Yesterday I posted about the FREE Lego Mini Build events and download. If your kids are into Legos, click over and download so your child can make a Lego bouquet this weekend. We’ll wait.
Now that we’re all here, I can tell you all about our last visit to a Legoland park.
I have to say that I’m not sure who loves them more, me or my kids. We took our first to his first Legoland visit when he was 15 months, so you know he wasn’t the one doing the asking. But we were in Denmark… how can you NOT go to Legoland if you are in Denmark… right??
Today I’m going to share some pictures from Legoland Windsor, though, which is just a bus-ride away from London and a perfect day trip. We took our kids in the summer of 2009, when they were 3, 5 and 7.
We got there soon after the park opened and maximized every second.
The boys, remembering Legoland trips from the past, (We did go back to the one in Denmark later. And we’ve been to the one in California, too.) made a beeline for Lego Driving School and my daughter, who was three at the time, wasn’t too far behind them. Once they told her all about it, she couldn’t wait for her turn.
On the way there, we zipped by this guy, who was breathing smoke:
and stopped to check him out for a bit.
And being the cool parents that we are (sometimes) we stopped at the candy store to begin our day with candy. Um hmmm… we loaded ‘em up with gummies and treats right from the start.
(Do I still have any readers left after that confession?)
We continued our trek to the Driving School and the kids took the slides while my husband and I took the steps.
The Driving School is actually divided into two parts by age. But they both do the same thing.
First the kids learn the rules of the road:
Then they get behind the wheel of a Lego car:
Then get their own Lego Driver License complete with their photo as a souvenir. Of course I had to buy the little plastic lanyard so they could each wear the licenses with pride.
After that, we took in a great puppet show that kept all the kids laughing.
Although there was quite a wait for this ride, the waiting area was filled with Lego creations, so it wasn’t too bad.
And the ride was fantastic, with lots of great Lego characters and an opportunity to blast the bad guys… does it get any better than that?
Later in the day we did a little different version of driving, this time on-screen:
We all LOVED Miniland, wehere you can see just about any of the world’s icons recreated in Legos. Seeing as we were visiting London, we especially enjoyed this scene featuring the London Eye and Big Ben.
And we got a preview of the Edinburgh Castle, which we visited later in the week:
These creations are so intricate and lifelike… just much, much smaller. In Miniland you’ll see working water ferries, trains, buses, lights and a cheering crowd in Wembley Stadium.
We also saw the Crown Jewels. (Well, sorta.) Here’s a preview:
I am still amazed at how truly family-friendly every one of their parks is. Legoland goes beyond what is expected in terms of helping families feel comfortable in their parks. Yes, the staff is friendly, yes they have good, non-fussy food, and yes, they have special mom-relief and nursing rooms, but they have so much more. I couldn’t resist taking pictures of these kid-sized sinks in the bathroom:
(The LegoLand hotel in Denmark also has kid-sized sinks, changing tables, a Lego play table and kid-sized showers in the rooms!)
The signs to get to the bathroom take into account EVERY language by using clever icons:
And, of course they have a massive Lego store for bringing home the best souvenirs:
This is just a tiny taste of what we did that day. We also rode the rapids of the Viking’s River Splash, got lost and found in Loki’s Labyrinth, enjoyed the Fairytale Brook and let the kids run off some energy in the Pirate Training Camp.
Legoland Windsor is arranged by theme, and and also has a special area for the younger set. But the whole park is built for all ages.
If you are planning a trip near London with the kids, take a day to escape to Legoland Windsor and let their Legos come even more to life. Your kids will thank you. And you’ll have fun, too.Filed under England, London | Tags: England, family travel, Legoland, LegoLand Windsor, London | Comments Off
Some friends of mine are heading out to London very soon and I am so very excited for them. I know they are bound to have a magical time!
Although we were there with our children and they will there without theirs, I think I might have a few ideas for them:
I would begin as we did with a birds-eye view on the London Eye. This fantastic attraction of fully enclosed, glass-walled, climate-controlled capsules takes you 443 feet into the air on a slow-rotating ferris wheel-type apparatus. From a safe perch, you can see 25 miles in every direction! It was a fantastic way for us to get a preview of what our vacation had in store.
