It all began with a little imagination and lots and lots of Legos. The brightly colored building blocks, created in 1932 and still made for kids aged two and up, are the cornerstone of the first Legoland theme park in the U.S.
In the words of one parent, "It's real hands-on...it's different than the parks here - they get to play with Legos and it's just really cool."
Interactive fun is what it's all about. "They create their experience," says Lynn, one mother. "They have to power the rides. They have to program the robots. They have to build the vehicles, and test them and play with them."
About the only things kids can't get their hands on are the models in Miniland, five miniature replicas of American towns built with tens of millions of bricks. Mini-Manhattan is amazingly realistic, with Rockefeller Center, water fountains, roller bladers, and tiny bathrooms for little Lego people.
Model builder Simon Pugh explains, "What everybody tried to do is give the children a fantastic experience and give the younger children an opportunity to explore with their eyes and locate and have an adventure and imagine themselves being in a small city."
Built from small-scale models of real buildings and pieced together at Legoland theme parks in Europe, Miniland was disassembled and shipped to Carlsbad, California.
But it can't be knocked over, Pugh says. "Each piece is glued together. They have to use special glue to keep it more permanent."
California became the permanent home to the Danish-owned Legoland theme park after beating out Virginia in a highly competitive battle. It took three years to create the park's 5,000 Lego models, many of which are animated.
Legoland is surrounded by bigger and better-known theme parks like Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. But it's not in direct competition with them. This isn't a theme park for teenaged thrill seekers. There are no scary rides here.
Everywhere you look, there's more than meets the eye and more to fuel the imagination of Lego lovers young and old. Admission to Legoland is $32 for adults, $25 for kids aged three and older. Kids under three get in free.
©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed