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Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Buy tickets in advance
This is always something I do as it saves an extra step at every place we visit. You can buy your tickets online here.

Options include (at time of print):

Single day general admission: $105-$116 USD
Two-day admission: $129-$159 USD
Universal Express: $179-$269 USD
VIP Experience: From $309

Tickets cost different amounts depending on the time of year that you go. Busier times of year cost more.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Get early entry by buying tickets online
Buy your tickets online at http://www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com for early park access to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ (see details here).

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Consider Universal Express Tickets
if you’re visiting during busy periods, consider upgrading your ticket to a Universal Express Ticket. This gives you one-time express entry  to attractions and priority seating at shows. We visited on a busy Saturday in December and found the pass to be an excellent time saver.

Note: You can only use the express pass ONCE per ride/ attraction.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Download the app
The Universal Studios app is particularly helpful with showtimes, ride wait times and character appearances, plus you can also plan a basic itinerary for yourself in it and leave yourself a reminder for where you parked your car! Download the app here.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Arrive early
This is my number one tip for any theme park. Always arrive as early as possible! Check the calendar for park hours here.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Choose your form of transport wisely
Universal Studios is easily reached by train or you can drive. There is ample parking but it will cost you from $20 per day.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Plan the Studio Backlot Tour into your day
The Studio Backlot Tour is a must-see when visiting Universal Studios Hollywood. It takes you behind the scenes of the historic studio where many famous movies and TV shows are filmed. The tour takes an hour so budget plenty of time for it. You are allowed to take food and drink on the tour.

The Studio Backlot Tour is exclusive to Universal Studios Hollywood, so you won’t see it at any other Universal Studios in the world.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Be aware of the park layout and opening times
The park is divided into the Upper Lot and Lower Lot. It takes several escalators and a good 10 minutes or more to get between the two, so factor this into your planning. The Lower Lot opens an hour after the Upper Lot.

Make use of park rentals and lockers
There are lockers inside the park entrance as well as dotted around the park to store your belongings all day. You can also rent strollers and wheelchairs if needed. Make your day easier by keeping your hands free and companions comfortable.

Collect free buttons
Drop by Guest Relations inside the park entrance to pick up free buttons for special occasions. We nabbed “first visit” buttons, but they also have them to celebrate birthdays, graduations and weddings,

Keep your phone charged
If your phone doesn’t have the power to last all day, you can borrow a charger from Guest Relations or plus in your own charger at Starbucks.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Try all the food
We really enjoyed the giant donuts in the Simpson’s themed land, and had the best theme park meal we’ve possibly ever had at the Three Broomsticks restaurant in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We also loved the frozen Butterbeer! I really appreciated that Universal Studios has a link on their website that details all of the park’s vegetarian options!

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Make Magic Happen at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
We bought the special wands that allow wizards to perform “spells” around Hogsmede. They were pricey souvenirs (around $45 for non-interactive resin wands and $60 for interactive wands), but well worth it for us as this is where we spent the majority of our time at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Get creapy out with The Walking Dead
A second attraction that is exclusive to Universal Studios Hollywood is “The Walking Dead”. Due to its intense nature, it’s not recommended for guests under the age of 13, but older teens and adults will enjoy some the authentic make-up effects, detailed costuming and set design, plus and sophisticated (read: scary!) animatronic walkers.

Check your child is tall enough for rides
The majority of rides at Universal Studios Hollywood are aimed at older kids and adults. While there is plenty to entertain littler kids, you should check that your child is big enough for the rides if that is your prime motivation for going.

The following attractions have minimum height requirements:

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™: Must be 48″ (122 cm) tall.
Flight of the Hippogriff™: Must be 39″ (99 cm) tall.
Children 39-48″ (99-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem: Must be 40″ (102 cm) tall.
Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
Transformers™: The Ride-3D: Must be 40″ (102 cm) tall.
Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
The Simpsons Ride: Must be 40″ (102 cm) tall.
Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
Jurassic Park® — The Ride: Must be 42″ (107 cm) tall.
Children 42-48″ (107-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older)
Revenge of the Mummy℠ — The Ride: Must be 48″ (122 cm) tall.

Visiting with little kids? Use the Rider Switch Option
If your kids aren’t big enough for the rides you want to go on, use the “child switch” program. One or more of your party goes on the ride while the rest can wait with the kids who are too small in the attraction’s Child Switch room. When the party returns, they switch with those who were waiting with the kids, without having to wait in line again.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Watch the shows
I find the live shows to be great fun, as well as pretty kid-friendly. They’re a great way to get into the spirit of movies in-between rides. My 6-year-old loved the Animal Actors and WaterWorld shows in particular. The Special Effects show had a few too many monsters for the little one, but was incredibly interesting for the older kids and adults in the audience. The wand selection show in Ollivanders at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is really fun (and a bit magic!). If you’re lucky, you might get chosen in the show to find your perfect wand (and keep it!).

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

In the Lower Lot, the Raptor Encounter out the front of the Jurassic Park ride was also a lot of fun, even if the raptor was deemed “too scary” to get too close.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Visit during the holidays
We were lucky enough to visit just before Christmastime and enjoyed seeing the park at its most festive. In the centre of the park there is a special “Grinchmas” set up, with a huge Suess-themed Christmas tree that looks stunning at night when it’s lit up, as well as all-day live, family-friendly entertainment and photo opportunities with the Grinch himself.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is also excellent to visit at this time of year, with the Frog Choir singing a special Christmas tune and a spectacular evening light show on Hogwarts Castle.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Entertain the littles in the play areas
The Upper and Lower Lots both have designated play areas for little kids aged 5 and under. The Upper Lot area is water-themed so take swimmers if it’s a hot day, while the Lower Lot area is dinosaur themed and next to the Jurassic Park ride.

Top Tips For Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood

Meet the characters
I love meeting the characters – you’re never too old! I particularly enjoyed seeing the characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Minions while at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A Guide To Using MaxPass At Disneyland

A Guide To Using MaxPass At Disneyland

In 2017 Disneyland California introduced a new ticketing addition called MaxPass. You can read about it here on the official Disney site.

Basically, a MaxPass is an addition to your Disneyland park tickets that gives you added benefits. For an extra $10 per person, per day, a MaxPass will let you:

*Save time at popular attractions by making Disney FASTPASS selections on your mobile device using the Disneyland app while you’re in the parks. Guests with Park Hopper Tickets can even make selections for attractions in our other theme park.

*Download all photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers.

