- A high-quality LEGO set has easy-to-follow instructions, plenty of features that nurture imaginative play, and countless ways to make custom creations.
- We liked the 2019 LEGO City Sets – the Sky Police Air Base, Fire Station, and the Downtown Fire Brigade – because they feature unique pieces that encourage kids to play and not just to build.
- Though these are on the higher end of the LEGO set price range (currently starting at $55.99 on Amazon), each has more than 500 pieces and features the same durable construction that can last for generations.
Few brands have a track record of quality that compares to LEGO.
From its humble beginnings in Denmark in 1932, LEGO has grown to be the world’s largest toy company with more than $4 billion in annual revenue and offices, stores, and amusement parks throughout the world.
Derived from the Danish words leg godt, meaning “play well,” LEGO is dedicated to helping kids (and adults) use their imaginations. It comes out with several sets for each of its sub-brands every year – one of the most popular of which is LEGO City. My two boys – Jerome (16 years old) and Bucky (5 years old) – and I recently got to test out the 2019 LEGO City sets, specifically the Sky Police Air Base, Fire Station, and the Downtown Fire Brigade. Here are our experiences.
The LEGO City Sky Police Air Base Building Kit (Model No. 60210) has 529 pieces and is geared toward people aged 6 years and older. The set comes with six Minifigures: two sky police officers, two crooks, a motorcycle officer, and a classic police officer. The main air base is approximately nine inches high by eight inches wide by one inch deep. The airplane has a wingspan of 15 inches, length of 11 inches, and is just over 5 inches high. There’s also a getaway car for the crooks to make jailbreaks and a parachute that allows Minifigures to jump safely from the undercarriage of the plane.
The LEGO City Fire Station Building Kit (Model No. 60215) has 509 pieces and is for ages 5 and up. The minifigures in this set are three firefighters, a fire chief, and a Dalmatian fire dog. Highlights include the fire station (11 inches high by 8 inches wide by 10 inches deep), an off-road fire vehicle, a water scooter, and a scouting drone.
The LEGO City Downtown Fire Brigade Building Kit (Model No. 60216) is a whopping 943 pieces and meant for anyone age 6 and older. It comes with four firefighters, two construction workers, and a pilot. The 10-inch-high burning building has a lamp post that pivots from horizontal to vertical. You can use the 9-inch-tall crane to bring the lamp post back to its upright position as you rebuild after a fire. There’s also a 15-inch-long fire truck, a fire helicopter, and two smaller vehicles.
When looking at the number of pieces in a kit, keep in mind that each Minifigure has multiple pieces. For instance, each crook in the Sky Police Air Base Kit has four pieces: the hair, head, body, and the legs.
Read more: The best STEM toys for kids
Each of the sets comes with manuals that provide step-by-step picture instructions on how to put the city scene together. We haven’t had any success getting Bucky to follow these directions, but Jerome has always enjoyed putting together LEGOs so he put the sets together to pass the time during some recent snow days.
Jerome started by separating all of the pieces by color. He then dug into the booklets. The Sky Police Air Base comes with five booklets, the Fire Station has two, and the more-involved Downtown Fire Brigade has seven. The two smaller sets took Jerome a little over an hour to put together. The Fire Brigade was closer to two hours. At no point was Jerome confused by the instructions. Of course, he has years of obsessive experience under his belt. Results may vary.
What makes the 2019 LEGO City sets stand out
To find out what really makes these sets stand out, I reached out to an expert, Christopher Wright, who is a Manager at Bricks & Minifigs Eugene, Oregon and a lifelong LEGO fan. He has a room devoted to LEGOs in his house.
“With the release of these new sets, it appears that LEGO is focusing on giving young builders more bang for their [parents’] buck,” Wright said. “The addition of new elements allows for a play experience that extends far beyond the build. By focusing more on play features, LEGO has done a great job of expanding the life of these sets.”
Wright pointed to the parachute included in the Sky Police Air Base as an example of a new element that encourages play. The parachute is the first of its kind, and Bucky has a blast going to the top of the stairs and dropping his parachuted Minifigure out of the plane from the second-floor landing. The parachute takes a few feet to open up so it works best from a high spot.
Of the three sets we tested, the Downtown Fire Brigade is the star. There are several reasons why Bucky liked this set the most. He loves helicopters and so enjoys flying the fire helicopter around the house. Since he is in a stage where potty humor is the height of hilarity, he thinks it’s awesome that he can use the crane to lift the porta-potty up and expose the worker trying to take care of business. Both Jerome and Bucky have a blast using the fire truck to put out fires.
The Downtown Fire Brigade set is the one Bucky keeps going back to and playing with. He clearly has the most fun with this one. Jerome took the other two sets to display in his room.
With his current interests in girls, drawing, and producing hip hop music, Jerome has all but lost interest in LEGOs. Yet, these sets kept Jerome engaged for hours on end. Each time we opened up a new set, he would pop on some music and build until he was done. We didn’t need to encourage him or anything, though Bucky was there to make sure he stayed on task.
Jerome is particularly impressed with the detail of the new sets. For instance, he appreciates the garage door on the Fire Station, which opens and closes seamlessly. However, he was annoyed by the light and sound bricks (batteries included) that come with both of the firefighting-themed kits. They’re meant to mimic the flashers and sirens on a fire truck. It was annoying because Bucky incessantly pressed the button activating the sirens. Unfortunately for Jerome, the batteries have not died yet.
Cons to consider
The squeezable air pump on the fire truck of the Downtown Fire Brigade that’s used to project the LEGO “water” to put out fires takes a little getting used to. You have to squeeze the pump when it is positioned just right to get the water to come out. The problem is the pump doesn’t stay in the optimal spot easily. The truck also has to be quite close to the fire to “put it out.” I like the ingenuity, but I think it could still use a little fine-tuning.
The only other con I can think of is the age-old problem of LEGOs finding their way into every part of our house and destroying our feet. We’re pretty good at keeping LEGOs in dedicated areas, such as the boys’ rooms. But, with the hourly show-and-tell sessions, Bucky occasionally loses pieces as he brings his new creation to wherever I might be. For better or worse, our robotic vacuum usually finds these pieces, and if the boys are lucky, I find the pieces before emptying the dust bin.
The bottom line
Overall, if you have a youngster who enjoys pretend play and building, the new LEGO City sets are sure to provide them with endless entertainment. When you consider how many pieces you are getting and the focus on extended play, the price is worth it. Our favorite is the Downtown Fire Brigade Building Kit, which is something we would typically buy for Bucky’s birthday or Christmas as the preeminent gift. Regardless of which set you choose, I recommend setting up a dedicated LEGO-playing area so you don’t lose pieces – and to protect your feet.
Pros: Durable, easy to build, provides hours of entertainment, nurtures imaginative play
Cons: The pump and house system on the fire truck could use some tweaking, small pieces are easy to lose and may destroy your feet