My visit to Legoland Billund started with a bit of a scare: signage at the entrance to the car park indicated that admission was only going to be available to those with pre-booked tickets. I’d checked the web site before setting out from my hotel and hadn’t seen anything like that, but it was there for my arrival, having apparently been updated during my drive north. Fortunately I was able to buy one on the spot using my phone; if anyone from the park management is reading this, a little more than ninety minutes warning would be appreciated if you’re going to close off on-site ticketing.
The first port of call was, as ever, the new roller coaster. Flying Eagle (#2872) was the first installation of what is now a standard model of family coaster from Zierer, with four versions in operation as of this writing. The presentation of the ride is very good: the track area has been filled out with models, and the train is themed as befits a Lego park. Having said that, I'd argue that Tayto Park did a better overall job with the airport terminal building on their version. The experience today was very good from the back seat, and I’d have done a second lap if the queue hadn’t grown exponentially in the few minutes that I was on board. The train had been retrofitted with large shields on the back of each car so that it could be run at full capacity without requiring masks, which were conspicuous by their absence.
My second stop was at LEGO® NINJAGO® The Ride, my first encounter with what is rapidly becoming a staple of the chain. I'd been very much looking forward to this, having missed the equivalent at Legoland Malaysia by a few short months. The ride is a Triotech creation that eschews traditional laser guns in favour of motion sensors, allowing guests to hit targets by waving their arms around. This was definitely a novelty, though the motion sensing hardware wasn’t working all that well in my car making it very difficult to hit anything. After the first few scenes I chose to sit back and take in the footage, and my pathetic final score of 2500 reflected that decision. I was surprised not to see on-ride videos on sale; the park is clearly leaving money on the table with that one.
Legoland Billund was the first park in the chain to add the Dragen, a combination dark ride and coaster that has since become one of the signature attractions for the brand worldwide. As the prototype it has a number of differences over later installations, the most obvious of which is that it is built around a powered coaster rather than a gravity machine. It also has a much greater dark ride to coaster ratio than subsequent models, spending roughly three times as long crawling past scenery as it does limping its way through forceless helices. (The latter section is very difficult to photograph as it is surrounded both by netting and foliage; the only real vantage point is on the exit stairs, and even that isn’t great.)
One interesting feature of the installation from the perspective of a true nerd (guilty) is the fact that it operates two trains. Gravity coasters support multiple trains by having a brake at the end of each track “block” that can only be opened when the section in front is clear. The engineering required to achieve failsafe separation on a powered coaster is considerably more complicated, and as such is rarely seen in practice: only a handful of the more than six hundred sit-down installations (as of end-2020) have this feature. Aside from a small family ride in Saudi Arabia the only other example I've been able to find is Casey Jr, a Vekoma product that broke new ground by being the first coaster of any kind to have on-board audio. (In a curious quirk of history that ride remains the only powered coaster to have been produced at the Vlodrop factory; one hopes that The Mouse paid enough to cover the research and development costs.)
My next hit was The Temple, a Sally Corporation target shooting dark ride installed at the park for the 2010 season. There were five different colours to hit, each of which had a different score value. The interior theming was a Lego version of ancient Egypt, complete with pyramids, treasures, and mummies.
My favourite attraction at the park and the highlight of my day was Polar X-plorer, a family-friendly coaster from Zierer with a vertical drop track. Signs in front of the entrance warned about reduced capacity, and with good reason; only the front and back seats were being loaded on the one operational train, and staff were wiping down everything after each dispatch (including the six empty rows). I estimated the capacity at no more than fifty per hour, and while that was better than nothing I’d have preferred to seen a fully loaded train with mandatory masks. The helices between the lift hill and the vertical drop were respectably intense even with the light loading, and though the second half the ride was weak that represents a very minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things.
My lunch stop was at a fish and chips stall where it was necessary to pay up front and wait for your number. The calls were being made in the local patois, and given that I decided to hang around the collection point to identify my meal visually. This turned out to be unnecessary as “eighty-seven” was shouted in barely accented English; I realised shortly afterwards that the till docket had the language printed on it, a definite sign that I was in a park well used to foreign visitors.
After my meal I joined the queue for Atlantis by Sealife in the hope of perhaps seeing some of the creatures I’d just eaten. I’d expected this to be an equivalent of the excellent submarine ride at Legoland, but sadly it was just a run-of-the-mill aquarium with a lengthy queue for social distancing. As ever the tanks were decorated with Lego models, but these couldn’t quite make up for a lacklustre experience. I was rather more taken with Miniland, which featured the usual mixture of places with a local focus. My favourite area featured scale models of the world’s tallest builds, comparing the Eiffel Tower, Taipei 101, the Burj Khalifa, and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower – the latter somewhere I never expect to see in real life. (One suspects that most if not all of the builders had to work from photographs, given that non-muslims are refused entry to the holiest city in Islam.)
I also enjoyed two water rides. The first was the Pirate Boats, a cable-driven machine with a lengthy indoor dark ride portion featuring a fairly typical selection of scenes composed entirely from Lego bricks. With that done I renewed my acquaintance with the Viking River Splash, a rapids ride with a respectably tall drop. COVID allowed me to have an entire boat to myself, something I’ve never experienced in all my years as a theme park enthusiast. The empty boat resulted in a mild spray only rather than a soaking, which was probably just as well given that I had a lengthy drive ahead.
The last ride of the day was X-treme Racers, a large park version of the Mack mouse and my first encounter with the type since an underwhelming ride on Sharolet last year. In its formative years this installation had traditional brakes, but I’m sorry to report that these have since been replaced with magnetic trims that keep the top speed firmly in check. The ride still has at least a modicum of life, but (like many of us) it is nothing like as energetic as it used to be. The one benefit of riding was the view from the switchbacks on the upper level, which gave me a brief preview of Lego Movie World, a new area of the park that is due to open next year with a flying theatre as its main attraction.
It might be slightly controversial to say this, but I think Legoland Billund deserves to be thought of as the best theme park in Denmark. It has a well-rounded collection of attractions: four coasters, two dark rides, several water rides, many flat rides, one of the world’s only robot arm attractions, and from next year, a flying theatre. It’s telling that I was in the park almost from open to close, and it’s very rare that I do that these days.