Dubai

It has been almost 2 months now since we have returned home from our holiday to Dubai and frankly… we are missing it! We had such a good time and it will be a memorable holiday for sure.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dubai. I had heard so much already and everyone who I had spoken to had indicated it was their favourite holiday and that they couldn’t wait to get back. I must admit, I did think they must be exaggerating.

So here is information on what we enjoyed, what is worth doing and perhaps what is worth skipping!

Firstly, I want to reiterate that we did enjoy Dubai. Very much so infact. However I would be lying if I said it wasn’t missing something. For about a week I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then I was speaking to a fellow Instagram mama and she had asked me where I would rank Dubai out of all the places we had visited. For me, New York, Cuba and Venice remains top of that list. It was then it occurred to me. It was substance. Dubai was missing substance. Therefore you are lacking historical features and a sense of the ‘past’.

Dubai is very much ‘man made’ and so whilst you get a cultural feel of the place, you do miss other aspects. It feels…. sterile.

When we were there I kept likening it to our holiday to Las Vegas. So if you have been to Vegas before, you will know what I mean.

However, Dubai has clearly been made for your enjoyment. It has been described as a playground for adults and I would agree with this. And because of that, you need to take it for what it is. There really is plenty to do and I can see why people would visit more than once.

Where we stayed

We stayed at The Atlantis on the Palm. Without a single doubt it is the most luxurious hotel I think we have stayed in. We were lucky enough to be placed on the 14th floor and facing The Palm. I had emailed them the year before to ask that should there be rooms available, we were placed high up and facing the ocean. I was still surprised though when they met our request. It was a really lovely touch.

The hotel is well known for its aquarium which is free for residents to visit as and when. Whether you visit the aquarium or not, it is visible regardless from other areas of the hotel. It really is very striking and we noted many people visiting the hotel just to get their famous photo. (see Ita below!)

The hotel is very big and always very clean. The reception desks are sprawled along one side so although the hotel is very busy, there seemed to be enough staff to help. When we were checking in, I must admit I did feel pushed into buying the breakfast package but I declined it. In hindsight, you probably do need to have this package but the truth is it is so expensive for what it is.

In many ways The Atlantis is very child friendly, in other means it really isn’t. We visited the Wavehouse Bar and Restaurant the most because their menu was most suited to our needs. The other restaurants are fine for one offs, but a 3 year old really just wants nuggets and chips so it was frustrating that nothing like this was on offer. You will note 2 very very small fast food places by the entrance to the water park from the hotel – and that really is it. Typically, when we go away we like to splash out on one nice meal at least (mostly for us adults to enjoy) but we didn’t realise how booked up the restaurants get by people who aren’t residents at the hotel.

Unless you purchase the breakfast package, there is nowhere else to have breakfast either apart from a small coffee bar. However, every day we noticed that the queues for the breakfast room were really long and it always looked very busy inside too.

On the 3rd day we realised that there is a Starbucks over by Dolphin Bay which is on the opposite side of the water park. I would estimate it would take about 30 minutes from our room to walk there for a coffee. It is a shame there was not a Starbucks situated closer or even inside of the hotel.

Cabs are situated right outside the hotel. There are 2 types; the normal standard cabs and the flashy ones which you are always shown to first. We actually spent quite a lot in cab fares as everything worth seeing is at least a 30-40 minutes ride away. There is a monorail service which runs from the hotel (at the top of The Palm) down to the end of The Palm, which you can then decide what mode of transport you would prefer to take, either a train, bus or cab. We decided due to time restraints to get cabs as they were the easiest for us.

Atlantis Aquaventure

As part of our stay at Atlantis, we had full access to the onsite aquapark, this was another highlight for Ita. The aquapark is the best one we have been to, it was huge with so many different slides and rides.

The areas are split into areas for the families and the thrill seekers. We spent 99% of our time at the Splashers area, Ita would go on the same slides constantly for hours on end. The staff here were always so friendly and polite and they always engaged with Ita. This made all the difference.

If you are more of a thrill seeker, there are some amazing slides available, for example The Leap of Faith which is plunge from nine storeys high and you drop right through the centre of a lagoon with sharks and stingrays. It looked awesome!

What to do?

As we were there for 6 days we planned what we really wanted to do and see. As stated earlier, Dubai is there for your entertaining pleasure so I wanted to do a few things that we would not otherwise be able to do back in England.

