With Merlin Annual pass having to close its parks back in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, all of our plans, just like everyone else’s, where put on hold. It was so strange not to be able to do the things we would normally do or go to places we would normally go. With this new normal, I will admit I couldn’t wait for something to look forward to. Then came the news that “Merlin theme parks are to reopen”! We couldn’t be more excited!
In November last year we had booked a surprise stay in the Castle Hotel in Legoland Windsor for Emerson’s birthday in July and we were so relieved when we received our email saying the hotel was back open and we could go and celebrate our boy’s birthday somewhere he loved! With everything going on in the world at the moment, it was so lovely to have something positive to look forward too.
Before our stay, we received a few emailed for Legoland informing us of the new guidelines and procedures that would now be happening in the park. We were asked to bring our own masks (this is for all guests over the age of 6) as we would need to wear them on some rides and in the shops, we were informed of what would happen on entry and the new systems put in place throughout the park. There was nothing on there we did not expect and we were glad to see that the park were taking the pandemic seriously.
We packed our bags (and made sure we each had our masks) and we set off! Emerson had no clue at this point that we would be staying the the Castle hotel and we couldn’t wait to tell him. Pulling into the hotel car park, he was confused and we couldn’t wait to tell him! Our boy was so surprised. A few weeks ago he didn’t know if he would be able to do anything for his birthday and now he was staying over at the Castle Hotel, he was so over whelmed. He couldn’t wait to get into the park, and to be honest, neither could we.
Walking toward the hotel entrance we were kindly asked to follow a path set out for hotel guest to meet a member of staff who would be there to take our temperatures, give us our wrist bands and tell us more about what to now expect in the park. She was very informative and friendly, we felt completely at ease with everything the park had put in place.
Directed around the hotel and over the board walk we were asked to scan out Merlin Passes to entry and asked to keep our wrist bands on at all time so the staff would know we had been temperature checked and allow us into the park and hotels. Each member of staff we came across was very friendly and polite with us.
Once in the park the first thing we noticed were the road makings on the path, Emerson loved the fact that he could pretend he was in a car while walking around the park. The second thing I noticed was that the bins had film to keep them open so we didn’t have to push them open with our hands to throw our rubbish away. Such a small but very good idea! It was all these small things that had been put in place to keep us safe. Every queue we entered had clear 2 meter markers for us to stand on, every ride we went on we had seen being cleaned, we even got to see members of staff spraying the fence in Miniland to keep us all safe. Bathrooms in the park were clean and hand sanitizer was at every entrance in shops and restaurants we visited during our stay and the park had a much more relaxed and calmer feel to it then some of our previous visits.
A few rides throughout the park where closed and understandably so due to the government guidelines at the time of our visit, but most rides had a normal “summer holidays” queue time. I have to admit, it was nice having space around us in the queues. Normally some queues feel like your on top of each other and a little manic were as now we have plenty of space and everything was so much calmer.
After we spend the day in the park going on Emerson’s favorite rides we had been given a call from the Castle Hotel to let us know our room was ready. We had been asked pria to our stay to check in via email to make key collection as fast and seamless as possible to keep guest and staff safe.
Walking through the wooden fence entrance into the Castle Hotels grounds we were met with music and the noise or horses and Lego characters wishing us a great stay. You cannot help but marvel at the whole place, it truly is a cartoon Lego castle come to life. Any prince or princess would be delighted to enter such a place. Walking through the automatic doors into the hotel lobby itself is a sight to behold. You are welcome by Merlin the magician himself. His Lego self standing tall in the center of the lobby keeping us all safe. Above him you can see the Queen of the castle on her balcony watching everything happening below. To our left was reception, and the receptionist had our room key ready for us. After a very quick welcome at reception we headed for the lift. I noticed the hotels restaurant straight across from the reception desk, but this sadly was closed due to the restrictions put in place during our stay. We would be eating in the main Bricks Restaurant in the Lego Hotel tonight and tomorrow morning. This was a little disappointing as only Castle guests can eat in the Castle restaurant, but we make the best of it. You could tell staff were trying to do their best with the guidelines they had to abide by at that time. With our room key was a £10 gift card for Emerson. we could not use the swimming pool during our stay, so the park gave every child staying over £10 gift card that they could spend either in the gift shop or for food, drinks or sweets in the park. Again the little touches made this stay very special and it was nice the park had compensated all their hotel guests with little gifts due to restrictions they had to apply.
Entering and riding in the lift is a magic trick of its own, with Merlin welcoming you over the speaker and creating a magic trick with the lights in the lift itself. Legoland ready do think of everything to continue the magic throughout your stay. Exiting the life and walking onto the floor we would be sleeping on, the theme of the castle carries on through every corridor, with a child sized Lego knight to welcome you and a themed carpet to guide your way, you cannot help but smile. This was pure magic to Emerson.
