How do whales breathe? Through a blowhole. How did Bluetooth get its name? From a rune stone. What does the word “lego” mean? Play well. These are just some of the unusual facts that my grandsons Herc, 8, and Alexi, 6, learned on a five-day action-packed vacation to central Denmark.
Denmark has a reputation as a bike-friendly country, but since there are so many attractions in the Legoland area alone, from the Viking encounters to whale-watching, we decided it would be more practical to rent a car and hire bikes for day trips. Our trip was geared to kid stuff — Legoland and the Vikings — but with some 70 years between our group’s youngest and oldest member (me!), we planned a little shopping, sightseeing and eating, too.
The first stop on the journey was Legoland in Billund, which is a 50-minute flight from Copenhagen (and well worth the journey). We based ourselves at Hotel Legoland. As well as thrilling my grandsons with a life-size Lego Darth Vader in the foyer and Lego boxes in the rooms, it was blissfully convenient.
We walked over a small bridge and were in the theme park itself, which centers on Miniland — a Lego model village — and plenty of rides and adds-ons, including Ninjago World with its laser maze and the Wild West gold mine. There was also a Star Wars tableaux complete with puffs of smoke.
Before we left, the boys would have insisted that little could top Legoland. But that was before we went to Lalandia, Scandinavia’s largest indoor water park. It has an array of waterslides, including the terrifying Tornado, which whooshes you down a vertical drop on a giant rubber ring.
Next stop was Ribe Viking Center, a 50-minute drive away, where the boys signed up for a warrior-training session, with real helmets, bows and arrows, shields and swords, and met falconers and blacksmiths in thatched huts. I was more interested in exploring the medieval town of Ribe, so I pedaled there to see how the real place matched up to the one we’d seen in Legoland. Certainly it is just as picturesque.
Another highlight of the trip was a town called Middelfart (no joke), which is known for its whale-watching. It’s home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of porpoises, which are small whales.
After boarding Adventura, a 70-year-old wooden ketch, Herc was thrilled to be invited by the rugged captain to help steer us out from the quay. Alexi was handed binoculars and told to look out for the black backs of the porpoises in the sea. “There!" he shouted excitedly only minutes later.
During the two-hour voyage, the crew regaled us with fascinating stories about life on the ocean. Afterward, the boys spent ages in Middelfart’s tiny whaling museum, glued to a touch screen, trying to corral their own shoals of porpoises.
Denmark is not the cheapest place to visit, but it is certainly one of the easiest, with uncrowded roads and an impressive variety of attractions within close distance. Throw in a range of child-friendly restaurants, and you have the perfect multigenerational getaway.
By Gillian Thomas