Star Wars Miniland Experience at Legoland Windsor

If you're a parent to a boy 5-10 years old, chances are he's crazy about LEGO Star Wars. It's one of LEGO's most popular themes, and every day you'll find millions of little boys busy building speeders and x-wing fighters and AT-AT walkers and dreaming of flying through a galaxy far, far away.

Fortunately, you don't have to be Richard Branson or a former N'Sync boy band member to be able to afford a visit to the Star Wars galaxy.  You just have to visit your nearest Legoland* , where the Star Wars Miniland exhibit is wowing fans with their detailed models, massive sets and cool light and sound special effects.

Here are some fun facts about the exhibit:

* Visitors will see some of the most famous scenes from all six of the Star Wars movies, plus a scene from the animated series The Clone Wars.

* There are about 2,000 LEGO models, and some of them are more than 6 feet tall
* Some of the models are animated; kids can start the sequence by pushing a button located near the models.
* The models are built in 1:20 scale
* Lego's master builders used 1.5 million LEGO bricks

When we visited Legoland Windsor this summer, my kids (ages 8, 8 and 11) my kids found most of the rides too tame for their tastes -- but the Star Wars Miniland exhibit was right up their alley.  It was like the world's biggest and baddest Star Wars playset, and I know they were itching to jump into the landscape and start playing!  Here are some photos of the cool things we saw:

Episode I: Naboo
The section for Episode I features scenes from the Battle of Naboo.  I wish I had taken a photo of the Royal Palace -- it was so amazing!  But I was too distracted by the rows upon rows of droids and Gungans:

Episode II: Geonosis
The section for Episode II features the Geonosis arena, where Padmé Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker battle ferocious creatures set upon them by Count Dooku, as well as the fight between Count Dooku's forces and the Republic Army, led by the Jedi Knights.

Episode III: Kashyyyk and Mustafar
The section for Episode III features 2 planets:  the Wookie planet Kashyyk, and the volcano planet Mustafar.  On Kashykk, you'll see droids rounding up and executing the Jedi knights as the knights battle on with the help of the Wookies.

On the other side, you'll see Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker constantly circling each other as they battle near the lava on Mustafar.

Episode IV: Tatooine
The section for Episode IV features scenes from the desert planet, Tatooine.   You can see Luke's childhood home, the buildings of Mos Eisley, the Cantina, and the Millennium Falcon's hangar.  There are sand people and all the riffraff of the Star Wars universe as well as Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO and R2-D2.

My favorite scene in this exhibit is the Cantina, where an animated Cantina Band sways from side to side as the famous Cantina Band music plays through speakers.

The gigantic Millenium Falcon comes a close second.  It has working headlights and cockpit lights, plus goes up and down.  If only it were attached to a clear glass rod instead of a metal one, so it would look like it was taking off and landing on its own!

Episode V: Hoth
The section for Episode V features scenes from the ice planet, Hoth.  The battle of Hoth is laid out quite nicely; you can see the Imperial AT-ATS taking out the Rebel's generators, and Han and Leia fighting their way to escape, with starfighters flying through the sky.  The whole scene is accompanied by lots of light and battle sounds.

Look closely at the AT-AT on the far right -- you'll see Luke Skywalker (in his orange flightsuit) beneath its belly, trying to make his way to the top!

Episode VI: Endor
The section for Episode VI features scenes from the forest moon, Endor, showing how the Rebels and the Ewoks worked together to capture the generator and deactivate the force field of the Death Star II.  For some reason it also had a giant LEGO Imperial Shuttle on a landing platform, with Imperial troops greeting Darth Vader.  I don't think Darth Vader ever landed on Endor, so that part seemed inaccurate -- can any Star Wars fan correct me?

My favorite part in this section was a small Imperial speeder going round and round a big tree, with a couple of Ewoks waiting nearby to trap him.

As soon as you exit the exhibit you will find yourself (surprise, surprise) in the LEGO Star Wars gift shop.  It's filled with enough LEGO Star Wars gift sets to fulfill every kid's wildest dreams (and bankrupt the parent in the process).  Fortunately, there are a few things to distract your kids from all that birthday and holiday loot, like the giant Darth Vader made entirely of LEGO....

... as well as LEGO R2-D2.  Hey, grownups can be Star Wars fans too!

Given the number of adult Star Wars fans, I wouldn't be surprised if Star Wars Miniland were one of the most popular attractions at Legoland -- but since it's a walkthrough exhibit, the crowds seemed to flow through it pretty smoothly.  Sure, there were bottlenecks at some of the exhibits, and there were lots of kids clamoring to press the animation buttons, and a few annoying people who completely disregarded the instructions to turn their camera flashes off to take photographs.  But overall, it was a great experience, even on a hot summer day with tons of people.  We skipped a lot of the other rides around Legoland due to the crowds, but Star Wars Miniland was a must see!

* The Star Wars Miniland exhibit in Legoland California, Legoland Windsor, Legoland Deutschland, and starting in November 2012, in Legoland Florida.

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