We had chose a Knights themed room to stay in and as we entered we were in awwe. The fully themed room was light, bright and airy. With a Lego characters and pictures of an object you would find in a Lego Castle everywhere we looked. With bow and arrows on the walls, Lego flags on each side of the double bed, objects printed on the carpet, a knight on the wall of the children’s area and a stain glass window effect light handing at the head of the double bed in the adults part of the room. This place way fantastic! Between the adult and children sleeping areas is a nice sized family bathroom, complete with a double shower over a bath. We were given plenty of white fluffy towels and toiletry for our stay. There was also a wardrobe area and a large desk that had a safe and mini fridge hidden inside its cupboards. Each area had its own TV and the children’s area had its own PlayStation 4. Where there would have been a Lego pit was now empty, but the hotel provided Emerson with his own mini Lego box he could play with and take home with him. Such a nice idea.
When we first enter the room there is a Lego statue of a dragon sitting on a wooden safe in front of us. In the room was a scavenger hunt where Emerson had to search the room looking for different objects giving him the code for the wooden safe. HE loved this! Cracking the code, inside the safe was a Lego Castle Hotel bag full of goodies for him! Including more Lego, a pop badge, lanyard and more! He was so happy! Also in the room waiting for him was a birthday card, badge and balloon to help celebrate his birthday! The room was everything we had hoped for.
Due to the new procedures in place we couldn’t book to eat in the Castle Hotels restaurant like we had wanted too, instead we had two options given to us. We could book in at the Bricks Restaurant in the main Lego Hotel (we did this) or we could order a takeaway pizza at the sky bar in the Lego Hotel to eat either at a table outside or in our room. I thought this was a brilliant idea if you do not want to eat in a public place at the moment, but we felt safe enough to eat in the restaurant, and as the stay was for Emerson’s birthday we wanted to make it as special as possible for him (plus, Emerson does not eat pizza). After relaxing in the room for a little while we slowly got ready for dinner. Our booking was for 6pm and as we entered the restaurant we could see it had been very well organised. We have eaten in this restaurant before and I could tell a few changes had taken place, but the magic was still there. Being a buffet restaurant I was intrigued to see what they had put in place to keep us all safe, and still enjoy our meal.
After sanitising our hands, we where shown to our table and given a digital buzzer. The lovely waiter explained that once the buzzer went off we could queue for our turn to choose our food. Emerson was given his own mini cardboard suitcase containing crayons and coloring pages. Such a great idea! He was told he could keep it or leave it on the table after and the restaurant would dispose of it. He then tuck our drinks order and left us to relax. When our buzzer lit up we headed to “the big book” and a staff member then explained to us the new system. We where asked to stay on one side and go around the whole area, we could take our time but asked to not go back once we had moved to the next food station. Completely understandable. They also informed us that at the moment the could only let us go up once for food, so asked us to take as much as we wanted. On our previous visits (before COVID) we could go up and many times as we likes, but do to new restrictions they could no longer offer this. They also had less choice, again completely understandable, but there is still plenty of choose from! That night they had a BBQ themed meal prepared for guessed, with chicken skewers, bbq chicken wings, jacket potatoes, chili, rice, chips, Lego Brick fries, burgers, sausages, salad in individual containers, and this is just to name a selection of foods on offer that evening, we had plenty to choose from. After we made our choices we made our way back to our table to enjoy our meals.
With a satisfying meal, the waiter came over with the desert board and cleared our table away while we decided on what tempting sweet treat to try. We all oped for the Oreo ice cream sundae. It was lovely! I will admit at first I had no idea what would happen before we entered the restaurant, but I am going to say that I thought that the way Legoland had prepared for guests to eat at their restaurant again was very well done. They system worked well and we felt relaxed during our time in there. We were not rushed and we really enjoyed it and the food was beautiful.
After dinner we bought a drink at the sky bar and walked around to the Castle Hotel grounds where Emerson enjoyed playing on the outdoor play area while we relaxed in the evening sun and enjoyed our drinks. It was such a lovely end to our day. Once our boy had tided of playing we headed back to our room for the evening. Our beds in the hotel rooms were very comfortable and the hotel was very peaceful throughout the whole night.
The following morning we got up and got ready for breakfast. Just as the evening before, we had our temperature checked at the entrance of the Lego hotel and then queued for breakfast in the Bricks Restaurant. It was much busier this morning compared to last night but the system they had used the previous evening was working the same this morning. The selection of food on offer was lovely, from a full cooked breakfast options to cereals, yogurts and pastries (all in their own little clear bags), we where very happy with the breakfast we had. Again they asked if we could go round once with no returns once past a station, but after the portion we received we had no room to go up for seconds. We could barely finish what we had been given. It was delicious.
With our tummies full we headed back to our room to collect our packed suitcases and check out. We felt a little sad to leave. The hotel was so much fun, the colours, the theme, everywhere you looked you couldn’t help but smile and it was hard to leave that behind. Tom decided to take the cases back to the car (the hotel cannot offer a case storage service during our stay as they use to) so Emerson could enjoy the outside play area one last time while waiting for his dad to come back and heading into the park.
Heading into the park, we had our passes scanned and our temperatures checked again and given a different coloured wrist band to wear today. After spending the day on more rides, taking loads of photos in Miniland and just enjoying ourselves in the park we headed back towards the hotels, to our car, and then headed back home.
Emerson loved his birthday surprise in Legoland, and we just loved being back in the park. We truly missed being in there and enjoyed our two days back doing the things we love to do.
If you want more information on park stays or the park itself please see the Legoland website http://www.legoland.co.uk and I really hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did.