School lets youngsters get behind the wheel of pint-sized electric cars and actually drive on curbed roads. Mind you, they don't go very fast--the maximum speed is three m.p.h.--but their faces are all smiles.
The children first watch a video with driving instructions and safety tips, starting with the basics (seat belts) and how to use the controls (brake, gas pedal). Then, traffic signs, stop lights, and stop signs--what they look like, what they mean (especially, one presumes, that yellow does not mean "speed up"). Employees known as "model citizens" keep the kids in line during their training.
At the end of each session, the future road-trippers are issued their own Ford Driving School licenses.
The tots area, exclusively for ages 3-5, spins with unpredictability. The tikes tend to maneuver their vehicles into giant pile-ups necessitating road assistance from park employees. The little ones totally ignore stop signs and red lights, eliciting hoots and hollers from parents and grandparents at the sidelines.
Those in the older age group (ages 6-12) exhibit better driving skills but are just as likely to look over at their parents and crash into nearby traffic. Happily, no one gets hurt.
The cars are driven around a sizeable town grid complete with one-way streets, cross roads, and plenty of signals. I observed grade-schoolers making extremely wide turns, but they usually recovered before a head-on bump. One-way signs proved to have little effect on the direction of traffic!
The real scene stealer in this kids driving area is the full-scale model of a Ford Explorer. The flame-red SUV took 22 Ford designers a total of 2,500 hours to build--using a staggering 382,858 LEGO bricks. Amazing!
The life-size model weighs 2,654 pounds and was built around a 768-pound aluminum support frame. Unfortunately, it is not drivable, serving instead as a backdrop for countless vacation photos... and a monument to possibility in the Land of LEGO.
If staying in nearby Orlando, take the $5.00 shuttle bus directly to LEGOLAND. You'll avoid the parking fee and the drive back to your hotel at the end of a long day.
LEGOLAND covers 150 acres. Rest your feet at the covered amphitheater in Pirates' Cove while watching the water-skiing LEGO characters perform their stunt show.
LEGOLAND planners wisely retained the Cypress Gardens' beautiful serene space. Head here to get away from the crowds.