Can You Do Legoland California on a Budget?

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Want to visit Legoland in San Diego? Not wanting to spend a lot of money? I get you! Traveling to California can cost a pretty penny, so one would assume that Legoland would also be pretty pricey. Can you do it on a budget?

Thankfully, there are ways that you can save. Check out these tried and true tips for enjoying Legoland on a budget, from tickets to food to accommodations. Legoland California is one of those fun places to go with kids; let’s make the most of it!

groups of people walking toward entrance of legoland california.

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.

The irony is not lost on me that my Disneymania may be one of the reasons why they prefer Legoland!

Admittedly, I am more relaxed at Legoland for many reasons, one of them being that Legoland California is easier to do on a budget thing than Disneyland. Yes, really. Though the regular ticket prices at both parks are sky high, it’s easier for me to make the day great without spending a ton of money.

Please remember that your mileage may vary. Promotions change from season to season, as do park practices. Verify all links and deals for Legoland cheap tickets before you go.

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 from time to time.

Currently advance reservations/dated tickets are required.

Online pricing starts at $94.99 for those 13 and over; $89.99 for children. 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.

four yellow paper legoland tickets lined up on a black table.

Here are some of the discounts available:

San Diego CityPass

A CityPass is like buying a multipack of attraction tickets. While Legoland is located in North San Diego County, about an hour’s drive from the city, you may want to visit other San Diego attractions which will make a San Diego CityPass worth it.

The passes come in different combinations, allowing you a range of choices, including Sea World, San Diego Zoo/Safari Park, USS Midway Museum, City Cruises, Old Town Trolley Tours, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, and Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Costco Passes

This probably isn’t a nationwide deal, but San Diego area Costcos sell Legoland hopper passes for a discounted rate. I know because I saw them in the Vista Costco in July.

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.

If you haven’t purchased tickets online, hit up Costco and see what the deal is.

As of July 2022, a 2-Day Park Hopper ticket was available for $119.99 at Costco.

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, but does provide booking for vacation packages at its own hotel properties.

Educational Visits and Homeschool Days

Previously (in the Before Times) Legoland California extended discounts to schools and homeschools for STEAM field trips and educational visits. This doesn’t appear to be a current offering, though that may change as the pandemic issues subside.

legoland hopper tickets on sale at costco.

Military Discounts

Discounted pricing is available to US Military, Veterans, and their families.

Membership

Legoland annual passes range over three levels from $179 to $299. The upper level passes (gold, platinum, and premium) get you into all three areas of the park (regular park, water park, and aquarium) with free parking as well as discounts on accommodations, food, gift shop purchases and special events.

If you live nearby and want to go often, then it’s worth your while.

Note: membership is for the California location only.

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.

boy reaching into open fanny pack for a snack.

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 inside the park. Learn more about their bag check policy here.)

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 for 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. Their churros with chocolate are amazingly good as well!

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.

legoland resort hotel on a blue skied, sunny day.

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.

girl in pink shirt excited to drive a car at legoland.

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 and imagine. So, even if you don’t get cheap tickets, you can “get your money’s worth” by enjoying Legoland California to the fullest.

Here’s how:

Go early.

At Legoland California Resort, the hours are staggered for the three parks. Current summer hours are as follows:

  • Legoland – open 10 to 8
  • Water Park – open 10:30 to 6
  • Sea Life – open 10:30 to 8:30

Once school starts, the resort operates on reduced hours.

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.

You can upgrade your ticket to the new Reserve ‘N’ Ride Electronic Ride Reservation System.

Additionally, you can also download their mobile app to get news, deals, and updates during your visit. This allows you access to current wait time so you can better plan your day.

sign of all the legoland height restrictions.

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.

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.

view of oceanside harbor at the legoland miniland.

Enjoy the quiet spaces.

There are lots of restful places throughout Legoland. That is one of its beauties. While it doesn’t have the energy 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.

girls climbing into airplane ride at legoland.

More Amusement Park Tips

This post was originally published on March 26, 2015. It has been updated for content and clarity.

family walking into legoland with text overlay on image.

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47 Comments

  1. 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).

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

    3. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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! 🙂

  9. 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. 😉

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

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

    1. 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.

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

  13. 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!!!!!

  14. 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.

  15. 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

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  16. “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.

    1. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

    1. 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.

  19. What is the rough estimate to spend at Legoland? Im taking my 3 boys and would like to plan ahead.

    1. Your best bet is to start searching their website to find current prices and do a Trip Advisor search for the surrounding areas. That’s the best way to estimate expenses.

  20. Thanks for the tips and updated info.
    We’re “Disney people” so we had low expectations of legoland. It was unexpectedly great! Our family of 9 (mom/dad plus 7 littles under 14) highly recommends the reserve & ride! We went the end of June (crowded) but rode every ride, even some multiple times.