As revealed back in January, LEGOLAND Windsor in the UK is launching a brand new Star Wars Miniland Experience this month, and they held a 'sneak peek' event last weekend to further publicise the launch. Thanks to Huw at Brickset I was able to secure a ticket to the event, and I was eager to get along, not only to check out the new Star Wars exhibit, but also to take a look at the brand new LEGOLAND hotel which opens for business this month; click on the pictures below to enlarge.
Attendees were invited to arrive at the hotel at around 3.30 on Saturday afternoon. I had earlier met up with a number of Brickset regulars and Brickish Association members for lunch and drinks at a local pub, and we arrived en masse just after 3pm to be met by the unfortunate fellow below. I say unfortunate as the hotel lobby was pretty warm, and it must have been distinctly toasty inside that foam and PVC suit. Not to mention the challenge that a visit to the bathroom must have posed....
The plan was to congregate in the hotel bar for refreshments, after which we'd be taken on a guided tour of the new Star Wars Miniland Experience, but we couldn't resist spending some time milling around the hotel lobby first and having a poke around.
A lot of effort has clearly been expended in making a visit to the hotel a true LEGO experience, from the huge brick-built dragon standing guard at the hotel entrance, to the LEGO-inspired carpets and the multitude of LEGO models and children's play areas in the lobby and elsewhere. You can see a selection of the highlights below; the lobby is dominated by a huge central column, above which a variety of LEGO creations such as a galleon and a dragon slowly rotate, not unlike horses revolving around a carousel. At the base of the column are a number of large-scale brick-built renditions of minifigures which appear to be literally rising out of a sea of multicoloured loose bricks.
One of the neatest features of the hotel lobby is the huge minifigure wall behind the reception desks. Literally thousands of minifigures - around 5,000 apparently - are lined up in 24 rows stretching from one side of the reception area to the other; a Brick-built LEGO soldier holding a large magnifying glass slowly moves from one side of the wall to the other, giving the viewer a closer look at a selection of the figures. Excellent !
Something else which caught my eye was the brick-encrusted pillar below; this also appears to emerge from a sea of loose bricks, and a few of us delighted in spending a few minutes helping to complete the brick cladding.... I also loved the large arrangement of brick-built flowers sat atop the reception desk.
And just when you thought that a hotel lobby couldn't get any cooler, your eyes alight on a small LEGO store next to reception, selling a mixture of official sets and LEGOLAND souvenirs. Honestly, any AFOL pitching up at the hotel after a long, wearying journey would think they'd died and gone to heaven. Although you can only wonder at what non-AFOLs might make of it.....
Having explored the lobby area, our next destination was the restaurant and bar area on the second floor, and once again it was LEGOized (OK, so I made that word up) from top to bottom. The atrium between the restaurant and bar is dominated by a two storey Kingdoms-themed structure for the kids to play in and around; a fearsome troll watches over the visitors, while a variety of brick-built models including a minstrel and various animals are dotted around it.
The hotel had laid on food and drinks for attendees, and we spent maybe half an hour chatting, filling our faces and wandering around the restaurant and bar inspecting the various LEGO models and exhibits. The bar area seemed to be very minifigure focused - the back wall featured all six series of Collectable Minifigures to date, specially framed and on display, while at the bar entrance a number of enlarged versions of series one Collectable Minifigures greeted visitors.
It wasn't just the Collectable Minifigures that made an appearance either. On the wall next to the bar was a display of all the 2012 Superheroes minifigures to date, and underneath was a selection of Harry Potter minifigures.
To get us in the mood for our guided tour of the Star Wars miniland experience, we were even provided with Star Wars-themed cup-cakes.....
I can report that they were delicious, although I couldn't bring myself to eat the Darth Vader-adorned icing disc on top of mine, so I ended up smuggling it out of the premises wrapped in a paper napkin, where it will likely remain forever uneaten as a souvenir of the day.
At around 4pm we were rounded up for the 10 minute walk to Star Wars Miniland, and I'll post my account of that next week....
Just to wrap up my thoughts regarding the hotel, if there had been time I would have asked to see a couple of the bedrooms; all the rooms are themed - Pirates, Adventure or Kingdoms - and they're extensively decorated to reflect the specific theme. Overall, I think my little boy would be in seventh heaven if we went to stay there, and his dad wouldn't be too disappointed either ! Not so sure about mum, though... It's worth noting that the prices aren't exactly for the faint-hearted, however - a two-night weekend break in August (room, breakfast & entry to LEGOLAND) for 2 adults and one child is coming up at over £550 ($880) for the cheapest room, rising to almost £700 ($1120) for a premium room with view. You can learn more about the hotel, and even take a virtual tour, here.
Ta ta for now.
Sneak Peek part 2 : Star Wars Miniland -->