(Written by Mark H. Avery)
Maybe I’ve been watching way too many LEGO City YouTube videos lately. It’s become a bad habit. Apparently, an awful lot of city builders/collectors have amusement parks or fairgrounds of some type. I’ve been planning one in my city for a while as well, and I thought it was time to get it built.
With theBrickBlogger administrator’s indulgence, my occasional posts here have become somewhat of my own non-YouTube channel. I won’t knock videos, but there’s much to be said for the printed word. (I might offer my own critiques of YouTube videos in a future post).
WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING
As everyone knows, in the last few years, LEGO has come out with several large amusement park/fairgrounds sets. And any discussion of building my own amusement park has to start with at least a brief discussion of those sets.
- I think the #10247 LEGO Creator Ferris Wheel is great. The merry-go-round #10196 LEGO Creator Grand Carousel, and #10244 LEGO Creator Fairground Mixer are almost as great. What can I say about the #10261 LEGO Creator Roller Coaster? Just that it’s probably the most spectacular “city” set of all time. (I know it’s technically not a LEGO City set).
- The #10273 LEGO Creator Haunted House goes in the same league. But much of the charm (and the ride) is inside. If the house is part of an Amusement Park layout, how do you open it to use the “drop”?
- The sets are all impressive, and when LEGO fans add electric motors, they are even more spectacular. But…
- All these sets are, in my book, super-expensive. Yes, I’ve watched or read about price per piece. It doesn’t change the facts about my situation. Shelling out $300 or even $150 at one shot is too much for me, and – I assume – others on a budget. I do admit to having spent over $1,000 on BrickLink in the last two and a half years. Certainly, all was not for my park (I’ve been stockpiling windows), but between coasters, tracks, and minifigures, much of it was.
- I read/watch other city builders who preach MOCs (My-Own-Creations) all the time. But many use the LEGO Fairgrounds sets off the shelf. To me, that’s a contradiction.
- There are also those who preach only real genuine LEGO but make exceptions when it comes to their amusement parks. Before LEGO introduced its own Roller Coaster, several AFOLs used coasters by companies like Coaster Dynamix.
- I like small sets, and I don’t have the patience to build some of those larger intricate sets. (Maybe I’m not old enough yet.) I also don’t have the tablespace. The footprint of the coaster and some of the other sets are expansive.
If one is building just a LEGO amusement park or fairgrounds, then the bigger the better. But if the park is connected to a city there probably needs to be some proportionality between the two, or at least a storyline. For example, maybe there need to be one or two large hotels in or near the amusement park. Or perhaps there should be an explanation of where all the guests park their cars. (Maybe there needs to be a shuttle bus, taking visitors back and forth to what a model railroader would call “staging” or the rest of the not-built world.) Any good-sized amusement park certainly needs restaurants and even bathrooms.
SIZE AND LOCATION
Now for the amusement park, I have finally built. I think I’ve planned this project longer and in more detail than anything else I’ve ever built out of LEGO. I’ve made lists and drawn crude sketches, but it still changes as I continue to work at it, come up with new ideas and move things around.
As always, the question for me and many others is where to put it all. My town, Legoland bills itself as the leisure time capital of the region. It already boasts a race track, hockey arena, and zoo, in addition to a movie theater, beach, a rooftop swimming pool, and a marina. In terms of my storyline, a small amusement park/fairgrounds/ kiddie park seems like the perfect addition, both for residents and visitors.
How big could I make this park? Certainly nowhere near some of the big LEGO layouts I have seen. I found two narrow folding tables, each roughly 50×18 inches. Putting them together and allowing for overlap, gives me an area of 5×4 (10-inch square) baseplates. Then I thought of putting a large flat piece of strong cardboard between the tables. That stretched out my park to 7×5 plates – or a 35 plate rectangle. As I was moving things around and deciding where they went, I decided that another two thick cardboards could stick out on each back corner by 2×1 baseplates. That would give me a nice entrance off the corner. It also makes it easier to keep my entire oval train track inside the park. No real place to put this setup – but I can temporarily set it up in a spare bedroom.
But then, I had a brainstorming session. There are a couple of boxes of storage (unopened LEGO sets if you must know) in the corner of that spare bedroom. If I push the boxes against my tables that would give me an additional area of 2.5×3.5 baseplates. I could potentially build my western frontier section there and spread out both the western area and everything else. Then, I added a three-baseplate strip in still another corner. So we are discussing a park of about 50 baseplates.
