Block It Out - April 2017

Legoland Dubai customizes Merlin’s successful formula to beat the heat

Merlin Entertainments has a tried-and-true method for producing Legoland theme parks, which has seen success the world over—everywhere from Malaysia to Southern California. So when it came to opening the company’s first Legoland in the Middle East, it was a matter of customizing this park for a region that experiences high heat for several months a year.

“The approach is always the same—provide interactive, educational attractions to families with children 2 to 12,” says GM Siegfried Boerst, who has been with Legoland parks for more than 15 years. “The biggest change is to adapt to the climate here. We tried to create a theme-park feeling that, in my opinion, needs to be outdoors, but still allows people to move around easily when it’s warm. We always look at which are the most popular attractions [in other Legolands], but here we were looking for things that would work indoors.”

The most notable alteration for the Dubai climate is Miniland—the hub and signature attraction for every Legoland park. The Dubai Miniland is the first in the world to be built indoors; the area resides entirely under an air-conditioned dome, includes a café, and is connected to the other five lands in the park, giving visitors easy access to a place to cool off in the summer months.

Legoland features more than 40 rides, shows, and interactive experiences. All of them feature some sort of break from the sun, whether that’s indoor, air-conditioned queues, or placing rides under shade structures—including the sprawling “Driving School.” Merlin also opted for several indoor attractions from its stable, including the “Factory Tour” and “Submarine Adventure.”

Legoland Dubai opened in October 2016, followed in January 2017 by Legoland Water Park, with a Legoland Hotel in the works. The water park is located right next to the theme park and is only the second Legoland Water Park in the world to be a completely separate gate (a combo ticket is available). The water park offers 20 slides and attractions, including the “Build-A-Raft River” where guests can customize their floats with Lego bricks. The facility also features two wave pools and water-play areas.

Boerst says being a part of Dubai Parks and Resorts was a new experience for Merlin, working within a broader resort for the first time. He is pleased with the combined marketing power of the three parks and has enjoyed the collaboration among the professionals working across the property: “There are a lot of experienced people in the other parks we can bounce ideas off of and learn from.”

On the other hand, Boerst says there have been learning opportunities for being part of a larger organization, such as the timing of decisions and navigating the complicated logistics of shared resources.

Here’s a look at the attractions in Legoland Dubai’s six themed zones:

FACTORY

The entry to the park boasts a bevy of shops offering the largest selection of Lego items in the region. The “Factory Tour” is the signature attraction here, as it is just the second of its kind at any Legoland in the world. In this interactive exhibit, guests learn how the famous toys are manufactured and then take home an original brick, made right there at the park.

MINILAND

Legoland Dubai’s Miniland boasts Lego depictions of the iconic Dubai skyline, including the tallest Lego model of a building in the world: the 56-foot-tall Burj Khalifa. Other countries represented include Egypt, India, and Kuwait. Miniland also features an indoor restaurant and the “Build a City” play table.

ADVENTURE

This area is themed to exotic expeditions of all kinds. Merlin’s Sea Life aquarium expertise is used here in the “Submarine Adventure” dark ride, which allows guests to see real fish as they learn about underwater life. “Lost Kingdom Adventure,” meanwhile, is an interactive dark ride.

IMAGINATION

This zone offers guests the chance to play with Lego bricks and test their creations against one another. It also features a 4-D cinema showing Lego movies, and the Duplo Valley play area dedicated to the park’s youngest visitors.

KINGDOMS

Themed to a medieval setting, this land is home to the park’s sole roller coaster, “The Dragon,” a dark ride/coaster combo. The Zierer ride tops out at 52.5 feet and reaches 37 mph. Kingdoms also features several flat rides and a stage for live shows.

LEGO CITY

Imagine a modern-day metropolis shrunk to kid size and made of Lego bricks, and that’s Lego City. It offers children the chance to feel like grownups by driving cars, piloting boats, and fighting fires, among other tasks.