Northern Ireland! Belfast!

belfast-the-troubles-3043

Belfast, a city long plagued by Troubles, might not be high on your list of travel destinations, but maybe it should be? Not because it’s particularly beautiful though it does have a lot to offer, but simply because you can, and that in itself is a big deal. Having chosen Belfast for it’s relatively close proximity to the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site, we had no idea just how much we would enjoy the visit.

#belfastcityhall

In fact our visit to Belfast and the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland were probably the two most impactful days of our six-week journey through Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe! This speaks volumes as our itinerary was filled with some of the world’s most famous and beautiful places, but travel isn’t just about tasting the food, enjoying the beauty and learning the history. It’s also about experiencing the culture through interactions with the people, seeing how they live their everyday lives and learning to be open to different points of view. Our visit to Northern Ireland was all of the above and more!

The Troubles?

#roadclosedTo better understand Belfast it’s important to understand at least a little bit about The Troubles. Fueled by earlier events in history The Troubles took place in the mid to later part of the 20th century. Though there are many factors, one key issue was whether or not Northern Ireland, which had become separated from the Republic of Ireland, would continue to be a part of the United Kingdom, or would/should it once again become part of the Republic. I don’t mean to oversimplify, but in a nutshell, many Protestants consider themselves British and have no wish to leave the UK, while many Catholics consider themselves Irish and wish to once again become part of what is now the Republic of Ireland.

I’m no expert on what is a very complicated situation in Northern Ireland, and rather than spend a lot of time paraphrasing what I learned online and during our tour, what I really hope to share with you are our personal experiences in the city and with the people we met there.

On the Edge of Peace

Northern Ireland BelfastAs a child I remember hearing about the troubles in Northern Ireland and Belfast. The nightly news painting a picture of a city plagued by terrorism, unsafe and divided. This was a place I was sure I would never visit. It never even crossed my mind. Yet here we were! Just the very idea that things have progressed enough for our visit to safely take place was so meaningful! The people we met and spent time with were some of the kindest and most pleasant of our entire trip.

Northern Ireland BelfastThe Troubles officially ended in 1998, but during our visit it became immediately clear to us that the peace, which exists today, is a tenuous one at best. Belfast is still very much a city divided, and when I say divided I mean quite literally. Walls or “peace lines” as they are known, some as high as 25 feet, separate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. A number of these walls were built AFTER the 1998 peace agreement.

Northern Ireland BelfastMany of the peace walls have gates which are at times staffed by police. They are open for passage during the day, but are closed at nights and in some locations on the weekends as well.

Northern Ireland Belfast

So, Is It Safe?

#PaddyCampbellsBelfastFamousBlackCabToursWhile I am a big proponent of stepping off the beaten path I’ve also learned that at times hiring a guide is best and this is definitely the case in a city like Belfast. After doing a bit of research I discovered the very highly rated Paddy Campbell’s Belfast Famous Black Cab Tours! I just can’t say enough about them! From the first email communication to the drop off at our hotel at the end of the day and every moment in between it was a perfect experience! No wonder they’re number one on Trip Advisor!

Our guide, Tom, picked us up at our hotel promptly at 9am. We piled in his “black” taxicab and set off for a full day* tour! He came prepared with snacks (chocolates and crisps) and bottled water for the four of us!

Northern Ireland BelfastTom, born and raised in Belfast, was a wealth of information. He drove us through the city explaining the history of Belfast, the Troubles, and the peace walls. We drove through both catholic and protestant neighborhoods easily identified by the different flags flying high outside their homes. Catholics, fly Irish flags, while the Protestants fly British flags…We got out at the wall and signed our names and wrote messages of peace.

Tom did a great job explaining The Troubles. He encouraged us to ask questions and explained everything in a friendly, fair and impartial manner.  He waited until after the tour was over to tell us the more personal details about himself so as not to create a bias.

One can only imagine what it must have been like growing up in the midst of so much turmoil, no matter what side you stood for, especially because to us the city still seems fraught with so much tension. As tourists we never felt endangered exactly, it’s just that our feelings about Belfast changed dramatically after the tour.

