Lego facts: 8 things you didn’t know about Lego
Lego is one of the world’s most enduring toys. And over the last few years it’s also become an increasingly popular family attraction. Along with the LEGOLAND resort hotels and theme parks like Windsor, LEGOLAND Discovery Centres are springing up in cities around the world. But can they compete with other summer temptations of days out in the fresh air or the Olympics on the TV? I took Cameron and Hannah and two of their friends on an outing to Manchester to find out…
915 million colourful combinations
FACT 1: “Two eight-stud LEGO bricks of the same colour can be combined in 24 different ways. Three eight-stud bricks can be combined in 1,060 ways. There are more than 915 million combinations possible for six 2 x 4 LEGO bricks of the same colour.” LEGOLAND factsheet
We are making a Union Jack. But some of us are confusing our St Andrew with our St George. The Union Jack looks very simple to make. And we have a teacher talking us through the steps. And we are in a special Lego classroom. And still I want to throw mine at the wall, despite it being Jubilee year.
FACT 2: “The LEGO brick has inspired generations of innovators, including Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and Jonathan Gay, inventor of Flash animation.” LEGOLAND factsheet
The Google boys must have had good eyesight. Whoever decided Lego bricks should be this small never wore glasses. I don’t wear glasses, but I might have to now. My kids are suffering no such frustrations. Cameron completes his flag in under ten minutes and rushes off to the 3D cinema where glasses are an integral part of the experience. It appears I am not the creative person I thought I was.
Over 8 quadrillion minifigure combos
FACT 3: “There are more than 8 quadrillion possible combinations of minifigures that can be made using all of the unique minifigure parts over the last 30 years.” LEGOLAND factsheet
There may well be 8,181,068,395,500,000 possible combinations of minifigures but I’m focussing on just one; a cat that’s been combined with the set of Coronation Street. Yet I’m not even sure the cat is a minifigure and I’m distracted by the fireworks going off on Blackpool Tower, and the Oblivion Ride chugging its way above the wind farms and canals of the Peak District. Unlike its real counterpart this Oblivion ride doesn’t go at 100 miles per hour; I wonder what speed the Miniland version can notch up? The children meanwhile blast through Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester and run off to create their own skyscraper; a challenge set by one of the staff who spots their interest in tall towers.
FACT 4: “40 billion LEGO bricks stacked on top of one another would connect the earth with the moon.” LEGOLAND factsheet
They don’t quite reach the moon as they only have a morning, and four buckets of Duplo. But they do match one of the permanent towers that may or may not be the Empire State Building. They have to stand on the Lego Earthquake Centre to finish the roofgarden. Another staff member rushes over to tell them to get down.
“But your mate asked us to build it,” they argue.
“Yes but standing up there is dangerous. I’ll show you another way to do it,” he says, and goes on to teach them how to build from below and strengthen the tower in the middle by inserting a large square base.
FACT 5: “LEGO bricks are available in 53 different colours” LEGOLAND factsheet.
Cold outside, bright as bricks in here
I look out of the window, down onto a car park surrounding the Trafford Centre. It’s a bit grim outside. But in here it’s as bright as a….well, a Lego brick. After shivering in the cold at more than one theme park over the last year, I’m grateful for an indoor venue. And unlike many theme parks, this is an imaginative, interactive experience.
At LEGOLAND Windsor it’s all rides; the building of tall towers is forbidden. And while there are a few rides at the Manchester site, the Discovery Centre is more akin with what Lego is about; building and creating. Although the place is a little too packed out for my taste, and I know my eleven year old son would think it was “well boring,” it’s heaven for toddlers and young children. And the formula seems to work around the world. Merlin Entertainments Group, the parent company, is rolling out similar experiences across the globe including several in North America and Europe, and the first is due to open in Canada in Spring 2013. Each offers unique Miniland sculptures of the local region and icons. I don’t expect the Toronto version will have anything similar to Coronation Street, but it’s bound to have its fair share of skyscrapers. And if it’s anything like the new Star Wars Miniland we visited this Spring, it will blow you away.
FACT 6: “Children around the world spend 5 billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks.” LEGOLAND factsheet
Minifigures will take over the earth
The tallest tower has been achieved in the record time of under an hour. At one point the staff bring us hard hats in case it topples. They then help us test it against an earthquake. The centre is getting busier now as the lousy weather brings people inside. My kids build cars and race them. They sit in giant buckets of plastic bits. They act like the children that they are. Perhaps this is the attraction’s real achievement. Children are allowed to be children. Even the adults are allowed to be children.
FACT 7: “It would take 1 billion minifigures, lined up in a single row to wrap around the Earth’s circumference one time. Today there are enough minifigures to wrap around the Earth at least 4 times.” LEGOLAND factsheet
In the shop on the way out I buy the Union Jack Lego kit. I am a creative type. I am a thinker. I am good with my hands. I am not willing to be defeated by a few red white and blue plastic bricks. And while I’m never going to wrap them around the earth, I might manage to slot them together in a vaguely flag-like pattern. Perhaps I will even wave my Lego flag during the Olympics.
FACT 8: “Legoland is epic.” Cameron. “No, it’s awesome.”
Where? The Legoland Discovery Centre, in Manchester’s Trafford Centre, is open from 10am-7pm daily.
How much?Admission on the door is £16.20 per person, but you can get tickets much cheaper by booking in advance online.
How long? Allow 2-3 hours for your visit, although you can stay all day.
What else? There’s a cafe and shop, which of course sells Lego. Our tip is to get there bang on 10am as it can get very busy after lunch, particularly on a wet day, or at weekends and school holidays. Do all the rides early on and then chill out with a coffee while the children hit the soft play and car racing.
Are your kids LEGO mad? Have you been to any of the theme parks or Discovery Centres?
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- Behind the scenes with the Master Builders, Legoland Orlando
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- Inside the Berg – the Titanic Visitor Attraction, Belfast
- Building bricks for a happy family adventure? Legoland Windsor
- Harry Potter Studio Tour, Warner Bros, Studio Tour, London
- Feeling the Lego Force at Star Wars Miniland
- Art, ice cream and arguments at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
- Culture and happiness at the Reykjavik Children’s Culture Festival
Disclosure Note: Thanks to Legoland Discovery Centre who allowed us to check out their attraction to bring you this story.