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Halloween is not the same as when I was a kid.  I remember treat-or-treating after dark, house-to-house, unaccompanied by adults, and getting homemade popcorn balls, Rice Krispy treats and fruit in my pillow case.  Sure, we spooked each other out with the urban myth about the weirdo who once put a razor blade in a kid’s apple, and there was always the creepy guy down the street who dressed up like a scarecrow on his porch and then jumped out at you, but generally our Halloweens were carefree and safe.

I accept that the wonder years aren’t coming back, but still I yearn for my son to have the kind of wholesome and fun Halloween that made memories for me and my Little Rascals clan.  Thankfully, LEGOLAND California Resort and its smiling mummies, skeletons and vampires have risen to the occasion it with a Halloween celebration every weekend in October filled with thrills and surprises in a safe and family oriented environment.

Party On, LEGOLAND Style

Every Saturday night in October, LEGOLAND hosts Brick-or-Treat Party Nights filled with a variety of family activities including the interactive show “Mail Order Monsters” and Brick-or-Treat Trails. Kids can wear their costumes around the park, get their faces painted, and go trick-or-treating down the Enchanted Walk, to the tune of Halloween hits like “Thriller” and “Monster Mash,” and friendly park staff hand out treats.

In addition to the usual candy, there are healthy snacks, like Funky Monkey dried fruit crisps, and fun stuff, like a LEGO coloring book with Halloween-themed stickers.  The decorations are cute and spooky – such as silly spiders and happy jack-o-lanterns, which is a welcome respite from the horrifying gory zombie faces that I just can’t seem to get away from even at my neighborhood CVS.

Kids can also help build blocks to create sections of a 10-foot LEGO character, Lord Vampyre, made of 150,000 LEGO bricks. This activity was a thrill for kids who love LEGOs and a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the amazing LEGO statutes and other model exhibits around the park are constructed.

Scaring Up Safe, Not-too-Spooky Fun

LEGOLAND stays open late every Saturday in October, and from 5 to 9 p.m. the park hosts Brick-or-Treat Party Nights featuring costume contests, nighttime trick-or-treating on Brick or Treat Trails, festive music, entertainment, and an animated light show, “Spirits of Halloween,” after sundown and fireworks at 9 p.m.

Several areas of the park stay open late for the event, including Land of Adventure, Castle Hill, and Imagination Zone; and the popular rides Coastersaurus, Safari Trek and Fairy Tale Brook also run late. Children can enjoy activities like Hubble Bubble’s Dance Party, the Haunted Hideaways and a LEGOLAND pumpkin patch building activity with glow-in-the-dark treats.

Park guests can also meet the “Boo Crew,” including Silly Scarecrow, Howlin’ Howie, Jester Funny Bones and Count Brickula, and they can see magic shows, entertainment from the “Wichettes,” a splash artist creating paintings to music and tap dancing skeletons.  While the entertainment is always family-oriented, I have to compliment LEGOLAND for keeping it updated, even incorporating some G-rated Gangham Style into their stage performances.

Next door to the park, SEA LIFE Carlsbad Aquarium offers guests a bonus Brick-or-Treat experience where kids get treats and see a special themed daily dive show and daily creepie crawler appearances every Saturday and Sunday in October.

All Brick-or-Treat and Party Nights festivities are included in the price of regular one-day admission to LEGOLAND California.  During Brick-or-Treat, LEGOLAND is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Discounted evening admission for Saturday party nights in October is also available.  During the month of October, SEA LIFE stays open until 8 p.m. on Saturdays for those wanting to explore the Aquarium after dark. The LEGOLAND Water Park is open on weekends in fall depending on the weather.  For more information, visit www.LEGOLAND.com.

The Inn Place to Be for Families

For park partiers staying overnight in Carlsbad, the West Inn & Suites offers family friendly accommodations close by to LEGOLAND.  A favorite boutique hotel for many families who come back year after year,

Besides being just a few minutes from LEGOLAND, Bistro West offers plenty of amenities for families.  The hotel is known for its excellent service and beautiful rooms as well as its many family friendly features, such as a courtyard heated pool with a large shallow end that’s perfect for kids and a Jacuzzi that’s great for grown-ups unwinding after a day of park hopping.

Milk and fresh-baked cookies are served nightly, and every morning there’s a breakfast buffet that beats any hotel continental breakfast around, offering everything from eggs, bacon, and pancakes to fresh fruit, yogurt and oatmeal.  Families can sit at private tables or share tables and get to know other guests, and kids can hang out and watch cartoons on sofas in the large breakfast room.

Other conveniences for families offered by West Inn & Suites include a shuttle service within Carlsbad and complimentary beach chairs, towels, umbrellas, coolers body boards and sand toys.  As a testament to their complete family inclusion, they also welcome pets and are conveniently located nearby a local pet park.

West Inn’s other amenities include spacious suites with a sitting area and pull-out sofa beds for families, a wet bar area with mini-fridge and luxurious beds and stylish upscale beach décor, including beautiful espresso-colored furniture and “his and hers” wardrobe cabinets.  Each room also is outfitted with plasma TVs and free wi-fi.  Some other smart touches are special black face cloths for make-up removal and a scale in the bathroom.

Even during a fully booked weekend, our room was quiet — so much so that we nearly slept in past breakfast.  Despite having a full hotel of guests to tend to, the staff were exceedingly friendly and helpful.  I was especially impressed at the attention to detail for my very late check-in:  a lamp was turned on in my room, my bed turned down and music was playing softly on the bedside radio.   Truly the hotel lived up to the promise the clerk made when I checked in, “We’re here for you 24/7.”

Another perk:  West Inn & Suites guests is part of the Stash independent hotel loyalty program (www.stashrewards.com).  Guests can sign up for free to earn five points for each dollar spent on eligible room rates and can redeem them at independent hotels across North America including the Caribbean and Hawaii.

Best in the West

West Inn is home to the popular Bistro West, one of the area’s best restaurants.  Bistro West features an impressive kids menu that will make you wish you were 12 again and adult fare that locals line up for, literally.  Be sure to make reservations on weekends, or you may find yourself waiting upwards of an hour for a table at this hopping hot spot.

Bistro West stand out dishes include the roasted beet salad, the signature gumbo with chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage with rice, fried okra and green onions; oven-roasted Mahi Mahi macadamia served with a tropical fruit salsa and sweet rice wine butter sauce.  Other don’t-miss dishes and sides are the garlic mash potatoes and just about any of the artesian pizzas, such as the pear and gorgonzola pizza with prosciutto and chopped hazelnuts, topped with green onions tossed in blue cheese dressing.  For a big finish, there’s Bistro West mud pie for two or more, made with Oreo cookie crust, vanilla and banana ice cream and chocolate ganache.

West Inn & Suites is located at 4970 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad, CA 92008.  For more information and reservations call 1-866-431-9378 or go to www.westinnandsuites.com.

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