(A FASTPASS is a ticket that lets you come back to popular attractions at a designated time and skip waiting up. The FREE PAPER FASTPASSES can still be collected from near the attractions).

What do I need to use Disney MaxPass?
You will need to download the official Disneyland app onto a mobile device. I highly suggest doing this the day before your park visit.

You can download the app here.

Disneyland parks do have WiFi but I found it a bit inconsistent, so it’s preferable if you have data on your mobile device.

You will also need to buy regular park passes, either single day or park-hoppers. If you buy your tickets from the website or app your tickets will automatically be linked and should appear when you log into the Disneyland app on your device.

Do kids need a MaxPass?
If they want to use the digital FASTPASS feature, then yes, they do.

Is MaxPass worth the money?
If you’re going at a busy time of year or for a short time, then a MaxPass can be a game changer. When we visited at Christmas, thanks to the MaxPass we were able to secure FASTPASS tickets constantly all day to rides in both parks, and hence didn’t line up for any major attraction. If I could see that I was going to miss the FASTPASS window for one ride, I would cancel it and then make another ride selection with zero effort.

I love getting lots of photos taken as well, so being able to download over a hundred images from a three-day visit for an extra $10 per day is an absolute bargain to me.

Should I buy MaxPass tickets in advance?
While you can buy the MaxPass at the same time as your Disney park tickets, you can also buy it through the app on the day.

I found it very easy to purchase the MaxPass each morning on my phone as I entered the park, so if you choose to wait until seeing how busy the park is each day and deciding then if you need it, then that option is available.

It is however much easier to already have bought the MaxPass and it also enables you to start booking in your FASTPASSES quicker.

How soon can make a FASTPASS selection using MaxPass?
As soon as your ticket is scanned at either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure park each morning, you are able to book a digital FASTPASS using your phone. This means if you are early to the gates and have your ticket scanned and then wait half an hour for rope drop and official opening, that you ARE able to make your first FASTPASS selection during this time.

What if the time I want isn’t shown?
You can refresh the app and, as people cancel their FASTPASSES, new slots sometimes open up for other times.

How many FASTPASSES can I have at once using MaxPass?
You can have two FASTPASSES booked in at the same time. As soon as you enter the return window for a FASTPASS (each window is usually an hour long) then you are able to book another FASTPASS. If you take a look in the app it will tell you what time you can make your next FASTPASS booking.

What if I just want photos?
Only one person in your party needs to buy the MaxPass each day if all you want are photos. Disney PhotoPass photographers will either scan the app on your phone or a physical PhotoPass card to give you access to the images. You can scan the physical card with your phone to link the photos to your Disney park tickets. While it’s easier to keep track of the one PhotoPass card, you can collect and scan as many as you please, meaning if you have a large party who splits up and gets their own photos taken in different locations, all of the cards can be consolidated into the one account at the end of the day for the single cost of $10.

I chose to use a physical card during our stay to save battery power on my phone.

How do I stop my phone battery from running out?
One of the biggest things to be aware of is how using the Disneyland app all day will run down your battery super fast.

A few tips to make your phone last the whole day:
*If each member of your party has their own mobile device: take a screenshot of your ticket and set it as your screensaver on your phone and have each member of your party do the same.
*If you’re a family with little kids: Take a screenshot and keep the images handy for scanning.
*Use a physical PhotoPass card for scanning with the Disneyland photographers instead of opening the app to let them scan your phone. Ask the photographers for the physical card. You can get one card and re-use it for your entire stay, or collect several and link all of the cards by scanning them with the Disneyland app.
*Take a portable phone charger if your battery is not the best. This will mean you can charge on the go.
*Set your phone to airplane mode when you’re not using the internet.
*If your battery runs out, either purchase a portable charging device or rent a charging station locker.

How to Purchase and Use Disney MaxPass If You Have Tickets
Taken from the Disney website

Download the Disneyland app.
Enter the park you wish to visit using your tickets.
Open the Disneyland app.
Tap the circular character icon at the bottom of the screen.
Sign in with your Disney account.
Tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass”.
Select all Guests in your party who wish to use the Disney MaxPass feature—if someone is not listed, link their ticket or pass.
Purchase the Disney MaxPass feature for any Guests who do not already have it.
Make your FASTPASS selections and enjoy your Disney PhotoPass downloads.

How to Purchase and Use Disney MaxPass If You Don’t Yet Have Tickets
Taken from the Disney website

Purchase tickets on disneyland.com with the Disney MaxPass feature for your party.
Download the Disneyland app.
Enter the park you wish to visit using the tickets.
Open the Disneyland app.
Sign in with the same Disney account you used to purchase tickets.
Tap the circular character icon at the bottom of the screen.
Tap “Get FASTPASS with Disney MaxPass”.
Select all Guests in your party who wish to use the Disney MaxPass feature—if someone is not listed, link their ticket or pass.
Purchase the Disney MaxPass feature for any Guests who do not already have it.
Make your FASTPASS selections and enjoy your Disney PhotoPass downloads.

How to Link Disney PhotoPass Photos
Taken from the Disney website

Ask Disney PhotoPass Photographers to either scan your Disney PhotoPass card or the code on your phone. Be sure to also link your Disney PhotoPass card to your Disney account.
Enter the ID code for attraction photos in the Disneyland app. You’ll find the 8-character code on the photo monitor near where you exit the attraction. Ask a Cast Member for help if you cannot locate your photo.

Disney MaxPass for Annual Passholders
Taken from the Disney website

Guests who have a valid Disneyland Annual Passport may purchase the Disney MaxPass feature as an annual add-on for $75 at a Disneyland Resort Ticket Booth or as a daily add-on for $10 through the Disneyland app. The Disney MaxPass feature is an included benefit with the Disney Signature Plus Passport and the Disney Premier Passport.
The cost of the annual Disney MaxPass feature cannot be prorated for Annual Passports expiring in less than a year, and the feature expires when your Annual Passport expires.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

The most magical time of year at the happiest place on Earth is the period between November and January (check dates as they change annually), when the Disneyland Parks receive an enchanting makeover. Celebrating Christmas at Disneyland is a must-do experience for young and old.

Visiting Disneyland at Christmas can be an incredible experience but also takes some planning and preparation. The tips in this guide will help you create a magical trip for your whole family.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Plan your dates wisely
By very careful planning, we were able to avoid the bulk of the crowds who head to Disneyland to celebrate the holiday season.

