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We usually get there a little after 5 (the event runs from 5-7). It usually takes us about 45 minutes to get through the line and build our model. By 6:00 there are still people waiting in line, but the store isn't really in danger of running out of mini builds.
When the weather is bad, the line tends to be shorter. Well, at least for my local store which is in an outdoor mall. I think it was November that was 40 and raining. There was no line then ;)
I take my four-year-old as well and none of the LEGO store employees has said anything about his being too young. Last month, I ended up having my three-year-old with me too since my wife was stuck in traffic. No one batted an eye when I asked for a kit for her to build.
If you plan on buying anything while you're there, I would suggest doing your research ahead of time and know what you're going to buy. The store is really crowded and hectic that it's hard to actually 'shop' there.
Sorry, I don't know anything about the Club Meetings. I haven't ventured down that road yet.
It really does vary by store. I'm in Nashville and our store is inside a mall. We often start early as the line gets so long that it's interfering with traffic flow which gets them in trouble.
I have never waited 45 minutes but that may be due to the need to keep the line short.
In November a forum member took his 4-year-old to a build and was turned away based on his age. This was in Raleigh, I talked to our store employees and they said they wouldn't do that.
The club meetings are great but my daughter is 8. They spend an hour building an assigned project, in January this was a vehicle for the Chima lions to cross the swamp, and then everyone takes turns to explain them. They're given a T-shirt and a set, last month was Razcal's glider. I would ask before paying for Club attendance, if you do go I'd think you'd need to be more involved than I tend to be. Sometimes these fill up weeks in advance.
Hope that helps. I can't emphasize enough how valuable it is to have a friendly relationship with store employees, they're more likely to bend rules for you as they have a good bit of leeway in some things.
We've done the Lego Club meetings at Downtown Disney and in Ontario, CA. The Lego Club in Downtown Disney is fairly strict on enforcing the age limits, because they sell out most/all of the meetings. I didn't ask in Ontario how strict they will be. I would note that the Downtown Disney and the Ontario Lego Club meetings were run slightly differently. At Ontario, they focused on cooperative building and then trivia at the end with no real time to explain the creations. At Downtown Disney, they do trivia at the beginning to warm up the crowd and the kids build on their own with time at the end to explain their creations. We've only done Ontario once so maybe it was just an off meeting.
I used to get there around 3:30pm to 4pm to get a good spot so as not to wait too long. My store gets roughly 150 - 200 but in these winter months the line can be shorter. They let people start lining up around 3:30pm. Earlier is always better.
For the Club Meetings, they're themed. For $25 ($20 if you're already a VIP) you get an exclusive t-shirt (can't buy in stores), a $5 coupon, club sticker and usually you get to take home the model of whatever themed build they did. They're fun and the kids have fun building together. It'll start with the kids putting on their shirts, going over and answering trivia and given a build challenge (either single build or in pairs). Then they describe what they built. Overall good clean fun. Oh, and we've gotten minifigs at some of our local builds. Like with Lego Stores, they run things different depending on the shop.
Now, be prepared if they don't let the kid take home the model. I've seen a few teary-eyed faces when this happens. Brace them if this happens...;(
Oh, and the Club Meetings usually start 9am sharp.