Return from California Part 1 #illumedati

Hey everyone, it’s Medicine Mondays…  but I just got back from the California Family Vacation 2018. I’m going to do a quick review/recap of what we did along with some advice/tips I’d like to share with others. So let’s talk about the Return from California.

First of all, let me remind everyone that I’m originally from Southern California so I kind of know what’s going on in terms of navigating Disneyland. However, California Adventure was a little after my time. I also have never been to Legoland, and haven’t been to Sea World in many, many years.

Stock Photo from: Pixabay

Return from California Part 1

Let’s jump in:

City Pass

We used City Pass which is 1 day tickets to Legoland and Sea World and 3 day combo tickets to both Disneyland and California Adventure. The long and short of the City Pass is that it’s a great deal overall if you’re already planning to spend 3 days at Disneyland/California Adventure. It’s almost like getting access to Legoland and Sea World for free.

However, trying to navigate 3 different parks is no easy task. We flew into LAX… right into rush hour traffic. Luckily, my parents still live in Orange County so we stopped in to grab some In N Out and say hi to my family. Then we jumped back on the freeway to drive down to Carlsbad and stay at the Legoland Hotel.

I would recommend trying to avoid LAX if you can help it all. Unfortunately, flying from Hawaii doesn’t give us all that many options. Also, I would also recommend avoid LAX during rush hour, it took us about 1.5 hours to get from LAX to my parent’s house in Orange County (near Anaheim).

Note: Hawaiian Airlines said they will start flying from Honolulu, HI to Long Beach, CA — this is a much, much better option to get to Southern California, but may be slightly more expensive. For me, I think the price difference would be worth it in order to avoid LAX.


City Pass is worth it if you’re already planning to go to Disneyland/California Adventure for three days, and you would go to the other parks.

The Legoland Hotel

The Legoland Hotel is really nice. My in-laws came with us, so we all stayed in the Ninjago Suite together. The room is really cool/cute with lots of Lego made stuff in the Ninjago Theme. For example, there was a dragon hatching out of an egg, Samurai X’s helmet, and a bunch of ninja stars “stuck in the bathroom walls”. The bunk beds for the kids was also very nice.

There is a place to play for the kids in the hotel lobby as well. For example, there is a giant Lloyd (The Green Ninja) made out of Legos, and a Lego “pit” to build whatever you want.

There is also a lot of little events for the kids at night after the park closes for the kids to do. However, our kids were too tired by the end of the night to want to do any of them.

If you stay at the Legoland Hotel, you get to have their breakfast buffet (Brick’s Family Restaurant) and you also to enter the park a little earlier. The back of the hotel is basically the entrance to the park, so it’s really convenient.


You pay for convenience and “the experience”. However, it’s very expensive. For some the convenience may be worth it, but for others it won’t be.


Of all the parks, I think Legoland was the most low-key for us. Maybe this was because it was our first park, and we kind of just meandered most of the time. My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew met us a little later that morning.

From my understanding, the newest ride was LEGO Ninjago – The Ride. It’s kind of like a “on the rails” shooter similar to the stuff at Disneyland (Astro Blasters and Midway Mania). However, the gimmick is that there is no “gun” to shoot. You shoot fireballs yourself by waving your hands in front of you to “throw fireballs”. The first time we did it, I think we did pretty well. However, the second time I think my sensor was messed up because it wouldn’t throw fireballs very well. Either way, it was a lot of fun. My 2 year old son Lucas loved it, he still does the “throw fireballs” motion and says “pew pew pew”.

My daughter really liked meeting the LEGO Friends. She got to watch the performance and dance with all the LEGO friends. Then afterwards we ate some crepes, found the LEGO Friends “lost cat”, who is made out of LEGOs, and took a picture with the LEGO Friends. My daughter kept telling everyone, “The LEGO Friends are real. They’re not just LEGOs, they’re HUMAN.” Totally worth it.

There were few other fun rides for the kids to go on, however, I don’t think there was anything on the same scale as Disneyland/California Adventure. Of note was the “Fun Town Police and Fire Academy” where you have to move the car by doing a pumping motion, “put out a fire”, then get back on the car and go back.