Northern Ireland BelfastIt’s hard not to form opinions when you see homes with cages covering them for protection from the debris thrown over the top of the walls. Political murals depicting loss of life or celebrating each side’s “heroes” are prominently displayed on the side of apartments and many other buildings throughout Belfast. In fact there are over 2800 of these murals and multiple bonfires as large as city blocks are erected all over the city every July 12th and burned within spitting distance of residential homes. There are numerous parades through the streets, which demonstrate the clear division between the two sides. These things are all happening TODAY! Now!

Northern Ireland Belfast

Hearing about the Troubles from a first hand account really drove home how little we knew about the situation. Everything we knew came from American news sources and hearing the story from a different point of view really drove home the idea that no matter how open minded we believe ourselves to be, we rarely get the entire story making it difficult to have a truly informed opinion.

Troubled, fascinating, and surprising, this is Belfast.

belfast-the-troubles-3043

Of course there is so much more to Belfast than it’s Troubles. Though the city seemed to have an industrial feel about it, there were many architecturally beautiful buildings, the people were some of the friendliest we encountered and we enjoyed a number of good restaurants during our stay. Belfast was a pleasant surprise and it’s troubled and fascinating history had an unexpected and profound effect on all of us.

 

*For the purpose of this post I am focusing only on the city portion of our tour, but stay tuned for a future post about our visit to the incredible Antrim Coast!

 

Hotel Reviews! Hilarystyle!

HilaryStyle

When I think of travel many things come to mind, adventures, seeing new sights, trying new foods, and dedicated family time. I love all of those things so much, however there are a few things about travel that I don’t love… Though worth bitching about mentioning, there is nothing that would stop me from embarking on my next journey, let’s not carried away!

hotel-reivew Arriving in Dublin!

Having recently had the opportunity to stay in 12 different hotels over the course of 6 weeks I had a lot of time to think about the things I love and don’t love in hotel rooms. Before I tell you specifics I’ll admit upfront that I’m a bit of a hotel snob. However, I do try to be objective. Really!

A few of my not so favorite things:

  • Why are there never enough towels!? Enough said…
  • Data – in this age of instant satisfaction spotty data just won’t cut it…

View original post 823 more words

Hotel Reviews! Hilarystyle!

hotel-review-header

When I think of travel many things come to mind, adventures, seeing new sights, trying new foods, and dedicated family time. I love all of those things so much, however there are a few things about travel that I don’t love… Though worth bitching about mentioning, there is nothing that would stop me from embarking on my next journey, let’s not carried away!

hotel-reivew
Arriving in Dublin!

Having recently had the opportunity to stay in 12 different hotels over the course of 6 weeks I had a lot of time to think about the things I love and don’t love in hotel rooms. Before I tell you specifics I’ll admit upfront that I’m a bit of a hotel snob. However, I do try to be objective. Really!

A few of my not so favorite things:

  • Why are there never enough towels!? Enough said…
  • Data – in this age of instant satisfaction spotty data just won’t cut it, especially at the rates they’re charging for it?! This is especially irritating when one is attempting to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones from a hotel room and there is little or no wifi service!
  • Laundry services – Is it just me or do all hotel laundry services use the same very bad strong smelling detergent? And too much of it at that! Since Elliot insists on throwing up in just about every country we’ve ever visited and Simon fills in the blanks we’ve had plenty of occasions to notice.
  • Crappy shampoo – In an effort to travel light and pack everything in a carry on suitcase packing shampoo isn’t always an option, so more often than not travel equals bad hair that never quite feels clean. High on my dislike list are the two in one shampoo options!
  • Weak Hairdryers – and don’t even get me started on where to find the hairdryer! I like to think of it as a game: Find The Hairdryer. I get to play it at each new location! Yay me.
  • Plug placement – Why oh why can’t their be a hairdryer plug in the bathroom?! I’m traveling with a man who doesn’t shave on vacation (yes, even when traveling for six straight weeks), yet there’s always a shaver plug available!