Our hit list included; The Malls, Mermaids of Arabia, Hello Kitty Spa, Motion Gate Theme Park, Global Village, Souks and Burj Khalifa. We did think if we had time we would also visit Miracle Garden and The Dubai Frame. However, first and foremost we wanted this to be a holiday. I had spoken to many people who had visited Dubai before and their trip seemed so busy and fussy. It was really important to us that we experienced a holiday here and went home less tired than we arrived.

The Malls

We visited The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and The Galleria Mall, which is much smaller.

They were all so similar in layout and design. Even the tiles were the same. If we were to go back, I would definitely visit Ibn Battuta Mall which is considered the largest theme mall in the world and looks visually stunning.

At Mall of the Emirates we visited The Toy Shop where Mermaids of Arabia is situated. (More info on this below). This Mall is also where Ski Dubai is. When we visited it was fairly quiet which we liked. We also treated ourselves to a couple Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes which were amazing!

The Dubai Mall is not one to be missed as the fountains really are so impressive. It is based in Down Town Dubai, very close to the Burj Khalifa. However this Mall was by far the busiest and so we didn’t get much time to look around.

The Galleria Mall is where Hello Kitty Spa has been moved to. It is very small – only one floor with a handful of shops. There was nowhere to eat here and there were also no cabs outside. Bare this in mind when you visit. The best way to get around this is to order an Uber or a Careem (a popular cab hailing app).

We noticed that Dubai really came to life in the evenings and was less busy during the day. So if you are travelling with a small child as we were, I would say you will get the most out of your trip by being up and out early. (To be honest, isn’t this likely anyway?)

So let’s move on to activities.

As stated, we really wanted to plan activities around Ita so with that in mind I knew we wanted to take her to Mermaids of Arabia and the Hello Kitty Spa.

Mermaids of Arabia

Mermaids of Arabia are on the second floor of The Toy Store within The Mall of Emirates. This is at the Ski Dubai end (you will notice this signposted).

Ita had a full makeover and transformation into a beautiful mermaid and posed in a giant sea shell afterwards.

There are 3 different packages ranging from 110 AED to 200 AED.

Ita was gifted the 3rd package which included;

 Mermaid makeover and simple hairstyling

 Costume dress-up and photo shoot

 1 free printed photo to keep

 1 glamorous photo frame with sparkling jewels for decoration

 Digital copies of all photos taken during the photo shoot (sent via email)

 1 sparkling tiara to keep

This was a big highlight of our trip and thoroughly recommended. They also do a pirates version for little boys too. The link to their website is below but do check out our Instagram TV for the video of Ita’s visit.

Here you can even meet a mermaid too!

https://www.mermaidsofarabia.com/

Hello Kitty Spa

The Hello Kitty Spa has recently relocated to The Galleria Mall. This is a female only spa so was perfect for my and Ita, but did mean that Dominic had to wait outside on his own!

The Spa is beautifully decorated in Hello Kitty and they offer lots of treatments. Ita had a manicure and her nails painted with the famous Hello Kitty face. It really is such a lovely experience. The mini robes are very cute.

She was lucky enough to get to make some soaps too which was actually something she enjoyed the most from this experience.

The staff were all so friendly and made such a big fuss over Ita.

The options are very reasonable and range from about 60 AED for nail polish to 590 AED for mummy and daughter packages.

The link to their website is below but do check out our Instagram TV for the video of Ita’s visit.

https://www.hellokittybeautyspa.com/

Global Village

Part theme park and part market!

Global Village features pavilions with displays from countries near and far where visitors can pick up traditional items and snacks.

This festival park brings cultures together as visitors discover different parts of the world in just a few hours. The pavilions are designed in the image of iconic structures or local architecture from London’s Big Ben to the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, the Taj Mahal and Ancient Egypt.

There is a lively atmosphere here created by parades and all kinds of shows, from fire-breathing street performances to concerts.

Plus, there is a big funfair here too! We also visited Ripleys Believe it or Not here and Ita absolutely loved it.

We really enjoyed Global Village especially the souks. As with Dubai in general, the attention to detail is remarkable.

