The meticulously crafted mini-city, a year and a half in the making, is the latest addition to LEGOLAND’s Miniland USA, a collection of worldwide scenic highlights rendered in LEGO bricks. And it’s chockablock with San Diego landmarks, from the blue arc of the San Diego Coronado Bridge to the bustle of the Gaslamp Quarter to the galloping Thoroughbreds of the Del Mar Racetrack.
In all, Miniland San Diego takes in 55 local landmarks, constructed from a staggering 5 million LEGO bricks. The miniature version of PETCO Park alone took more than 150,000 bricks to construct. (The ballpark, home of the San Diego Padres, was the No. 1 pick in LEGOLAND’s #BrickTheVote social-media campaign to help choose which San Diego icons would be included.)
Here’s a look at 10 of the most prominent San Diego sights you’ll see in “LEGO Diego”:
This compact version of the Padres’ home stadium — proclaimed the best MLB ballpark in America by USA Today — features everything from video scoreboards to an animated umpire to tiny food stands. As scaled-down as it may be, the mini-park also houses more than 1,000 tiny fans, players, vendors — even the team’s Swingin’ Friar mascot.
A regal re-creation of Balboa Park’s picturesque California Tower soars above gardens and museums in this ode to the city’s cultural heart. The Botanical Building and other landmarks also feature prominently, and it appears a tiny rugby game has broken out on a lawn beyond.
Hotel Del Coronado
With its red turrets and Victorian profile, this queen of the “Crown City” is unmistakable. The classic Hotel del Coronado rises alongside a shimmering waterfront — in surprisingly close proximity to the signature Geisel Library at UCSD. (Miniland San Diego’s designers took a few creative liberties with local geography in order to fit everything into the allotted space.)
The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
This new gem of San Diego’s bayfront, which serves as the outdoor home of the San Diego Symphony, gets a beautiful re-creation, with teeny seats full of patrons as the orchestra plays onstage. Even the rock jetties dividing Jacobs Park from the harbor look like the real thing.
San Diego Convention Center
Right next door to the Rady Shell is this familiar feature of the San Diego waterfront — and in the Miniland version, Comic-Con International: San Diego is in full swing year-round. (In real life, the world-renowned celebration of pop culture unfolds each July.) Check out the bevy of attendees swarming outside the doors — and see how many costumes you can ID. There are definitely “Star Wars” storm troopers; there might also be a San Diego Chicken.
Downtown and Gaslamp Quarter
A tiny but true replica of the Gaslamp Quarter sign arches across Fifth Avenue in the Miniland salute to this San Diego historic district. Downtown denizens from business execs to shopkeepers to tourists can be spotted amid the storefronts and streets, lined by vintage lamps. (Look closely and you might even spot the LEGO likeness of San Diego Tourism Authority President and CEO Julie Coker!) Nearby, famous elements of the San Diego skyline — from the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel to Symphony Towers — tower above the surroundings.
Old Town San Diego
A mini-mariachi band greets visitors to the site where modern California began. Don’t miss the mock-ups of historic locations around Old Town, home to such San Diego favorites as the Whaley House Museum, the Iipay ~Tipai Kumeyaay Mut Niihepok (Land of the First People) Park and Cygnet Theatre.
San Diego County Fair
One of the most stunning creations in Miniland San Diego is this intricate ode to the annual San Diego County Fair, featuring everything from a working mini-Ferris Wheel to scads of little food booths — including one selling “Fried Brick on a Stick.” Tiny patrons tote pink cotton candy as they check out the animal exhibits or climb aboard carnival rides. It’s almost as much fun as being there!
Del Mar Races
Right next to the San Diego County Fair at Miniland is, of course, the world-renowned Del Mar Racetrack. And if you can’t lay down bets here, you can still do something that’s not quite possible at the actual track: Compete in the races yourself, with a pair of control pads that let visitors vie with each other to see whose horse crosses the line first. It all happens while fans cheer you on from the packed grandstands at this seaside landmark where “the turf meets the surf.”
San Diego Coast
No re-creation of San Diego would be complete without glimpses of our 70-plus miles of beautiful coastline. And at LEGOLAND, you’ll see not just such oceanfront favorites as Mission Beach and Coronado, but plenty of bayfront, too. In all, it’s a perfect recipe for San Diego: Just add water.