The ‘flight’ takes about 30 minutes and it is breathtaking.
I’m a bit afraid of heights, but I still felt safe… as long I was close to the middle of the capsule. (My kids, however, leaned against the walls, which made me a bit uneasy. Oh well.)
The London Eye is located on the South bank of the River Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Ticket prices range from free for those under four, to 17 pounds fifty for adults. (Check specific prices here.)
Changing of the Guard and the Dismounting of the Horse Guard
Of course no visit to London would be complete without witnessing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guard takes place at 11:30 a.m. mostly on odd-numbered dates, but check with your hotel concierge or the official website to be sure there haven’t been any changes in the schedule. Plan to get there early to get a good spot. During a busy season, like the summer, I would suggest getting there 40 minutes early, but at other times, 15 minutes should be just fine. The ceremony takes 30 minutes. For more information, check out these websites:
When we were there, we watched only a part of the Changing of Guard Ceremony, as our kids lost interest, and we were pretty far back in the crowd. So we decided to check out the Dismounting of the Horse Guards, a less-known ceremony where you really can get up close. This is at 4 p.m. daily. The adults in our group loved it
But here is what the kids enjoyed from their front-row ‘seats:’
Strolling through Covent Garden can be quite an eyeful. In addition to interesting shops and restaurants, there are lots of street performers juggling, posing as statues, performing magic tricks and the like. In addition to the roving performers, there is always a show on in the piazza.
Granted, I would say about 80% of the jokes are a bit off-color, but the skills these performers show still is breathtaking as they balance, climb, yell, tell jokes, juggle knives, fire and whatever else it takes to keep the crowd amazed.
Tower of London and the Crown Jewels
Visiting the Tower of London, adjacent to the Tower Bridge (That’s the famous bridge that is quite beautiful– the London Bridge is not so grand. Most tourists confuse the two.), takes you back into a more gruesome time of beheadings in London. Although I don’t like to think about such icky things, visiting the Tower is fascinating.
Because we had such a large group with many children, we arranged for a guide, who was fantastic and worth every pound. As a couple, or a few adults, you could definitely experience the Tower on your own. Yeoman Warders, also referred to as Beefeaters, in their striking red coats, are available to answer questions and share the stories of the Tower. The Tower of London also houses the Crown Jewels which, of course are impressive.
My husband and I were thrilled to arrange a sitter and have a night just for the grown-ups.
Our concierge was able to book us a table at La Cuisine de Joel Robuchon, a restaurant our concierge described as a not-so-stuffy French restaurant.
I’ll admit I felt a little intimidated by it at first, but then I decided to just have fun and, well, we did.
The decor is modern, interesting and beautiful
And the food was fantastic. Because I really had little idea of what I was ordering, I asked our waiter for his suggestion and was very pleased.
And then took a rickshaw ride to Gordon’s Wine Bar, London’s oldest wine bar. The bar goes underground, with wine barrels serving as tables under the low tunnel-like ceilings. The ambience is fantastic and the wine was delicious, too. It was a bit crowded, but definitely worth it, even if just to look around at many of the press clippings, photographs and decorative items throughout from the early 1900s.
While visiting London, there were several other things we did and enjoyed as a family (LegoLand at Windsor, the Princess Diana Memorial Playground at Kensington Gardens, shopping along Bayswater Road on Sunday afternoon and visiting with a family who had had been our neighbors in the States, to name a few) but I thought I’d just list these today in hopes that our friends (and maybe you, too) could plan a quick trip and enjoy some of our greatest hits for adults in London.
Hope they (and may be you) have a fantastic trip! Cheers!
(And more on the more kid-friendly tips another day…)
Filed under England, London, Uncategorized | Comment (1)
Our family of 5 stayed at 51 Buckingham Gate in August 2009 and we were extremely pleased with everything about the hotel.
When we first pulled up, we were taken by the hotel’s beauty, but a bit nervous as to what type of reception we might get in the lobby… we were traveling with 3 children and lots of luggage and had arrived much too early for check-in.
The hotel staff could not have been more pleasant and helpful. They greeted all of us cheerfully into the cozy lobby, stowed our bags and proceeded to tell my husband about an error that had been made on our reservation.
I ushered the kids outside to explore the fountain and courtyard.