I thought I had many extra baseplates – but even the original 35 plates seem a lot. I started looking in my stockpile – found many old road plates of different generations, but not that many baseplates – certainly not close to 35. I also have two 15×15 grey baseplates. Together, that’s equivalent to four and a half 10×10 baseplates. Even on sale, LEGO baseplates seemed expensive. I finally purchased a pack of nine off-brand green baseplates and a pack each of six off-brand blue and beige baseplates on Amazon. Time will tell how good they are.
The biggest criticism of my town layout is that there’s too much there, too many buildings pushed together in a rather small area (about 300 square feet.) I think that I’m already at that point of squeezing in my amusement park.
MY EARLY RIDES
Several years ago, I purchased and built the #41130 LEGO Friends Amusement Park Roller Coaster – a $100 set that I probably bought for twenty percent off. But I really had no place to put it in my town so it eventually got broken into several parts for storage. The set came with a drop tower and a small Ferris Wheel as well, so it was really three separate rides. It also has a ticket stand, food cart, and other small builds needed for a proper amusement park. The LEGO Friends colors are always an issue to a townie like me, but in an amusement park, I think the colors are great. That set got me in the groove to create my own park.
Looking at a picture of the #41133 LEGO Friends Amusement Park Bumper Cars from that same era, I decided that it was a fairly easy build from my existing parts collection. So I built that and put it aside as well. (Unfortunately, now I can’t find it. It’s somewhere in my storage closet, probably in a box-top tray.)
As I did my regular LEGO browsing and shopping over the last few years, I started to have park planning on my agenda. For example, about two years ago (2019) I was shopping at a small local toy store that was somewhat overpriced, but also has some older inventory. I was bored and in a spending mood. I purchased some baseplates and a tiny set (#10401 Rainbow Fun) which was the smallest of a short-lived series of general building sets collectively named LEGO Classic Building Bigger Thinking. Among other things, it has parts and instructions for a tiny airplane that I decided to build. When I was done, I thought it was very cute, but certainly not appropriate for my airport. But then I got inspired.
Using spare parts, I stretched out the plane a little and added a chair and joystick for a minifigure. I thought it would make a great little kid’s ride for an amusement park. There were enough pieces in the set to put together much of a second plane. Then I went back to the store and purchased a second little set. Back to my workbench and spare parts hoards and I soon had four planes; two red and two blue. Add an old turntable piece with some round 4×4 bricks and I had a ride circling a few “feet” off the ground. I added a fifth plane, in yellow, on the ground in front as a model/climbing exercise.
MORE RECENT RIDES
More recently, I purchased the #10771 LEGO Toy Story Carnival Thrill Coaster with purple tracks. It’s an age 4+ set, but that certainly won’t stop me from using it. It makes a nice kiddy coaster. (At least one innovative YouTuber, Dr. McBrick, built two in his park, one for small kids, and one with extra track and a raised portion for older kids. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.) So I bought a second one and more than a couple of extra pieces of track on BrickLink. (Boy, is that track expensive!) I built the raised coaster to circle over half of my park with a couple of up and down bumps along the way and two sets of five cars each. Later, I purchased still more additional curved, straight, and ramp tracks and built a third coaster across the back of my park. This one is not a loop, so riders take it from one corner of the park to another. The #75934 LEGO Dilophosaurus on the Loose set has a flying machine that I turned into still another ride for four.
While looking for things in my storage closet, I found five little three-wheel cycles that LEGO was big on years ago. I raided my town for a few more. A baseplate and a half, heavy fencing, and several monster tires to lay out the course and I have another attraction. Helmets required!
Someone showed a LEGO rotating chair swing on YouTube. I thought it looked cute and took up a rather small footprint. I made my own with whatever parts I had. The big fairgrounds sets came with small buildings, items such as a ticket booth, a water dunk, a “ring the bell” and refreshment carts. I made my own makeshift versions. I picked up the cute #43173 LEGO Friends Royal Carriage. I’m not sure whether it’s a car or wagon, but it’s driving around my park.
Building big flat circles in LEGO is difficult for me. But I took four tan rounded corner plates and 2×6 plates and created a platform on a turnstile. I added 16 brown chairs (some elevated a step), and a central pole holding up a canopy with yellow rays (1×6 plates) coming out of it, topped by a yellow cone. I call it my sun-go-round. It’s a nice quiet ride for parents and grandparents who need to sit for a while!
