Legoland Discovery Center

Possibly the most highly-anticipated event of our trip to Chicago was our visit to the Legoland Discovery Center outside of Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg!

I had read up on the experience before we went, but I still wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I had purchased our tickets ahead of time (which I highly recommend…the rate was significantly cheaper!), so we just had to get checked in, and then we were free to roam. The first stop was the Chicago Miniland, and I think it might have been my favorite part of the entire outing. There were tons of familiar Chicago landmarks, and they were still dressed up for the Christmas season, so we got to see the Christkindlmarkt set up in Daley Plaza! The lighting also changed from day to night, so we got to see the city lit up in different ways!

Next up was the Jungle Expedition. We loved all the Lego animals!

We peeked in on the Lego Master Builder Workshop twice, and one of those times, we saw a Master Builder hard at work!

There was also a Star Wars Miniland, which was very popular with the children:

The Kingdom Quest area included one of the two rides in the building:

The Friends area was quite small, but it was still fun to see the characters:

There was a cycle of four movies playing in the 4D cinema. We only saw one of them, and it was a lot of fun, but it hurt our eyes a bit.

There were cool “stamp stations” in every different area. If you buy an activity pack (either ahead of time when you purchase your tickets, or when you arrive), you receive a booklet on a lanyard with information, building instructions, and places to collect all the stamps, which was fun!

Turkey was really looking forward to the Racers Build & Test section. They had all kinds of vehicle parts, and a rather satisfying ramp to test out your creation. All of the children had a lot of fun with it, even though at point, it was getting really busy!

The second ride was right next to the racers, so we got to see how it worked before we took our turn.

There was also a playground with climbing equipment, slides, a water table, and more fun Lego builds. Part of this area was the Duplo section, which is clearly designed for the smallest visitors.

There were so many other cool details scattered throughout the experience, and we made sure to take our time and really look at them all:

When we were done, we walked through a Lego Store. It’s not a true Lego Store like you find in a mall (although there is one of those across the street inside Woodfield), and they don’t give you VIP points for your purchase (but if you show your card, they will give you a small discount right there), but the selection was good, and they even had a few unique items.

So there you have it…everything you always wanted to know about the Chicago Legoland Discovery Center. I would say it’s geared for children up to about age 12, so a few of mine weren’t the target audience, but we are such a Lego-crazy family, we all had a great time, and not one of us got bored while we were there (for almost three hours!). Now if only we could make it to a full Legoland theme park someday…

Medieval Times

While we were up in the Chicago area for Combo Breaker, we enjoyed an evening at Medieval Times in Schaumburg. It was difficult to find a comprehensive guide to the experience before we went, so I have attempted to create one here.

First of all, yes, the facility is built to look like a castle. The children loved it from first glance!

Our tickets were to the 7:30 p.m. show. We were advised that the doors would open at 6:15, and we were there promptly (actually, a few minutes early). This ended up being a good thing, because it was a rainy evening, and there was only so much room indoors for the line, but we were there in time so we didn’t have to wait out in the rain.

There is quite a bit to look at while you wait, and the farther in you get, the more there is to see. There was also a photo opportunity with the king, before we approached the counter where we showed our tickets and received our seating assignment for the night. We were given yellow cards, which signified that we would be rooting for the yellow knight. We were directed toward table nine, which kept our entire group of eight together. There was a bit more of a wait before we were given our yellow crowns and admitted to the main hall, but the map of the Crusades held our interest while we waited.

Once we were in the main hall, we took a moment to get our bearings. Fortunately, there were sings pointing to the different points of interest. We decided to go down the Hall of Stallions first. There were plenty of souvenir opportunities along the way!

In addition to a few of the horses, we also saw the falconer with his falcon, examples of different kinds of medieval weapons, such as flail, lance, and alabarda, and the entrance to the torture museum, which we didn’t tour. There were also seating areas for those who wanted to stop and enjoy the view or a drink.

Speaking of drinks, there was a bar with non-alcoholic slushes, and adult drinks like “The Executioner” and “Maiden’s Kiss.”

The Hall of Arms was really the place to be. In addition to more souvenir stands, this was where the king performed knightings for paying guests before the show. And yes, there were herald trumpets to introduce the king!

Finally, about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, they let people into the arena. The door you entered was based on the color of your knight. The different sections of the arena were lit up in the colors of the six knights, and each section also had a name. We were in the Kingdom of Navarra.

Part of the experience included a meal, which was served in courses by serving wenches, and included absolutely no utensils. We enjoyed a dragon scale (garlic toast), dragon blood (tomato bisque), a baby dragon (half a roasted chicken), a dragon horn (ear of corn), a dragon egg (roast potato half), and lemon pound cake. The menu was written on the napkin, which I thought was very clever.

Once most everyone was seated, the show began. Fog filled the arena, and lights and music kicked off the event (I particularly enjoyed the score). First was a single white horse and the horse master (or mistress):

Then the knights were introduced by the narrator, who also tells the story of the 11th century show throughout the evening. While you are assigned to a specific knight, there are also alliances in the kingdom, which means that your knight is associated with two others, and they are the sworn enemies of the other three:

Once all of the knights had entered, the king was introduced, with much pomp and ceremony:

There were more beautiful performances by the Andalusian horses:

And the flight of the falcon:

More riders on horseback:

And then the feats of skills and gallantry by the knights on horseback in the Tournament of Games. There were many contests, such as relays, accuracy, and flag tossing. After each, there were winners proclaimed, and those knights received flowers from Princess Catalina, which they then threw to people in their section. Chickadee received a flower from our knight!

After those contests, there was a bit of intrigue, as a foreign kingdom sent a gift (a horseman), to the king:

And then the real contests began with the Tournament Royal! Jousting and sword fighting were the main events. A safety net rolled down from the ceiling, because in addition to sparks shooting from the sword fights, wooden splinters from the joust flew everywhere! There was cheering and booing all throughout the contests…Bunny yelled so much and so loudly that she lost her voice! The atmosphere and energy of the crowd was fantastic, and really made you feel like you were part of a real medieval tournament.

As different knights lost the grand finale was building, to the final knight (sadly, the blue knight), competing against the treacherous visitor from the other kingdom, who has declared that upon his victory, his king will wed the Princess Catalina to unite the kingdoms. I don’t suppose I need to tell you who won! The loser’s life was spared, but he was taken to the dungeon, where I suppose some of the torture devices found in the museum were used on him.

After the show was over, there were plenty of photo opportunities with the king, princess, knights, and even the villain, in the Hall of Arms:

As we left the castle, we discovered that it was lit up in the color of the wining knight. Not our yellow knight, sadly, or even one of his allies, but the previously-mentioned blue knight:

It’s not a cheap event, although there are plenty of coupons available that make it more accessible, but it’s a really fun evening, especially for those who are interested in that time period. It’s a truly immersive experience, and for the time you’re there, it’s easy to forget you’re in modern-day suburban Chicago. My children are already talking about when they might be able to go back, because they really loved it!