Disneyland or Legoland
A few weeks ago my almost five-year-old son was faced with a harrowing decision.
Disneyland or Legoland?
His fifth birthday was coming up and he was given the choice of spending a couple of days at Disneyland or Legoland.
After two seconds of thought he came up with a non-answer answer that, if he keeps it up, will make him a successful politician later in life.
"I want to go to both," he said.
We live in Los Angeles and have annual passes to Disneyland, so Walt's joint is our second home, but my son has just became infatuated with Star Wars Lego, so after much deliberation he chose Legoland.
If you are visiting southern California and a lover of theme parks this region is your Holy Land.
If you are into hardcore roller-coaster parks that make you vomit there's Knott's Berry Farm and Six Flags.
The movie-themed Universal Studios is great for teens and adults.
Disneyland and its adjoining Disney California Adventure are a must for any visitor - whether you are one-year-old or 101-years-old (take granny because if she's in a wheelchair you skip the long lines.
If you don't have a wheelchair-bound granny, do your research about the Disney Fastpass).
A 90-minute drive south of LA towards San Diego there's Legoland, SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo.
Yes, I wrote "drive".
Many travellers are scared to hire a car in the US because they fear driving on the wrong side of the road or making a wrong turn and finding themselves lost in Bloods, Crips (ganglands) or Mexican Mafia territory.
Don't be a wimp.
Hire a car with a navigation unit.
It beats the cramped, expensive and time-consuming tourist trap buses.
So on the day before my son's birthday, a Tuesday, we loaded up the car and headed south on the 5 Freeway for Legoland.
We booked two nights in the Legoland Hotel for about $220 a night.
The rooms are themed - "Adventure", "Kingdom" and "Pirate".
My son chose the Adventure theme because he is addicted to the Temple Run app but my two-year-old daughter was initially freaked out by the snakes and spiders on the carpet.
My wife and I would prefer a Ritz-Carlton, but as parents there is no greater feeling than watching your kids' eyes explode when they walk into the Legoland Hotel, see a huge pit of Lego, Lego characters and a pirate ship in the foyer and are then handed VIP passes and a treasure map.
The treasure map has clues to unlock a treasure chest in their room.
Everything from the pool with floating Lego bricks, the Bricks buffet restaurant (for breakfast and dinner) and the activities inside the hotel are designed for kids.
We have stayed at two of the Disneyland hotels - the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Disneyland Hotel - and the Legoland Hotel beats both for price and exciting our children.
Now, for the parks.
So, it's a Tuesday and we walk out of the Legoland Hotel toward the Legoland theme park.
We are alone.
We soon discover Legoland is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, except for the busier summer and holiday periods.
You know the scene in the movie National Lampoon's Vacation when Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) takes his family to the Walley World theme park, Aunt Edna and her dog Dinky die along the way, and when they get to Walley World it is shut?
That was us.
Thankfully the Legoland Hotel was so great that my children, after one minute of grief, were happy to spend the rest of Tuesday and all of Wednesday inside the hotel.
Thursday the park was (thank you, God) open and as Legoland guests, we were allowed into the park 30 minutes early.
Just as Disneyland is a magical experience for kids, teenagers and adults, Legoland is the same.
Entry into Legoland varies (one day passes $69 to $102 or two-day for around $115 per adult/teenagers and a little less for children three to 12 years. Under three is free).
I'd recommend at least two full days for Legoland.
I do now note Legoland has multiple warnings on its website that it is shut on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during off-peak periods so I take full responsibility.
Disneyland is a little more expensive (about $107 a day for adults, $101 for three to nine-year-olds), but you do get bang for your buck and need at least two days.
Disney's California Adventure is filled with modern rides inspired by the Pixar movies - Cars, Toy Story, A Bug's Life, etc.
You need at least one full day to experience it, but if you can afford it, go for two.
A two-day park hopper that gets you into Disneyland and California Adventure is about $234 per person.
To save cash, don't worry about the Disneyland hotels.
Check out websites like hotwire.com and expedia.com for hotels in the Anaheim area that have a free mini-bus to the Disneyland gates.
At night, for the ultimate kids' Disney dining experience, try Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel.
It is a large buffet (my kids like the peanut butter and jelly pizza) and throughout the dinner Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto & Co drop by the table.
Book your table in advance.
At the end of our Legoland misadventure I asked my son if he preferred Legoland or Disneyland.
"Both," he said.