Review: LEGO Inside Tour, part 3

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Day three started in the hotel conference room with a talk by the LEGOLAND Events Manager about the history of the park, the sale to Merlin, how visitor numbers had grown and so on.

We then headed into the park for the 'back stage tour'. This, as its name suggests, takes you to places that visitors aren't usually allowed to go, including the workshop where the park's trains, boats and rollercoaster cars are maintained, the model makers' workshop and then finally, back-stage of the pirate boat ride where we were led up narrow stairs and along gangways high above the ride in the dark, looking down on the boats as they went through.

The model makers' workshop was of course the most impressive and interesting area. I met Caspar, who I've known for some time but hadn't seen for a few years, who was working on a huge replica of the collectable minifigure mermaid for one of the overseas parks. We spent a half-hour or so in the shop, talking to the model makers and admiring their work. Unfortunately photography was not permitted in this area, although I'm not entirely sure why since it's not usually a problem at the Windsor model shop.

We were then led through the park into Miniland where we were told some interesting facts about some of the models and clusters. The kids were then taken to the driving school and the rest of us had free time in the park for the remainder of the morning.

LEGOLAND Billund is so much nicer than Windsor. It's flat, for one thing, and seems to be much better maintained. Miniland models are being renewed and all the trains and boats actually work. During our stay it was never crowded and we never queued more than 10 minutes for a ride. You can actually see and appreciate the Star Wars Miniland, it's not indoors in the pitch black as it is at Windsor. The photo above shows it as seen from the observation tower.

After lunch in the LEGOLAND King's Castle, it was back to the hotel for the farewell speech by SVP Jesper Vilstrup, which culminated in the handing out of T-shirts and, what we'd all been waiting patiently for, the special Inside Tour set. The designer of the set -- Henrik, who also designed the UCS B Wing -- was on hand to sign our boxes.

It was unfortunate that LEGO customer services let the instructions for the model slip out a few weeks ago which resulted in many AFOL sites plastering it all over their home pages. We decided not to do that, to try and keep it a surprise for attendees, which is what the LEGO Inside Tour team want it to be. I won't tell you what is is, although you'll find its name in the database, but I will say that it's a fantastic model. I may even open it and build it, given my wife also has one :-)

The day ended at about 3 pm at which point we said our goodbyes, and most then headed off back to the airport.

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So, that's an account of what happens on the tour, but what's it actually like being on it, and is it good value for money?

From the moment the tour started to the time it ends, we were made to feel special. Sanne and Lene were excellent hosts and organised the tour superbly. Everything ran smoothly and pretty much on time. Everyone we met was pleased to see us and made us welcome. It seemed as if nothing was too much trouble. We were given small 'gifts' at every available opportunity (e.g. factory tour minifigs, minifig business cards from several of the presenters, printed bricks at the moulding factory) and by the end of the tour ended up with a whole bag-full of them.

It's possible (or at least, it used to be) to get Jan to organise a factory tour for your LUG and that is certainly a cheaper way to see the factory, but you don't get the whole experience that the Inside Tour provides.

The cost of the tour is 13000 DKK (US$2300, £1500) per person, which is unquestionably a lot of money. But, you are buying an unforgettable experience and the opportunity to do things that you can't do any other way. It includes three nights in the best rooms in the hotel, overlooking the park, and two-and-a-half days of meals, so apart from actually getting there, there's nothing more to pay for (other than in the staff shop, of course!).

I have only two minor complaints. Kids as young an seven can go on it, but personally I think that's too young. Many of the activities, particularly the presentations, were of no interest to them at all, and often they were a bit of a nuisance making a lot of noise while playing with the LEGO on the table, or whatever. I'm hesitant to suggest that LEGO should run a tour tailored for AFOLs and a different one for families, which would solve this problem, because actually it was quite good fun having the kids around. LEGO is meant for them, after all, isn't it!

The other minor quibble was that we didn't have quite enough time in the staff shop. The 50 minutes we had wasn't even enough time for Kristel to get all the stuff she'd bought through the checkout :-)

The Inside Tour is something every AFOL should do. It was a fantastic three days and an experience I highly recommend. My wife, a non-AFOL, thoroughly enjoyed herself (although was apprehensive about the building challenge) and will not hesitate on going on it again.

32 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

This is a properly geeky question, but is the shuttle on the Endor landing pad in the photo the UCS model? I know they would build custom models for most of the display, but that one is possible large enough to be displayed as it is.

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By in United Kingdom,

Really interesting Huw, thank you.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ No it isn't. I took some more photos in the afternoon sun one day which I'll put on flickr soon.

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks for letting us know the final cost, however it would seem reasonable as you'd get a very collectable model and if the discount in the shop was large enough, you could actually make the figures work. Considering you're staying in nice hotels and getting meals in an expensive country as well.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ LEGO in Denmark costs about 20% more than in the UK so the savings in the staff shop are not huge for us, and certainly aren't for Americans, but there are a lot of unique (non-brick) items there and a shelf full of clearance items that are significantly cheaper then elsewhere.

You could probably recoup most of the cost by putting the inside tour set on eBay.

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm now thinking of taking a trip to Billund rather than Windsor this year. Although looking online a lot of people say that Windsor is better???

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By in United Kingdom,

This has been a great review of the tour, thanks for the excellent writeup! Glad to hear that you thought the whole thing was worth it in the end too.

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By in United Kingdom,

£1500?! :O

That's a heck of a lot of money. I don't want to go THAT much.

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By in United Kingdom,

@cheshirecat, there is no comparison. Windsor has been ruined by Merlin, there are no rides that appeal to adults and miniland is dishevelled.

