So I’ve been telling you about my magical trip to Los Angeles with Virgin Holidays. After our fantastic foodie tour of East LA and a stop off to explore Temecula wine country, we headed to our final destination, San Diego. We arrived quite late in the afternoon from Temecula and went straight to our hotel, the gorgeously colourful Kona Kai Resort & Spa, before quickly popping to our rooms to freshen up before going straight out to dinner. We only had a very limited time in San Diego and were determined to make the most of it, so our foodie day in San Diego strictly started the night before with a visit to Liberty Station, before returning to properly explore the next day.
So you’ve booked your dream holiday: you’ve chosen a great hotel, maybe scoped out a couple of decent restaurants (you know how important this is to me) but what’s the best way to really get under the skin of your destination? Well, Virgin Holidays has come up with the brilliant idea of Virgin Holidays Experiences: a breathtaking range of over 300 experiences for everyone from foodies and shopaholics to the thrill-seekers and outdoorsy types, and even those in search of the perfect Instagram shot. These fab new experiences will enable all of us to create a bespoke holiday experience that truly reflects our interests and obsessions. So whether you’ve always dreamed of shopping with your own personal stylist in New York, fancy taking surf lessons in San Diego, a seaplane trip over Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver or discovering Chinatown in San Francisco, the world really is your oyster! I was lucky enough to travel to LA and San Diego with Virgin Holidays earlier this month to try out a few of the amazing new Virgin Holidays Experiences. First up, an incredible foodie tour of East LA.
If you’re anything like us, one of the biggest considerations when you’re planning a holiday (along with: ‘will there be enough to do?’ and ‘what’s the pool like?’) is ‘are there loads of great places to eat?’. Food is a huge part of our family holiday budget – it’s a big part of our family life at home, so that naturally carries through when we go away together – we want to enjoy gorgeous food in beautiful places. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I really should create a little (well, quite large, actually) guide to dining at Universal Orlando Resort, so if you’re considering a Universal family holiday, you can do a little advanced planning (plus, you know I like taking photos of my food). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I’ve tried to include everywhere I’d dined in and enjoyed as well as a couple on my still to do list.
So you already know that we’re all Halloween crazy, and last week – a dream come true – I got to take Mr E and Sam to Universal Orlando Resort, Florida to experience the amazing Halloween Horror Nights 27. I don’t want to be one of those people who give all the good bits away before you even get there, so I’m not going to go into huge detail about everything you’ll find at HHN27, just in case you’re due to visit. If you’re tempted to attend next year, though – and you really, really should – here are my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, plus a couple of my awful blurry pictures – you’re welcome!
You’ll probably already know that I’m a huge fan of Attraction Tickets Direct: they’re one of the world’s largest attraction ticket brokers, and we’ve been everywhere from the West End of London, to Disneyland Paris, and even Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando with them. Last week I headed to the gorgeous Sea Containers in London to celebrate their 15th birthday with them, and to hear some really fabulous news about new Attraction Tickets Direct Disney hotel, ticket and dining packages!
As we had some travel plans cancelled in August, Mr E and I have really been enjoying exploring our lovely local area. The Chilterns are stuffed full of historic stately homes and manor houses: from Waddesdon Manor, designed in the style of a romantic French Renaissance chateau, to Sir Francis Dashwood’s extravagant, Italianate West Wycombe Park, we have a huge diversity of beautiful buildings to visit. One that might have escaped your radar is Latimer House, now the De Vere Latimer Estate, a stunning mansion house estate that has recently undergone a huge (£7m) refurbishment that has transformed the original mansion house, including a beautifully renovated library, a coffee shop, a brand new restaurant: 1838 Restaurant and Bar, and the new Huntley Bar as well as additional luxury bedrooms and an elegant new reception.
Are we allowed to say ‘staycation’? Well, whatever we’re currently calling it, I had a bit of travel cancelled recently and was getting majorly itchy feet, so I suggested to Mr E that we take a little weekend trip to London. And what a lovely weekend it turned out to be. We stayed at the very lovely Dorsett Shepherds Bush, which is the perfect hotel for a city break: it’s literally a five minute walk from the tube station (and Westfield Shopping Centre), and we spent the whole weekend exploring and hopping on and off the tube.
‘Oh, I’ve been to Walt Disney World, I don’t need to go again’, said no-one ever. One of the things I love most about the happiest place on earth is that it’s ever-evolving. One of the best places to hear all the news and future plans for the Disney Parks and Resorts is D23 Expo, Disney’s official fan club’s brilliant biannual gathering, billed as the ultimate Disney fan event, which took place in Anaheim over the weekend. There have been some pretty jaw-dropping announcements, so if you’re a Disney fan, grab a cuppa, and I’ll take you through what’s coming up at Walt Disney World, Florida (and a few bits from the other parks too). Excuse all the artist’s impressions but obviously that’s all there is at the moment, apart from the pic I took of the hoarding hiding the new Toy Story Land!