When I returned, I learned that the error lead to a very, very pleasant surprise. Due to mistake on the hotel’s part, we had been booked in a junior suite. Upon arrival, they moved us to a 2 bedroom apartment to better accommodate the number in our family, yet still charged us the junior suite rate we had been quoted.
This was almost as good as winning the lottery!
Here’s a quick tour of our apartment in London:
We were overjoyed by all the space and comfort! Plus we were met with a bowl of fresh fruit and flowers. Aaaah!
We weren’t able to check in to the room right away, though, so we took some advice on what to explore and began our London adventure.
When we returned, we were shown to our apartment and all of its amenities. Every tiny detail was met and exceeded by this hotel. Lots of space, wonderful toiletries, helpful staff… they set us up with a picnic blanket on our first evening at a moment’s notice and even had a tiny bathrobe for our three-year old!
One evening we cooked dinner using the kitchen (and it was stocked with all the pots, pans and tools we needed), adding a few extra details from room-service. This was the best of both worlds! (And someone else did the dishes in the morning!!)
Its location was excellent… just a few steps from Buckingham Palace and a short walk to many other top sight-seeing spots. Plus, it was tucked away and very discrete, so we felt a little more like locals than tourists.
The staff was extremely accommodating in helping us plan family outings, a date night with my husband (complete with fantastic dinner reservations and show tickets), acquiring a highly sought-after ticket for a football match, and just answering my (many) questions. The hotel maintains a borrowing library of DVDs, and has a spa and workout facility that looked quite tempting, but I was unable to fit a visit into our short stay.
This hotel was amazing. And what an amazing gift to enjoy it at a much-reduced rate! I hope to get to return sometime… My husband checked into the rates for a smaller room for a potential grown-up getaway.London, Luxury Hotels | Comments Off
Date of trip: August 2009
Age of children: 3, 6, almost 8
We flew Continental direct to London and could not have asked for a better airport or flight experience.
First of all, I was sooooo giddy at not traveling with a stroller and car seats. I was literally skipping through the airport and couldn’t stop telling my husband how excited I was to travel with so little. (Okay, comparatively little.)
We were ushered through to the front of the security line and the kids pretty much knew the drill: “Shoes off, backpacks off, everything in the bins, wait. Okay walk through one at a time and QUICK! Get those shoes and backpacks and move out of the way! Okay now put them on and we’re off.”
I feel as though I’ve said those words a million times. I just don’t want our family to be the ones holding anyone up in line. And, fortunately, we typically do make it through smoothly without any irritated glares.
We stopped by a restaurant to celebrate the beginning of our trip with rootbeer floats and then headed to the gate in perfect time.
On board, the boys were overwhelmed by their entertainment choices. I have to admit that I was also pretty excited about the more than 300 movie options… all of which can be paused, re-wound and fast-forwarded. (How cool is THAT?!)
With all those choices, the activities in the backpacks went virtually untouched. And that is okay with me!
I sat with our daughter and my husband sat across the aisle and next to the boys.
We allowed an entertainment free-for-all (within reason) until after dinner and then we did our best to bore the kids so they would go to sleep. I coaxed our daughter to sleep, but the boys took a little more work. Eventually, they drifted off and I stole a few winks of sleep myself. My husband has never had trouble sleeping… anywhere.
The kids woke just before breakfast, we all watched some more television, ate and prepared to land in London.
Upon arrival my husband and I were pleasantly surprised at how easy our trip through Heathrow was, as well. All of our luggage was there. We were whisked through the lines, once again, and it wasn’t long before we were loaded into a taxi and headed to our hotel.
It has been so nice to see how often we have been sent to a shorter line through security this summer simply because we are traveling with small children!
My giddiness over our lack of gear continued, as I was delighted that we all fit into one taxi with all of our luggage. And the kids were amazed at the built-in booster seat in the taxicab… And the fact that Mom and Dad were riding backwards.
Soon we pulled up to our hotel, 51 Buckingham Gate, and the London adventure began…
More later on the very pleasant hotel surprise, lots of sight-seeing, an incredible show to round out our first day and the rest of our adventure day-by-day.Filed under London, Scotland | Comments Off
Not too long ago our family enjoyed 10 days between London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland.