Global Village is seasonal however and is only open from October to April. This is because of the weather. If you are visiting Dubai during these months though, I would really recommend here!

https://www.globalvillage.ae/en/

We had planned to visit the Motion Gate Theme Park but on the morning of going, Ita politely asked whether she could go to the splash park. Initially I was disappointed but I wanted us to have a nice memory of our holiday so we did just that. There’s always next time we thought!

One thing that I really want to point out, is just how far everything is from each other. When you visit London or Manhattan (or actually most cities)  for example, you can spend the day walking around at your own leisure seeing the sights. You simply can’t do that in Dubai. Everything is separated by dual carriage ways so you need to take a car ride. It means that whilst you could definitely see a few things in one day, you would need to do this via cabs which takes away the spontaneity of it and adds more to my initial thoughts on how fake everything felt. It is quite hard to describe unless you are there.

Let me try explain, the Dubai Frame for example is something you really only want to see rather than go in. So you would need to get a cab there, just for a photo outside with the frame in the background… it is a bit weird! If you could leisurely stroll here and then on to somewhere else, then it would make sense.

Flights

We flew overnight with British Airways, so the airport was empty and the check in was completely stress free which was a good start to holiday.

The flights were around 7 hours going and 8 hours coming back. I would say in hindsight, this isn’t long enough to do an overnight flight. In my head, Ita would be sleeping the entire flight but that doesn’t happen. She slept maybe 5 hours? This meant she was a bit tired on our first day in Dubai. Ita is very good when it comes to travelling so perhaps the night flight would be ideal for children who aren’t?

We also bought a blow up block cushion to bridge the gap between the chair and the one in front. This enabled Ita to lay down better. I have seen companies selling these for a ridiculous amount of money (£79!!!) but this one only cost us £12 from Amazon.

We arrived in Dubai in the morning the next day and passport control was seamless and again stress free, the buggy was waiting for us outside of the plane.

We couldn’t fault BA at all and would happily fly with them again.

Top Tips for Dubai

  • Plan and plan again. You cannot be spontaneous here. Book restaurants and the things you want to do in advance.
  • Remember to account for the money you will spend on cabs / taxis
  • The best time to travel is between October and April. This is when it is less hot. During the summer months it is unbearable and will limit what you can do.
  • Take it for what it is – it is a playground! It is meant to be fun!

Check out our vlogs from Dubai!

Part 1

Part 2

Please note, our visits to Mermaids of Arabia, Hello Kitty Spa and Global Village we’re all gifted visits.

Mini Mode – Global Kids Fashion Week, London

To kick off London Fashion Week, Mini Mode (in their 5th season) put on their showcase event at St Marys, Wyndham Place, London.

Mini Mode is the creation of Amanda Rabor and a network of creators, influencers, marketing experts, visionaries, media partners, and sponsors that wanted to establish a platform for the kid’s fashion market which would show off up-and-coming designers and major kids brands from around the world during London Fashion Week.

We were invited as guests to the event by Mini Mode and have had a long relationship with one of the brands that was taking part in the show.

We were so proud and happy that Ita was asked to be a model at the event, but she was adamant that she didn’t want to take part as she would be too scared – we didn’t push it as to a 3-year-old, I bet it would be very frightening (when the show got going though, she was desperate to get involved, but unfortunately it was too late – maybe next time if we are lucky enough to be asked).

The show lasted around 2 hours, but it really didn’t seem that long as it was so much fun.

We were worried Ita wouldn’t enjoy it, as it can be a little boring just looking at kids walking up and down, but Ita surprised as both. She was really intrigued with the models and the clothes. She picked out her favourite outfits and was constantly commenting on which she liked and did not like.

She also tried to turn photographer by taking my phone and snapped more than 50 photos of the children taking part in the show.

There were an abundance of brands showcasing their new clothing lines, the brands featured include:

  • Mitch / Mitch & Son (UK)
  • A Dee Girls (UK)
  • Bellos Boutique (UK)
  • Zoobug (UK)
  • Ray & Roy (Nigeria)        
  • Little People London (UK)
  • Madpax (USA)
  • LB Swim (UK)
  • iScream (UK)
  • Bebebebe (Korea)
  • Embroidery by FJ (UK)
  • Baronessa Demi-Couture (Latvia)
  • Charabia (France)
  • Billieblush (France)
  • House of Juniors (UK)
  • Present De L’ondee (Japan)

There were some truly beautiful pieces that were shown on the catwalk, and Ita pointed out her favourites.