Between bad water pressure, hard water, soft water, weak hair dryers, scalding hairdryers, cheap shampoo, rain, and humidity it’s almost impossible to have a good hair day while traveling, but throw in the fact that the hairdryer isn’t located in the bathroom and I’m absolutely sunk!

Ireland The WestburyI’m sharing a room with three other people, none of whom wake up as early as I do, so while I can take care of everything else quietly in the bathroom, drying my hair isn’t an option unless I want three extremely grumpy traveling companions!

hotel-review-headerAll of this has prompted me to come up with a personal rating system for places I stay and blog about!

I’ve decided this hairdryer icon hairdryer will work perfectly. Moving forward I’ll use a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the best! I’ve just finished a series of blog posts about our recent travels through Ireland, so I’ll start with those properties first! While cleanliness, comfort, and service are paramount. My ratings will also include the following criteria:

  • Water pressure
  • Shampoo quality
  • Placement of the hairdryer plug

Reviews:

The Westbury Hotel – Dublin

hairdryerhairdryerhairdryerhairdryer

Dublin The Westbury Hotel ReivewThe Westbury Hotel had lovely bathrooms, with really good water and pressure! The shampoo and conditioner smelled and worked great! The hairdryer plug wasn’t in the bathroom but instead located at the mini bar/coffee station right next to the bed. The hairdryer was so hot I had to use the medium setting or risk burning my hair – that’s a first! If only the hairdryer plug had been located in the bathroom.

Overall this hotel was a lovely property located in a great part of town and I would absolutely stay here again. If you’re interested in a visit to Dublin, you might like to read Three Days in Dublin and if you’re a beer drinker or even if you’re not check out my post about The Guinness Storehouse!

The Ross Hotel – Killarney

hairdryerhairdryerhairdryer

Ireland The Ross HotelThe lobby and main areas in The Ross Hotel were fun and very trendy, but this didn’t carry over to the rooms which weren’t nearly as cheerful as the rest of the property. The bathrooms were pretty utilitarian with dark shower stalls and although the water pressure was decent, the shampoo and conditioner were awful. I never really felt like my hair was clean during our stay. The hairdryer was in the bathroom, but it was so weak it was hardly worth it.

Considering Killarney isn’t a big town and the staff, service and location were great I would consider staying again, but I would bring my own supplies. Killarney is well worth a visit as is The Ring of Kerry and if Castles and Cliffs are on your list than you are in the right part of the world for those as well!

The Twelve

hairdryerhairdryer

#thetwelvehotel

The Twelve located just a few minutes down the road from Galway had a lovely and helpful staff and the rooms were very spacious for a family of four. Little touches of whimsy were placed here and there, so I really wanted to give them a better review… However, even great water pressure won’t help if the shampoo is terrible and it not only smelled bad, but it didn’t do anything. Unfortunately, the only plug located near the mirror was on the floor, so I had to dry my hair while kneeling on the floor. The hair dyer was decent though… In hindsight, I might like to stay just a little closer to Galway, so probably won’t choose to stay at The Twelve again. Galway was a lovely little town and if you fancy a chilly dip in the bay you’ll be in the right place!

Stay tuned for more hotel reviews hilarystyle!

 

Ireland! Galway’s Salthill Promenade!

Ireland Galway

#galwaybayCrystal blue waters and sandy beaches weren’t exactly what I was expecting during our recent travels to the Emerald Isle, but it’s exactly what we found! In fact Ireland has many beautiful beaches although the water is bit on the chilly side. Salthill Promenade overlooking Galway Bay came highly recommended, so after dropping off 8 days worth of laundry at a nearby laundromat we set off for the beach!

Ireland GalwayThe Promenade also known as the Prom is 2 km long and lined with bars, restaurants and hotels. During the summer months their is an amusement park. It’s a popular destination with both locals and tourists alike.

