Magazine article Sunset

Ready, Set, Lego!

Magazine article Sunset

Ready, Set, Lego!

Article excerpt

I was confused. We were standing ankle-deep in Tess's favorite ride, which wasn't really a ride at all.

"I found a foot," she shouted. "For real. A real dinosaur foot!" We were excavating in a pit that concealed three concrete dinosaur skeletons. For the next half-hour we shoveled and brushed, following the leg up to the head and over to the tail. If travel is about making memories, Tess and I had just uncovered one together. She was so happy and astonished. So was I. The design of this park understood something elemental about kids and fun. No pandering. No condescension. Whatever it is, a ride or a hotel room or even a footbridge, you have to make room for imagination.

Tess continued to scoop and brush. Me too. It was something we could do together, a rarity in this world. As my hand felt around for the dinosaur's skull, something flashed. A memory. I am pretending to dig for dinosaurs on a beach near my home when I was Tess's age. I'm holding a big plastic bucket, the same kind in which we keep our Legos. My brothers and I would fight over that bucket, each of us trying to lay claim to the best pieces buried in the jumble. All those blocks of brilliant color--colors I haven't seen in 20 years. Now here I was doing these same things with my daughter. Digging sand. Playing Legos. It's as if we want to rebuild our childhood for our kids and hand it to them: "Here. Do it like this."

We strolled a path, munching fried apple slices dipped in whipped cream, until we reached the center of the pinwheel. There stood models of American cities. The New York skyline. New Orleans. The Las Vegas Strip. All were built to scale, and all to the level of detail that even the rooftops, which nobody can see, sport replicas of the air-conditioning units found on the actual buildings. The park let Tess and me hop the fence and wander among the cityscapes. She put my hand on tiny buses and trees, swiped them over a "lion"--which was, in fact, a sphinx. To touch these models felt like I was holding a pixel-ated world. Some 27,000 sculptures adorn the park, using more than 60 million Legos. Each one is assembled and maintained by hand. Nothing has been custom-made for the park; they only use what is commercially available. Theoretically, anybody can build whatever they see in Legoland.

TESS AND I made our way back to dig for more dinosaur bones. But a few scoops in, she said the one phrase that alarms me as a blind parent, no matter where we are. …

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