Lego Inside Tour A-Z (review & tips for new participants)
A-ZAward Show: this is where the designers let us know who won the Lego Inside Tour building event. Dress code business casual, but this isn't a very formal event. There are prizes, praise and a chance to present what you built. There is also coffee, cake and drinks. The show itself was fun, with Andy Woodman as the main presenter and several designers to read out the different places and present the models. The winners get called to the "stage" and get to present their set if they want. The top three get a LIT trophy out of LEGO bricks. After the show is over, you have the chance to chat with the designers, check out the models and enjoy the rest of the evening. This was a fun part of the programme, I only wish I'd taken the opportunity to chat more with the designers. Prizes were also good! 8/10 Billund is a small Danish town with a few thousand inhabitants. It seems well developed for it's size and has a decent transportational system, I suspect this is largely because of LEGO's presence. It's not a pulsating city with lots of night life, but what can you expect in The Capital of Children? Everything is within walking distance if you're reasonably fit. There are restaurants and supermarkets in the town centre if you need them. Also, check out the Lalandia holiday resort, which complements Legoland nicely. There's also a zoo not far from Billund, Givskud Zoo. Read more about Billund on Wikipedia. Local Billund businesses sell the LEGO House special edition set (4000010), not to be found elsewhere. The price is 149 DKK, and there is no limit to how many you can buy. Verditct: I'll definitely go back to this family friendly town and bring my son next time. 7/10 Billund Airport is actually the second largest airport in Denmark, second to Kastrup (Copenhagen). It's nice and tidy, and you should have to trouble finding your way through it. Distance to Hotel Legoland / Legoland is about 30 mins walk or 5 mins taxi. There are buses too, but I found it easier just to grab a taxi for about 100 DKK. Importantly for LEGO fans, the airport has a nice LEGO shop (departures only), which is the only place you'll find the Billund Airport set (4000016) and also discounted regular LEGO sets. Better save some luggage space! As a bonus, the departure area also has free table football! 10/10 Building competition was one of my favorite parts of the Tour. Takes place on the evening of day two and goes on into the night if you want to. Certain guidelines have to be followed if you want to be successful, but it's up to you how seriously you want to take it. Everyone should make some sort of model though, as the designers promised punishment if someone didn't build. This did not happen on our tour. There were lots of LEGO elements available, organized in large drawers by shape and colour, so everything was in place for a great building experience. However, bring your own brick separator if you think you might need one! Also, bring something to put bricks in or on as you pick what you need. We used dinner plates. 10/10 Bus transfer is the main means of transportation during the tour. The longest bus ride was about 10 mins if I recall correctly. Comfy, large bus with luggage compartment underneath for employee shop madness. The LIT staff called out important information when necessary. 9/10 because we could have walked some of the distances. Confidentiality is a key word during parts of the programme. Be prepared to hand in your camera and smart phone at several occasions. You also have to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement upon arrival. Designers are available during several meals and program entries. Make sure you make a note of their names and what they've been involved in. You never know, the person next to you may have designed your favourite Star Wars UCS set! Take the opportunity to talk to these people, they seemed interested and engaged. 9/10 Dress code during the tour is informal. Be sure to bring comfy shoes, as there is a lot of walking involved. A rain coat or umbrella is encouraged, the weather can be unpredictable. Employee shop is another highlight of the tour. No photos are allowed inside, probably to not reveal prices and selection. Prices and the selection of items are very competitive for most people, so make sure you bring a cleared credit card! I wish I'd gone to Denmark by car... You can only buy two of each item, though. A large box can be sent to your home adress free of charge, which can only be filled with boxed sets. This box should fit somewhere around two Death Stars. We had a little over an hour in the shop, and time was put to good use! 10/10 Exclusive LEGO set is one of the better known "freebies" of the Tour and always has something to do with LEGO's history or legacy. I won't reveal anything about this until all tours of 2015 have been completed. I encourage everyone else to give new participants the same courtesy. It's a nice treat though. Factory Tour - a visit to the Billund moulding factory is a cool experience. I haven't been to any plastic manufacturing facilities before, so for me this was completely new. We had skilled guides and were allowed to walk around in the moulding hall and have a look at almost anything we wanted. Beware of robots collecting bins of bricks, though! Fascinating stuff. Take a look at the video in my Day 3 post to find out more. There were freebies here as well. Wish we'd had more time here. 9/10 Farewell ceremony - There was a farewell speech, which I have to admit wasn't too engaging. Still, we had the chance to give the LIT team a round of applause for giving us a great time. Tension built up as we were waiting for the exclusive set to be revealed, and then it was handed out and signed by Steen Sig Andersen. Because this marks the point where it's all over, this part of the programme seemed a bit anticlimactic to be honest. 