Check the following before booking your trip:

*US school holiday dates
*Australian school holiday dates (there are a lot of Australians who make the trek each year!)
*Annual Pass Blockout Dates (obviously it’s good to go when annual pass holders can’t!). Check them here.
*The busiest days according to the previous year on a calendar such as this. Weekends are always the busiest so I suggest avoiding them.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Book a hotel near the park
We always book a very budget hotel that is extremely close to the park. Our last trip we stayed at the Grand Legacy At The Park and found it to be extremely convenient.

A full review of the Grand Legacy At The Park can be found here.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Pack wisely
My daughter is too big for a stroller this year, so I took a backpack to put in water, food and small purchases and keep my hands free. Clothes-wise, mornings and evenings can be cool at this time of year while the middle can be super warm.

We were comfortable in jeans and tees during the day and added a light jumper/sweater for the mornings/evenings. Shoes are so important at Disneyland when you’re walking 22K steps a day: go for comfort! My daughter and I wore extremely comfortable sneakers ever day.

If your kid fits into a stroller then by all means take one or hire one from the parks. I saw kids who were aged seven in them being pushed around, so there’s no shame in it if it’s what you need to do to get the kids through the long days without tears.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Download the Disneyland App
It’s invaluable for planning your day – character meet-and-greet times and locations, show times, ride wait times, view and make dining reservations, see your Disney PhotoPass pics, and even buy your park tickets app. Plus it’s a must-have if you’re planning on upgrading your ticket to include a Maxpass (the below).

Get more info on the Disneyland App and download it here.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Purchase Maxpass
Upgrading our passes with a Maxpass (they cost $10 per person, per day) was the best decision we made. Maxpass does two things:

1. Provides digital FASTPASS to rides (A FASTPASS lets you take a ticket with a specific time printed on it so you can return to the ride at a later time and skip the queue.)
2. Provides access to download all PhotoPass images taken by Disneyland photographers each day.

If you like to get lots of photos taken then the Maxpass is fantastic value for the photos alone. While you can still get FASTPASS without a Maxpass, it does require walking a lot more all over the park to get the paper ticket from the machine and then return again later. A Maxpass lets you book your FASTPASS selections on your phone from anywhere in the park. It was a game changer for us.

Only one member of your party needs to purchase the Maxpass if photos are your goal rather than digital Fastpasses.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Plan your Disney days
I’m a big believer in schedules, particularly at Disneyland where timing is important. I created a spreadsheet in advance and researched the events that would be taking place each day, such as parades, fireworks, shows, character meet-and-greets, tree lightings and so forth, to slot them into the time we had at the parks.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Go early!
Not a morning person? Your experience at Disneyland will be vastly improved if you are! Mornings are the best for rides as it’s when the parks are quietest, so we would arrive each morning between 7 and 7:30am and be one of the first few people inside the park when it officially opened.

This meant we had from 8am-11am each day with basically no queues for rides as a result, and used the Maxpass to schedule the top rides for throughout the day to get them in several times.

Take a break for lunch in the middle of the day to early afternoon, and then enjoy the special Christmas entertainment.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Check out the holiday decorations
Both parks feature a stunning 50-foot-tall Christmas tree, wreaths, baubles, and more, festooning the lampposts, rooftops and window displays.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Two of the Disneyland’s rides get a holiday makeover as well: The “It’s a Small World” ride is lit by over 50,000 lights and video projections, while the Haunted Mansion is taken over by the cast Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, including Jack Skellington.

The town of Radiator Springs (AKA “Cars Land) in Disney California Adventure Park was given a makeover on our recent visit, including the actual cars themselves, plus the ride Mater’s Jingle Jamboree.

If you get time, check out the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel, which is decorated beautifully for the holidays.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Catch the holiday entertainment
Disneyland has a twice-daily Christmas Fantasy Parade (check the Disneyland website closer to your visit to check parade times) featuring traditional Disney characters plus Santa, dancing gingerbread men, prancing reindeer and twirling snowmen.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

We also highly enjoyed the Disney Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure Park, which featured seasonal celebrations from around the world. Our particular favourites were the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party, where mariachi and samba musicians and 12-foot-tall mojiganga puppets took to the streets, as well as Princess Elena of Avalor’s Grand Arrival, where Elena arrived on a float several times a day and sang her famous songs live. This was my daughter’s favourite live show of our trip.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Watch out for fun roaming entertainment in both parks, such as the drummers in California Adventure Park and carol singers in Disneyland. The festive fun is literally around every corner.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Meet the characters
We love meeting the characters anyway, but they’re that little bit extra special when dressed in holiday garb! We brought an autograph book with us (it’s a great ice breaker) and hunted down our faves throughout the day.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

We especially loved Mickey and Minnie in their festive clothes, meeting Jack Skellington and Sally from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and watching the Disney characters dance in their ¡Viva Navidad! attire. You can locate the characters using the Disneyland app on your phone.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Eat all the food!
The Disney Parks employ a wide variety of exceptional pastry chefs and confectioners, so I highly recommend trying some of their seasonal treats.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Disneyland Park features peppermint Mickey Mouse beignets, festive candy apples, gingerbread men, snowman-shaped cookies, snowflake and Jack Skellington cake pops, and handmade candy canes that take three hours to make each batch. Watch them being made on Main Street; it’s mesmerising!

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Disney California Adventure Park has a large Festive Foods Marketplace where you can try holiday favourites from around the world.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

The popcorn is a fave of ours (for some reason, it tastes really amazing!) and we love to pick up a holiday-themed or limited-edition popcorn bucket to take home as a souvenir.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Watch the park light up when the sun goes down
Since we are such early birds at the park, we rarely make it to evening and always miss the nighttime lights. The benefit of visiting at this time of year is that sundown is earlier so the lights come on earlier, and we get to see the magic before bedtime!

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

The earliest display to watch is Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle which, at 6pm each evening, transforms into a shimmering display of 80,000 lights. Dazzling to watch!

Two special evening shows are presented if you can stay up late enough to watch them (we never made one, our eyes just wouldn’t stay open!):

The “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular in Disneyland Park and World of Color – Season of Light in Disney California Adventure Park, which is a a show featuring videos projected onto screens formed by fountains.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

Last thoughts on Disneyland during the holidays
Our time at Disneyland was magical. I would go every year if I could. The crowds weren’t as bad as when I have visited previously in summer (note: this might be because I planned the days we visited so carefully), and we found the temperature perfect for long days at the parks. I highly recommend this experience to families of all ages.

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

A Guide To Celebrating The Holidays At Disneyland

We received Disneyland Park tickets courtesy of Disney. All opinions our own. We are life-long lovers of Disney.