The highlights for us were:

  • Ray & Roy, a Nigerian company that specialise in custom made luxury dresses for girls. The dresses are bespoke, and the designs reflect this.
    • Ray and Roy have now launched their Mummy and Me options which are perfect for those once in a lifetime special occasion!
    • Their amazing dresses looked so beautifully made, with the best materials and fabrics, they really caught the eye of me, my husband and Ita.
Ray & Roy
  • Bellos Boutique create unique traditional children’s wear. They have a traditionally English style, with bows and bonnets for the girls and braces for the boys. They use vibrant colours and have amazing attention to detail.
    • The style of the dresses and boys’ outfits on show are exactly the outfits my daughter has been wearing since she was a baby, and we picked out at least 2 or 3 that she would love to wear.
Bellos Boutique
  • Baronessa Demi-Couture brings into a small fairy kingdom with their collection of exquisite silk trouser suits, dresses made of noble materials and decorated with rubies, pearls and crystals. The outfits looked truly unique and ended a magic feel.
    • Another brand that focuses on girl dresses, their style is tres chic (as Fancy Nancy would say), with diamantes, sparkles and huge flowing dresses they truly caught our eye also.
Baronessa Demi-Couture

In conclusion, I couldn’t recommend attending the Mini-Mode event more. It was a wonderful experience for all of us, my husband really enjoyed it too and is looking forward to attending the next event in September.


To find out more information or details about the next event from Mini Mode, check them out here

Putt Crazy, Northwick Park Golf Club, London

On the 14th of February 2020, Putt Crazy in Northwick Park Golf Club was opened for the public. We were afforded the chance to experience the venue the evening before.

Putt Crazy is a brand-new crazy golf venue, with a restaurant and bar offering two 9-hole courses, great selection of Asian/Italian fusion food and a family menu for adults and kids. The bar has a vast collection of cocktails for a night out, milkshakes and ice cream that will keep every child happy!

There are two 9-hole courses, one aimed more at kids and one for older kids and adults. The theme is a lost Mayan world, with 9 uniquely designed holes, with extremely beautiful wall murals, amazing lighting and challenging game play.

As a family, we have never played crazy golf, but it is always something we thought our daughter would enjoy and she was not disappointed.

She was mesmerised with the design of each hole and you could see her mind working on how to complete every hole as we played. Some of the holes were very tricky and me and daddy struggled too.

I couldn’t recommend this venue more as it really occupied and kept us busy as a family and we had a really good time!

Putt Crazy is reasonably priced and is definitely a good choice for a family activity or a night out with friends.

At the same venue, Northwick Park Golf, there is a 9 hole course which are signature holes from Major Champtionship venues from around the world, a driving range and also an outdoor mini golf course. This is called Adventure Golf and is available for a reasonable price too. I would recommend this being an option in the summer time. More information can be found here

Putt Crazy offers party bookings for special occasions like birthdays, etc. There are private bookable areas to cater for the event.

I would recommend this as a good venue for a kid’s party as the golf allows the party to have a huge amount of fun and then the food

To find out more information or details about Putt Crazy, check them out here

Paradise Wildlife Park, Hertfordshire Press Visit

Today we visited one of our favourite places to have a family day out, Paradise Wildlife Park (PWP) in Broxbourne, Herts.

PWP has been under going many transformations over the last year or so including a new home for the big cats. On our last visit, the area where the lions were located, was literally a building site. Since then, it is a gorgeous sprawling area where you can view the lions at almost any angle.

Perfect view of the lions

Due to the ongoing works, we were unable to see the snow leopards and cheetahs. However we did get to see the tigers which is always one of Ita’s favourites to see.

Typically, you would be able to see white lions, tigers, snow leopard, ocelot and jaguar. With storm Dennis on the horizon however, the big cats were put away from 11am and will be inside until Monday afternoon (17th February).

One of the best areas of this park is the Australian Outback where the meerkats, wallaby’s and emus live. You have the opportunity to get so close to these animals and the layout means people keep moving along, which is perfect for allowing you to view.

The cheekiest meerkat.

