel room. It is important to have a good mattress, and as long as the weather is mild it is sooo….. nice.

    • Great tip! I wanted to add camping, but I don’t have any personal recommendations for the area since we haven’t camped locally. Thanks for adding that to the conversation!

  4. this is so helpful!!

    We are planning a trip this summer, and are going to camp at Campland — which sounds totally National Lampoony—:-)
    the price is good for a large family and we have a pop up travel tent trailer that we sleep in. I’ll bring the crockpots!

  5. AlysonRR says:

    We loved Legoland when my kids were younger. I think their age range (2-12) is just about right – my son was a little bored when he was 12.

    Apple fries are delicious – that was always our end of day snack. And we’d eat lunch at the Aquarium, too, or leave a lunch cooler in the car to enjoy in the little picnic area.

    The kids loved the rides and particularly the activities we all could do together (fire brigade, building cars and racing them, that Egyptian ride where you use laser guns to hit targets).

    A couple things we did to save money and/or time.
    — We travel to the area once a year, but we would always plan to come back a little earlier in the year so we could take advantage of a membership (which makes sense if you go more than once a year)
    — We go left instead of right when we enter the park. You’d be surprised how many people just automatically go to the right in this country! We’d do the hill first (pedal cars) because it was their favorite and the line there is annoying, then backtrack a little to the safari and roller coaster
    — We bought an endless drink and an endless popcorn one year and refilled it for a couple years
    — We’d go get a locker in the waterpark first so we could stash all the stuff and not have to carry it all day

    It took us two days the first time we went, but once we knew what our must-dos were we were able to do it in a (long) day.

  6. Being so close to so many theme parks is something I really miss about living in Southern California. The only big name park close enough to me now is Six Flags over Georgia. I’m not much of a roller coaster fan so not much for me to ride there.

    Legoland is on the oldest auntling’s wish list and I’m hoping in the next couple of years to make a family vacation out west. Florida is closer but California is home to me.

  7. Christie says:

    My kids loved the water play area and I think we could have spent half the day there. I think a lot of first timers don’t even realize they can bring their kids in their bathing suit and inside the park is a real water slide and decked out water play area, so with my little ones I have no need to spend extra to go into the water park. Of course, if you aren’t the type that want your kids to do this sort of play, it is best to plan ahead to bypass the whole area or you are going to have some bummed out kids. They have “family size” full body dryers, also, so you don’t have to walk around soaking wet if you don’t want to.

    • That’s a really good point. You can get quite refreshed at the regular park splash pad. For free. We typically save that for the end of the day so we don’t walk the park wet.

  8. Genevieve says:
  9. Angela says:

    I recently bought my child a small set of Legos at the store Five Below. The set was $3.99 and it has a coupon on the back for a free one day child ticket with purchase of a full price one day ticket to LEGOLAND California, LEGOLAND FLORIDA, or LEGOLAND Discovery Center. This would be a great deal and cute way to surprise your child to let them know you are going to LEGOLAND- just make sure to save the package! 🙂

  10. We’ve only been to the Legoland in Florida, but they have homeschool days during the summer too. This year, homeschool days were $10 instead of $8 and it will be $12.50 during June-Aug. It’s still a great deal! And we like to go left in the park too. 😉

  11. Charlene says:

    Thank you for the tips. About snacks, are they allowed inside the theme park? Thought no outside food. I love the picnic idea.

    • I am not sure, actually. I’ve never seen signs, and they don’t check bags. When we eat our lunches, we go to the lawn area out front (outside the park) but my kids carry snacks in their fanny packs.

    • Snacks and drinks are always allowed in 😊 . Just no massive coolers.

  12. Chris says:

    We live a couple hours from Legoland Florida. My wife and I get free Awesomer passes because I am a teacher, and she is a coach (have to have a certification and pay stub). Also, there are discounted deals on Awesomer passes for the kids around Black Friday and Memorial Day. These discounts take the Awesomer Annual pass from $149 down to $99 (plus fees). So for our two boys, we only pay around $220 for an entire year of tickets to the Merlin Attractions in Florida (Legoland / the waterpark, Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds, and Sea Life). And we always bring sandwiches and / or eat at nearby restaurants after leaving the park.