Ireland GalwayWe wandered up and down the Prom and really enjoyed the walk. About midway we came upon a giant high dive where we stopped to watch some kids jumping into the 59 degree water! Brrr! Those were some brave kids!

Ireland Galway

The water at Salthill was every beautiful shade of sparkling blue you can imagine changing from dark to light as wind blew the clouds back and forth across the sun. The lighting was spectacular! Note to self, don’t wear lip gloss and then walk along a windy beach and try to take photos.  I did get a few good ones and as usual I’m probably sharing too many.

Ireland GalwayWe only had one day in Galway and spent most of it at Salthill, but we did find time to explore the main part of town. Parking our rental car was no trouble at all and we wandered up and down the pedestrian only Quay Street poking in and out of the various shops. Our lunch at Martine’s of Quay Street was worth mentioning. Elliot had duck and Tim loved his fish soup, but Simon’s attempt at trying something new, bacon quiche, resulted in him eating my fish and chips and I had… bacon quiche…

Ireland Galway

Ireland Galway

Our hotel, The Twelve, was located a few miles outside Galway in Barna village. The service was excellent and the hotel rooms were whimsical and fun. The layout of two rooms with a shared bathroom worked perfectly for our family of four giving us all the privacy and space we needed.

Next up:

Stops in the Midlands, Newgrange and then on to Northern Ireland!

Photo Gallery

Ireland galway

#salthillpromenade

Ireland Galway

#galwaybay

Ireland Galway

#galwaybay

#galwaybay

Ireland Galway

 

Along the way… The Heart of Ireland!

SAMSUNG CSC

Filled with history, beauty and warm friendly people, what Ireland lacks in size it more than makes up for in heart! Easily traversed in one day, the Republic of Ireland isn’t a big country, but there is no shortage of worthwhile things to see and do which makes deciding where to stop along the way no easy task. The fact that it was our last day in this amazing place didn’t help matters.

Ireland NewgrangeWhile our ultimate destination that final day was Belfast, Northern Ireland, my list of sights in the Republic of Ireland was only partially checked off and with only hours left difficult choices had to be made. One such place was Newgrange, a 5000 year old monolithic passage tomb, which conveniently happened to be on our way to Belfast, this meant the castles in Athlone and Trim got only passing glances during true pitstops. Normally I would never pass up a chance to visit a castle let alone two, but the idea of seeing and stepping inside a place older than the pyramids was just too tempting to pass up!

Along the way from Galway to Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Athlone Castle – Athlone, Ireland

86 km from Galway

#athlonecastle

Athlone’s moto is “At the heart of it!” a fitting moto since it’s right in the middle of the country! Both Athlone and Trim looked were lovely places and we would have liked to spend more time in each, however neither time nor weather were on our side, so after a quick walk to stretch our legs we grabbed snacks and off we went…

Trim Castle – Trim, Ireland

92 km from Athloneireland-midlands-2956

Newgrange Visitor Center – County Meath, Ireland

126 km from Trim

#newgrangeirelandNewgrange is a prehistoric monument which is located in the Boyne River Valley about an hour or so outside of Dublin. I won’t go into too much history as I think the official website will do a much better and more thorough job, but I will say that built in the Neolithic period around 3200 BC Newgrange is older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The exact origin and reason the passage tomb was built is unknown, but it’s believed to have religious significance. There are other passage tombs in the river valley as well, Newgrange is the most famous.

#passageIf you plan to visit Newgrange here are few things to keep in mind:

  • This is a very popular tourist destination especially during the winter solstice as this is the only time that light fills the tomb.
  • You can’t get to the tomb without joining a tour
  • The tours are only offered through the official visitor center
  • Reservations cannot be made in advance and the tours do fill up

#brunabonneAll that aside, Newgrange was fantastic! The visitor center had a really nice exhibition as well as a movie, a cafe and a very decent gift shop. That was a good thing too because the first available tour was at 4:45 pm and we arrived at 2:30 pm. Access to the monument is via a bus which leaves directly from the visitor center.