We moved along to the “hooves and humps” area and discovered zebras, reindeers, alpacas, tapirs, camels and deers. Again, you have the opportunity to feel like you are so close to these animals. The space is huge but careful consideration has obviously been given to viewing. Ita, being only 3 years old, could see the animals perfectly through the fencing which meant she enjoyed it a lot and it also meant we didn’t have to keep picking her up to peer over!

Up close with the zebras

The Angkor Reptile Temple is home to all sorts of creepy crawlies! I won’t lie to you, Ita did not want to stay in here for long at all and I could help but laugh as she tried her hardest to escape!! Here you will find snakes, spiders and even scorpions! (Perhaps you’ll side with Ita in not wanting to stick around!)

Ita’s nemesis!

PWP has one of the largest primate areas that we have ever visited. In fact, every time we have visited, the monkeys are always the first animals we can here! The tamarins are always a firm favourite.

PWP offers a really unique experience in the form of World of Dinosaurs. It is by far the best of its type and the dinosaurs are terrifying. Ita was so afraid of some of them! There is also a little train that takes you through this area but unfortunately due to the storm, there was too much debris on the tracks.

Perhaps the only dinosaur that Ita wasn’t afraid of!

Throughout the day, there are so many opportunities to meet the keepers whilst they feed the animals or host “talks”. These are really interactive and occur very frequently – around every half hour! (Check your map for details and timings).

Ita and her monkey friend

As well as feeds there are also shows too! The Show Arena is located within the Birds at Paradise area (situated behind the Discovery Centre). Here, you will be able to walk around and view the collection of birds and tortoises, plus some of the small mammals. The presentations will take place in the Arena and you must be seated at least 5 minutes before the show is due to start.

There are a few experiences and tours that you can book here at PWP. This time last year Dominic fed the red pandas which he really enjoyed. You can also feed tigers and penguins, meet meerkats and lemurs and have encounters with wolves and snakes! The sloth encounter is booked up already for 2020 so if these appeal to you I would book ASAP. Prices range from £99 + and always require booking in advance.

Of course with it being Winter, we didn’t explore the Paradise Lagoon splash park but it is something we will remember when it heats up! (This is included in your park tickets).

As mentioned, the weather today was not ideal and the storm did cut out day short. We didn’t quite get to try the safari crazy golf or the huge children’s play area, or tumble jumble or the adventure playground!! There really is so much to do here.

Currently, there are a few closures that remain until the complete opening just in time for Easter 2020. Due to the refurbishments, I would suggest checking before you travel to make sure what is open.

You can purchase reduced rate tickets in advance here;

https://www.pwpark.com/product/day-tickets/

Rush Trampoline Park, High Wycombe Press Visit

With storm Ciara taking over the UK, we were so glad to be invited to Rush Trampoline Park in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire this weekend.

There are currently two Rush locations in the UK, the other being just a 10-minute drive from Birmingham city centre.

Rush Trampoline Park has exciting and unique activities for bouncers of all ages and ability.

These activities include: a huge Main Court with an amazing amount bouncing space, Tumble Lanes, Assault Course, Battle Beam, Foam Pit, Dodgeball, Rush Wipeout, Basketball and a football area also.

We arrived before our start time at 10am and checked in, we had to sign waiver forms (typical at a trampoline park) and then were given our Rush socks, which need to be worn at all times when jumping.

Then, we were required to watch a safety video just before we went through to the main area. The video last a couple minutes and gave us all the information and details we needed.

After that, the fun began and all of us bounced away for a full hour.

We used most of the areas as much as we could, and we had so much fun doing so!

Ita and Mia loved the Main Court where we spent most of our time as we had loads and loads of space in jumping areas. We all then moved to the Foam Pits which we enjoyed taking a long run and jump into (and then struggled to get out of LOL)

As the girls then tackled the Assault Course, Dominic decided he wanted to dunk in the basketball lane – which he did eventually, to everyone’s surprise!

For the last few minutes of the hour we had, we went to the dodgeball area and had a lot of fun trying to hit each other with the sponge balls.

After all the jumping, we got the girls some slush puppies and some food which is all available at the café. The café has a lot of food options for both the kids and parents.

When entering Rush, the kids can access the soft play area also. This area was very busy with very minimal spaces for the adults to sit, so we didn’t stay there for much time.

Rush is ideal for kids and adults of all ages, as parents we had such a good time too and would highly recommend Rush Trampoline Park as a good venue to visit.

