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culture

A First Look at Legoland Toronto

Toronto's first (and only) Lego playground opens soon. Here's a look at what's in store.

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Toronto

The Vaughan Mills Legoland Discovery Centre opened for a special preview on Thursday, so excited kids and their parents could explore what’s inside before the official opening on March 1.

“This is the first time we’ve seen it live in action with kids,” said marketing manager Lara Hannaford. “Everything that we’ve been working towards for so many months has come to this day.” As the first person hired at the Vaughn Mills Legoland, she saw it go from a construction project to a multicoloured wonderland. “When I see kids smiling and enjoying themselves, I know we’ve done our job.”

Legoland Toronto is the first facility of its kind in Canada, though there are several other Legolands in the U.S. and Europe. The store’s purple and yellow facade sets it apart from other shops at Vaughan Mills. Two giant Lego people stand near the entrance, shiny and new, welcoming visitors with permanent smiles.

Inside Legoland, visitors become immersed in a world where almost everything is made of Lego bricks. One display is called Miniland. It consists of major landmarks and buildings in Toronto, all made of Lego and combined in one big room. City Hall, Yonge-Dundas Square, the Air Canada Centre, the Rogers Centre, the CN Tower, Bay Street, the waterfront, Casa Loma, and Union Station are all there, among many others. Trucks and ambulances roam the streets, guided by magnets underneath the surface. Periodically, the light changes to simulate the city at night. The CN Tower, which stretches up to the ceiling, lights up like the real thing. Lego people, each one unique, occupy the buildings, patios, and public squares.

There’s even a replica of Niagara Falls with flowing water. At the foot of the falls, there’s a campsite with a button on a pedestal that makes a grizzly bear pop up from behind a rock, while a roaring sound plays on hidden speakers.

Master model builder Graeme Dymond played a role in stacking the 1.5 million Lego bricks that make up Miniland. It’s just one of the projects he’s been involved with at Legoland, but it’s one of his favourites. “I helped a lot with the Miniland, but I can’t say I did it all on my own,” he said. “There was a huge effort done by a bunch of people who worked together. It would take one person almost two years to do just the Miniland by itself.”

Dymond won the master model builder job in November after an intense two-day-long competition for the coveted full-time salaried position. Afterward, he promptly left his job as a learning consultant at TD Bank.

“I’m just a huge kid,” he said. “I’ve always loved Lego. I’ve been playing Lego as far back as I can remember and never really stopped.”

His job at Legoland includes building and maintaining the displays, but he also teaches kids how to build. He hopes to impart some of the mathematics, architecture, and engineering intrinsic in Lego construction.

Further inside Legoland, there was a lot of excitement surrounding the Faulty Towers and Test and Ride displays. At Faulty Towers, people construct towers with Duplo and turn a switch to make a platform shake and shimmy, imitating the effect of an earthquake. At Test and Ride people construct Lego cars and shoot them down a ramp. Other popular attractions include in the 4D Cinema, and Master Builder Academy.

While Legoland is aimed at kids 10 and under, there will be adult nights once a month. There are also special events lined up for the future, although Hannaford is staying mum on the details.

CORRECTION: February 22, 2013, 11:30 AM This post originally said that Toronto’s Legoland is the second to have been built in Canada, and that the first was in Windsor, Ontario. In fact, there is no Legoland in Windsor (though there is one in Windsor, England), making Toronto’s the first in Canada.

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