If you saw my post about Halloween Horror Nights last year, you’ll know that Erica and I absolutely loved it. If you don’t know much about the event, the easiest way to describe it is that the entire Universal Studios site is transformed into a living horror film, with five different scare zones: themed areas populated by roaming hordes of terrifying characters (or scareactors), as well as live shows and – the main event: nine mazes – incredibly detailed themed haunted houses filled with terrifying live scenes and actors, based on some of the most famous and blood-curdling horror films in history. Read on, to find out more about Halloween Horror Nights 27.
We all know that feeling, right? After a gorgeous holiday, the last day is such a massive come-down: you’ve got to be out of your room by midday but your flight doesn’t leave until the evening, you don’t want to get sandy and have nowhere to shower, so your last day is spent miserably killing time, sweating in your travel clothes, before heading home. While I was in beautiful Barbados, though, Virgin announced a brand new concept that’s going to change all that, and I think you’re going to love it. Step forward The Departure Beach from Virgin.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pretty fabulous invitation to Barbados. Flying out with Virgin Holidays for a week at The Club Barbados, right next to Sandy Lane on the gorgeous, calm west coast of Barbados – a no brainer right? Well, almost. The bit of the invitation that had me hesitating was this: ‘come and be part of an exclusive expert led “Caribbean Choir” singing workshop’. Singing? Me?! I mean, yes, I sing in the shower, but a choir? I was nervous, but in my positive life plan notes, I’ve definitely written ‘be brave’ and ‘do something that scares you’, so I decided to embrace the challenge and replied with a firm yes!
I absolutely adore St Petersburg. The last time I visited, back in 2012, we really only had one day there and I was desperate to go back and really explore. I absolutely love its buzzy vibe, the gorgeous beaches and the way the downtown area absolutely comes alive at night, with restaurants, bars and cafés thronging with people. Even as recently as the 90s, Downtown St Pete was really quite unloved. Remember Cocoon? Jeff, our lovely guide told us that the movie was filmed in St Pete in the 1980s, and it was an area known as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, full of retirees and not a lot else. Slowly, though, the locals transformed their beloved neighbourhood, and now it’s such a creative, lively place to visit, with a wonderful arts scene and fabulous shops, restaurants, galleries, stunning museums like the beautiful new Morean Arts Centre and the Dali Museum, and beautiful open spaces. Read more
In all the years that I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, there’s been one iconic Disney place that I’ve never managed to visit: Celebration, Florida: the prettiest little community, and Walt Disney World’s home town. With wide streets and colourful shops and houses, it’s a really lovely place to spend a day, wandering the lovely, tree-lined residential areas (there’s actually a Wisteria Lane there that looks like it’s straight out of Desperate Housewives), and popping in to all the lovely shops (there’s a fabulous dog shop there selling everything you could possibly need for your pampered pooch!). Here’s my photo diary of our day: a little taster of what to expect when you visit Celebration.
So last time, I was telling you all about family holidays in Kissimmee. The next stop on our little tour of alternative Florida destinations was beautiful Clearwater. This gorgeous Gulf Coast barrier island destination sits just across Old Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida along with St Petersburg. Between them, they boast 35 miles of white sandy beaches and an average of 361 sunny days per year. So apart from lazing away endless, sunny days and glorious sunsets in this pretty resort town, here are a few other reasons why Clearwater is a fabulous choice for a family holiday.
I have so much to tell you about my amazing trip to Kissimmee with Norwegian – I can’t believe two weeks has flown past since I was there. I travelled with such a lovely bunch of people and we had great fun exploring – honestly, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. If you’re considering a holiday to Florida, whether it be to the theme parks, or to discover a bit more of the area, I highly recommend Kissimmee as a base. There’s so much fabulous accommodation, beautiful scenery, loads of fun things to do, and, it’s so close to all the parks too. Here are my recommendations for fun family holidays in Kissimmee.
So if you follow me on any form of social media, you can’t have failed to notice that I’ve had a bit of an exciting – and emotional – week. It started off with a magical invitation to a British TV first that saw Mr E and I checking in for a rather special Virgin Atlantic charter flight to Orlando with the very excited winners of the ‘place on the plane’ tickets from ITV’s popular Saturday evening show. Follow me, then, for a little photo diary of our adventure to watch the live final of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway at Walt Disney World!
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- Weekday wishlist: M&S activewear for my couch to 5k journey January 11, 2018