When we embarked on this journey, one year ago, we spent our son Max’s 10th Birthday in Disneyland. I remember him saying, “I wonder where I will be for my 11th birthday.” It was not long before he set his sights on Legoland in Denmark.
His inspiration came from watching the behind the scenes portion of the Lego Movie. He started talking about wanting to visit Lego Headquarters and that piqued my curiosity. How we would end up in Denmark, on his 11th birthday was a mystery to me but somehow it all fell into place.
As I started researching the Lego Company, I learned that you can’t visit headquarters or the factory and I was disappointed until I read more about the town where Lego was invented. Billund, Denmark is the Capital of Children.
The town and Lego have a collaborative vision, “to make the city a rallying ground for children and anyone focusing on children’s play, learning and creativity.” I must admit, Legoland and Billund was everything I love about Europe in one place.
In the middle of the town center is a huge hole where the Lego House is being built. You can feel the dedication to “projects for children within the areas of urban development, teaching and culture and play based learning.”
As we entered Legoland, we were expecting a fun-filled day of overstimulation, overpriced food and souvenirs, with stomach-swirling rides strewn about. What we experienced was an educational, creative, inspiring place (with overpriced food) that was perfectly manageable and even relaxing.
We learned about sharks and stingrays in the underwater world of Atlantis and came into the sunlight only to be blinded by the sheer genius of the 20 million Lego bricks used to build mini-land models of everything from Amsterdam to Los Angels.
There were plenty of exciting rides for the kids but not an overabundance to the point of rushing. In the gift shops, employees allowed trading of mini-figures. The boys were given fully accessorized lego dudes in exchange for the stripped down versions they brought with them as mascots for the day.
Max wore his lego birthday button proudly so everyone sang to him and even let him dine at the all you can eat buffet for free! People left their purses and bags next to rides with out a second thought, picking them up as they exited with the expectation they would be there, untouched.
I know that Lego is a company and that selling merchandise is a huge part of their business but it is not WHY they are in business and you can feel that in Billund. Their vision transcends their products and feeds the economy in Billund and beyond.
The creativity is palatable and their commitment to fostering growth and celebrating and educating children is everywhere. It is always tempting to be skeptical of a company’s motives, but I think all of us that have ever played with Legos or have watched children play with Legos can agree, they are building blocks in every sense of the word.
The Capital of Children is cutting edge, futuristic and modern as well as sweet, rural and homespun. The spirit of Lego and Billud has breathed new energy into our journey, perhaps because we hold many of the same values. It is truly a partnership that is oozing with possibility.