Upon arriving at the monument the guide will briefly explain the history and then split the group into two. While one group goes inside the passage tomb, the other explores the outside and then about 15 minutes later you switch. It’s tight inside, so you’ll be glad they split the group up!

While inside you’ll see a demonstration of what it would be like on the winter solstice when the sun shines into the tomb! No photography is allowed inside the passage tomb. I was amazed at how moved I was by the experience. The idea of standing in a place that had been in existence for thousands and thousands of years was very powerful. Afterwards while it was our turn to explore the outside I spent my time taking photos! The entire experience is about an hour long.

It was a long but incredibly fascinating day and a lovely way to end our visit to the Republic of Ireland!

Next stop:

Belfast, Northern Ireland

124 km from the Newgrange Visitor Center

Photo Gallery

Ireland Newgrange

#newgrange
Amazing craftsmanship!

Ireland Newgrange

Ireland Newgrange
5000 year old carvings!
#passagetomb
No wonder this place was hidden for multiple millennia.
Ireland
The countryside was beautiful.

#ireland#ireland

Ireland Newgrange
Yes, the grass was wet!

 

 

Autumn Refresh: Wardrobe & Makeup!

Fashion Refresh Fall 2016

I love all four seasons, but for many reasons autumn has always been one of my favorites! I look forward to a change in the weather, the colorful fall leaves and Halloween. A bit of crispness in the air is the signal to pull my boots from the back of the closet, and I do love my boots!  Of course living in SoCal, autumn doesn’t present itself in quite the same way as it does in other parts of the country. Our first year here, knowing I missed the changing of the leaves, Tim brought me some autumn-ish leaves and it was like he’d given me a dozen roses!

Fall Fashion Refresh 2016

Now that I’ve lived in California for the past 15+ years, I’m used to lighter seasons and have even learned to appreciate them! Poor me, right?! In SoCal, we basically get an extended summer with a little bit of autumn, sans the changing of the leaves…

SO, even though I don’t feel like autumn is almost upon us (next week already) as I am still wearing summer attire and slathering on the sunscreen (and will be for some time), autumn is definitely in the stores and has been for a while. Good thing for me I’m seeing a lot of black, white, and denim, because that means I’m all set, however I have noticed a few things that I might need to give my fall wardrobe a refresh. Generally I steer away from styles of the moment, but in the interest of mixing things up a bit I’ve chosen a few pieces with interesting texture to compliment what is already in my closet and give it new life.

I’ve hit up the fall lines of a few of my favorites*, to add a bit of leather, smooth, fake and textured, frayed hems, fleece, cords, fresh white graphic Ts and of course a pop of color!

If you can believe it, you probably can, I took all these fashion pics using a tripod and the timer on my camera!That’s it for clothing this season… on to makeup!

Fall Makeup!

I love makeup! Just like fashion, makeup changes with the seasons and styles come and go. This summer I tried something new and stuck with just a few neutral shades while I was busy traveling, beaching and moving all summer long.

Now that things are settling down, I’m ready for a change. Bye bye neutrals! I need a pop of color! I love color and glitter, in fact the more sparkle, color and glitter the better! If I’m feeling down a bit of makeup retail therapy goes a long way!

#macstartrek50

I always love MAC’s theme lines, but I especially geeked out on the new Star Trek line (I’ve been a fan my entire life), I picked up some shadow and two liners in back and silver, as well as two new x9 palettes burgundy and purple… the burgundy is new for me… Another new for me is the MAC brightening line. I’m trying out the Lightful C Vibrancy Eye Cream because, honestly, who can’t use a little brightening!

What do you think do my eyes look brighter? We shall see!

Happy Fall!

*Rag and Bone, Cupcakes and Cashmere, Fiorentini & Baker, Current Elliott, Sundry & Free City!

 

 

Los Angeles! Surfing? Me?!

