500 acres of rural land in the sleepy town of Goshen is being transformed into Legoland New York, a destination resort with a theme park and a hotel. Set to open in 2020, construction at the site includes actual bricks along with the toy brand's signature plastic bricks.
Located about two hours north of New York City, the $350-million project represents the first major theme park to be built in the northeast USA in a long time (Six Flags America in Maryland opened in 1982 as Wild World, while both Darien Lake in New York and Sesame Place in Pennsylvania opened in 1981). It will take its cue from the country's two existing Legoland parks in southern California and central Florida. There are other locations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Geared to families with young children, it will feature lands, rides, and shows based on Lego characters and the snap-together blocks' toy lines, such as the Friends from Heartlake City.
A ride-through attraction at the front of the park will take visitors through a mockup of a Lego factory and demonstrate how the bricks are made. The Dragon roller coaster will twist, turn, and drop both outside and inside a castle in the Lego Kingdoms land. Also in that area, kids will be able to ride a Lego horse on Royal Joust. Other features will include a driving school in Lego City, complete with pint-sized cars, swashbuckling ne'er-do-wells in Pirate Shores, and interactive, kid-powered rides in Bricktopia.
The Legoland parks aren't at the level of Disney or Universal. But the wildly funny Lego movies, which appeal to adults as well as children with their distinctive, sly, rat-a-tat humor, give the brand a special cachet. Lego Ninjago The Ride, which recently opened in Florida and California, includes 3D media, 4D effects, and interactive hand gesture technology. Based on Lego's martial arts-themed toy brand and television show, the sophisticated attraction aspires to Disney quality. The new park will have a Ninjago Zone.
Instead of the outdoor water parks found at the Florida and California resorts, Legoland New York may opt for an indoor water park, according to Nick Varney, CEO of Legoland's parent company, Merlin Entertainments. The nearby Pocono Mountains are home to a number of large indoor water park hotels. In another concession to New York's less temperate climate, the new park will open seasonally and take a break in the winter.
Merlin got a frosty reception from some quarters in and around Goshen as it sought approvals and permits for its latest Legoland. "It's hard to get things done in America!" notes Varney, who had to contend with steadfast residents that did not want a theme park resort in their bucolic backyard. He believes it was the brand's reputation and the existing parks' track records that ultimately won the day. With its enormous population and considerable disposable income, Varney sees the northeast USA as a prized location. "It also happens to be the biggest market for Lego," he adds.
As is the custom at other parks, Legoland New York will present plastic brick replicas of regional icons in its Miniland area. Visitors should expect highly detailed models of Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and other area landmarks. (Fun fact: An average park incorporates 30 million bricks in its dioramas.)
Varney says the U.K.-based Merlin isn't done expanding in the U.S. "Our view is that North America could probably take five Legoland parks." While he notes that any additional locations would be a long way off (remember, it's hard to get things done in America), he cites the Chicago area and Texas as two contenders. If that's the case, perhaps Legoland's model makers are readying plans for brick versions of Wrigley Field and the Alamo.