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Food Review – Jungle Navigation Skipper Canteen

Skipper Canteen was my absolute favourite place to eat on this trip and I recommend it to anyone who is asking for places to eat on upcoming visits.

Skipper Canteen is in Magic Kingdom,  it’s in Adventureland and right opposite the Swiss Family Treehouse.

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I booked here after seeing it on an Adam Hattan Vlog – You can watch that here

It was (aside from Be Our Guest) my most anticipated meal of the trip.

Food wise the menu wasn’t something I would normally choose, its African/Asian/South American inspired and not the type of menu you find anywhere else really.

Its meant to be the headquarters of the famous Jungle Cruise Skippers and you will be seated in one of 3 rooms, The Mess Hall, The Jungle Room or the S.E.A Room.

We were seated in the SEA room which is a secret dining room. And the one I’d seen on the Vlog so yay!! (Pic from WDWMAGIC.COM as I didn’t take any) We were on the table in the top left.

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This place is a hidden gem, it was so quiet and especially so being in the room we were in so that was lovely 🙂

Food wise the menu is really varied and pretty healthy!

Paul went for Pork with broccoli and rice $24

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Amelia had ‘Smilys Little Croc’ which was Chicken Noodle Soup $11

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And I went for the lamb chops $28 that couscous it came with was amazing!

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Honestly, I still dream about this meal.

It was incredible. Looking at those pictures I can still taste it! I have to eat here again!

Puddings were just as good.

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I had the coconut bar, it was so nice, again not something I would normally eat but I wanted something a little lighter. It was like a cheesecake texture and not too overbearing with the coconut (see much more detail than other reviews, I can literally still taste it) $8

Paul went for Kungaloosh which was a Chocolate cake with bananas $8

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It was small but quite heavy so that was plenty for him.

Amelia had the kids Volcano cake (I don’t have a picture sorry) which had caramel inside and popping candy.

Price wise it was the same as most of the other places we ate in $15-$35 per adult. All the menus can be viewed on My Disney Experience so you can see exact prices and what other food there is.

Dining Plans are accepted and this will cost you 1 table service credit.

All in all this was the nicest meal we had. It was quiet. Atmosphere was lovely in there and being in the small room almost made it feel like we were doing private dining. Cast members were lovely and it was just a really nice experience.

The quality of the food was incredible and it was nice to have something that was a little healthier than steak and chips!

I think this place is one of those hidden gems. When you visit for the first time you just tend to go for the character dining and the more well known/popular eateries in the parks. This tends to be one for regular visitors, which is a shame cos it is THAT good.

If you have a trip planned and want somewhere to have a nice sit down meal in Magic Kingdom I urge you to book here. You won’t be disappointed.

If you go after reading this then let me know what you think 🙂 I’d be interested to hear other opinions on it as well 🙂

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Food Review – Rainforest Cafe

I’ve eaten here a bunch of times both in the UK and in Orlando and it wasn’t one on our list of places to go but with Irma some of our reservations got cancelled and to be honest it was the nearest place to the boat dock when we got off at Disney Springs and that was why we went in!

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I do find these type of places really loud so if you’re looking for a quiet dining experience then this is not for you. You have a tropical storm I think every hour and the place goes dark, you have thunder and all the animatronic animals make noise so it can be quite intense for younger ones.

There is a lot to look at though so the ambience of the place is pretty cool. You’re able to walk around and see all the different animals that are there which Amelia loved.

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Food wise the menu isn’t that inspired, burgers and steaks and just basic food but it wasn’t bad. All the names of the stuff are ‘Rainforest’ themed.

I went for the Flat Iron Steak, Paul had the Rainforest Burger and Amelia had the Jurassic Chicken Tidbits from the kids menu (basically nuggets)

Paul didn’t really like his burger but my steak was pretty good as all steak generally is in Orlando.

We had to have puddings obviously!

Paul had Amelias kids dessert, Lava Mud, chocolate pudding with Oreos and gummy worms. But Amelia, well she went for the giant Sparkling Volcano dessert! It was huge and they make a big deal of it when it comes out. It’s a giant brownie with ice cream and cream on it. It was delicious but far too much food for us!

Best thing for me here was the cocktails, we had a few… They come in the Souvenir glasses which are always great to take home. You don’t have the ones your drinks are served in you pick up boxed new ones at the store on your way out.

Amelias kids drink came in a cool cup too, she chose the elephant one 🙂

Our server was great but its not somewhere I was say is a must do. Kids will love it but I think there are much better places you can spend your money on that you can’t do in the UK.

Price wise I think it’s pretty expensive for what it is and honestly I don’t think I’d eat here again. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either. Prices are $15-$35.

The Volcano was $16.99 and all the cocktails were around $15.

Dining plans are accepted here, it will cost you 1 of your table service credits. The Volcano and the Cocktails were not included as part of the plan.

Disney Parks Tag – Something different for me!

I’m used to just giving travel tips and reviews so after seeing a post from one of my fellow #disneybloggers the other day I thought I’d give this a go, a bit of fun before my next restaurant review (which is Cinderellas Royal Table)

Lovely Beth did this on her blog the other day, you can check hers out here and check out the rest of her blog too, it’s very good.

We both saw this for the first time when one of our favourite Disney Vloggers Adam Hattan did it on his channel, you can see his here

So here we go, 10 questions about the Disney Parks and my experiences in them 🙂 Well the ones I’ve been to anyway, I’m yet to visit LA, Tokyo, Shanghai or Hong Kong so just Paris and Orlando for me at the moment.

1) WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU VISITED A DISNEY PARK?

The first park I visited was Disneyland Paris when it was called EuroDisney and that was the year it opened in 1992! I was 13 and in all honesty I don’t remember a lot about it.

I wasn’t actually into Disney then – I know it’s hard to believe – I don’t recall meeting any characters at all either, which is odd being as it’s the main thing I do now!

My Dad was a coach driver back then and he was doing a trip over so I got to go.

What I do remember is it was REALLY busy, I remember going on Star Tours (me and my Dad loved Star Wars) and buying a Star Tours baseball cap that I loved (and subsequently lost) and going on Phantom Manor (which for years I’d talk about but had NO idea where it was) and also Captain EO, the Michael Jackson ‘ride’ other than that it’s all a bit of a blur!

It’s a shame that I don’t have pictures at all but I was never that much of a camera person back then and lets not forget no such thing as a phone that took photos!

2) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PARK?

EPCOT!!

No hesitation there. I just love it.

On my first visit to WDW I wasn’t that much of a fan but I think the older I’ve got the more I appreciate how wonderful it is and its the place I always look forward to going back to the most.

I love that I can travel all over the world pretty much, trying different food and looking in all the different shops. I love all the little hidden places for photos, doing the Passports and meeting all the characters as you walk through the showcase.

 

Plus you can have so much fun trying on all the native hats as you go round…

 

I really like the different elements you can explore in Future World and how it constantly changes. The Sea pavilion is just amazing and all the interactive stuff when you exit the rides is great.

Club Cool is another place I like and the shopping in Epcot is the best on site in my opinion.

And who can forget Spaceship Earth, my favourite of the Disney Park ‘Icons’ and I never tire of looking at it.

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3) WHAT IS YOUR HAPPIEST SINGLE MOMENT IN A DISNEY PARK?

ALL my moments in the park are happy but one that really stands out for me is from my 2015 trip.

Dopey is my favourite character and up until my last 3 trips he was always about meeting in the parks. Now he’s rare and you can only see him with the other dwarves at the Halloween and Christmas parties. Which is gutting 😦

For one reason or another I wasn’t really feeling the magic on that trip and we were spending the day in Magic Kingdom. Literally JUST as I walked in, who should walk past me but Dopey! He was doing a random meet with Snow White, I just managed to get in the queue and I was the last one in it.

I was so happy to meet him I actually cried!

There’s me a grown woman, actually looking like a mental with my Snow White skirt and my big Dopey autograph book crying like a baby!

He had to wipe my tears away! The shame!

But from that moment on the magic was back!

 

4) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PARKS PURCHASE?

OOH thats a tough one!

Probably these guys!! I love them. Cogsworth is the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought in a Disney Park and he was so worth it! All I need now is a Mrs Potts to complete the collection. (Chip was in the Dishwasher!)

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5) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY ATTRACTION?

I can’t actually narrow this down to 1! It’s impossible!

However for Disneyland Paris it’s easy. Crush’s Coaster is the best ride there without a doubt. It’s completely deceiving when you see it cos it doesn’t look fantastically fast but it is. As much as I love seeing kids enjoying themselves at Disney it never fails to make me chuckle when you see kids crying on it as it’s not the kids ride they expected it to be! It’s a must do on every DLRP trip.

WDW is much much harder! I have a few.

Without a doubt the most visually incredible and immersive ride experience currently at WDW is of course Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdoms Pandora. I literally cannot put into words how incredible this ride is. Every little detail is just incredible and you really do feel like you’re flying over Pandora. I’ve talked about it in my blogs about my trips but when you’re on a VR ride and you have to cover your eyes to avoid one of the things that scares you the most, even though you KNOW it’s not real, shows you how real it does look! If this is the technology of a few years ago I cannot wait to see what they do with the Star Wars stuff which will be so much more advanced!

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Space Mountain is ALWAYS the first ride I go on on a day at Magic Kingdom. It’s actually the first roller coaster I ever went on and I still love it now. I think it’s a nostalgia thing it reminds me of one of my favourite ever trips with my best mate in 2002. We always do it multiple times on our trips and it’s now one of Amelias favourites as well 🙂

The last one and another one I’ve lost count on the amount of times I do every trip is Expedition Everest. Another of Amelias favourites as well. It’s just a great ride with amazing views of the park and I swear it gets faster every time I go on it!

6) WHAT CHARACTER DO YOU HAVE TO MEET?

ALL OF THEM!! For me Disney is all about the characters so I have to meet all of them. If I had to make a choice though and could only meet one and seeing as Dopey isnt an option it’s gotta be DONALD DUCK! He’s just brilliant. I always come away smiling when I’ve seen him!

Having said that I do love meeting Winnie the Pooh, mostly cos he’s so cuddly and it’s like you’re having a cuddle with a real teddy 🙂

7) IF YOU COULD BUILD AN ATTRACTION BASED ON YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE WHAT WOULD IT BE?

These questions are so much harder than I thought! My favourite movie already has quite a lot in the parks. (It’s Beauty and the Beast if you were wondering) but I do have a few ideas of movies that are completely under represented and would be great to see.

Tangled is one. Yes we have the Tangled toilets but there’s so much you could do with that movie. some kind of kids coaster zooming on Rapunzels hair down the tower or a boat ride with the lanterns. Even a restaurant based on the Snuggly Duckling.

I would love to see some more attractions around the world showcase and a Mary Poppins ride in the UK pavilion would be amazing.

I’m hoping that there will be some sort of Coco ride put in the Mexico Pavilion although I can imagine them re imagining the current Three Caballeros one and taking you on a colourful journey to the land of the dead.

8) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PARKS RESTURANT?

This is the easiest one for me to answer. SKIPPER CANTEEN!! I absolutely loved this place and it was because of a Vlog I saw Adam Hattan do that I booked it. You can see that here.

It seems to be one of those places that first timers by pass. It’s so underrated.

It was the best meal of our entire trip. It’s themed like the Jungle Cruise and your servers are skippers and the food was just unbelievable and healthy too. I still dream about that meal and it’s top of my list of places to eat in when we go back again.

In Disneyland Paris the best place to eat is by far the Agrabah Cafe. I discovered it a few years ago when I went with my friend who is Vegan and all the reviews said that was the place with the most choice for that. It’s another one I dream about and I’ve been 3 times now. It’s so so good. The themeing is wonderful, it really is like you’re in a Moroccon market and the buffet is HUGE. It’s all Moroccon things like Moussaka and lots of salad but the Tabbouleh is why I keep going back. Highly recommend it. Honestly book a late lunch and don’t eat breakfast!

9) DESCRIBE A SITUATION WHEN A CAST MEMBER WENT ABOVE AND BEYOND FOR YOU?

I’ve never come across a bad cast member at WDW. Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has been exceptional so it’s so hard to pick a moment.

However when we first took Amelia a few years ago she was really tired (we’d been out all day but she insisted she wanted to stay and watch fireworks) she was hungry as well and we had a few tears. We left her sat at a table while we went to get some food in Pinocchio’s resturant and when I came back there she was BIG smile on her face blue frozen slushy with a Mickey Straw in her hand. A lovely cast member called Ariel (wonder how I remember that name 3 years on) had seen she was upset and thought she would cheer her up 🙂

I love chatting to the cast members when I get the chance to, while you’re waiting for rides and stuff. I’m one of those annoying guests who like to quiz them all about their jobs! :p

10) PLAN YOUR DREAM DISNEY HOLIDAY. INCLUDE YOUR PERFECT RESORT, RESTAURANT, PARK AND SHOW.

It has to be WDW although I do REALLY want to stay in the Disneyland Hotel in Paris. (I’m 40 next year and hopefully if all goes to plan that’s a good enough excuse to splash out and stay there)

Resort wise at WDW, I’d love to stay in the Polynesian. It’s just gorgeous and I could get to Epcot on the monorail pretty quick from there 🙂

Restaurant I’d pick Skipper Canteen obviously but for somewhere I haven’t eaten that I want to maybe Coral Reef in Epcot.

The park is obviously going to be Epcot, it’s my favourite and I could quite happily spend every day of my holiday there.

Show. Fantasmic. It’s wonderful. It’s my favourite of the evening shows in the Disney parks and just combines everything that I love about the shows of Disney. Music, fireworks, awesome effects and of course CHARACTERS!! I cry every time I watch it!

So there you have it, my Disney Parks Tag, I hope you enjoyed a different sort of blog from me and gives you a little insight into my Disney favourites and why I love it so much.

I’d love to hear some of your answers 🙂

 

 

Disney Dining Plan – What’s it all about?

Before I go into details about this dining plan business I will mention – in case you’d not noticed in previous blogs or don’t follow me on Twitter – I LOVE food. Literally cannot get enough especially when I’m in Orlando. My whole trips tend to be planned around where we, well I say we, me mostly, want to eat and when I can get reservations for.  So having the dining plan and the ability to eat wherever I wanted on site without having to worry about the cost was just, to quote Rapunzel, ‘The best thing ever…’

What is the dining plan?

For those that don’t know. The Disney Dining plan is something that is exclusive to guests staying in the Disney hotels who book a Hotel and park ticket package and that can be direct with Disney or through any of the agents who sell it.  You cannot purchase this unless you have the room and the tickets booked together.

There are 3 levels of Dining Plan, the quick service, the Dining Plan and the Deluxe Dining plan.

It is calculated on the number of NIGHTS you have in a hotel not the number of days so do be aware if you have a 13 night stay but 14 days in resort then you only have the amount of credits for 13 nights.  Although they don’t expire until midnight on your last day.

The Quick Service plan gives you 2 quick service (or counter service, basically anywhere where you aren’t waited on) meals per night plus 1 drink (which can now be alcohol) with the meal, 2 snacks per night and a resort refillable mug for the entirety of your stay.

The Disney Dining plan is 1 quick service and 1 table service (each with a drink as above) plus the snacks and mug.

The Deluxe Plan gives you 3 meals (which can be counter or table service) and a drink, the snacks and the mug.

These show up as ‘credits’ on your account – something you can now see on My Disney Experience – it wasn’t available when we went.

You don’t have to use these per day, you are free to use these as and when you like during your trip. But once you’ve used them that’s it.

So for example for us for the duration of our trip we had 14 table service credits each, 14 quick service and 28 snack ones. We were spending a few days off site so on those days obviously we weren’t eating in Disney. That made it easy for us to have a few days when we had 2 sit down meals or to go to a restaurant that uses up 2 of your credits instead of one.

The great thing about the dining plan is that you can use your table service credits for character dining which is why I wanted it.

Resort Refillable Mugs

The mugs you get are great keepsakes but you can only use these in your resort and other Disney hotels/resorts, these cannot be used in the parks. It’s not just soft drinks although there is so much choice with the coca cola freestyle machines. There is also hot drinks (the Hot Chocolate was lovely) as well as tea and coffee and many other bits. Not alcohol though. Every time you use the freestyle machine it will tell you when the mug will expire.

You get the mugs either in the restaurants or shops in your resort. There are several different colours to choose from but the images on them are the same.

We did go to use it on our last day and it wouldn’t work but the cast members fixed it for us.

Where can you use it?

I’ve already gone into detail about HOW to book the dining in my Step by Step Disney Dining Booking 

But how do you know which ones you can use your dining plan for?

My Disney Experience is great for that it will actually tell you when you look at a restaurant if you can use the plan.  You can see below it states under the prices ‘Some Dining Plans Accepted’

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If you’re looking at a place that does accept he plans it will also tell you how many credits from your plan a meal will take. If you click on where it says they’re accepted it opens a window to tell you.

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You can also choose to only look at the places it’s accepted on the search bar.

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There is a LOT of choice.

This is what I love about it. Being as your meals are essentially already paid for (minus tips which I will go into in a bit) and you have all this choice it does in effect force you to eat in some of the nicer restaurants. Although these are places you might not have chosen had you been actually paying for a meal, I felt it forced me to eat ‘properly’ rather than just snack and have the usual ‘easy’ meal of something with chips. It encouraged me to be a bit more adventurous.

I liked the fact that we knew we could eat properly and it not make a dent in the money we’d taken to spend. It does take the stress out of it. And it did mean I could do all the character dining I’d wanted to do 🙂 For that alone the Dining Plan is worth it!

I’ve got the Quick Service plan is it all fast food?

The fact that ‘quick service’ means fast food or burgers and chips and nothing else is a common misconception at Disney. ‘Quick’ does not mean rubbish. Especially not here. Disney has such a wide range of food and although obviously there are places you can get your burgers and Hot Dogs (Caseys Corner in Magic Kingdom does great hot dogs) there is so much more to it.

Take Sunshine Seasons in Epcot for example. This is a ‘quick service’ and look at the choice you have!

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Epcot in particular is great for quick service as each of the countries in the World Showcase has somewhere you can eat so you will find the largest variety there.

This is also a great place to use your snack credits.

This was a quick service from Harambe Market in Animal Kingdom

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These are flatbreads with beans and they were delicious and HUGE! So get the idea of it all being ‘rubbish’ out of your heads! Its not true. Disney caters for everyone and there is also a great choice for anyone with specific diets be it due to an allergy or just lifestyle choice. Vegan and Veggies are definitely catered for here.

What can I use snack credits for?

The snack credits are great although I challenge you to actually use them all!! We used most of ours on Pretzels and Mickey shaped treats! With the ones we had left at the end of our trip going on bags of sweets from Goofys Candy Co and Rice Crispie treats for friends at home.

Most cakes/muffins, ice creams, popcorn and drinks (as long as they’re not in their souvenir tubs/cups) are included. You can even use them in Starbucks for a much needed shot of caffeine when you’ve been up since 6 for extra magic hours!

The famous Dole Whip is included as is the Night Blossom drink in Pandora.

All the items below were snack credit items!

 

How do I know where I can use it?

Obviously looking on your My Disney app will show you where you can use your plan. But it is easy to see going round the park as everywhere you can use it you will see this sign. If you look at the menu from the snack cart during the Food and Wine festival, each one of the things you can have has this logo next to it.

Do I have to tip?

Anyone who’s been to Orlando before or done a little bit of research will know that it’s customary to tip your servers.

With the exception of a few (Cinderellas Royal Table being one of them I seem to remember) tips are NOT included with the dining plan so you do need to tip your server. 18-20% of the bill is what is recommended.

If you are a party of 6 or more this will automatically be added so bear that in mind when you’re using the plan so you’re not surprised to be given some sort of bill at the end of your meal.

When you make your reservation for your meal your confirmation will tell you if its included or not.

You do need to budget for it but it still works out a LOT less than what you would be paying if you didn’t have the plan.

Using the plan for Food Festivals

Something I struggled to find out about before I went was how these credits can be used during the food festivals at Epcot. (Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, Festival of the Arts)

I’d had conflicting answers on everything that I asked so having used it I can now safely say that having the dining plan during any of these makes it even more worthwhile!!

We were there for Food and Wine (which as you can imagine I LOVED) and being as we mostly had table service meals we had so many snack credits and quick service credits that we weren’t really planning on using so much. This was amazing for the days we visited Epcot.

All the items you can see with the dining plan logo next to it are items you can use 1 snack credit for.

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They aren’t the smallest of items either, this is America after all. We had both of the items on the chocolate menu (we’re a pudding family).

This was the torte…

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If, like us, you have quick service credits to use up you can also use these at the booths. This worked perfectly for us as 1 quick service credit transfers to 3 snack ones. With 3 in our party this was brilliant. We could all pick one thing from each of the menus and use one of our quick service credits to pay for it. We all then got to try so much. My only regret is booking table service meals at Epcot while this was on. In hindsight I shouldn’t have done this, there is so much you can eat during the festival you don’t need to have a meal that day!

These are just some of the things we tried.

Is it worth it?

This is the million dollar question and it’s impossible to answer for everybody.  For us yes, this was absolutely worth it and although we did book our trip when the plan was free we did pay to upgrade it and I don’t think I’ll visit Disney ever again without it.

I loved having the ability like I said to eat wherever and not have to worry about the cost, to try places I might not have gone to if I was paying out of pocket and also knowing it was paid for already I was a bit more adventurous with what I ate and tried a lot of new things. I didn’t eat one thing I didn’t love during this trip.

The beauty of this is that there is a plan for everybody. Not massive eaters? Go for the quick service, there’s still plenty of choice for you and you have all your snacks if you do feel a bit peckish.

Want to do the character dining and make sure you have a proper sit down meal and like being waited on? Go for the dining plan.

Want to eat in some of the signature restaurants and the dinner shows like Hoop De Do? Then go for the deluxe! (You can do these on the normal dining plan too but they do take up 2 of your table service credits)

Have a look at the menus on the My Disney, all the prices are listed there for you. That will really show you how much money having a plan will save you. Although I do warn you it will make you hungry and you will want to eat everywhere.

All the food places I mentioned in my daily blogs at Disney were covered by the plan and I’ll be doing full reviews of each of them as well so you’ll know a bit more about each of them.

Personally for me I would recommend it. Especially if you’re at the parks during any of the festivals at Epcot and if you’re booking at a time when it’s offered free take it! It adds to the magic of your trip, eating at Disney is an amazing experience.

Days 9 and 10 – Staying at Disney for Hurricane Irma

I love visiting Orlando in September, the weather is perfect and it’s not quite as busy. Not to mention Food and Wine and the Halloween stuff (just don’t mention Halloween Horror Nights, I’m still not forgiven for booking too early for those..). BUT it is hurricane season so you do always run the risk of there being one. I’ve been lucky on previous trips to either miss them or just have to deal with a bit of rain most days. But this time, we were slap bang in the middle of it and saw first hand how it affects people in Orlando and what Disney do for their guests while all this is happening.

There won’t be a lot of pictures in this blog there’s not a lot to photo when you’re just in your room…I’ll try and keep it short but informative for those of you who are worried about what being there for something like this is like.

We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter which is the smallest of the Moderate resorts and they did a fantastic job in the run up to Irma keeping us updated daily with memos left on our beds by housekeeping explaining what was happening. Obviously this changed constantly as weather is really unpredictable. The last update was we had a curfew in place from 7pm last night until 6pm the day after Irma. The hurricane was due to hit in the early hours so during the day apart from it being windy and colder than normal that was all we had to deal with.

The hotel was amazing and it’s a testament to how safe Disney is as a location that a lot of people who were evacuated were in our hotel along with some locals who had decided to decamp to Disney as they knew it was ‘the safest place to be’.  The Floridian Mayor had insisted that all hotels open up to people with pets as so many in real danger from Irma wouldn’t leave them and just stay at home putting more of the emergency services at risk. We had dogs in our hotel, I know it’s a bit of a controversial subject, but personally I loved having them around. They didn’t cause any problems, I heard no barking, all dogs were on leads and there was no mess.  It just made me miss mine more. I found it quite homely having a load of dogs I could pet 🙂

All the cast members were great and again after speaking to a few it turns out Disney had asked weeks ago for volunteers to work for this, whether it be in the hotels or as part of the clean up crew. Apparently Disney were overrun by people offering to help out. Shows again the extra measures Cast Members go to for their jobs.

The pools were drained and closed so we didn’t have that to do however there was more than enough to keep the kids amused. Arts and Crafts in the lobby area, music and dancing and the arcade on free play as well. By far the best thing was having characters in the lobby, they took part in the arts and crafts and dancing with the kids. We had Chip and Dale, Pluto and my favourite Donald Duck. I had a great time just watching him dancing to Michael Jackson, who knew he had some moves!! Something you’ll see in an upcoming vlog.. I would even say that was one of the highlights of my trip!

Staying at Port Orleans does give you access to both of the resorts there, ours and the much larger Riverside. Being as both were open for food we took a little wander over along the riverside to just have a little change of scenery.  There is more choice foodwise over that side and it’s where you can see Yee Haw Bob (sadly not while we were there though), we tried the Jambalaya which was so nice and had a look around their much bigger gift shop.

Food in our resort during this time was limited. There was pre packaged meals of sandwiches etc and just Pizza or Meatballs and Pasta. Both of which we had – there’s not a lot to do really apart from eat when you’ve seen the crafts and the characters.

Disney did kindly put Disney Movies on a loop on the channels in our rooms so we did spend the day going back to watch a movie and then off to get more food. Being as we knew we would have to be in our rooms for around 12 hours (much better than the ‘up to 48’ it was originally) we tried to stay out as long as possible. I remember watching Little Mermaid, Big Hero 6 and Brave a good few times.

Not once during this whole time did any of us feel worried, scared or anxious. Watching the news and weather channels on TV the way things were worded made it sound a lot worse for us than it seemed to be. We were lucky where we were obviously it hit worse on the coast and it was devastating for many but Disney is quite rightly a safe place to be.

There was never any loss of electric or water – largely due to Disney having their own supplies of this – and I think the reason so many decamp there.

During the curfew we literally just ate and watched TV, not a lot else you can do. We bought playing cards and colouring stuff but we slept through most of the hurricane. We did get woken up a few times during the night and peered out to see incredibly high winds and a lot of rain, trees were blowing over but apart from that we didn’t see much, it was dark though…

Next morning once the curfew was lifted we did venture out to see what damage had been done and it was mostly just trees and a few signs had been blown off. As I said we were lucky. The rooms were secure and having the TV on did cover over most of the noise of the wind and rain. Had we lost power then it might have been a different situation.

Obviously the pool was still closed and not too many people were about but we went to get food and by the time we’d come back to the room and watched a movie the second trip to get out we were met with a very different resort. It was like nothing had happened, all the debris was cleared away and apart from seeing workmen about fixing signs etc you wouldn’t have known anything had happened.

Curfew was lifted for the area early evening so we headed out to get some food. It was clear once we’d got off Disney property how much damage had been done locally. Literally as soon as we were off site we saw traffic lights out and a lot of flooding, some of the big store signs along the 192 were ruined, blown down or ripped and we could see a lot of places without power.

Not many places were open, social media was so helpful for this, we ended up at Golden Corral near Kissimmee which had queues around the whole building we waited nearly 90 minutes to get in and eat, when we came out the queue was twice as long so we were lucky.

Parks reopen tomorrow so we’re looking forward to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween party which thankfully is still happening.

All in all we were lucky that we were onsite for Irma, I think if we’d been in a villa we wouldn’t have had it so easy.  It’s not put me off coming in Hurricane season again, we were well looked after. Floridians in general are really friendly so if you do normally do Villa holidays neighbours will be  more than happy to help you out if the situation arose. All hotels would have some kind of policy in place but it would only be resorts on Disney where you’re not likely to lose power.

If you’re worried about booking and the impact that it may have on your holiday I really wouldn’t, missing 2 days in the parks did mean we missed some stuff but most of that could have been done earlier on in the holiday if I’d planned it right. We were upset to miss some of it and having to spend so much time together stuck in a relatively small room might drive some families mad and fray some tempers but luckily we don’t annoy each other too much! I think we panicked when we originally thought we would be stuck for 48 hours and spent far too much on supplies we didn’t need to have so in hindsight maybe we should have waited a little longer to get stuff.

Generally during Hurricane Season you will get rain pretty much every day. However unlike here the weather channels will tell you what time that will be and they’re for the most part incredibly accurate, its usually just a shower and over as quick as it starts. I love it when it rains, people empty the parks and it ends up so quiet, always a bonus. Don’t let it put you off booking!!

I’m glad this all happened towards the end of our trip and it wasn’t something that stopped us actually getting here and it does mean that if it happens to affect us again we’ll know what to expect and family at home might not be as worried as they were this time.

Not too long for us left now which is sad and I imagine we will still have some bad weather to deal with but tomorrow we eat in one of the places I’ve been most looking forward to – Skipper Canteen…

Days 6 – Staying at Hard Rock Hotel, Volcano Bay and more Universal

Breakfast this morning was finally at Waffle House after I didn’t get lost and found one! You can always rely on Waffle House for cheap good food and lots of it. Service is always great and the servers do make it a fun place to eat. Plus they have the tastiest and biggest hash browns. We did notice these seem to be everywhere on the 192 and not so prominent when you get to I-Drive so if you fancy trying one of their delicious breakfasts then head towards Kissimmee you’re bound to come across one!

 

I’d heard lots of good things about Hard Rock so we were both really looking forward to staying here. Mostly because of the early entry to the parks and the unlimited Express Passes that come with a room booking 🙂

We checked in about 9ish and were lucky as our room was actually ready for us. The smell of this hotel is unbelievable! I did ask if you can buy it but you can’t, they are missing a trick with that one! Because you get the early park entry with your room you can actually check in as early as 7am on the day of your stay to make use of it. Your room might not be ready but you can leave your bags somewhere safe.

We had a quick look at the room and got changed to head to Volcano Bay for a swim. The rooms are big and spacious and we loved the music channels as well. You can even make your own playlist that you can download to remind you of your trip.

My favourite thing about the room was this, it had me in fits – no-one else found it quite so funny..

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The good thing about staying on Universal is that all the parks are really close and we got on a bus from our hotel to Volcano Bay. It gave us a chance to see some of the other hotels on property as well. It was quick and there is no way to walk there from Hard Rock.

We didn’t actually take any pictures really in Volcano Bay just a few as we went it. It’s a great park. The Tapu Tapu worked great, its given to you as you go in and each of the rides have machines where you can scan it to put you in a virtual queue for that ride. We were lucky it was pretty quiet. Paul and Amelia managed to get on a few slides. The ‘Oh No’ was her favourite. It was a slide which ends 6ft above the pool giving you a free fall drop to the water.

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Volcano Bay has 2 lazy rivers, if you want to chill out and relax make sure you enter the right one. TeAwa The Fearless river is anything but relaxing. It’s like white water rafting in a rubber ring, its so much fun but kind of impossible to get off! The wave surges come at just the wrong time and kept shooting me past the exit, I think we went round 4 times and it’s not a short river!

Disabled Access here is really good, there was an entrance for me on the rivers with hoists to put you in and out of the water, most of the slides had lifts to get you up to them so if you are in a wheelchair you can still experience a lot of the park which is great.

The Volcano is stunning when you see it, and the wave pool in front of it is perfect to just chill out and soak up the sun. Do not forget your sun cream, we were there for a few hours and I ended up with red legs!

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to ease our sunburn and just as we sat down we had a knock at the door and some Champagne and Chocolates delivered as a Honeymoon gift from the hotel which was lovely, we were chuffed with that 🙂 Made light work of the bottle and went off to Universal Studios a little bit tipsy…

 

The Express Passes you get with your room booking are fab. It’s actually your room key that acts as your pass so buying a lanyard is a great idea, it’s a good way to carry them around 🙂

We were straight on every ride we wanted to do. Jimmy Fallon is amazing. We were obviously aware of his show and who he is but you don’t need to to enjoy it. The pre show is fabulous with a barbershop quartet like he has on the show singing some modern classics for you, I really enjoyed that. It’s worth queueing for just for them. And it does keep you entertained while you wait. The ride itself is another 3D/4D ride simulator of which there are quite a few at Universal. The general idea of these is pretty similar yet they are all unique in their own way. This one takes you on a race through New York City taking in all the sights like the Empire State and Statue of Liberty before ending up back in the Tonight show studio.

Amelia had been going on and on and on and on about Rip Ride Rockit since our last trip, it was another one we had tears about with her being so little. Having the Express pass meant she could go on as many times as she liked and I lost count at 5, seeing this little gem after she’d been on it made my day!

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We managed to get on Simpsons, which still makes me feel sick, Men in Black and The Mummy before our day was cut short because of the weather.

I mentioned the photopass in my last blog which we managed to get a good deal on and we did use it as much as we could. It’s nowhere near as good as the Disney one and there isn’t really any photographers about much it’s mostly just on rides and character meets you can use it. There isn’t a lot of those at all. With all the photo opportunities all over Universal and particularly in Wizarding World I think Universal would benefit from having more photographers dotted about. That being said we did take advantage of it today with ET and SpongeBob 🙂

Dinner today was in Mels Diner which I wasn’t overly impressed with if I’m honest. I’d eaten there before and I remembered having jukeboxes on the table but I’m sure it used to be table service. Food was ok, not brilliant and it was quite expensive.

We spent the evening chilling out with cocktails by the pool and sitting in the hot-tub not an entirely bad way to spend the evening. Universal doesn’t have the evening shows like Disney does so the parks do close earlier. You do have Citywalk to explore but being as we only had one night in the hotel we did want to make use of the pool and have a quiet and early night. We need to be awake enough to take full advantage of early entry for Diagon Alley!!

Tomorrow we get the chance to visit Diagon Alley without all the crowds!

Day 4 – Epcot Food and Wine, Akershaus and Biergarten

Today was a day for eating and the food and wine is something I’ve been so looking forward to. In hindsight booking 2 table service meals for a day when we’re essentially eating our way around the world was not a good move!

We started with breakfast with the princesses at Akershaus, we booked it for before the park opened and walking into Epcot with hardly any people about was amazing! It was so quiet I just wish we’d got there a little earlier (we got lost. again.) so I could soak it in a little more.

Akershaus is Norweigan food so lots of fish for breakfast and pastries. You meet princesses here and meet with Belle before you sit down. We had Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora visit us.

 

Food was ok, the restaurant was beautiful. It’s a nice (much cheaper) option than Cinderellas Royal Table. Amelia loved it although I don’t think eating a whole plate of salmon for breakfast was one of her best ideas.

We managed to meet Anna and Elsa after breakfast and get on Frozen all before 9:30! (Little tip, although the showcase doesn’t open until 10am, Frozen does open when the rest of the park does so you can go on that from 9am)

Frozen is wonderful, we ended up riding it 3 times! The technology they use is so good!

There is an awful lot going on during Food and Wine including having some artists around and we were lucky enough to meet the wonderful Larry Dotson and purchased a few of his prints which are beautiful. I always love looking in the Disney art shops when I’m in Disney, I always want so much stuff for the house but we just don’t have the space for everything.  It just goes to show that the Disney merchandise isn’t just for kids!

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We rode Soarin’ Around The World for the first time which is so much better than the original one, I always really liked Soarin so it’s nice to see it a little bit differently.

There was 2 new character meets at Epcot that we were all really looking forward to, well I say all of us, mostly me! And I was super excited as you can see….

Baymax is AWESOME! We were really lucky that there were literally no queues for anything, we were in and out of meeting Baymax and Joy and Sadness in about 30 minutes.

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Character meets out of the way and breakfast fully digested off to do what Epcot is made for and eat!!

I absolutely LOVED food and wine! Our plan was to try and eat something savoury and sweet from each of the booths as we walked round but it quickly became apparent that we are a pudding family (which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us) and we mostly ate puddings!!

One thing that was really awesome is that if you are on the dining plan you can use your snack credits to purchase items at the booths. They don’t publicise it but that’s what we did. I knew you could use a quick service for 3 snacks from the same vendor but everywhere I looked said no to using snack credits.  It’s a great reason to get the dining plan I think it worked so well for us, we ate loads of stuff!!

The Creme Brulee in France was our favourite sweet and the meatball from New Zealand our savoury.

Epcot is definitely my favourite park, I just love walking around, there’s loads of cool places to take photos and the shops in all the pavilions are so much fun to look around – and great for kids to spend their holiday pennies in as they do have some really cool things at a fraction of the price you would pay to buy anything with Disney on it 🙂

We had dinner in Biergarten so we missed Illuminations. This was one of the places I was looking forward to eating in it looks really cool online but I have to say I don’t think I’d chose to eat there again. The entertainment was fabulous that part of it I really liked but we were not overly impressed with the food. There wasn’t a great deal of choice. It’s also incredibly loud in there so it is hard to have a conversation with whoever you’re with when you’re in there. It’s good for kids, they can have a dance to the band who play, Amelia really liked it but for us we weren’t blown away.

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We managed to get back to our resort without getting lost tonight – tomorrow we go to BE OUR GUEST and I am so excited!!

Seaworld – Penguins Up Close Tour – Review

Seaworld do some unbelievable behind the scenes animal encounters that you may not know about.

My husband loves Penguins and looking at doing some sort of up close thing here in the UK is really blimmin expensive so for Christmas a few years back I booked him a Penguins Up Close tour for when we visited Seaworld.  It’s something you book directly through Seaworld and was around £35 each! Peanuts really.

But was it any good?

Yes ,yes it was!

You check in near the Sealions and are taken into the Penguin house where you meet your tour guide and are given a little information on what Penguins they have at Seaworld and all about the conservation efforts they have in place.

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Here you also learn all about how to approach the Penguins and the health and safety side of it all – remember these are animals with really big pointy beaks in some cases and can do a lot of damage if you don’t handle them carefully.

We were told we would meet a few different types of Penguin and we’d get to pet them. Sadly this didn’t happen due to other members of our group not really paying attention to the rules which did cut our experience down a little.

You’re then taken through to the penguin enclosure – top tip it is absolutely FREEZING, you can see from our pictures that we were not prepared for that and spent the next part of the experience – around 30 minutes shivering!!

You are not able to go into the actual enclosure you are stood behind a small gate and the penguins do come over – they’re quite curious animals.

It was amazing being that close to them and seeing how different all the types of penguins are.  The guide was brilliant at asking any questions you may have and telling you what the different noises they make actually mean.

Your guide will then find a willing Penguin (or penguins if you’re lucky) and bring it out to meet you. We met a rather large emperor penguin.

You get to pet it which was awesome although every-time we did it let out this incredibly loud screeching noise – perfectly normal behavior apparently but it did make us jump – hence the laughing and the slightly wary faces we have.

Apart from the experience being a little short – it’s only a 45 minute one. It was so good. It was interesting and anything that allows me to pet an animal I wouldn’t normally see is a win for me.

It’s small groups of around 6/8 and does need to be pre-booked. You can also do the Penguin encounter as part of the behind the scenes tour which will also show you manatees and sea turtles and allow you to touch a shark too. You can book this one through most of the ticket resellers here and that will work out less than purchasing through Seaworld directly, it’s around £23.

If you want to do something a little different at Seaworld then I highly recommend this tour. They do have a few others as well, same sort of idea and price but with different animals. Currently Sharks, Dolphins and Sealions (which may have to be my next one).

Things to do in theme parks without being in a queue – ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

Last of my Universal blogs on this and I think I’m going to surprise myself at what there is to do here without queuing.

I love IOA and I’m so looking forward to going this trip as my last one we didn’t get a chance to do it all properly.  I didn’t even get on Dudley Do Rights!!

The themeing in all the lands here is incredible and you can spend ages just looking at stuff – and taking photos, there are so many great photo opportunities if you’re an Instagram user.

Seuss Landing is fab and it really is like walking into a Seuss book. The Cat in the Hat ride is so much fun and I’ve rarely seen a queue for it – although I would imagine during the summer there would be some. There’s a great interactive playground for little ones here based on ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ and there are splash bits so expect to get a little wet. And keep an eye out for character meets throughout the day as well.

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There are 2 great shows here as that are often overlooked as is the area that they’re in.

The Lost Continent does seem to get a bit ‘lost’ with all the more well known ‘lands’ in IOA. But here you will find the awesome stunts and special effects show ‘Eighth Voyage of Sinbad’ as well as the walk through action show ‘Poseidons Fury’. There’s some really interesting stalls in this area as well so it’s a unique place to do a bit of shopping. You can find the Mystic Fountain here too, don’t tell the kids but he does talk to you so tell them it’s a wishing fountain and watch them jump when it starts to strike up a conversation with them. There are so many little things in this almost hidden area you can do, you can pick a pearl and have your fortune read – these are an extra charge.

IOA is of course where the first part of Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened and it’s here you will find Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.  Of course the rides always have a queue but just like Diagon Alley there is plenty to do.

You have more interactive windows for your wands and another Ollivanders not to mention the interesting but odd ‘Frog Choir’ and the TriWizard Spirit Rally.

Ladies make sure you have a wee here in Hogsmeade, you might just find yourself joined by Moaning Myrtle!! This is one of my favourite things here.

Jurassic Park has plenty to do as well as the River Adventure. There’s a great kids play area ‘Camp Jurassic’ with an active volcano for little ones to explore and it’s just as much fun for big ones. Discovery Centre is a real fun and interactive game area where you can learn all about dinosaurs and mixing your DNA with one. You also get to see and handle dino eggs and if you’re lucky you might see one hatch and be able to name it.

You can also have your photo taken with a T-Rex

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There’s various side show games for an extra charge and a climbing wall.

Toon Lagoon is one of my favourite themed lands here the shops are fab especially Betty Boops which smells amazing.

There’s lots of water fun here and splash zones are not just found in the kids area they are all over so be warned!!

The jokers among you should head down the small trail to the right of kids playland ‘Me Ship The Olive’ it’s packed with gags such as a miniature ‘school’ of Fish. A must for Dads I think! The ship itself is a three storey watery play area which is perfect for squirting people on the Popeye ride below it.

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You can meet vintage cartoon characters here which is always good fun.

Marvel Super Hero Island is a must for boys of all ages and has some awesome features that not a lot of people are aware of. Keep an eye out for anything that looks like a giant speaker they are communication ports that have special messages from the heroes and villains in the area.

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The heroes meet periodically throughout the day and appear on their bikes which is a fun thing to watch.  Here you will also find a huge games arcade – all at an extra cost.

So you see so much to do here to keep you amused without queuing not to mention all the incredible shopping – of which there is a lot at Universal. Make sure you look in the shop just to the right as you exit IOA that is usually selling off season stock and you may find some stuff at lower prices.

Massive thanks to Jolie for some of these little things I didn’t know about. If you have any others yourself then please let me know.

Things to do in theme parks without queuing – UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

With it being the home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal is now a lot busier than it has been in previous years and is giving Disney a run for its money as a resort in itself.

Although Universal does have a large amount of very popular rides and is popular with the thrill seekers – although it does actually only have 3 rollercoasters – there is almost another whole parks worth of non-ride stuff to do there.

Turning right as you go into the park and into Hollywood you’re sure to bump into Characters as you work your way down the street you’ll find all sorts from Scooby and Shaggy to The Flintstones.  There’s live music here as well from the studio Brass Band and I’m sure I remember them playing the Simpsons theme.

Here you also find Terminator 3-D it’s part 3-D film and part live action and is based on the Cyberdyne company from the films – mostly from Terminator 2. It’s really action packed and runs periodically throughout the day and being as it’s in a pretty large theatre I’ve never seen a queue for it.

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Also in this area is the Horror Make-Up Show which shows clips of horror movies to show us how they have scared us through the years and then show how the make up is done. It’s fun and interactive but not recommended for under 12s. Again there’s rarely a queue and an entertaining way to spend 20 minutes.

There are plenty of play areas for the young ones to keep them amused in KidZone and a whole area dedicated to a huge adventure playground based on Curious George.  There’s an indoor play area aimed at the really young called ‘Barney’s Backyard’ and also a Barney live show.  Not to mention Fievels Playland with it’s little water slide that Amelia loved and we couldn’t get her off!!

Also here you have Animal Actors on location a live show with real performing animals in which some of the children in the audience are invited up to help with. I’ve rarely seen queues for this and had no idea this even existed until my last trip – we didn’t get a chance to do it them but this time it’s high on our list!

Springfield has loads just to look at while you’re walking around – that’s the great thing about Universal everything is so immersive in a totally different way to Disney. There are so many photo ops in Springfield and a lot of side show carnival games (for an extra charge) but plenty to do if you don’t want to queue for the ride there. Even wandering into Moes for a Duff Beer or a Flamin Moe.

Men in Black is right at the back of the park and since Diagon Alley opened and the Simpsons next to it I’ve rarely seen a queue.

There are lots and lots of photo ops around Universal Studios, so do look out for them. Namely the huge shark from Jaws and the Knight Bus from Harry Potter.

Diagon Alley is always going to be relatively busy but again like Springfield there’s loads to do if you don’t want to queue for the ride. The shops are an experience in themselves and it’s just like being on a film set with loads of places to investigate. Purchase one of the interactive wands and follow the map through casting spells a big hit with kids and adults. There’s entertainment here as well with a re-telling of Beedle the Bard with puppets and songstress Celestina Warbeck.  Don’t forget to change your dollars for wizarding notes at the Money Exchange there’s even a goblin host there.

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Heading back towards the entrance to the park takes you through New York where you will find the infamous Blues Brothers show which is definitely not to be missed.  There’s also a climbing wall (for an extra charge) and if you look you *may* find the entrance to ‘The Blind Pig’ from Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.

You can easily spend a day just walking round Universal Studios, remember the idea behind it is to ‘ride the movies’ so it is set up to look like a movie set so there’s loads to investigate.

What are your favourite non ride things to do? Have I missed anything important?