Planning a trip to Southern California and can’t decide between Disneyland and LEGOLAND? We break down the differences, and here’s what you need to know.

LEGOLAND: Tickets for one day in LEGOLAND California, not including admission to the water park and SEA LIFE Aquarium, are $84 for adults and $78 for kids ages 3-12. For admittance to all three, you’ll pay $115 for adults and $109 for kids.

Disneyland: Forget purchasing a one-day ticket ($99 for adults, $93 for kids 3-9). You’ll want at least two days here ($185, $172). Upgrading to the park hopper option that allows you to go from Disneyland to adjacent Disney California Adventure will set you back an additional $40 per ticket.

What you get
LEGOLAND: The park has three areas -- the main park with its Lego-themed rides, Lego building areas, and Lego replicas of iconic US cities in Miniland USA; water park with wave pools and water slides; and SEA LIFE Aquarium. Most visitors purchase tickets that allow access to all three. It’s not uncommon to see swimsuit-clad visitors in the main park.

Disneyland: You get two parks in one at Disneyland. The original park has all the classic rides: Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and "it’s a small world." California Adventure has new favorites like California Screamin’ and Soarin’ Over California.

LEGOLAND: Rides here are based on children’s toys and scaled back in intensity -- think Lego planes that “fly” in circles or Lego cars that drive around a track. Even Coastersaurus, with its wide turns and gentle dips, is pretty ho-hum. If you have toddlers or preschoolers, it’s the perfect introduction to amusement park rides.

Disneyland: There are quite a few rides aimed at young ones, but there’s a reason adults without kids plan their vacations around a trip to “the Happiest Place on Earth.” Rides like Space Mountain or Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland and California Screamin’ or Tower of Terror in California Adventure can get pretty intense.

Water parks
LEGOLAND: Like the rides in the main part of the park, the attractions in the water park are relatively tame. (Descriptions for some rides even come with the warning, “Must wear swim diaper.”)

Disneyland: Disneyland doesn’t have a waterpark, so if you are planning a California trip and a water park is a must, LEGOLAND is a good option. If you’re heading to Florida instead, Walt Disney World has two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

LEGOLAND: Although there is daily entertainment and 4-D movies, LEGOLAND doesn’t have parades, laser shows, or fireworks. You can trade mini-Lego figures with park employees, though. How cool is that?

Disneyland: Meet your favorite Disney characters, from Mickey to Elsa, at a character breakfast (reservations required, extra charge) or on Main Street. Then, catch a show with more characters, including Captain America. In the evening, take your pick from the parade, fireworks, or World of Color water display -- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

LEGOLAND: Stay at the Lego-centric park’s on-site resort for early admission to the park. Want a break from the Lego scene?  We recommend West Inn & Suites just a few miles down the road.

Disneyland: Guests also enjoy early admission to the Disney parks if they stay at one of the three resorts there: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.

The Bottom Line
LEGOLAND: It’s not Disneyland, and for many people, that’s actually a plus. No super long lines for rides or long waits for shows to begin. We appreciate the numerous play areas and interactive rides for young children and grandchildren, but older kids, especially teens, will likely be bored.

Disneyland: For anyone over the age of 7, Disneyland is the hands-down winner with its classic rides, thrilling attractions, and movie tie-ins. But, if you have little ones, pirates and ghosts can be pretty scary theme rides, and then, there’s that long walk back to the car when they get tired. Every amusement park aficionado should visit a Disney park at least once -- it’s just a question of at what age.


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