Rush offers a lot of other sessions, for example, fitness classes, Rush After Dark, Corporate, Toddler Sessions and Kids Parties.

To find out more about Rush Parks and information, check them out below:

https://www.rushuk.com/

Disneyland Paris at Christmas

So granted, this blog post has taken me over a month to complete but here it is! I received so many questions about our trip to Disneyland Paris in December and I didn’t want to do a half hearted post. I hope this will help those going to Disneyland for the next festive season.

I have broken the post down into sections that are likely to be most useful; hotel and Christmas decor (since you are visiting during the festive period!), special meet and greets, weather and of course, Christmas magic.

Family photo with the one and only Stitch!

Booking / Hotel

So first and foremost, we decided that we wanted to book a festive trip to Disneyland about a year before we went. This enabled us to book with a deposit and do as much planning as possible. As always, we booked with Magic Breaks as this always works out as the cheapest option for us.

We booked for 2 nights in Newport Bay Hotel which included 3 day park tickets and a Disney mean plan. This was at a total cost of £720 so divided by 3, it was very reasonable. (Park tickets alone are very expensive). Because we fly instead of taking the Eurostar or boat, we get 3 full days in Disneyland and this is enough for us since we have worked out our trips and how to get the best out of them. Our flights were a total of £250 also which meant that our flight, accommodation, tickets and meal plan came into under £1,000 for us all.

Newport Bay Hotel

As we booked a Disney hotel it meant that we also had the benefit of magic hours – I’ll get to that in a moment.

I really cannot stress this enough… you are very unlikely to get a better deal booking this all separately. When people talk about doing this on a budget I have found that their trips have never come out cheaper. This was a big mistake that we made on our first family trip to Disneyland for Ita’s first Birthday. For example, a one day ticket is “from” £76.52 (Disneyland paris website). Now times that by 3 (people) and then 3 again (days)… you get my jist.

Having checked on Booking.com for a hotel for 2 nights by Disneyland Paris, the cheapest was the Explorers Hotel (which is not a Disney hotel) and was £670. Staying here means there would be no magic hours and you would need to get a shuttle to and from the parks.

I really would suggest booking well in advance and taking advantage of a package deal.

The Newport Bay hotel was huge and we were placed on the basement floor close to the pool. Due to the size of the hotel, getting out alone took 15 minutes each time and then there was a further 10 minutes walk to the park. The rooms were decorated in a nautical theme and were very clean. I would definitely stay here again although I’d ask to be closer to the entrance/exit just for convenience.

Now, if you are staying at The Disney hotel, Newport Bay or Davy Crockers Ranch you could pay for your room to be festively decorated for about £250. We actually did book this extra and we were quite disappointed when it seemed like the hotel had forgotten! If you are planning to have your rooms decorated with a Christmas tree etc, I would advise emailing a week before to remind them.

Weather

I knew it was going to be cold. I completely expected it to be cold. We even bought a thick snow suit for Ita just to make sure that she didn’t get too cold whilst waiting around in queues. However nothing could have quite prepared me for the harsh wind! Because Disneyland is so open, it feels far colder than you expect. The snowsuit was a god send for Ita especially for the evening luminations on the castle.

Bring lots of layers and hats and gloves. Waterproof shoes are ideal because November/December can be quite wet. I would really recommend a snow suit for smaller children. If you prepare for it to be very cold you will have a much better time than if you don’t!

Christmas features

Disneyland Paris was beautiful decked out in the multicoloured Christmas decorations and the Disney Village especially felt very festive. I had read that people were a bit disappointed in that the decor wasn’t as OTT as you might imagine – I partially agree with that too. The main decoration is on/around Main Street USA. There is a Christmas scene set up at the bottom of Main Street just in front of the castle. I’ve been told that America goes wild for their decorations so I can’t wait to see that when we go. However, there was plenty of photo opportunities I thought (but agree they could add much more!).

Ita in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Christmas Parades and Meet and Greets

There is lots of Christmas magic when it comes to the special parades put on at Disneyland. The Disney Christmas parade was a highlight of our trip and was something that Ita really enjoyed. The characters are dressed festively and the floats are thoroughly decorated too!