6/10 Food - a lot can be said about food, but what we got during the Tour was good stuff. Mostly buffets, but there was a decent selection of dishes available. Breakfast at the hotel was good, with bacon, sauages and scrambled egg readily available. However, make sure you have a decent lunch on Day 2 - as you risk going until 7 or 8 PM without something to eat. I wish we'd had something to nibble at inbetween program entries. On the first day you should try one of the local restaurants in Billund instead of having dinner at the hotel, which is fairly expensive. I wish we had a meal or two included on the first day. Also tried a pulled pork burger in the park on the first day, absolutely delicious. 8//10 Hotel Legoland is a nice place to stay, especially if you have kids. It has LEGO ornaments and interior decorations all over, and the rooms have different LEGO themes. We had the best rooms in the hotel with a direct view of the park and a private entrance to it. I believe these rooms cost between 2500 - 3000 DKK per night, so it's not exactly a cheap place to stay. Rooms were clean, tidy, spaceous and had a nice bathroom. The floor was a bit creaky in certain spots in my room, though. Breakfast was good, and there was no problem finding a place to sit. The hotel is also used for conferences, and we had two seminar rooms for parts of the programme. These were nice, clean and had decent seating. Temperature and air quality was also fine in my book. There was a bar area with an OK selection of drinks available. Nothing special, but I didn't come there for that. All in all the hotel was fine, but next time I go back to Billund, I'll find cheaper accomodation. 8/10 Idea House is a place not open to the public. It is best described as a private museum where LEGO employees and official visitors can learn about LEGO's history and products. It's also the house where LEGO's founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, once lived. The tour wouldn't be the same without a visit to this place. There are some magnificent exhibitions and the holy grail itself - the vault where they keep all LEGO sets ever produced. Photos allowed down there! Be prepared for a really nostalgic experience. See Day 2. 10/10 LEGO Headquarters has a cool lobby with ample photo opportunities (see Day 3). Other than that, we were ushered into a large meeting room for a fairly interesting confidential presentation after handing in our cameras and phones. Wish we'd seen more of the place. 6/10 LEGO House is a replacement for the Billund city hall and is currently under construction. It will also become a LEGO discovery centre with both paid exhibitions and free, public areas. This venue will also house a LEGO brand store once it's finished some time in 2017. Be sure to get the LEGO house set for 149 DKK when you are in Billund (almost any local shop or business - I got it in a restaurant), it isn't for sale anywhere else in the world. We visited the construction site as part of the tour, which was a cold and relatively uninteresting event. They have a model on display close by and we had a small lecture on the things to come. 4/10 LEGO Inside Tour staff were great. This year we had Astrid, Camilla, Regina and Abdallah as our guides and organizers. All of them made us feel welcome and taken care of, and were happy to answer any questions along the way. It is clear that these people like what they're doing and this adds to the whole experience. 10/10 Legoland Park - I'd been looking forward to seeing the park, as I have never been to any Legoland park before (believe it or not). It was bigger and more diverse than I thought, and I belive youngsters would find the park with its many rides very attractive. I'm not much of a rollercoaster person myself, so I didn't try any of the rides. The Miniland exhibition is fabulous, even if some of the models show some age in the form of sun damage. This year, you can also see the 20 ton / 5 million brick X-Wing Star Wars ship (exact replica of set 9493) in a special corner of the park. All in all, a lot to take pictures of and a lot to try. Decent selection of places to eat. 8/10 Legoland Outlet Shop is a separate shop for items on clearance. Mostly clothing and apparel, but also some boxed sets. I didn't spend much time in there, but I noticed they for example had 2013 and 2014 Star Wars christmas calendars for sale. Legoland Shop is the main shop in Legoland. It's sizeable and has a pretty good selection of sets and other stuff, but prices are not competitive. The pick a brick section was a huge disappointment, as I expected it to be much bigger. If you have a Legoland season pass you can get a couple of good discounts in this shop, that helps marginally. They also might stock certain items that are very hard to come by elsewhere (i.e. 10223 Kingdoms Joust). 5/10 Legoland Star Wars Shop - a small, separate shop with Star Wars sets and apparel only. They stock some cool T-shirts in adult sizes and all current Star Wars sets. Prices not competitive here either. 6 / 10 since I like Star Wars. Lunch is important. Especially on day one and two, since you have to provide it yourself. Have lunch in Legoland to soak up the atmosphere! Photos were taken by one of our tour guides, Abdallah, and will be made available for download for all participants for a short period of time. Prices & value for money is something most people care a lot about. In 2015, the tour costs 14,500 DKK (around 2000 EUR). In addition you need transportation to/from Billund. Certainly a lot of money to pay for three and a half days. Value for money? I'd say so. Quite a bit of the amount paid goes to the hotel, I'd wager. You get the best rooms in the hotel (2500-3000 DKK a night) along with some great meals, season pass for Legoland, loads of freebies (including a rare and exclusive set), a diverse programme in a number of locations, time with some great LEGO designers and staff, an enjoyable building event with thousands of elements at your fingertips. In addition, you might actually learn stuff along the way if you're not careful. And meet new, interesting people from all over the world. AND get some great memories that will last you a lifetime. Compared with conferences in nice hotels around the world, I would say this price isn't outrageous. As I wrote above, the prices in the Legoland shops aren't all that good, and you won't get any VIP points. The only things you might want to go for are hard to find items, such as adult sized T-shirts, retired sets and apparel. Recruiting was a very small part of the programme. We had an interesting presentation about this on the last day, I wish we'd had more information on this topic. 