The kids also really liked “Miniland USA“. Essentially it’s a collection of famous spots in the United States created in LEGOs, like San Francisco, CA, Washington DC, New Orleans, LA, New York, NY, Las Vegas, NY and “Southern California”. Additionally, there is a whole extra area dedicated to LEGO Star Wars. What is great about the Miniland USA and LEGO Star Wars sections is that it isn’t just looking at the different LEGOs. Most of the areas have some kind of interactive feature. The kids get to press a button for movement, sound effects, or a small voice clip from the Star Wars movies. My kids had a lot of fun going around pressing all the buttons to see what they did.

Sensei’s Note:

We didn’t do the Water Park or the Sea Life Aquarium. It was way too cold to do a water park and since we were going to Sea World we decided to not do the Sea Life Aquarium.

Anything disappointing?


The major disappointment (for me), was that they were no longer selling Lobster Rolls. My colleague had been raving about them for the last year. He was even planning to take his kids again this year to get it again. I talked to the guy at the information booth and they just didn’t sell very well apparently so they changed it back into Hot Dog Zone. [sadness]

I made the mistake of buying the Legoland “Photo Pass” called Magic Memories ($25.95). There wasn’t as many opportunities for pictures during the day as I thought. Luckily, we managed to get pictures of my sister, brother-in-law, and my nephew so that made it a little more worthwhile. This might be more worthwhile if you do more of the “big kid rides” — maybe there are more photo opportunities there?


Legoland was fun. However, it’s not on the same scale as Disneyland/California Adventure. One day is really all you need to see it all. It’s very good bang for your buck and I think my son Lucas, who is only 34” tall didn’t have any real problems getting on most rides.

Don’t buy the “Photo Pass” (Magic Memories) unless you’re planning to get full use out of it. Can’t comment on Water Park or Sea Life Aquarium.

All in all, I think Legoland was a good “warmup” park to get the kids ready for the rest of the trip.

Sea World

Sea World is kind of a divisive park. It’s had a lot of bad press in recent years especially since there have even been special exposés on the treatment of the Orcas in captivity. However, I think Sea World has done its best to try to restore its image by doing more sea rescues.

We met my brother-in-law, his wife, and his young son at Sea World. They have season passes since they live in San Diego. Sea World has some smaller rides for the kids which my daughter and son really enjoyed. There are also some “big kid rides”, meaning roller coasters which seem pretty fun, but no one wanted to go on. Also, there is some new roller coaster coming soon I think as well called the Electric Eel.

Interestingly, my daughter enjoyed the “seasonal” attractions more than the normal Sea World attractions. We managed to catch a Lunar New Year show which showcased some local groups. We caught a lion dance (and dragon dance) which she liked. She also really liked the local Indian dancers and she tried to mimic their dance moves the whole time. We were also able to get to see the Chinese Acrobats  which my kids really liked. Kylie saw the whole thing and liked the girls with the spinning plates and the girl who juggled a table on her feet. Lucas was asleep for most of it, but he managed to catch the end. They both like the acrobats jumping through hoops.

For the “normal” Sea World attractions, they liked the Sea Lions Live and the Dolphin Days shows the best. Between the two, I think they liked the Sea Lions Live show more. However, they saw the Dolphin Show late in the day, so they may have been too tired.


Sea World, like Legoland is another good day trip. You can see pretty much the whole park in one day.

I think it offers something distinctly different from both Legoland and Disneyland/California Adventure.

However, the controversial treatment of the orcas in captivity may dissuade you from going.

Back to Orange County

We drove back up to Orange County and stopped by my parents place again for a little bit, the next morning (Monday). Then we drove to Disneyland.

I will talk about Disneyland/California Adventure in my next post on Wednesday.


City Pass is worth it if you plan to visit more than just Disneyland/California Adventure.

Legoland is fun, but one day is probably enough.

Sea World is also fun, but one day is also probably enough.

Whatever Wednesdays Sensei


Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.

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