Los Angeles Surfing

I went surfing! I know for many people this might not seem like a big deal, but just swimming in the ocean is on my list of “I don’t do that” and the idea of getting on a surf board is so far from my comfort zone, it’s not even on the “I don’t do that” list. But this past weekend when the opportunity unexpectedly presented itself, something came over me and I just couldn’t say no.

Los Angeles Surfing

Guess What?! I loved It!

This is strange because, you see, I’m afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of injury, afraid of disappointing others, afraid or letting life pass me by, afraid of upside down roller coasters, swimming in the ocean, bugs, especially bees, flying, losing stuff, getting lost, mushrooms and the list goes on… Don’t get me wrong, I’m not walking around afraid all the time and for the most part these fears don’t rule me, but there were times when I was younger that I let my fears hold me back and I missed out on so much!

SAMSUNG CSC

NO MORE!

Los Angeles SurfingI don’t know why or what changed exactly, but more often than not I’m facing these fears, trying new things and letting my guard down and I love it! Okay, I admit it I still run away when anything with a stinger comes close, but that’s my fight or flight instinct kicking in, right?! Go with me on that one, okay?!

Los Angeles Surfing

Recently some close friends came to town for a weekend of surfing and invited us along. Wanting to spend time with them I committed to a beach day and thought I’d watch everyone else swim and surf while I held down the beach blanket and collected lunch for everyone… because, you know, I don’t do ocean swimming.

Los Angeles SurfingEven I was surprised when I was asked if I wanted to give it a try and my answer was YES! Because even with my “lets do this thing” attitude the idea of swimming in the waves, let alone attempting to surf them was still pretty daunting. I was afraid, but I mentally told myself to get over it and get out there because you never know unless you try.

It Turned Out To Be A Family Affair!

Los Angeles Surfing

Tim and the Kids Surfed Too! While Elliot wasn’t too sure and just rode the board in on his belly, and Tim and I each got up a few times over the course of the weekend, Simon was a complete natural! Maybe it’s all the long boarding he does, or maybe he’s just got amazing balance, but whatever the cause, he just stood up and rode the board into shore time and time again!

Los Angeles Surfing

I was pretty proud of myself for facing my fears and getting out there (two days in a row) with the added bonus of actually standing up a few times, but the real highlight of my weekend was watching my son find true happiness on the surfboard and in the ocean and knowing that he’s found something he truly loves!

This is happiness…

Los Angeles Surfing

Los Angeles Surfing

The rest of the crew!

Ireland! Along the Way… Castles & Cliffs!

#kingjohnscastle

Where is: halfway between point A and point B and boasts a large medieval castle with beautiful views? If you guessed our next “along the way stop” on our journey around Ireland, then you guessed right! Of course it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t get a late  start and losing the car keys didn’t help, but once we got all that sorted*, we were off! As expected the drive was beautiful and we saw many tower house ruins along with the ever present cows and sheep!

#limerick

King John’s Castle

Along the way from Killarney to Galway… Limerick, Ireland

111 km from Killarney

#kingjohnscastleWe weren’t sure what to expect at King Johns’ Castle, but I do love a good castle and we had to stop for lunch anyway so why not just eat lunch at the castle? Although we had limited time in Limerick and I can’t speak to the city itself, I highly recommend King John’s Castle, especially if you’re traveling with kids!

Ireland Limerick

I loved that it had the traditional castle look compete with ramparts and crenelations and the kids really enjoyed exploring the castle and its many interactive displays and activities. They both participated in a scavenger hunt which became a friendly competition between them! I will mention that the castle cafe turned out to be pretty terrible as they ran out of food and the line was painfully slow, notice I didn’t say long. So you don’t go there for the food…

However, the views from the castle ramparts were beautiful and I lucked out and saw them just before the torrential rains caught us! Getting to the carpark was an adventure in itself! Just as we left the castle the sky opened up and literally drenched us! It didn’t help that Tim and I each ran to the wrong (right?) sides of the car and then had to switch sides. Even with the heat blasting it was two hours before we dried off!

Always one to go along with my photo antics, Simon was kind enough to pose humor me and we I had some fun with the castle’s many props!