While there are some signs of 'money extraction enhancements' at Billund, it still retains it charm, its miniland is bigger, better and maintained, and the Power Builder ride is awesome for even the most hardened rollercoaster rider.

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By in United Kingdom,

Wow, reading these reviews has reeeaaally made me want to go on one. It sounds like a lot of money but I think it's worth it. Thankyou Huw for sharing your experience with us :) By the way, are the exclusive models unique to each tour or is there a set per year and all three tours get the same set each year?

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By in United States,

I may even open it and build it, given my wife also has one :-)

Now we understand why the wife went. She went so you could open her inside tour set and keep yours sealed.

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By in United Kingdom,

I suppose £1500 is not much more than one would expect to pay for a two week cruise, so is not completely extortionate (although obviously it is only for three days). Either way, one day I hope I will be able to go.

Actually, check that, I will be going...

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By in Denmark,

Now if you were to find 3 Mr Gold figures, and then hawk them on the secondary market, you would pretty much cover your costs.

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By in United States,

Thanks for the thoroughly interesting writeup. You give a very balanced review.

Fun facts: the 200cm brick-built minifigs you saw being worked on in the Billund model shop were designed in Merlin's Carlsbad studio. :) And the different model shops around the world have flexible visitor and photo policies as projects vary. Some attractions have asked us to keep their model content under wraps, others will be publicized far in advance.

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By in United Kingdom,

A great read. Hopefully I'll be able to go one day...

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By in United States,

I have an 8 year old and he would be bored to tears on a trip like this so I was surprised that kids as young as 7 can go. But I'm sure there are a lot of kids who would be into it, guess it's up to the parents to use their best discretion.

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By in United States,

Thanks for the information. After seeing the price, I can say I will more than likely never go on this trip. The ticket alone for the tour is high enough, let alone airfare to get there. Plus, add in potentially my wife (because going alone doesn't sound like fun), it would be too high of a number. A number that could go towards many, many LEGO sets. Plus, as stated, it probably isn't much of a deal for us in the US. The prices aren't discounted as much compared to our every day prices, plus the added expense of shipping them back to our home.

But I'm sure the actual experience is fantastic and you won't enjoy it anywhere else. I still find that number hard to swallow. Especially with all of these great sets coming out!

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By in United States,

^I've got the opposite feel, even for someone else in the USA. It's a once-in-a-lifetime type of trip. Going behind the scenes and meeting VIP's from the company makes it worth it with just those two items. Add on top of it the exclusive set, the great hotel room, the food, the Employee Shop, and all the other information and "stuff" you get. It just makes cements the deal. Thanks for the review, Huw!

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By in United Kingdom,

^ It does indeed! Glad I helped swing your decision. Just be sure to get in quick when you decide to go.

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By in United States,

Thanks for the review! I definitely want to go one this tour someday!

Also it's good to hear that at least one LEGOLAND isn't rundown and lame. I just went to LEGOLAND California a couple of weeks ago and was shocked at the condition of the park. Half the rides weren't even running, and the Miniland was in shambles. Even the newer Star Wars area was trashed. :(

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By in United States,

I am so jealous. I would love to do this. Hopefully some day.

A question though, it certainly sounds you all did plenty of walking, how much at a time would you say? I ask because my knees and back aren't what they used to be and walking distances isn't the easiest anymore.

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By in United Kingdom,

There isn't a lot of walking, you are bussed around everywhere.

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By in United Kingdom,

Looks great.
How do they keep the lego displays outside clean and prevent fading from the direct sun.

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By in United Kingdom,

The displays are coated with a substance which blocks UV light to some extent, but this only delays fading rather than prevents it; models are supposed to be renewed every 10-15 years I think, although some LEGOLAND parks are clearly better at doing this than others....

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By in Canada,

I would love to do this sometime in my life. The experience would be unforgettable, as shown here. I went to the Billund LEGOLAND in July 2011, almost two years ago, and it was awesome.

However, this would cost more than $5000 for me - quite a bit of money. Still, certainly a trip to consider, sometime.

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By in United States,

Oh if only I had the moneys.

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By in United States,

@Huw - Again, thanks so much for your wonderful posts on the Lego Inside Tour! I am grateful for your detailed analysis and information as well as your sage insights.

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By in United States,

Starts to save for my own trip.

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By in Belgium,

To all those from accross the ocean:
It's a lot of money if you would come for three days but if you have time you can stay a lot longer. In four weeks you can see pretty much of Copenhague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and London. That would be something like doing the major cities of the East or West coast. But these are SIX capitals with a lot of history and historic buildings.

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By in United States,

@Huw - You mentioned buying polybags in the staff shop. Did they have a good selection? LBR stores in the U.S. usually only have the seasonal ones so we're forced to scavenge Walmart, Target, TRU, etc. Also, how did you manage to carry out so much stuff from the store, let alone get it all home? :o)

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By in United Kingdom,

^ There was a pretty good selection of polys, probably 10-15 different ones. They could just be leftovers from production runs.

I got the ferry from the UK to Denmark, so had my car :-)

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By in Australia,

Huw, a great write up. I love the fact you've given us an in site to the experience without spoiling it for those that will get there one day. I for one think the price is well and truly worth it. It's a once in a life time opportunely that you get to see behind the scenes and a walk back in time. I went to Denmark last year but unfortunately went in winter and LEGOLAND close for a period during winter so missed out on even visiting LEGOLAND...but I plan to get there one day and if by chance I will try and do the tour you've just been on, obviously with lots of advanced planning since there is only a small number that get to do these tours at a time.

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