When the LEGOLAND Discovery Center opens this coming Monday, July 28th in Schaumburg, IL, it’ll be the first one in the U.S. It’s a 30,000 square-foot LEGO wonderland where parents can take their kids to see awesome, large-scale models, see how LEGO bricks are made and much more. But best of all, it’s the coolest LEGO-related thing in the Chicago area and one that will hopefully be built up even more (heh, get it?!) over time. A quick breakdown of the various sections of the LEGOLAND Discovery Center and approximately a zillion more pics after the clicky thingie…

A Mini LEGO Store and So Much More

Walking into the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, you first notice the shelves of LEGO product. As Disney has taught the rest of the world, every good attraction needs to sell merch before people leave, but here you can go in and just buy merch if you want. They don’t have any of the really expensive stuff (nothing that’s $400 for instance)…for that, you need to go across the street to the LEGO store at Woodfield Mall. But you won’t want to just shop and leave, because there are two whole floors of LEGO goodness here, starting with some pretty cool large-scale models.

The Ceremonial Brick Wall Breaking

Rather than cutting the same ol’ boring ribbon, the LEGOLAND Discovery Center built a wall of giant, flexible LEGO bricks. Kids waited outside in anticipation of being the first to set foot inside the new attraction and, well, destroy something right off the bat. But that’s ok, because there was a human-sized LEGO MiniFig walking around, I’m assuming to take kids and throw them into a LEGO jail if they got too rowdy.

MiniLAND Chicago

There’s something so amazingly cool about seeing your hometown built in miniature out of 1.5 million LEGO pieces. There are so many incredible details in MiniLAND Chicago that you just have to see it for yourself. Go now. Well, go next Monday.

Jungle Expedition

After MiniLAND Chicago, you’re treated to a nicely-themed Jungle Expedition, where you’ll find all manner of LEGO-built animals and Adventurers-style figures. As a bonus, the monkeys here do not have diseases. At the end of the Expedition is your segue into the Hall of Fame: A life-size Indiana Jones built out of LEGO!

Hall of Fame

What’s here is cool: In addition to Indy, you’ve got Batman, Darth Vader, R2-D2, Harry Potter and Hagrid. I’m hopeful that they keep adding to this area, though, because they certainly have room to do so, and the possibilities are literally endless.

Dragon Ride

Yes, LEGOLAND Discovery Center features an honest-to-goodness dark ride! You’re greeted in line by a couple of less-than-serious Dragon Castle guards, after which you’ll take a journey through the Dragon Castle to “meet Royalty, including the King and Queen, swordsmen and many more medieval characters” (according to the official materials). Ok, so it ain’t quite It’s a Small World but some of the models are pretty darn cool. And a giant LEGO dragon will blow smoke in your face. How many places can you get that?! Put your hand down…that was a rhetorical question.

Cafe, Physical Play, Build & Test

I’m not sure, but it may actually be against the law in the Chicago suburbs to have any kind of attraction that doesn’t include a restaurant or food court, so there’s a place to eat here. But it’s more than that…there’s also an indoor “play place” thingie and a Build & Test area where kids can make some MOCs while they enjoy a tasty cold beverage.

LEGO Factory

Next up on the tour is a small LEGO Factory where a professor and a team of crack LEGO scientists will show kids how LEGO bricks are actually made. I think this part may not have actually been finished yet, so I didn’t get to see it in action. More troubling still was the group of dudes from The Geek Squad who I saw walking into some back room. The Geek Squad?! Fixing stuff at a LEGO facility?! Hrmph.

LEGO Studios Spellbreaker 4D Cinema

Definitely one of the coolest parts of the LEGOLAND Discovery Center is this theater, which holds about 90 people and shows a 9-minute 3D film set in a medieval LEGO world inhabited by some LEGO MiniFigs who’ll look pretty familiar if you’ve ever played with Castle LEGO sets. I have to say the film was very well done and this is one part of the experience that you’re not going to want to miss. I didn’t take any pictures here cuz I was enjoying the movie. And it was dark. And I was wearing 3D glasses.

Oh, and I feel as though I should warn you that you’ll be misted two or three times, so put away your iPhone before the lights go down.

Dan the LEGO Builder

On my way out, I spoke a bit to a local 24-year old named Dan Morey who won a contest to become LEGOLAND Discovery Center’s official model builder. He and about 75 other adults entered the contest and he won by building a Happy Meal out of LEGO. I would never have won, because I would have eaten the Happy Meal before it was judged. Anyway, Dan gets to spend his days being PAID by LEGO to BUILD WITH LEGO and TALK ABOUT IT. Which is probably one of the most awesome jobs you could have. Especially in Schaumburg. I’m just saying.

All in all, I think the LEGOLAND Discovery Center is a fine addition to the area and something that a lot of kids will really enjoy. It’s a bit pricey ($15 for kids / $19 for adults) but then again so is LEGO, and that hasn’t stopped me from buying them over the years. Annual Weekday-only and Premium (7 days / week) passes are also available for prices that become pretty reasonable if you think your kids are gonna want to go at least 4 or 5 times a year.

It’ll be interesting to see how the place “grows” over time, in terms of what’s added in / changed, etc. I think because of the nature of LEGO, that’s something I’d definitely like to see for when my little guy is old enough to start going. Until then, you’ll find me watching Spellbreaker 4D and marveling over MiniLAND Chicago.