VAUGHAN, Ont. – A miniature version of Toronto, made entirely of standard Lego blocks and showcased just north of the real city, has become a major attraction since it opened less than two years ago.
Part of Miniland, it is luring visitors in droves to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Vaughan, Ont.
“Though our attraction is built with three- to 10-year-olds and their families in mind, our Toronto Miniland is definitely a favourite amongst all our guests,” said marketing manager Lara Hannaford.
“Families travel to see this one-of-a-kind element in the centre.”
It took five months and half-a-million Lego bricks to build the entire Miniland featuring many of Toronto’s iconic landmarks including the CN Tower, which is made of 30,000 bricks.
The model city was built in the United Kingdom and installed at the centre by two experts, Hannaford said.
There are 3,000 minifigures in Miniland and 700 in the Air Canada Centre alone.
Hannaford said Merlin Magic Making, the British-based creative development arm of Merlin Entertainments, which owns Legoland, was responsible for building Miniland.
Maintaining Miniland is the job of 26-year-old Lego fanatic and master model builder Noel Straatsma, who has been playing with Lego sets since age five.
“So, when the job came around, I jumped at it immediately,” he said of the competition involving some 230 candidates vying for the dream role of master model builder.
“I got my job through that way, and it’s been a fantastic job ever since building things for Legoland Discovery Centre in Toronto.”
Straatsma is now working on adding what he calls “Christmas things” to Miniland.
With more than three million bricks under its roof, the Legoland also offers several other attractions like Lego Factory Tour, Lego 4D Cinema and Earthquake Tables.
In addition, it has an educational program designed to help students explore and learn in the colourful world of Lego. The activities are aimed at children from pre-kindergarten to Grade 6.
On average, some 200 children visit the centre on weekdays and 2,000 on weekends. Tickets start at $16.
The first such theme park in Canada, the 3,200-square-metre Legoland opened at the Vaughan Mills Mall in March 2013. It is about 40 kilometres north of Toronto.
Merlin Entertainments, which is the second largest theme-park operator in the world after Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, runs more than 100 attractions in 23 countries.
“Discovery centres are smaller versions of the Legoland theme parks,” said Hannaford.
The 59-hectare Legoland Florida in Winter Haven, Fla., is the largest.