In preparing for the trip I spent way too much time trying to determine just what to wear on vacation. I didn’t want to look touristy, but I wanted to be comfortable. And I’m on the ever-present quest to slim down the suitcase and pack just the essentials with items that can be mixed and matched.
In making my decisions on what to wear, I tried to search the internet for pictures of REAL people wearing REAL clothes in each of the destinations. No go. I found lots of celebrity clothes, but no pics of regular people just living and enjoying life.
Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that, but I’m trying to be honest. And I cannot be the only one. So, after arriving, of course I realized my wasted time and effort in putting so much thought into my wardrobe.
Here’s my advice on that:
Don’t stress so much over what to wear. Really. Just wear what you love and don’t worry about everyone else.
But if you really must know because you are either curious or need some reassurance (or ideas), here’s what was in my suitcase and what I actually wore.
Here’s a peek at what I packed for casual wear:
I packed a gray long-sleeved hoodie, gray knit pants, denim jacket (never wore it), charcoal gray tank, purple 3/4 length pullover, navi camisole, light-weight print button down, bright pink 3/4 sleeve V-neck, jeans, purple camisole, navy capris, navy knit skirt, white V-neck sleeveless top, and a denim skirt.
I started out the trip in the navy camisole and navy knit skirt with the light, flow-y, flowery top layered on top. I felt pulled-together, yet still comfortable on the flight. In the past I’ve typically worn loose pants for a flight abroad, but the skirt proved to be just as comfy, yet it made me feel more attractive. (And when I’m sitting in coach for many, many hours with three children, I’ll take what I can get to feel prettier!) I used those pieces quite a lot through the trip in many ways… especially the cami and the flower shirt. Those were great layering pieces. Both came from Old Navy.
And a few dresses with a hoodie cardigan for layering:
My husband picked the dresses I packed for the trip. We had two date nights planned and I also wore the dresses site-seeing. I did borrow a light cardigan to wear over the black dress for part of our evening out in Edinburgh. At first I thought we were going overboard with all these sundresses, but I ended up wearing all but one on the trip.
And, if I can just say: the halter dress is from Athleta and it is an awesome travel dress! I could bunch it up and it would still arrive unwrinkled. Plus it has a cool secret pocket in which I could fit a very few essentials, including my phone.
And, of course you cannot forget the shoes:
All of these shoes were super comfortable, yes, even the heels. (I snapped those up in two colors at Ann Taylor five years ago and they have been lifesavers. The sole is covered in rubber and they are incredibly comfortable. Really. I toured the Tower of London in those suckers and my feet didn’t hurt at all. I keep hoping to find them again but, alas, haven’t yet.)
The gray mary janes, which I bought at Target last summer (and you can still buy now… even in green) were perfect. They paired well with skirts, pants and jeans and were very comfortable.
The black shoes by Clark’s were a bit better for Scotland, where we traversed more than a few slippery cobblestones in the mist.
The wedge flip-flops are called SwitchFlops and really rock. Not only is the sole a bit squishy and comfy and molds to your foot, the flip-flop part is attached via velcro, so you can switch it out to match whatever colors you are wearing… Super-easy way to bring lots of looks in one pair of shoes!
And, yes, I did wear my athletic shoes for some sight-seeing and didn’t feel like I might have had I worn them several years ago abroad. Now, they seem to be everywhere.
I did pack a pair of exercise clothes that, ahem, didn’t get any use on the trip.
In packing, I have come to love my folding compartments.
I can group clothes by day or weather type, fold them neatly and know that they’ll be easy to find and look good when I arrive. I use quite a few, which makes my duffle resemble a filing cabinet:
(The little yarn tie indicated what to open first. That compartment held a change of clothes for our first day. That way I could just pull it out and go if I didn’t feel like unpacking everything right away.)
This time I also packed a few things on hangers. I hung a dress and shirt or sweater on each hanger, grouped them by twos and then put a plastic drycleaning bag over every other pair. I slid the whole contraption into a hanging cover that folded and slid that into a different duffle. Everything arrived unwrinked and ready to wear or hang. Perfect!
For more packing secrets, check back soon for my one week trip packing checklist. And I promise to post more on our family adventures in London and Edinburgh… it was a magical trip!Filed under London, Scotland | Comments Off