 

 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

5 Reasons To Stay At The Grand Legacy At The Park Anaheim

Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim

When we visit Anaheim for a Disneyland holiday, accommodation is an important decision. This trip we stayed at the Grand Legacy At The Park and found it to be an excellent budget choice for a Disney vaycay for the following reasons:

Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim

Location, Location, Location
The Grand Legacy At The Park is so incredibly convenient. It’s a very short stroll to the park entrance. I would say it took us under 10 minutes to walk there, maybe even five. We like to get up early and enjoy the parks when they open, so being so close means we can get that little bit of extra sleep! It also means that coming home at the end of the day is quick and pain free.

There are plenty of amenities very close by, too, such as Pizzaterian, Jimboy’s Tacos, and Creamistry out the front of the property.

Budget-Friendly Accommodation
We always travel on a budget. Since our Disneyland trips involve us spending as much time as possible at the parks and minimal time at the hotels, we prefer to save money by booking hotels that are in the budget category. The Grand Legacy At The Park is great value for money as well as fitting into our budget requirements, so it’s a win-win.

Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim
Great Swimming Pool
The Grand Legacy At The Park has an excellent heated swimming pool with a splash area for kids and disabled access into the spa. It’s a great way for guests to relax in-between hitting up the parks.

Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim

Clean, Fresh Rooms
We found the room at the grand Legacy At The Park to be extremely clean. Everything was in great working order, and the daily room cleaning service was excellent. All of the facilities at the hotel were similarly well maintained.

Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim
Additional Facilities
The Grand Legacy At The Park offers guests a whole host of added extras during their stay, such as free wifi, a complimentary “grab and go” snack bag containing water, a cheese stick, seasonal fruit, and a granola bar, guest laundry, complimentary roll-away beds and cribs and in-room refrigerator and microwave. Guests can also buy their park tickets at the hotel to save on lining up at the park.

 

Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim Grand Legacy At The Park, Anaheim

Grand Legacy At The Park
1650 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim
grandlegacyhotel.com

We stayed as guests of the Grand Legacy At The Park. All opinions are my own. 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Gingerbread Holiday Tea at the Fairmont San Francisco

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

The holiday season really isn’t complete without a delectable holiday tea! Lucky us, on our San Francisco visit we were treated to the delicious Gingerbread Holiday Tea at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

During the holiday season, the hotel decks out its lobby with incredible decorations, a 23-foot Christmas tree and a life-sized gingerbread house. It certainly is a sight to be seen, and draws plenty of visitors just to check out the lobby.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

The gingerbread house is especially impressive. It is 25 feet high and 35 feet wide, and includes more than 10,000 pieces of gingerbread topped with with over a tonne of icing and candy.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

The Gingerbread Holiday Tea, which is why we were there, is a special annual tradition at the hotel, running this year from November 24 2017 to January 1, 2018.

It features three layers of delicious food and includes a glass of champers plus choice of tea.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

Savoury 
Deviled Egg Salad (Watermelon Radish, Pickled Cucumber, White bread)
Smoked Salmon (Chive Creme Fraise, Pumpernickel)
Dungeness Crab & Mango Salad (Chives, San Francisco Sourdough)
Curry Chicken Salad (Curry Leaf)
Caprese Salad Sandwich (Mozzarella Cheese, Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumber, Basil)

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea
Scones
Holiday Spice
Aged Cheddar & Chive
Served with Spiced Pear Compote, Devonshire Cream, Meyer Lemon Curd

Sweet
A daily selection of miniature desserts

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea
Children’s Tea

Sandwiches
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Traditional Egg Salad
Ham & Cheese
Tuna Salad

Scones
Holiday Spice
Aged Cheddar & Chive
Served with Spiced Pear Compote, Devonshire Cream, Meyer Lemon Curd

Assorted Pastries

Choice of tea, sparkling apple cider or hot chocolate

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

The food was as delicious as one would expect from a top class hotel such as the Fairmont. Piles of fresh sandwiches (ours were vegetarian substitutes), delicious scones (I really enjoyed the savoury cheese one and the three different toppings on offer), and the tiny little pastries. The four types of jam was also a lovely touch.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

Where the Fairmont really outdoes itself is in catering to families. A huge gingerbread cookie was brought over on arrival with icing and decorations to keep the kid busy – and it certainly did the job. In case the cookie wasn’t enough, we were also given a colouring in book and crayons. We didn’t even need to open the book thanks to the arrival of Bree the “Elf”, who made the table rounds to share her “toy testing” tricks with the kids and a special Christmas ornament to take home.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

The whole Gingerbread Holiday Tea was a delightful experience for us both. It’s very rare that we attend a tea where the two of us are equally happy with the offerings and entertainment. What a delightful afternoon we had, where neither of us wanted to leave, and very special memories were made.

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

FAIRMONT SAN FRANCISCO GINGERBREAD HOLIDAY TEA 2017
The hotel’s famed Gingerbread Holiday Tea is available starting November 24, 2017 through January 1, 2018. 
Reservations 1:00pm-3:30pm Daily 
Weekdays (November 24, 2017– January 1, 2018) Price: $99 Adults/ $69 Children under 12 (+ tax & gratuity) 
Weekends (November 25– December 31, 2017) and Peak Dates (December 15-26, 2017) 
Price: $119 Adults/ $89 Children under 12 (+ tax & gratuity) 
* Gingerbread Holiday Tea is not available on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

FAIRMONT SAN FRANCISCO SANTA SUITE
Fairmont San Francisco’s Santa Suite offers guests a stay in Santa and Mrs. Claus’s San Francisco “home” away from the North Pole!
Santa Suite includes: Overnight accommodations in the a Two-Bedroom Luxury Suite, decked out in 
Santa-inspired décor, Breakfast for up to four registered suite guests in Laurel Court or delivered to suite, “Candy and Hot Chocolate Bar” + adult beverage for parents
One Gingerbread House Kit, Use of suite’s holiday movie library, Overnight Parking for One Vehicle, Rate starts at $1,599.00+ tax per night, pre-paid non-refundable at time of booking. Available: December 3, 2017 – December 25, 2017  


Fairmont San Francisco Gingerbread Holiday Tea

Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St, San Francisco

Thank you so much to the Fairmont San Francisco for hosting us. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

We had the most incredible week sailing the Disney Wonder up the Inside Passage of Alaska. Our cruise departure date was July 17, 2017 and included the ports of Icy Strait, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. The Disney Wonder sailed out of the port of Vancouver, Alaska.

