Victorian LEGO fans have been forced to visit the distant lands of Chadstone, Doncaster and Highpoint for these many years. But, as of this Saturday, there is finally going to be a LEGO Store in Melbourne Central. And, not just any LEGO store: the largest one in Australia. And I had a chance to check it out before it opens.
The first thing you see when you enter the store is a giant LEGO tram, which takes some inspiration from the LEGO train at the Leicester Square Lego store in London. The piece count weighs in at a whopping 700,000 bricks, but even that fun fact doesn’t fully prepare you for the large scale of the build, according to designer and builder Ryan “Brickman” McNaught.
“The cool thing is, given its dimensions, we can use a lot of the larger LEGO bricks; heaps of 2x8s and 2x10s. So, while the piece counts in other models could be more, they’re not as physically big,” he said.
In fact, this tram is something of a record-breaker. “We haven’t done the final count yet, but it took us just under 3000 hours,” McNaught revealed. “Nobody is a record-keeper of which models are the biggest or whatever, but I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s my biggest LEGO model I’ve ever made. I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere, but there’s no book you can look up to check. But I’m pretty sure it is.”
The Brickman’s team also briefly considered building the steps from Flinders Street Station with the clocks, but eventually decided that the tram would be more fun for kids to play in and have their photos taken.
“With this tram you can hop in the front and act as a driver, or you can hop in as a passenger, or you can go in the other end and hang out with the driver. There was just a lot more we could do with this,” he said.
There are also plenty of other big, brick-built takes on the collectable minifigure range throughout the store, but they were built overseas by a different team.
After the tram you’ll notice the truly, ridiculously complete range of LEGO sets. Unlike regular toy or department stores, LEGO Certified Stores, particularly massive ones like this, are able to carry the full range of LEGO sets, including the ones that are normally exclusive to the LEGO website. So, you’ll be able to find the Horizon Forbidden West tall neck, Disney Castles of varying sizes, and the full range of BrickHeadz and keyrings in store.
As you move through the store there’s the Pick A Brick Wall, which has a huge range of bricks in various colours and shapes. Small cups are $14.95 and large cups are $29.95. McNaught’s top five picks from the wall are:
- SNOT corner 1×1
- Lighting bolts (not seen before on Pick A Brick)
- New neon yellow bricks (super hard to find colour)
- Leaves, because you can never get enough to make trees
- BrickHeadz SNOT bricks that were previously only in BrickHeadz sets
For LEGO fans who haven’t quite felt ready to take the plunge into designing their own builds, McNaught recommends that you start with your favourite LEGO range, like the modular buildings or Star Wars, and riff on them. Maybe add a forensic lab to the Police Station, or make a scene from one of the movies with your favourite ship. Start by building on what exists, and then take that further.
Next to the Pick A Brick Wall is the Mosaic Maker. This is the first time the Mosaic Maker has come to Australia, with it being an extremely popular fixture at limited LEGO stores overseas.
The way it works is, when your appointment time comes, you go into the little photo booth, pay $179, take a picture or two until you get one you like (only one person can be in the photo). A good tip I got in the store was that the picture looks better when you view it through your phone camera than looking at it on the screen. However, I found the printed final copy looked more like it did on the screen, so I would not recommend using the phone trick.
After you’ve taken a photo you can adjust the contrast (the mosaic will only be a mix of yellow and greys) and press print. A minute or two later there is an adorable animation of LEGO figures putting the bricks into the box, then the box will appear, shortly followed by the picture you’ve taken, printed on photo paper. That picture will be your instructions, so don’t lose it!
I tried to do this at Leicester Square in the UK, but it was both way too booked out and too expensive at £99.99. That comes out to $AUD173.57, which is a bit cheaper than it is here until you factor in currency conversion. Either way, it’s a lot of dollars for a photo of your head. But it does include 4502 pieces and it’s a pretty fun experience that ends in an entertaining activity. You can see more about it here. Just don’t stick out your tongue, or you will look like you have a goatee. Learn from my mistake.
The other big personalisation area is Build A Minifig, which is $19.95 for three figures. New parts include game controllers and a violin.
For kids, there are a couple of play areas in the store including both Duplo and regular LEGO bricks.
When you come on opening weekend there will be a gift with purchase, which is an adorable store set, brand new for 2022. You can only get this set when you spend $199 at a new store, and stocks are limited. Unfortunately, it is a sticker-palooza (no printed parts here), but there are lots of cute little details like a Pick A Brick wall, the original wooden duck and the Lamborghini Sian Technic set.
As well as that, 100 random people who come through the doors on opening day will be given a showbag including a LEGO magazine, LEGO sticker sheet and a keyring.
Like the other LEGO stores in Australia, this is going to be a LEGO Certified Store, which means it’s run by a separate company and isn’t connected to the same VIP points program as the LEGO website.
The LEGO Store is on Level 2 of Melbourne Central (where the old Glue store used to be, near Samsung and the Little Library) and opens at 10am on Saturday, May 7.