On a Stena Line short break to LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort
In 2016 Legoland Windsor is celebrating 20 years of creating the ultimate adventure experience for little Master Builders. Now, thanks to leading ferry company Stena Line, families from Northern Ireland can pack up their car and set sail to discover the Land of the Vikings, battle dragons in the Knights Kingdom and take a submarine ride past the lost metropolis of Atlantis...
Loved by children for over 80 years and named twice “Toy of the Century”, the simple Lego brick has certainly come far from its humble beginnings in a small carpenter’s workshop. Now its 150 acres UK parkland site is home to over 55 interactive rides, live shows and attractions with even more exciting new events on the way for 2016 including Lego Star Wars™ (April 30 to May 2), a brand new Nexo Knights 4D Movie Experience from May 27, and Brick or Treat (October 17 to 30). Parent warning – the name Lego, is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg godt” meaning “play well”. Once you pass through the entrance, you better have left your bad cop side at home because the fun is on!
We didn’t want to waste a minute of our Legoland/London adventure which started with a 10.30pm eight-hour Stena Line evening sailing from Belfast to Liverpool. By 6.30am the next morning we had an early start on the drive down our selected Legoland hotel in Reading. The overnight sailing also offered the chance for the kids to experience another first – sleeping at sea. Their little faces lit up as they checked out our en-suite four-berth family cabin with sea view, flat-screen TV and thoughtful gift of a kids’ welcome basket with drinks and goodies. Of course super ships need to be explored, so it was off to the Barista Coffee House for a goodnight hot chocolate with marshmallows via the on-board shop and a quick play in the children’s Curious George soft play zone. Guests can also dine before bed in the Metropolitan Grill, relax with a nightcap in the bar or enjoy a free movie in the cinema or free WiFi.
Bright and breezy the next morning, and exactly on time, we arrived to the stunning sight of a gorgeous spring day beginning with a red sunrise over the port at Birkenhead. Stena Line breaks to Legoland offer a selection of ferry crossings and hotels so you can easily adapt your trip to suit your family’s preferences. We wanted to combine our Legoland visit with a day out in London and the four-star Novotel Hotel in the centre of Reading is a perfect base for easy access to both venues, just a 25 minute drive to Windsor and right next to Reading train station where you can jump on a train every 15 minutes for the fast 30-minute ride to Paddington Train Station in the heart of the capital.
The direct drive to Windsor from Birkenhead takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes, or four hours to Reading, and is a very easy drive down the M6 with plenty of services for pit stops along the way. We had one particular stop-off in mind that it seemed crazy (to a self-confessed shopaholic) to miss which was Bicester Village in Oxfordshire. The ultimate luxury shopping experience – but most importantly at a hugely discounted rate – houses all the designer brands your little heart could desire along a quaint cobbled street with children’s play park. Open seven days a week, Bicester Village is home to over 130 boutiques, several stylish restaurants – and is well worth a visit. A couple of hours later we happily loaded up the car (oh the joys of having it with you on holiday) with shopping bags containing a new handbag for mum, shoes for dad and T-shirts for the kids and hit the road for the remaining one-hour drive to our hotel.
Novotel, on Friar Street Reading is located right in the town centre and has everything you could desire for the perfect family get away. Parking is available in the hotel car park at the back of the building (payable on a daily rate) with direct access to the hotel via an on-site leisure club with swimming pool on the ground floor. The lobby is home to a restaurant, where an absolutely fabulous buffet breakfast is served each morning (the kids are still raving about making their own pancakes) a kids’ corner and interactive play table with a range of games suitable for all ages, and iMacs for instant internet access. Free WiFi is available throughout your stay.
After a swift check-in and warm welcome from the staff we were excited to discover the luxury of our modern executive room on the tenth floor. More like a suite, our room had a good sized double bed with a comfortable sofa bed that easily pulled out into two twin beds for the boys, made up by turndown service each evening. There was plenty of wardrobe space, LCD 32" screen TV, fridge with complimentary mineral water, Nespresso coffee machine, in-room safe, separate toilet and good-sized bath and shower and, to top all that, a thoughtful welcome gift of a pool toy and some games for the kids. Delighted, we enjoyed a leisurely swim before heading out to one of the numerous local restaurants a five-minute stroll away at The Riverside, part of the stylish local Oracle centre with a cinema and over 80 stores.
The next morning it was the main event – finally Legoland here we come. A 25-minute drive had us there for opening at 10am with a full eight hours of non-stop fun on the Duncan family agenda. After hiring a special Legoland buggy from the shop at the main entrance for the youngest member of our clan (£9 for a single, £12 for a double) first stop was the permanent Lego Star Wars exhibition to see an out-of-this-world collection of favourite spaceships, characters and scenes from the movie series recreated in tiny bricks. Next up, we time travelled to the Land of the Vikings for a complete drenching on board the Viking’s River Splash – don’t be fooled, they sell waterproof ponchos at it for a good reason!
