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A kid tests out the new Legoland Florida

WINTER HAVEN - Maybe you have a whole house full of little munchkins screaming out to visit Legoland. Sure, the theme park near Winter Haven sounds like a lot of fun. Smaller rides built just for kids, zip lines, a Lego factory, a pirate waterskiing show, deep-fried apple strips dunked in sugar. But what do actual kids think of the park? Should you plunk down close to $100 for an adult ticket (with parking) and just a bit less for a kid's ticket?
Will the lines be insane? Will there be enough bathrooms? We set out to answer those questions the only way possible -- with a real life kid. The official opening day is Oct. 15. So I am taking my daughter Anna, age 8, to the park today for a preview day. We'll be posting what she and I think of the rides, shows and food, so make sure you check back throughout the day. 9:16 a.m. The first stop. Our first stop, the Kingdom area, because it has princesses and face painting. ($5-$10) The small ride is Merlin's Challenge, a merry go round that also rolls up and down. Anna's verdict: "It was pretty fun how it went up and down, and wasn't too scary if you're a little, little kid." Anna's verdict: four stars out of five 9:41 a.m. Meet the park director Anna met the park general manager Adrian Jones. His "Top Tip" was to go first to the wooden coaster, Coastersaurus, because it will have the longest lines. He also said the park almost didn't open on time because of Hurricane Irene and all the rains washed a bit of the Smalland area into the lake. So the construction teams pulled all nighters to make sure the park could open. 9:49 a.m. The first coaster we ride Anna's verdict on The Dragon coaster: "It was really, really, really fast, and had lots of up and downs, but wasn't too scary. A lot higher up and faster than Air Grover at Busch Gardens." But she was brave enough to keep her hands up the whole time. Anna's verdict: Four stars out of five. 10:20 a.m. We try out Coastersaurus Coastersaurus, The wooden rollercoaster. Anna's review: "Super, super loud, and it rattles all over. I liked how it was so fast. At the first drop, it feels like you're in mid air. Not too scary for a kid that's eight." The cars hold two people each, pretty tight together, and there are drop down bars and seat belts. Tip: after the first two drops, the camera takes your picture. The cheapest package is $17. Anna's Verdict: five out of five stars 10:35 a.m. Next up is the Safari Trek A much calmer ride is the Safari Trek, that has buggies that follow a flat track past huge Lego animals, lions, giraffes and ostriches. Anna's verdict, "Kind of boring, because all you did was roll around. I did like the cool animals, like the big giraffe." Anna's verdict: two stars out of five 10:49 a.m. The Beetle Bounce ride Just outside the wooden Coastersaurus is the Beetle bounce, a small pair of 16-foot towers where you're lifted up in a row of sears and bounced (gently) up and down. Anna's verdict: " I liked going up and down, and it felt like I had butterflies in my tummy over and over." Parents take note, there is just one adult seat per tower, and the lap bar is rather snug. "I know," one ride operator said. "It kind of gets ya." Anna's verdict: three out of five stars 11:14 a.m. Big cities in miniature By descriptions alone, the Lego cities made of bricks may seem less than thrilling. But they actually fascinate kids. The New York skyline is huge, and so much detail that all around you there are kids saying "ooooh!! Oooh! Look Daddy, look at the little police cars." At the NASA site, you can watch a shuttle countdown until it Poofs out smoke. The San Francisco site has a mine earthquake site with rescue crews. Anna's favorite part: "The boat at the Statue of Liberty was really going in the water." Anna's verdict: three out of five stars (Dad gives it a four) 12:31 p.m. The new water show at Legoland The water skiing show attracted lots on fans of the old Cypress Gardens, but this show is quite different. The crowd helps the lovely Miranda and her crew of stubby Lego soldiers rescue Pirate's Cove from the dastardly, and stinky, Brickbeard pirate. There's plenty of zipping about on water scooters and a few ski jumps. The show lasts about 20 minutes. Anna thinks it would be a bit scary for her 3-year-old sister Tess. But here's a tip. Get there very early and you might get to one of three water cannons at the front row to shoot at the actors. Anna also warns, if you sit within five rows of the front, you will get soaked. Anna's verdict: four out of five stars. 1:02 p.m. Time nibble some grub The Legoland signature snack are the Granny's Apple Fries, strips of apple, fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar, served with thick whipped cream. Anna's review: "The apple flavor kind of builds up on you, but the whipped cream cuts the flavor." Given the chance, she'd pick French fries, but I would give them a five. Anna's Verdict: two out of five stars (Dad says they rock!) 1:15 p.m. Food variety It pays to get food early or late at Legoland where there doesn't appear to be the volume of restaurants you might expect. That said, there's good variety and lots of healthy choices, which was a surprise. Along with the fries and cheeseburgers you'd expect, there were unbreaded chicken sandwiches on whole wheat bread with such healthy sides as fruit. Dad's verdict: four out of five, mostly for the healthier options 2:44 p.m. Detour away from Flying School to another coaster We had to re-route to the Test Track coaster because heavy downpours closed several of the rides. The this coaster was definitely the roughest so far. The coaster has four-person cars, with a steep first drop, and lots of whipsaw turns in the sky. Anna's review: "I really liked the drops, but when I was up high I was really scared it would whip me right off the end. Probably better be at least six years old." The height limit is at least 42 inches, so this is in the upper tier of speed coasters. Anna's verdict: four out of five stars. 2:53 p.m. One of the best rides yet For sheer laughs, one of the best rides is the Aquazone Wave Racer. You ride standing up in a water scooter attached to a merry go round, spinning around as water bombs explode around and soak you. Steer the wheel to wheel to swerve left and right. Even waiting in line, you're likely to get soaked, and people waking by can hit buttons to blast the water fountains. Sadly, the face paint was smudged. Anna says: "I really like how it went so fast, but watch out, there is a bonk at the end!!" Anna's verdict: five out of five stars 3:54 p.m. The driving school attraction Anna tries the driving school and I have a heart attack. The wait lasted at least an hour, and then I nearly passed out watching her blow through red lights. The whole driving course lasted about three of the longest minutes of my life. Anna's review: "I was kind of nervous. My legs were kind of wiggly when I was done. The other drivers were kind of crazy." With the wait so long, make sure your children really wants to drive a car and get the plastic drivers' license with their picture on it ($15.) Anna's verdict: four stars out of five 4:35 p.m. The Flying School coaster The Flying School coaster is a kind of mini Shiekra, where your legs hang down in midair. But it rolls rather diving in one big drop. This is at the far end of the park. Anna's commentary, "It went so fast I could barely keep my eyes open. And it felt like if I put my arms out they would hit the poles." Anna's verdict: four stars out of five.

rmullins@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7919 Twitter: @DailyDeadline
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