Stanley Park, Vancouver Canada

What to do in Vancouver
We arrived in Vancouver a few days before the ship left so we could acclimatise and also to see more of the city. We spent three very full days in Vancouver and absolutely loved it. Summer in the city is gorgeous and there is lots to do – the guide to what to see and do in Vancouver is here.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Check in at Vancouver Port
The process is very simple. Arrive at your PAT (Port Arrival Time) and follow the signs and directions. We dropped off our luggage (don’t forget to use the bag tags), head to the check in desks to receive our Key To The World cards (as Silver Castaway Club members we received bonus lanyards – otherwise bring your own) as well as the Navigator for the first day (each day onboard the ship you will receive a “Navigator” which is a printed guide to the following day’s activities) and then head through customs.

As the ship starts in Vancouver then sails into the US state of Alaska, you must clear customs before boarding the ship. It was the simplest customs we have ever had to go through. Next was the security check, which we also breezed through, and finally the boarding room.

In the boarding room we took photos with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and then boarded straight away.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Departure Day
We had a sit down lunch at Triton’s restaurant, but the popular buffet restaurant, Cabanas, is also open for lunch and breakfast every day (except for disembarking day). We checked into our room when the luggage arrived, roamed decks, had a quick dip in the pool. The first day was all about checking out our surroundings and settling in before dinner. Each evening guests are allocated one of three restaurants for sit down dining, changing location each night in what’s called the “dining rotation”. Our first evening we were in Triton’s, which is loosely themed on The Little Mermaid.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

We came back after dinner to find our room transformed for the evening. The bunk bed was pulled down from the wall and made up for Cheese to sleep on, and we had a cute towel animal on the bed plus the Navigator for the next day’s activities. Each evening this routine was repeated.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Hubby wanted to see a movie that was showing that night, so the kid and I listened to live music in the lobby, hung out in the room together after dinner and went to bed early after watching a spectacular sunset from our balcony.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Day 1: At Sea
We booked our Disney Character Breakfast for the first at-sea day. The breakfast is a free ticketed event that is best booked in advance when your activity booking window opens.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Each session of the character breakfast is held in the Animator’s Palate dining room. We ordered from the menu and met the characters circulating around the tables while waiting for the food to arrive. Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and Pluto all came by for a visit.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

We booked the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique princess transformation for after breakfast and selected the Castle Package this time (get more info here on all the packages and a detailed overview of the whole Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience aboard Disney Cruise ships).

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The package included a choice of dress, hairstyling, makeup, nail polish, a face gem, princess sash, crown, wand and a cute little bag to put all her goodies in.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

After the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique we head to the atrium for another free, ticketed event, the Princess Meet and Greet (book your tickets online at the same time as your other activities to get the best time for you).

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

At the Princess Meet and Greet we met Belle, Ariel, Tiana and Cinderella. The princesses made small talk while signing autograph books and taking photos – they are all extremely gracious and a delight to meet.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

We lunched at Cabanas and then explored the ship while on the Anna’s Chocolate Chase Scavenger Hunt. The hunt took us all around the ship in search of Frozen-themed clues. The instructions told us to leave the completed form the following morning on our beds to receive a chocolatey surprise.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The first evening on the cruise was “formal night” so we put on kind of dressy clothes and, after taking a few pictures in the lobby, we went to our designated dining rotation in Animator’s Palate. This evening featured a really fun animated show on the video screens plus a surprise appearance by Mickey Mouse dressed as the magician.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

After dinner we walked down to the Walt Disney Theatre to watch the Golden Mickeys, a cute show that is a take-off of the Oscars, combined with scenes from Disney movies.

Day 2: Icy Strait Point, Alaska.
We spent the morning checking Cheese into kid’s club. For her age group, there is the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab for kids 3-12. They are two separate areas that are connected via a tunnel that the kids love to run up and down.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The Club and Lab both have activities that run each day as well as being open for free play. Characters often visit, such as Spider-Man and the cast of Frozen. While we were waiting to dock, Cheese and I enjoyed one of the many free daily activities that are run all over the ship – 3D Star Wars crafts.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

We docked at Icy Strait Point and headed down to check it out after eating lunch. Cheese and I walked around the port and enjoyed the rocky beach, while the rest of the family went on the  Whale & Marine Mammals Cruise. Read more about our Icy Strait Point port adventures here.

Cheese and I headed back to the ship to get ready for the Royal Court Royal Tea, a ticketed event for an additional fee that runs once every cruise to a small amount of people. It’s an event that, despite being pricey, books out extremely quickly. You can read about our Royal Court Royal Tea experience in detail here.

Royal Court Royal Tea, Disney Wonder, Disney Cruise Line

We had a lovely afternoon of cakes, meeting princesses and enjoying the songs and storytelling during the Royal Tea event, before heading back out to Icy Strait Point for a walk down one of the nature trails.

Icy Strait Point Alaska

We checked back into our room before dinner and found the chocolate prize for completing the scavenger hunt the day before.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Our dining rotation for the evening was the brand new Tiana’s Place, which was our fave restaurant for the attention to detail and ambiance. Live jazz music played during dinner and Tiana herself made the rounds to meet her little fans.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

When we returned to our room that evening we had a lovely surprise – a beautiful photo was waiting for us from our Royal Court Royal Tea we had enjoyed earlier that day.

Day 3: Skagway, Alaska
A full day in Skagway meant plenty of time for both an excursion and exploring the town. We booked a tour called Yukon Ho through Skagway Day Trips and highly enjoyed our tour over the Canadian boarder into the Yukon, and fantastic visit to a summer dog sledding camp.

Skagway, Alaska

On the tour we held 7-week-old puppies and had a ride on the dog sled, and spotted a bear along the way. Back in town we walked around the historic gold mining era streets before boarding the ship. Read more about our Skagway port adventure here.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Back on board, our dining rotation was Triton’s, followed by the Freezing The Night Away deck party. We donned our light-up snowflakes and made sure we were up on deck in plenty of time. After getting the kid her daily cone of unlimited soft serve, we found her a spot at the front for her to watch the show and gave her and her friends blankets that are stored on the deck incase they felt cold (which they didn’t!).