There is also Mickeys Magical Christmas Lights which is on at about 6.30pm (just before the fireworks). At Town Square, Santa, Mickey and Minnie have a seasonal sing-a-long before switching on the tree lights. It really is beautiful. The best way to view this is to stay on Main Street USA rather than Town Square.

There are special character additions over the Christmas period too including Stitch, Sandy Claws (Jack Skellington) and of course Santa himself! You can also meet Donald in his Christmas outfit but we we’re so disappointed to learn that you can’t meet Minnie or Mickey in theirs.

Stitch is out all day so the queues have peaks but also times where it will be quicker to meet him. We queued for about 45 minutes but Ita didn’t seem to mind at all and was so excited the entire wait.

To meet Jack Skellington you have to download the app Lineberty. At 9.30 daily, time slots are released for you to meet him. On the first day we couldn’t get an appointment at all and it did feel quite stressful. We got lucky on our second day when both myself and my husband were in the app, constantly refreshing, to be given an appointment for about 6 hours away.

Ita and Sandy Claws!!

A special greet that we managed to secure through Lineberty was also meeting Olaf over at the Studios park. we somehow managed to time this perfectly in that we meet Olaf and went straight into the Frozen song-a-long show. However, because of the app appointments we did have to cancel our dinner reservation at Agrabah Restaurant which was really disappointing and frankly frustrating. The restaurant would not budge at all and we’re so strict with times. We felt that Ita meeting Olaf would mean more to her but this is definitely one issue with the app.

Ita and Olaf!

Something that really was not publicised much at all was the fact that you could also meet Santa! He is inside at the Mickey greet point at the back of Fantasy Land. I was so happy to learn that you could meet Santa here but unless you have Magic Hours, I think it would be incredibly difficult to secure a meet. Firstly it is done by appointment only on the day. We used our magic hours to go and queue for an appointment. We queued for about 50 minutes and received our appointment to come back in a few hours. As you can see, it wasted quite a bit of time. I also think they could have tried harder surely 😂

Ita and Disneyland Santa

These meet and greets were the only different ones to the usual planned ones I believe. Ita did have her heart set on meeting Marie but she was only available the week after we were there. Instead of Marie we met Thumper. You can’t really let this decide when you book to go since characters aren’t released beforehand.

Christmas Food

This was something I was messages about quite a lot on Instagram – whether there was any themed food like in America. In short, not really.

We have always struggled to buy Disney themed snacks in DLP apart from in the Studio’s where there seems to be loads. We found that the only place there were Disney snacks was in a little hut in between the tea cups and the carousel.

Disney snacks

Overall…

Overall, we had a wonderful Christmas break to Disneyland and I would really recommend going at this time of the year. Could more be done to make it feel more festive? Possibly. More festive costumes and a bigger variety of things to do specifically for Christmas would be ideal. However, Ita loved meeting Santa Stitch and the shows were brilliant.

Would I recommend going at this time of the year? YES absolutely!

Chi Restaurant – Intu, Watford Collaboration

Over the weekend, we were invited to visit the newest restaurant to open in the Intu Shopping Centre in Watford – Chi.

Chi is an Asian inspired Street Food restaurant.

The dining area is small inside, but now there is a lot of seating outside which makes it easier to have your food in comfort.

When ordering, you go to the counter, pick your food, they provide you with a buzzer for when your food is ready.

The menu has an array of Asian food choices such as:

Bao Buns (5 different choices including vegan).

Small Plates including Baby Back Ribs, Gyoza, Prawn Toast, Chicken Wings, Panko King Prawns.

Big Bowls with Satay Chicken, Teriyaki Chicken, Katsu Chicken, Thai Chicken, Beef Short Rib, Vegan Panko Sweet Potato.

There are also kids’ options which were fried chicken with rice or noodles and vegetables.

Banh-Mi (Baguette) with Satay Chicken, Fried Chicken, Pork, Beef Short Rib, Vegan Panko Sweet Potato.

They also do desserts, which include Crispy Sweet Bao, Ice Cream and Bubble Waffles (we wish we tried these at the time, but we will next time)

We ordered three different types of Bao Buns (chicken, pork and beef), chicken gyoza, Katsu Chicken Curry with Rice, the Teriyaki Chicken with Rice and Ita had Chicken with Noodles.

The food was freshly made, and you could tell when you receive the Bao Buns and the Gyoza’s.