The Cliffs of Moher

ireland cliffs of moherLeaving Limerick with plenty of daylight to spare we set off for the Cliffs of Moher and crossed our fingers in the hopes that the skies would be clear by the time we arrived. Believe it or not, these magnificent cliffs which rise vertically almost 700 feet straight out of the sea and stretch for 5 miles are not the tallest cliffs in Ireland, however, they are the most famous and a definite must see if you’re visiting the West Coast of the Emerald Isle.

The Cliffs of Moher

Along the way from Limerick to Galway… Just south of the Village of Doolin in County Clare, Ireland

78 km from Limerick

ireland cliffs of moher

ireland cliffs of moherLucky for us the skies were clear when we arrived although it was very windy! The weather is never boring in Ireland! The views from the cliff top walkways near the visitor center were breathtaking, but judging by the silly antics of the boys I could tell they were over it within just a few minutes. It had already been a long day and in hindsight visiting at the end of an already full day was probably not the best idea.

ireland cliffs of moher

There is a walk along the cliff tops , but we were running out of daylight and weren’t really dressed for a hike, so we satisfied ourselves with a good long look over the edge and then spent time in the visitor center. The center is fairly new and very well done with interactive exhibits, a restaurant and a gift shop.

ireland cliffs of moher

ireland cliffs of moher

If you’re looking for a slightly different view point, you can walk up O’Brien’s Tower. We discovered these wedding rings on the tower bulletin board left there by a woman honoring her nana’s last wish… very sweet.

ireland cliffs of moher

Next Stop: Galway!

*Seems like for us Killarney and transportation just didn’t mix!

Keep Calm & Disneyland!

Disneyland

Disneyland Big Thunder MountainI spent an incredibly relaxing day at Disneyland the other day! Yes, you heard me… incredibly relaxing… at Disneyland. Yes, there were crowds, lines and heat, after all it is summer and I was in Disneyland. However, having visited more times than I can count with every combination of people imaginable I feel like I’ve  got a pretty good handle on keeping calm and Disneyland at the same time and you can too!

DisneylandI know some of you might be thinking, how is this even possible? Yes, Disneyland is crowded, expensive and touristy, but it’s also magical, beautiful and fun!

DisneylandIt’s all in the mindset… understanding that it’s just not possible to do it all, especially if you only have one day, and that trying would only serve to ruin the day and everyone’s good time… basically the same philosophy I use when traveling to far away places when time is an issue. Time is always an issue. There is never enough time in disneyland! However, it’s still very possible to see many of the attractions and feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth while at the same time keeping calm and enjoying yourself!

Here are some handy tips:

  1. The FastPass system is incredibly useful, but remember to pay close attention to FastPass return times. You’ll be turned away if you arrive after your ride window has closed. Keep in mind that the more popular rides can run out of FastPasses for the day.
    Disneyland
  2. Did you know that if you’re a family with a younger child you can take turns riding without having to wait in the line all over again? Just ask for a Rider Switch Pass at the beginning of the line! The Rider Switch option is available on attractions that have a minimum height requirement. For example: California Screamin’!
    #californiascreamin
  3. Try to visit the busiest attractions while others are viewing the parades or fireworks show.
    Disneyland
  4. To avoid the lunch and dinner crowds consider eating your meals a bit on the early or late side, or better yet skip the traditional sit down meal and grab a hearty snack to go!
    #chiliconequeso
  5. Did you know you can purchase Dole Whip in the Tiki Room waiting area? Yep, They serve the popular treat from both sides of the hut!  Yes, even if you aren’t attending the show.
    Disneyland
  6. Radiator Springs Racers runs out of FastPasses very early in the day and the lines are always incredibly long, but if you don’t mind riding alone, try the Single Rider line, your party can wait in line together until the very last moment. The best part is that the Single Rider Line can be as short as 15 minutes while the Stand By Line is as long as 120 minutes! This also works great for California Screamin’, the Matterhorn and Splash Mountain! However, you need to be at least 8yo to ride alone.
    #radiatorspringsracers
  7. Wear comfortable clothing no matter what!! Your comfort is more important than style! Even if the days are warm the nights can be chilly here in SoCal, so bring something with sleeves.
    Disneyland
  8. When waiting for It’s A Small World stay in the line to the right, its always faster. I know it looks longer, but trust me!
    Disneyland
  9. There are many walk up food options, but if you’re interested in dining at the Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle, Ariel’s Grotto or any of the Fine/Character dining locations reservations should be made well in advance. Everyone should try Character Dining at least once!
    Disneyland
  10. Have you heard of Hidden Mickeys? There are many hidden surprises all over the parks. We even found hidden images in the table at the  Carthay Circle restaurant! There are also many other Easter eggs around the park so keep your eye out!
    Disneyland
  11. No one is too young or old for Disneyland and if they’re under 3 it won’t cost extra to bring them along, however you’ll have the memory of their first experience!
    Disneyland
  12. No one does fireworks quite like Disneyland, so if you’ve never seen them it’s worth the wait, and for the best viewing (in front of the castle is best) there will be a wait! Plan to claim your spot about 90 minutes to 2 hours prior to show time and then take turns holding down the fort and waiting for the magic to begin. Trust me, it’s worth it!
    Disneyland
  13. Did you know there is a wonderful baby care center located at the far end of Main Street just on the other side of Main Street Photo! Complete with high chairs, all the baby supplies you can think up including food and diapers and adorable tiny little toilets for the potty training set. It’s the perfect place to drop in and take care of all your baby business! So there are no excuses!
    Disneyland
  14. Ever wonder what its like inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle? Guess what, you can go inside! Just to the left after you walk through the portcullis there is a doorway, walk up the stairs and follow the corridor. You can watch the story unfold in the action view windows located along the castle’s passages. You’ll come out on the opposite side about 5 minutes later!
    Disneyland
  15. Visit lands and try rides both in the day and again after dark! You’ll be surprised at how different they feel. My two favorite after dark ride experiences are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Mad Hatter Teacups and don’t miss Radiator Springs after dark it’s amazing!

  16. Try stuff on! Hats, slippers, costumes, you name it… Disneyland shops have it all! If you can’t try on or wear a silly hat at Disneyland, where can you? Better yet, bring a friend and try stuff on together!
    Disneyland
  17. Stop and smell the flowers! Beyond everything else it has to offer Disneyland grounds are not only impeccable, but there are beautiful gardens and flowers everywhere you look!
    Disneyland
  18. Use the photo pass system and have your photo taken on the rides, with characters, or in front of Disneyland’s many famous landmarks! Our family has an album filled with photos from all our previous visits and it’s amazing how much we’ve all changed over the years!
    Disneyland
  19. Remember don’t expect to do everything, but do expect to: Keep Calm & Disneyland!
    Disneyland

If you’ve been to Disneyland before you already have your favorites, but just incase you haven’t or are looking for some new experiences, Simon, Elliot and I have put together a partial list of our “can’t miss” attractions, treats and shops!

  1. Disneyland popcorn
    Disneyland
  2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (especially at night)
    Disneyland
  3. Carmel Apples from the Pooh Corner shop are IMHO the very best
    Disneyland
  4. Mickey’s Premium Ice cream bars
    disneyland
  5. Chili Cone Queso
    Disneyland
  6. It’s A Small World Christmas
    Disneyland
  7. Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups after dark
    Disneyland
  8. California Screamin’
    Disneyland
  9. Space Mountain
    Disneyland
  10. Halloween Time Fireworks
    Disneyland

What are some of  your favorites, tips and secrets at the Magic Kingdom? Let us know in the comments below and just because I can’t resist here are a few more photos from some of our more recent visits to the Magic Kingdom!

Singler riders!

Keep your eyes open for hidden surprises!

Celebrating!

Random Fun and general silliness!

Halloween Time!

Enjoying the scenery!

Disneyland