7/10 Registration took place 6 months ago (early november), and was a nerve wrecking experience. Luckily for me, it opened up in the middle of the day while I was at work (I was prepared) and I was easily able to jot down my details on the website. Apparently, all places were filled within 3 minutes or so. A few days later, after waiting in agony I was awarded a place! You might still get lucky if you don't get a place in the first round. Apparently, one of my fellow participants got a call as late as March this year, confirming a place on the Tour. Someone must have not been able to make their payment, which was due in late February. Taxis are readily available at the airport and can be called from the hotel. Around 100 DKK to / from the airport. VIP points are not available or usable at either the Legoland shops or in the employee store. 0/10 Warehouse tour (& presentation) was something we did on Day 3 at the Havremarken facilities. Interesting place where we also got a presentation on building instructions (along with coffee and snacks). There was also a surprise for all participants along the way, go see for yourself what it was! 🙂 9/10
ExpectationsAs you've probably guessed, I'm quite positive towards the LEGO Inside Tour (LIT). Expectations are high when signing up for an event like this. I planned and read up on the event several months in advance, so I knew quite a bit about what was going to happen. There are several sources on the web, which I'll list at the bottom of this article. I'd say expectations were met, and then some. The LIT team made us feel welcome and appreciated, and even if I felt that I knew a lot about what was going on, there were a few nice surprises along the way.
Not for everyoneHowever, it could very well be that this tour isn't for everyone. It depends on your background and what you want from it. If you're feel that you know all there is to know about LEGO as a company and want an advanced course on manufacturing and design processes, you might want to consider skipping the Inside Tour. If you want to know company secrets and get information on new sets that haven't yet been leaked on the internet, you will also be disappointed. One could argue that LEGO should arrange a different kind of Inside Tour for advanced AFOLs only, but this could be hard to put together since AFOL interests are so varied. It is now possible to do a couple of the things on the programme with your (R)LUG if you're lucky, like the factory tour and a visit to the employee shop. Certainly a whole lot cheaper, but you won't experience everything the Inside Tour has to offer.
Well, who is it for then?LIT seems to be tailored towards a more generic audience, like older children, casual TFOLs / AFOLs, collectors and consumers who want to know more about LEGO culture, the LEGO brand and get some fun hands on social experiences to go with it. It's a way to give yourself a nice little pilgrimage to LEGO Mecca and possibly make some new friends along the way.
The badThere are a few minor complaints. Everything has a potential for improvement, and so does LIT. The programme is very hectic and at times we were rushed to the next location. This could have been less of a hassle if a) the programme had started earlier on Day 2 and b) a couple of the lengthy presentations had been shortened or skipped. The building event started a tad late in the evening (around 8 PM) for people who want to really work on it, I didn't finish until 3 AM. There wasn't all that much time in the park inbetween everything that was going on, so make sure you plan ahead when you see the programme. One box to ship home from the employee shop is too little for a lot of people. A little food during the breaks in the programme would be great, or at least a few trays of fruit / snacks in the seminar rooms.
The goodI will have to repeat some of what I wrote in an earlier paragraph in the A-Z section. Those hit the spot, really. You get the best rooms in the hotel along with some great meals, season pass for Legoland, loads of freebies (including a rare, numbered exclusive set), a diverse programme in a number of locations, fantastic exhibits where not all are available to the public, time with some great LEGO designers and staff, an enjoyable building event with thousands of elements at your fingertips. In addition, you might actually learn stuff along the way if you're not careful. And meet new, interesting people from all over the world. AND get some great memories that will last you a lifetime.
RecommendationJust go frakkin' sign up, you won't regret it! Here. Be sure to make a note of when registration opens. And thank you for reading this review! 🙂
Sources and other reviewsHuw's review of the 2013 tour at brickset.com - pt 1 | Huw's review of the 2013 tour at brickset.com - pt 2 | Huw's review of the 2013 tour at brickset.com - pt 3 Dr Dave Watford's review of the 2013 tour A Flickr album from the first 2014 tour William at Hoth Bricks also reviewed the same tour I went on (first 2015 tour), and has a slightly different perspective. The review is in French, but Google translate works fine for those of us who need that. Read his review here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 I also suggest you go to the Brickset forums and search for Lego Inside Tour. Helpful threads will appear!
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