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The deck party featured the whole Frozen cast with lively music and dancing, capped off with “snow” falling from above and silver streamers shooting out across the deck. A highlight night for the kids.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Day 4: Juneau & Tracy Arm, Alaska
A super early morning for us in Juneau so we order room service (available 24 hours a day, room service is free onboard) then meet at what feels like the crack of dawn for our Disney Exclusive Glacier Dog Musher For A Day port adventure. The bonus for us with this excursion over the regular dog mushing ones was the additional time we were given on the glacier with the dogs.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We took an incredibly scenic helicopter flight to the top of the Norris Glacier. In this snowy wonderland we met the dogs and people who lived in complete isolation here during the summer months while training for dog sled races such as the Iditerod.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

An incredible few hours flew by where we hugged and patted the dogs, made snow angels on the top of a glacier, and whooshed through the snow on a sled. Playing with the puppies completed the experience, before we were flown back town to Juneau and boarded the ship. Read more about our dog sledding port adventure here.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Our time in Juneau was brief as the ship sailed onwards towards Tracy Arm after lunch. We dropped Cheese off at kid’s club and enjoyed a quiet afternoon on our balcony reading books and watching the amazing scenery as it became more and more glacial. From 4pm onwards Tracy Arm could be viewed from the deck, so we all head up there to take a look.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Dinner rotation was Triton’s again with a Frozen-themed menu. We had an extremely rushed dinner as it was on at the same time as the ship was reaching the peak position to see the glacier.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Up on deck the weather was milder than we had expected. The glacier was right there in front of the ship – we were amazed at how close we were.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The top deck was crowded so after a bit of a look we went back downstairs to our rooms and watched from our balcony instead as we sailed back out of Tracy Arm.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Day 5: Ketchikan, Alaska
Our last point of call, we booked the Neets Bay Bear Watch By Float Plane excursion, which left mid-morning so it wasn’t as rushed as the previous day. We took a shuttle bus to the floatplane base, and then flew to Neets Bay (around 25 minutes away).

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

Neets Bay is a great spot to see bears as it’s home to a salmon hatchery. Each summer, the salmon return to the hatchery to spawn, which brings the bears in the neighbouring woods out to try their luck at fishing in the stream. We saw about seven black bears on our trip, as well as a few bald eagles.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

Back in Ketchikan, there is time to take a walk around the town and look at the totem poles before boarding the ship. A few streets from the port is Creek Street, an historic area that is actually a boardwalk mounted on stilts on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Creek Street was Ketchikan’s red light district between 1903 and 1954, with over 20 bawdy houses set up for business on the one strip. The area is now a combination of shops, museums and art galleries. Read more about our Ketchikan port adventure here.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Our dining rotation that night was Animator’s Palate, which featured the character drawing event. At each diner’s place is a piece of paper for the person to draw themselves (or anything really!). During the evening all the drawings are collected and scanned, then turned into an incredible animated show around the walls of the restaurant.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The evening also included a “decorate your own cupcake” option for the kids’ dessert, making it our daughter’s favourite night of the cruise.

We decided to head to the Walt Disney Theatre that evening to watch the show Dreams, An Enchanted Classic. It’s a really sweet story about a girl who needs to believe in herself to fly and featured characters such as Peter Pan.

Day 6: At Sea
Our last day on the ship! We had booked the free Frozen meet and greet but Cheese told us she met them in kid’s club already so didn’t want to meet them again. We had already done the meet and greet on our previous trip so didn’t think we were missing too much by letting her cancel.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

We spent an incredibly relaxing day with Cheese in kid’s club and us having a coffee at the adult-only Cove Cafe. We used the free time to trying food from the other casual (and included in the price of the cruise) cafes up on deck, where I was served a pretty good veggie burger and fries.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Cheese wasn’t into meeting the characters on this cruise but was keen to meet Minnie Mouse one last time in her Alaskan gear. While I was waiting in line for Minnie I managed to meet Mickey in his Alaskan gear too. I really love how the characters change outfits several times over the course of the cruise so each time you meet them they look different.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Our last dining rotation was at Tiana’s Place again and the theme was mardi gras night. This meant we were handed festive beads to put on, there was more live music, Louis the alligator made an appearance with Tiana, and the whole restaurant was encouraged to get up and dance. We also highly enjoyed the beignets this evening!

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

The last show for the cruise was the brand new Frozen musical spectacular. Of all the shows we saw on the ship, it was our favourite. The show cleverly blended puppetry, technology and live actors/singers to create a really riveting performance.

Day 7: Disembarking Day
We put out our bags the night before and had an early breakfast in Tiana’s Place. It’s always sad to leave the ship and this time was no exception. After a quick breakfast we collected our carrying bags and walked off the ship, collecting our bags and then catching a taxi to the airport.

Taking your first Disney Cruise? You’ll need these tips!
Sailing to Alaska? Your ultimate packing list is here.
Interested in my cruise sailing? Find the Navigators here.

What To Expect On A Disney Wonder Alaskan Cruise

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Icy Strait Point Alaska

Icy Strait Point Alaska: A Disney Cruise Port Adventure

The only privately-owned cruise port in Alaska, Icy Strait Point is near the small village of Hoonah on Chichagof Island, about 35 miles west of Juneau. Owned by the Huna Totem Corporation, a group made up of 1,350 Alaskan Natives with ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay area.

Icy Strait Point Alaska

Icy Strait Point is home to a restored 1912 Alaska salmon cannery and museum, restaurants, shops that are 100% owned by Alaskans, a beach and some beautiful walking trails. It’s also the jumping off point for nature and adventure tours, as well as being home to plenty of wild life such as bears and eagles (we saw a bald eagle in a tree right in port!).

Icy Strait Point Alaska

It’s also one of the best places in the world to spot humpback whales in Alaska, with frequent sightings from May to September.

Icy Strait Point Alaska

During our visit to Icy Strait Point, our family split into two groups. Cheese and I explored the port solo and then returned to the ship for the Royal Court Royal Tea, and then ventured out again afterwards for some more time on shore.

Icy Strait Point Alaska

We wandered down to the beach, threw rocks and investigated the barnacles and crabs living in the rocks, then strolled along the waterfront into the main village area to walk through the cannery and shops. It’s a great little port with a very authentic feel to it, no doubt as a result of being owned and operated by native Alaskans

Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska

The rest of the family boarded the 2.5 hr Whale and Marine Mammals Cruise aboard a catamaran that sailed past Chichagof Island to the Point Adolphus area, one of Alaska’s premier whale-watching sites. This area is so full of whales that if you don’t see one, the operators will give you a $100 cash refund.

Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska

Before the ship left port we had time to walk around one of the nature trails near the port.

Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska Icy Strait Point Alaska

Icy Strait Point Alaska: A Disney Cruise Port Adventure

Heading to Alaska? Your ultimate packing list is here.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan AlaskaThe city of Ketchikan was the last stop on our 7-night cruise up the Inside Passage of Alaska with the Disney Wonder. While the city itself is known for its many Native American totem poles that can be seen around the town and its historic Creek Street district, it’s also a jumping off point to experience some of the natural and wildlife wonders of Alaska.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska Ketchikan, Alaska

Nearby is Misty Fiords National Monument, which makes for a popular floatplane trip to see snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning in the streams. Wildlife in the Ketchikan area include black bears, wolves and bald eagles.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

We chose on our stop at Ketchikan to take a floatplane to nearby Neets Bay to hopefully see some bears up close (but not too close!). Our trip was organised through Disney Cruise Line, but if you sail with another cruise line to the port you can take the same tour that we did through Taquan Air.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

Neets Bay is 40miles north of downtown Ketchikan – a 25 min plane ride or 35 min by boat. it’s a prime spot to see black bears from late July through early September because the bay is also home to the Neets Bay fish hatchery, where thousands of Coho, Chinook, & Chum salmon return every year in early June to swim upstream and spawn. The salmon attract the bears and the bears attract the people!

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

For our floatplane and bear watching adventure, we are picked up at the cruise port and transferred by by to the waterfront base where the planes depart. It’s about a 15-minute drive. We watch a safety video before boarding our plane, and then an approximately 25 min flight to Neets Bay. The plane ride is bumpier than expected and for the first time ever, Cheese and I feel motion sick in the air.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

On the ground at Neets Bay, we are given a tour of the hatchery on the way to the bear viewing platform. It’s as short 1/4 mile/400m walk through the rainforest and during the walk we learn about the different kinds of salmon, their life cycle and the bears who live in the forest and return every year.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

The observation area we are led to has two small undercover gazebo areas where we stand when the rain comes down. The stream directly in front of is teams with salmon and it’s not long before we see bears ambling down to the river to try their hand at fishing.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

Despite the abundant number of salmon in the stream, the bears don’t manage to catch any while we are watching. We see about seven different bears during our stay, as well as several bald eagles.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

When our time at the river is up we walk back to the waterfront to catch our floatplane back to Ketchikan. During our walk back through the rainforest we come across a black bear only a metre or so away.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

The bear was somewhat startled to see us, but was quite relaxed about having several cameras snapping photos not too far away. I guess the bears who return continually to Neets bay have learned that they get a free food buffet but in return have to put up with the paparazzi.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Back in Ketchikan, there is time to take a walk around the town and look at the totem poles before boarding the ship. A few streets from the port is Creek Street, an historic area that is actually a boardwalk mounted on stilts on the east side of Ketchikan Creek.

Creek Street was Ketchikan’s red light district between 1903 and 1954, with over 20 bawdy houses set up for business on the one strip. The area is now a combination of shops, museums and art galleries.

Ketchikan, Alaska Ketchikan, Alaska

NOTE: There is no food allowed on this trip as it attracts the bears. Be sure to feed kids a BIG meal before boarding the floatplane. There are bathrooms and water available at the hatchery. Ketchikan has a very we climate and there will be a high chance of rain when you visit so dress accordingly.

A Disney Cruise Port Adventure: Bear Watching at Neets Bay, Ketchikan Alaska

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Disney Cruise Port Adventure: A Yukon Tour in Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska: A Disney Cruise Port of Call

The port of Skagway in southeast Alaska is a popular stop on the Inside Passage cruise route. The town itself is an historic city with gold-rush-era buildings that have been preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

Skagway, Alaska

On our stop in Skagway we took the “Yukon Ho” tour with Skagway Day Trips, a local company that specialise in intimate tours.

Skagway, Alaska

Our Yukon Ho tour was a four-hour adventure from seal level to 3300 ft over the White Pass Summit, through the Tormented Valley and into the Yukon territory in Canada.

Skagway, Alaska

During our Yukon Ho tour we made several stops to admire the spectacular scenery including the “Welcome the Alaska” and “Welcome to the Yukon” signs that make for great photo ops.

Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska

The highlight of the tour was a stop at the Tutshi Lake Musher’s Camp where we met and played with 7-week-old Alaskan Husky puppies and added a dog sled ride to our tour package.

Skagway, Alaska

While at the musher’s camp we learned more about the life of the Alaskan Huskies and the people who race them in the annual Iditarod competition through snowy Alaska. The camp’s owner, Michelle Phillips, placed 13th in the race in 2017, making her the highest ranking dog musher to be currently running dog sledding tours.

Skagway, Alaska

We learned that the purpose of the summer training camp that we visited was to train younger dogs while keeping the team in shape for race season. Alaskan Huskies are a mixed breed that combines breeds such as Siberian Huskies, greyhounds, vizsla and mastiffs to create the perfect race dog.

Skagway, Alaska

The dogs were a lot smaller than we had expected. As they are bred to be marathon runners, they are quite light in weight. Their coats were also not as big and fluffy as we had expected, yet when we ran our hands through the fur we could feel the thick layers that make the dogs so suitable for the cold.

Skagway, Alaska

On the day we visited it was a mild day yet still required us to wear warm layers – the dogs, however, were unbearably hot and had sprinklers on them while they rested in the shade.

Skagway, Alaska

Our dog sled ride was a fun run through some gorgeous scenery, with the dogs yipping in excitement the entire way.

Skagway, Alaska

Playing with puppies were another special experience we enjoyed at the mushing camp. As visitors, we provided them with much-needed socialisation that will help them acclimatise themselves to the presence of strangers in the future.

Skagway, Alaska

This is particularly important as when the dogs race they are in contact with large numbers of unfamiliar people and dogs so need to be able to cope with environments that are very different to the quiet, isolated part of Alaska where they train during the year.

Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska

After a few swings on what was the biggest swing any of us had ever seen, we were back in the van, keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife.

Skagway, Alaska

While the tours can’t promise animal spottings, we were fortunate to see a deer and grizzly bear on the side of the road.

Skagway, Alaska Skagway, Alaska

After a stop to skip rocks and a few more photo ops, we arrived in Skagway with enough time to walk around the town to check out the historic buildings before boarding our ship, the Disney Wonder.

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Get more info on our tour through skagwaydaytrips.com

Heading to Alaska to cruise the Inside Passage? Get tips on what to pack.

Considering a helicopter and dog mushing adventure? Find out what to expect.

