LEGO isn’t just for kids. It never was, but now, LEGO knows that, too. So, it’s making more sets with adult builders in mind. Here are the best adult LEGO sets available for the 2019 holiday season.
For these selections, we focused on sets that appeal to adults, either due to the subject matter (NASA history, old spy movies, and so on) and/or because the building process is too difficult for most kids under 10 years old.
Note that LEGO prices are pretty fluid, as they’re in high demand, and some of these sets are very rare. We’ve ordered them, roughly, from least to most expensive. If there’s a specific set you’re looking for that’s out of stock, try different online stores, LEGO and independent retail stores, or secondary markets, like eBay—but watch out! LEGO toys are popular items for counterfeiters.
Best Stocking Stuffer: Ideas Women of NASA
This cute little set is the perfect stocking stuffer for anyone interested in the history of space exploration. Women of NASA features three vignettes: Apollo mission programmer Margaret Hamilton with her stack of codebooks, Hubble program leader Nancy Grace Roman with a model of the satellite, and astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison with a mini Challenger shuttle.
These make great desk decorations, and the included booklet has lots of historical context for each scene. This set is technically out of print, but it’s common enough that it should be easy to find at low prices before the end of the year.
Best Budget Set: Technic Corvette ZR1
The Technic series is jam-packed with unconventional designs and complex little mechanisms that make even relatively small sets, like this one, fun and challenging to build. This officially-licensed Corvette is a faithful recreation of Chevy’s top-of-the-line racer.
It’s almost one-foot long and has advanced features, including a working steering wheel and pistons that move when you roll it. At under 600 pieces, it’s a surprisingly fast build—you might even have time to break it down and build the alternate “hot rod” configuration!
Best Small Display Set: Ideas Pop-Up Book
LEGO builders who love the engineering aspect will get a kick out of this Pop-Up Book set. The old-fashioned “hardcover” looks like something out of the intro to a mid-century Disney movie. When opened, it reveals a 3-D fairy-tale scene.
The set includes both Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood, either of which can be swapped out. The clever way in which the plastic bricks mimic folding paper is fascinating. You’re even encouraged to make your own folding scenes modeled on the hinged design.
Best Desk Display: Ideas Dinosaur Museum
LEGO’s been making dinosaur-themed sets for literally decades, but it’s hard to find any that aren’t based on Jurassic Park. This one is a little more mature, and presents surprisingly precise, museum-style models of dinosaur skeletons. This set features the T. rex centerpiece, a triceratops, and pteranodon.
Properly scaled to LEGO’s minifig people, both a paleontologist and a “LEGO sapiens” skeleton figure are also included. At 910 pieces across three display-friendly models, this one makes a great desk set.
Best for TV Fans: Ideas Central Perk
LEGO’s fan-powered Ideas line has featured a lot of pop-culture offerings, but this year’s Central Perk set is particularly timely, with Friends reappearing in the zeitgeist. The famous fictional New York coffeehouse is lovingly recreated and even includes just-out-of-frame stage lighting.
The set includes minifigs of all six cast members, Gunther, the irascible barista, plus plenty of accessories, like Phoebe’s guitar, and Chandler’s ancient ’90s laptop.
This set is a LEGO store exclusive (retail and online), so it will be much more expensive from other vendors.
Best for Motorcycle Lovers: Creator Expert Harley-Davidson Fat Boy
Motorcycles are better as toys and models, if only because it’s much harder to lose limbs when you play with LEGOs. The Harley-Davidson Fat Boy includes a wonderfully faithful model, complete with a working transmission (the drive chain and engine pistons move, along with the rear wheel).
This isn’t the biggest LEGO set around, but it’s a great display piece, thanks to the specific attention paid to those iconic Harley lines—there’s hardly a stud to be seen on the finished piece. This set is also exclusive to LEGO online and retail stores, so it will be significantly more expensive elsewhere.
Best for Space Fans: Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V
This enormous, 39-inch reproduction of the rocket from the Apollo missions is stuffed full of interesting details. It separates into four sections, to faithfully reproduce the launch stages from the original moon landing missions.
In one piece or broken apart, it’s a fantastic display for a table or mantle, and even comes with horizontal stands. It also features smaller models of the moon lander and ocean recovery capsule. Thanks to a mostly symmetrical circular design, it’s also a surprisingly fast build for a set with exactly 1,969 pieces—and no, that’s not a coincidence.
Best for Movie Buffs: Creator Expert James Bond Aston Martin DB5
When it comes to James Bond spy cars, it doesn’t get any better than the original Aston Martin from Goldfinger. This set makes a pretty stunning recreation of the1964 DB5, but it’s the 007 touches hidden within the build (and activated by various buttons and levers) that make it extra-special. These include a pop-up bullet shield, deploying machine guns, rotating license plates, and, of course, an ejector seat that pops out of the retracting roof. It really ejects, too—the rubber band-powered action launches it across the room.
Due to the many hidden functions and the precise, smooth surfaces, the Aston Martin is a particularly difficult and time-consuming build for just 1,295 pieces.
Best for Giant Robot Fans: Ideas Voltron
Okay, so the 1980s anime transforming robot Voltron might appeal to kids more than most of the other items on this list. However, with five robot lions to build (all of which combine to make a 2,321-piece, over 15-inch-tall Defender of the Universe), it’s probably beyond a kid’s abilities without a parent’s help.
This model is based on the original die-cast Voltron toy, including its transforming function, which makes it surprisingly delicate for such a huge hunk of plastic.
When you’re done, you’ll have an agonizing decision to make: display all five lions, or Voltron in its full glory?
Best for Someone with Lots of Free Time: Creator Expert Taj Mahal
The enormous Taj Mahal is one of the largest LEGO sets ever sold. It’s also the biggest if you don’t count licensed Star Wars models. This meticulously detailed 5,923-piece recreation of India’s famous architectural landmark includes the unmistakable central domes and four minarets.
Even seasoned LEGO builders will need days to put this one together. When they’re done, they’ll also need somewhere spacious to display its 20-by-20-inch base. You might want to spring for a display case, too—it’s a real pain to dust.