  13. We are working on plans to Legoland CA, so I was interested to read your tips!

    I see that Legoland does not allow outside food in the park… Can you go out to the car to picnic and then re-enter? Is that how you did it? What about the fanny packs? Were those allowed in the park with snacks?

    Thanks!

    • It would seem that amusement park policy is subject to change on this. I know that in the past we have taken in snacks, particularly for toddlers, etc. and there’s never been a problem. For full meals, we leave a cooler in the car and go picnic on the grass outside the entrance. It’s a very small park, so it’s not a big deal to go in and out. That said, it’s been about a year since I’ve been, so I’m not exactly sure how things have changed.

    • Tif says:

      Legoland does allow outside food and drinks as well as coolers. I was there less than a week ago.

  14. Lindsey Foote says:

    This article was insanely helpful!!!! We are coming from Chicago for a visit and this gave me insight into so many questions that I had. You’re the best!!!!!

  15. My daughter worked there a couple of summers ago, so we were able to get in for free that summer! We also like to bring in our own snacks and also some small things to go with our lunch, like chips and yogurt. Also, we just drink water and don’t buy the soda. Since the meals are pretty big, a couple of my kids share one, and my husband usually shares some of mine.

  16. Valencia says:

    Hi..we’re finally taking my son whose 12 to Lego land. .(12 snuck up on us!) He loves Legos! ! Even talks about working there when he grows up, he has no idea we’re taking him and we’ll be there on memorial day. ..I saw some tickets on Craigslist really cheap. .there’s 5 of us total..1 child. .and you said walking up was like $95 adult? Wow! ! I’m iffy about Craigslist. .where else can we get a great deal? Suggestions pleasee

    • Are you in Southern California or near the Florida location? Costco sometimes sells reduced tickets and I’ve seen some coupons for free child with adult purchase. I would be leery of Craigslist, too. Sometimes you can upgrade to a comeback for free ticket (like a 2-for-1). I don’t think these are transferable. That may be what someone is trying to sell.

      • Asteria says:

        If you go to Lego Stores, they sometimes also provide “Buy One Get One Free” coupons that you can redeem online or at any Legoland ticket booths.

  17. Tif says:

    “Since Legoland now maintains its own hotel properties, the Legoland website no longer lists local options.”

    This is incorrect. I stayed at Legoland Hotel less than a week ago and booked it just days before where all local hotel options were also available.

    • I think you might have misunderstood me. When I originally published this post, Legoland did not have its own hotel properties at Legoland California, which this post is specifically written toward. In the “old days” they posted links and specials available at other local hotels in the area. They no longer maintain this type of information on their website.

  18. Kim says:

    We bought annual passes at Costco for $100 each. They are not the Merlin ones so you don’t get parking or discount. but we frequently go and stay from like 10-3. I pack lunches for by kids. They love those frozen PBJs so they are perfect with pirates booty and fruit. Holidays get busy so avoid those if you can. I also prefer Legoland to Disneyland. The lines are so much short and while its a little further than Disney for us, if you factor in time parking, folding and unfolding stroller on tram security and gate lines. Legoland wins.

  19. Babz says:

    My BF and I received 8 Legoland tickets for free after buying 8 tires at a tire shop. So now he’s trying to plan a trip to go to Anaheim California I believe that’s where Legoland is around. We have a 7 passenger van we were going to try to rent a SUV because we need an 8 plus passenger. Pat is going to be over $500 just for one weekend so now he’s suggesting Amtrak or Greyhound anyone have any suggestions? Really appreciate it I’m looking for fanny packs now LOL It will be my bf, myself, 16 yrs(g), 7 yrs(b), 6 yrs(b), 5 yrs(b), 3 yrs(b), and 18 month(g). So 2 booster seats, and 3 car seats

    • Legoland is in Carlsbad, CA, about an hour south of Anaheim. Disneyland is in Anaheim. I have six kids, and for convenience I would recommend finding a way to make your van work or to rent a vehicle. You’ll still need transportation once you get off the bus/train. When we had a minivan, we removed the captain’s chairs and installed a back seat bench that we bought off craiglist. It was like $200 and made our van able to seat 8. There are also quite a few minivans that seat 8, so you might not need to rent an SUV.

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