Skagway, Alaska: A Disney Cruise Port of Call

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau On The Norris Glacier

An icy breeze blows against our faces and the high pitched sounds of excited dogs yipping fills the air. We’re racing at high speed through a snowy winter wonderland, pulled by a team of 12 strong, extremely enthusiastic dogs who live to race. High up on a glacier in remote Alaska, this remarkable experience is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that we can’t believe is actually happening.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

On this special day, we’re dog sledding with the mushers and sled dogs of the Iditarod, an annual race that sees teams of people and canines pitch themselves against each other in a race across an arctic landscape. It’s a battle of endurance, speed and survival.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

High up on the Norris Glacier we visit their training camp. It’s a chance to not only see natural beauty that is so spectacular that it makes your heart ache, but also an opportunity to get a glimpse at the unique way of life for the people who dedicate their entire lives to their dogs.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

The opportunity for this incredible experience comes while we are in Juneau, Alaska. We get picked up by staff from Era Helicopters at the dock where our ship, the Disney Wonder, had parked early that morning. A quick bus ride to the heliport and we are given a life vest, a weigh-in and watch a safety video. No bags, water bottles etc are allowed on the helicopter and must be placed in a locker before boarding. My daughter and I wear waterproof boots, but snow booties are supplied for those wearing sneakers.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Each group and their seating assignment is decided on weight to ensure an even distribution in the helicopter. In ours, my husband and our daughter, Cheese, sit up front and I get placed in the rear next to a window.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

It’s Cheese’s first helicopter flight and we aren’t sure how she will go. It’s an exhilarating (and potentially terrifying) experience for adults, so for a five-year-old, we have no idea what to expect. She’s really quiet when we board and while we are taking off, but, once we are in the air and she discovers the “talk” button, it’s game on and we have a running commentary of every amazing detail she spots out the window: mountains, glaciers and tiny buildings nestled into the ice.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

The flight from Juneau to the Norris Glacier lasts about 20 minutes. We get a bird’s-eye view of the glaciers and can see the vibrant blue of newly-calved ice. Our pilot, Ryan, talks us through the glaciers and points out which had receded and which advanced back to the same level each year. Most are receding more and more each year. It’s a confronting look at the effects of global warming.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

On the Norris Glacier we are met by the Alaska Heli Mush crew, who take us to meet the sled dogs, AKA the stars of the show. 20 people and almost 200 dogs live on top of this remote glacier during summer, with their entire lives devoted to training. As the only way to get to the glacier site is by helicopter, the entire camp must be flown up the same way that we did – via helicopter, with special dog boxes made to carry about 12 dogs per flight. In September the dogs and camp are all flown back off the glacier, with the camp being stored in a warehouse and the sled dogs continuing their training and racing in other homes.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

The dogs we have flown so far to meet are in training to run the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which is held every March in Alaska over a distance of 1,049 miles (1688 km). Mushers and a team of 16 dogs complete the race in 8–15 days, through the harshest of terrains – through forests, over hills and mountain passes, in the coldest conditions imaginable. The Iditarod race, which began in 1973, is highly competitive and a win is incredibly prestigious.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We learn that the sled dogs who run the Iditarod are “Alaskan huskies”, which is actually not a breed, but rather category of dog. An Alaskan Husky is generally a mix of many different breeds that each give the dogs various strengths, such as Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds and German Shorthaired Pointers. The dogs are selectively bred to create dogs that have the desired traits of speed, stamina, good feet, size, and coat type.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We are introduced to the dogs one at a time and learn their names, plus a bit about their personalities, then gave their coats a brush and assist giving the dogs a wellness check. They’re much friendlier than we had expected working dogs to be, and greet us with face licks if we’re not fast enough to get out of the way.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Next is strapping on their snow booties (only some of the dogs need them to protect their feet from the water, not the cold) and harness them up, ready for the ride. Our sled is led by two dogs both called “Otter”. One is bred for endurance and one for speed. As the racing dogs are around large groups of people and other animals when they race, it’s important for them to be well socialised, so the cuddle time we have with the dogs is beneficial to both dogs and visitors alike.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

After a quick lesson in how to drive the sled, we jump on and are off, racing in the snow. The dogs know what’s coming and literally leap with excitement at the chance to run. It’s so hot for the dogs that they’ve been lying in the snow to cool off, while we’re so cold that we pull our beanies down over our ears and tuck chins into our fleeces.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

With the two Otters leading our team of dogs, we glide through the snow to the tune of our musher’s commands of “Hike!” “Gee!” and “Haw!”, and Cheese’s gleeful cry, “Mush, mush!”. We each take turns driving the sleds as we race through the snowy glacier top, with awe-inspiring scenery on every side. Snow-capped mountains reach high around us, as we glide through a winter wonderland that photographs can’t do justice.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

When our sled ride is complete, we feed the dogs a treat and thank them for the ride with hugs and pats. One of the Otters, we learn, is a particular softie who sleeps inside with the musher and does an incredible job as a heater. Running our hands through their thick, soft coats it’s easy to understand how these dogs thrive in cold climates.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We say a sad goodbye to our new canine friends and are taken on a tour of the rest of the camp, which consists of 10 living tents, a cook tent, vet clinic and community tent. No Internet, cell phones, or TV – the crew live completely off the grid on their remote glacier with the absolute basics. The life of a musher is a simple one that is 100% about the dogs they care for.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Our tour continues with puppies, who will in time be trained as sled dogs. They meet us with joyful licks and wiggling tails; 7-month-old babies who benefit from the socialisation visitors like us give them as much as it gives us joy to play with them.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Cheese merrily chases the puppies and tumbles with them in the snow in a pile of canine and human limbs and icy snowflakes flying in the air. Her dislike for the snow pants we made her wear is forgotten as she lies on her back and makes snow angels, and throw giant snowballs at our heads.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Just before the helicopters arrive to take us back to Juneau, we are served freshly baked cookies, snacks and hot drinks in a heated tent, which is exactly the thawing out we need after a few hours playing in the snow.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

We arrive back in port after our return helicopter flight in awe of the experience we have just had. Have we really just flown to a glacier? Have we really just mushed dogs through the snow? When we say it out loud it sounds like a dream or a scene from a movie that doesn’t happen to regular people like us.

We flick through the photos and videos in disbelief that this magical day has been ours. It’s true, this memory is real and has left a snowy pawprint in our hearts that we will never forget.

Dog Sledding In Juneau on the Norris Glacier Alaska

Dog Sledding on the Norris Glacier Juneau Alaska

Our whole experience lasted rough 2.5 hours and was an “extended” experience. We booked through Disney Cruise Line but you can also book this experience directly through Alaska Heli Mush, in partnership with Era Helicopters.

Christine Knight
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!