Luckily for us a giant family step-in dryer was a hand to warm us up before we were spun around silly on a giant spider, thrown high into the air on the Jolly Rocker ship in Pirates Shores before conquering our nerves to face a fearsome dragon (roller coaster) in the Knights Kingdom. It would be impossible to list every single fantastic experience we enjoyed but there is such a vast range it would be inconceivable to believe that any child would not find an entire dreamland of joy in among one of the eleven main areas.
From the newly opened Heartlake City to Legoland Driving School, your only concern will be getting enough time to fit it all in. If your little ones don’t like to queue – there could be up to a 60 minute wait for the most popular attractions during busy days – you can opt to purchase the priority queue jumping Q-Bot, however there are many other rides with a shorter waiting time available and plenty of additional play areas, shows and an entire Lego Miniland to wander through featuring famous landscapes and buildings from around the globe. In fact, there are so many fabulous photo opportunities on this trip, just make sure your phone and camera are fully charged at all times.
With its proximity to London, it makes perfect sense to combine a visit to Legoland with a day out in the big smoke. The smog-filled streets of Victorian London are long gone however and families are now spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous visitor attractions. As one of the most fun things to do while in England’s capital city is celebrity spot, day three found us outside one of the most famous tourist spots near Baker Street Tube Station − Madame Tussauds™, where our chances of getting up close to the most talked about people on the planet became pretty high.
Stars of the big screen, sport, music and politics join historical figures and it is impossible not to get snappy happy with your camera phone. Swerving the classic Chamber of Horrors (our kids are nine and three but no doubt some little monsters would love it) the highlight for our little superheroes was the incredible Marvel Hero 4D experience in which you join your favourite Marvel heroes to defeat evil genius Doctor Doom. High on success, another fabulous treat just before you say goodbye is the new Star Wars™ display where you can sit with Hans Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina, get as close as you dare to Darth Vader and pose with Princess Leia wearing ‘that outfit’ as she kneels before Jabba the Hutt.
Our final treat of the holiday was one of London’s newest visitor attractions on South Bank, Shrek’s Adventure. Join all your favourite DreamWork’s characters for a Shrektacular time as you try and find your way after getting lost in the fairytale Land of Far Far Away. The madcap adventure starts with a magical ride on a London bus through the sky above London, but with Donkey driving we should have known there would be trouble ahead! After accidentally landing on one of Rumpelstiltskin’s favourite witches you must follow the clues and befriend an odd bunch of characters from the much-loved movies if you want to make sure you all make it back to London. Fabulous family fun with lots of laughter and some bad karaoke singing of the Shrek theme tune thrown in to boot! If you choose both, or either, of these attractions you can combine and save on the entrance with others in the same group including The London Eye, Sea Life Aquarium or the London Dungeon, which are also all located at South Bank.
Up early the next day for the five-hour drive to Wales for our return ferry, the all motorway and dual carriageway drive is very straightforward taking you back up north before turning west for the final hour’s drive to the port of Holyhead for our 2pm sailing to Dublin. We upgraded to the luxury of Stena Plus which offers amazing value at only £18 per person to include priority boarding and first off service, unlimited drinks and snacks including wine, access to the Stena Plus lounge with free WiFi, an exclusive dining menu and complimentary newspapers and magazines – totally worth it and in truth a complete bargain. After a delicious lunch, the kids enjoyed a motorbike ride in gaming zone Teen Town before we headed upstairs to join in with the organised kids’ crafts and make pirate swords – Ahar! The three-and-half hour crossing was over before you could say shiver me timbers and our tired, but very happy crew’s verdict of our break? Yep, you guessed it – absolutely awesome!
Legoland breaks start from £425 per family of 4 and include return Stena Line ferry travel from Belfast to Liverpool/Cairnryan or Dublin to Holyhead with your car, 2 nights 4-star hotel accommodation for 2 adults and up to 2 children (aged under 16) sharing a room, plus one day Legoland® Windsor Resort entry ticket for 2 adults and 2 children. Upgrade to a 2 day ticket from just £8pp extra.
To book or for further information visit stenaline.co.uk/legoland or Tel: 08445 768 889
Find out more about visiting Madame Tussauds or Shrek’s Adventure, or to book, visit madametussauds.co.uk/London/en and shreksadventure.com
Watch our Stena Line Legoland break video at ni4kids.com
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