I was browsing the Online LEGO Shop one day back when and came across the small #40264 LEGO Friends Build My Heartlake City Accessory Set at a deep discount. I’m not into LEGO Friends as much, but I figured at that price I’d buy two. It makes a lot of little outdoor accessories. One is a rather large swan, which I built. I found it cute, but then I realized I could put a seat on its back and I have another children’s ride! Most of the needed pieces match up with my parts collection, so I built several more. Exactly how to build a round water tub for the swans I’m not quite sure yet. (1×3 bricks with 1×1 round bricks in between seems to be the most used concept. A ton of translucent light-blue tiles would also be appropriate, but expensive.)
This same accessory set also includes a cute ping pong table with paddles. Except for the paddles, the pieces for a few more tables are easy to come by. Possibly, another addition to my amusement park. Otherwise, one day when I get around to my playground…
A couple of rabbits are another part of the same accessory pack. They are perfect for a small pen either in the amusement park or, more likely, my existing zoo. The BBQ and juice stations – there are lots of places where I am putting multiples copies of these.
The little stage with a microphone and speakers. Again lots of choices, but the hot-pink platform might need to be replaced with a black or grey half-round plate. I’ll draft some minifigures to be singers. A couple of guitars, horns, and microphones from BrickLink helps the scene, as does a small drum set I constructed. The bench – I don’t like the color, I just need to find a plate in a different color. I already have a large gazebo bandstand, built years ago. That also has a place in my park, as does the #3932 LEGO Friends Andrea’s Stage – obviously without Andrea – and in a different corner.
I found videos of several LEGO mini-golf courses, most in action videos, which I find silly, so I decided to build one. I built a nine-hole course spread over one and a half baseplates. There’s a little service shed in the front corner. Maybe eventually I’ll spread it over two baseplates – make some of the putts a little bigger, maybe add a few picnic benches. By coincidence, a real kiddy park a few miles from my home includes a miniature golf course.
I also bought the #41332 LEGO Friends Emma’s Art Stand. I have seen a YouTuber place one in his park, pointing out that amusement parks often have art stands where patrons can have drawings of themselves made. I built another similar van in whatever odd colors I had lying around. That one will sell either food or souvenirs.
The #40346 LEGOLAND Park exclusive set has a viewing tower in its center. I purchased twelve ¼ round cylinders on BrickLink, and I too have a rotating viewing tower. Mine actually has doors for minifigures to go in and out, but no real way for them to get to the top!
A recent LEGO Creator set had plans for the “old lady in a shoe”, I decided to build it at twice the size and make it an attraction for really small kids. A different LEGO Creator set had a small castle front. I expanded it and added some minimal sidewalls – another stop for younger fans. The Winter 2021 LEGO Catalog featured the #21170 LEGO Minecraft Pig House. I’m not into Minecraft, but I have a tissue box full of pink bricks. I duplicated the picture and now have a pig house that the smaller kids can climb into.
My amusement park obviously needed a front entrance. I decided that was going to be a MOC. I settled on a simple grey castle-like structure with raised corners (office space?) and a red-sloped roof. There are two road plates (curved and T) in front of the castle and a service truck entrance as well as a ticket window and patron entrance. There‘s a little information booth upfront on one side and a guard station with a crossing arm by the driveway entrance.
As I was pulling out minifigures, I found a couple of old medical personnel. I decided a small first aid station belonged in the layout. A simple 6×8 white building with a red cross and red windows. I also built a little garage/storage shed with alternating red and white 1×5 bricks and a garage door. I took some green and white steep-sloped and 1×2 bricks and made a tent-like 12×10 striped structure. Depending on signage, it will either be a rest area to get out of the sun or a small store.
I also built a small restroom building (pink door for women and blue door for men). The roof serves as the platform for my large elevated coaster ride. As I tried to make the park more realistic, other small service buildings seemed appropriate.
More about my amusement park in an upcoming article. Your comments and ideas are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you.
And you might also like to check out some of my previous posts:
HERE IS A LIST OF POSTS BY MARK
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 1 (introduction)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 2 (building a large LEGO city)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 3 (rebuilding the city)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 4 (LEGO city layout)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 5 (LEGO set purchases)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 6 (LEGO city transportation)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 7 (model railroading)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 8 (LEGO company interactions)
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 9 (LEGO shopping)
- On the LEGO Trail: Visiting LEGO Train Shows
- My LEGO City: A Personal Story – Part 10 (collecting LEGO catalogs)
- My Top Ten LEGO Regrets – What Are Yours?
- Learning from Model Train Layouts – Part 1
- Learning from Model Train Layouts – Part 2
- Building a LEGO City on a Budget