The Bao Buns are currently my favourite type of food, so seeing these and the way they were made was mouth-watering and so nice to taste!

We couldn’t recommend this place more, we loved the food, loved the service and was surprised at how reasonable the price of the food was.

The staff were so friendly and accommodating and were always making sure we and other customers were happy and satisfied.

The restaurant is also very child friendly and the menu is catered for kids but there was no obligation for the children to have their own meal.

We will be back to visit again very soon and no doubt it will be a regular occurrence.

For more information about the restaurant, please have a look here: https://www.chirestaurants.co.uk/

Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea, The Sanderson Hotel

One of my favourite themed afternoon teas is (and I’m sure will remain) the Alice in Wonderland tea at The Sanderson.

The menus are hidden within vintage books and teapots and the theme is very well thought out and obvious. Every item on the plate was themed visibly and I loved that the mini drinks even had the Drink Me tags on! It really is such a fun tea!

The food is delicious and plentiful and we were even offered more.

The settings itself is a bit drab and it can easily feel cramped. The hotel itself isn’t too pretty but the room in which we had tea was like a little green house! I wish we had asked to be moved to the other side where the beautiful plants were since there were plenty of of other tables available but this is a lesson learnt on my part. However, I can totally imagine taking Ita here and feeling at ease. This is one we will aim to bring her to this year for sure!

Prices do vary – adults are from £48 and children are £35. Those under 4 are free.

There is currently 20% off!

You can book here;

https://afternoontea.co.uk/uk/london/oxford-street/sanderson-hotel/

Cinderella Afternoon Tea, House of Fraser

I’ve been asked a lot recently for ideas on things to do that are princess related and then someone asked if I would recommend this tea.

If I’m honest, I had completely forgot about the afternoon tea that you can have in the Cinderella carriage within House of Fraser… and this is why!

For Ita’s 2nd Birthday, we booked this little experience. At the Tea Terrace within House of Fraser you can chose to have tea in a special ornate carriage with Cinderella. On this occasion we only booked the carriage because Princess Belle had visited her at home! We had thought that the carriage would be magical enough.

When we booked this it was relatively new and so we were really disappointed to find that the seats were broken in the carriage and was partially held together by duct tape. The food was not themed at all which was also very disappointing. I think we ordered a few sandwiches and we felt quite annoyed that the concept had been sold to us as a themed afternoon tea, when in fact it was more so a cafe.

Overall the experience was totally below par and far too expensive for what it is.

The carriage costs £25.90 and there is an additional usage fee of £12.95 pp or £10.95 for those under 12 years. For this fee you have the carriage for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

On top of these fees you then have a £21 minimal spend – which usually covers beverages and food.

The carriage holds 6 people (4 adults).

The carriage is bookable directly via

https://www.theteaterrace.com/?gclid=Cj0KCQiA9dDwBRC9ARIsABbedBNED-HQx2q2SPfL4_VDK5PT_Uom4k-pPXKB6Gq49k10cJzPSO4KkkQaAnMfEALw_wcB

The princess can be booked separately by one of the party companies that they work with. You just need to email your details and a cost will be charged separately. Feedback from another mum on Instagram was that having booked Cinderella, she then posed with other children which didn’t feel right.

Here are some snaps from our visit.

The Disney Store Opening Ceremony

Since posting about this on Instagram, I have received messages daily asking about it so I thought it would be easier to do a blog post on this.

In case you are unfamiliar, some Disney Stores have what is known as “Opening Ceremonies” when the shop opens daily for business. This is where a child (or adult!) is asked to help Disney staff awaken the magic by officially opening the shop using a huge special key. Staff count down whilst the lucky child turns the magic key into the lock.

Those who are lucky enough to do the Opening Ceremony are gifted with a miniature duplicate key which is a keepsake / collectible. At times where the key is not available, staff can use their discretion to gift you a toy instead.

You can not book this in advance. The only way to take part is to be the first person outside of the shop prior to it opening. Therefore my advice is to get there very early and make it known you were there first!

The ceremonies only take place at Imagination stores. In the UK, these stores are in; Aberdeen, Blackpool, Belfast, Bromley, Dublin, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Oxford Street, Westfield Stratford, Sunderland and York.

This is entirely FREE and truly memorable. Ita was completely blown away and it made her feel very special.