Image

The Nutcracker – Movie Review

There isn’t a great deal of Disney movies that I don’t want to rush out and watch straight away. This is one of them.

It’s a strange thing to make a movie out of I think, what I knew of the Nutcracker before watching this was just what I had seen growing up and basically all I knew was the dance of the Sugarplum Fairy and I am not a ballet fan.  Plus all the press with Keira Knightley doing her bit of ‘Disney Bashing’ sort of put me off watching it. And she does talk in an annoying voice for the whole film.

I was pleasantly surprised by this I have to say. Its festive from the start and I do love a festive movie, I just didn’t realise exactly HOW festive this would be.

It’s a great little story and reminds me a little of Alice in Wonderland. Clara who is the heroine of the movie ends up in The Realms after receiving a mysterious gift from her mother posthumously.  It does very much have the feel of Alice when she is in Wonderland. It looks very similar. And to be honest I was not a fan of those movies.

Clara needs to find a key to open the mysterious gift from her Mother and its her search for that key that brings her to the realm and reveals the secret world her mother was a part of.

Along the way she meets some interesting characters including the titular character ‘The Nutcracker’, the Sugarplum Fairy and some funny ‘soldiers’ played brilliantly by Jack Whitehall and Omid Djalili.

Clara needs to find the key and stop Mother Ginger taking over the Four Realms. Although there is more to her than meets the eye.

The set, the costumes and the general production of this are incredible. It looks AMAZING. And it’s so Christmassy. It’ll be a great one to watch Christmas Eve and a fab Christmas afternoon movie in years to come. BUT. It’s not amazing. It’s not the best film Disney have done. I really struggled watching Keira Knightley I found her Sugarplum Fairy to be incredibly irritating. Some of the acting in this isn’t the best which is a shame seeing as the cast does boast some incredible actors.

Kids will love it but I left feeling a little underwhelmed by this one. It was better than I was expecting and I did enjoy aspects of it but I won’t be rushing to see it again.

For more ‘non disney’ movie reviews check out my other blog..

Advertisements

Movie Review – Christopher Robin – Spoiler Free

When you’re giving the ‘live action’ treatment to something as beloved as Pooh there’s always a risk you’re going to ruin it a bit and it won’t be as magical as we all know it to be. The hype and excitement around it too could very well have set this up for a fall.

Out of all the Disney movies this year this one is by far the one I was looking forward to the most – this and Mary Poppins – the trailers I’d seen had me all emotional, I don’t know if it was nostalgia or just how magical it all looked.

I went to watch this prepared with tissues.

It was the busiest I’d seen the cinema since ‘The Greatest Showman’.

It’s a great story about the perils of growing up and forgetting how to be a kid and have fun.

It’s a similar idea to Hook – we follow a grown up Christopher Robin who is putting his work ahead of his family.  He has a weekend away planned at his childhood cottage and he ends up having to work and letting the family down.

We find Pooh wandering around 100 Acre Wood on a search for his friends all of whom have disappeared, he finally finds Christopher Robins door and decides he is the one who can help him find them.

Its interesting seeing Pooh in ‘real life’. And it’s done so so well. The special effects in this are wonderful and they capture the essence of Pooh and all his friends beautifully.

I absolutely loved the story and script of this movie. There are so many laugh out loud parts courtesy of Pooh and Eeyore. So many ‘Poohisms’ are included and are a wonderful nod to all the stories we know and love so well.  It’s absolutely everything you would expect from Pooh. You can tell the writers had a genuine love of the originals.

It’s a really emotional film, not in a sad way, but I did find myself welling up at regular intervals throughout this just because of some of the sweet things that Pooh says. I won’t ruin it but his response to Christopher discussing losing something was just too much! I’m so glad I took tissues.

It’s definitely one of the cutest Disney movies I’ve ever seen. If not THE cutest.

I really enjoyed seeing Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore adjusting to being in London. Eeyore has some great one liners. The mostly adult audience were belly laughing through a lot of it.

It’s a great story reminding us that it’s so important to stop sometimes and have fun. Not to take those closest to us for granted and that there is much more important things in life than work.

It hooks you from the start and takes you on a wonderful adventure from London to 100 Acre Wood and back again.  It’s clever, sweet and so wonderfully Pooh.

There’s a few new songs as well,  written by Richard Sherman who of course with his brother Robert wrote all those memorable songs from the original animations. You must stay for the post credit scene. A bit of a tear jerker for any die hard Disney fan as Richard Sherman performs a beautiful song called ‘Busy Doing Nothing’ on the beach with Pooh and his friends all joining in. (of course the Sherman brothers story is the subject of a wonderful musical as well, read my review here)

I cannot speak highly enough of this film. I’m still a little emotional when I’m thinking about it as pathetic as it sounds. It’s perfect Disney.

You must watch it. And then go again!

FOR MORE MOVIE AND DAY OUT REVIEWS CLICK HERE

Movie Review – AntMan and The Wasp

Another month another installment in the seemingly never ending Marvel Universe franchise!!

This one takes place after the events of Captain America Civil War and up until the culmination of the last Avengers movie and follows Paul Rudds Antman as he tries to juggle being his alter ego whilst also being on house arrest.

His bail conditions mean he isn’t allowed out of his house and he goes to great lengths to keep his daughter entertained – the opening scene of the movie I want to do in my house. He’s also used his time setting up a security business with Luis.

Meanwhile Hank and Hope are building a tunnel which allows them to access the quantum realm where Hanks wife (Hopes Mum) was lost many years ago. They are missing a vital component and someone who can shrink small enough to get there and retrieve her. I wonder who that may be?

Ant-Man is one of my favourite heroes of the Marvel Universe and Paul Rudd is so likable as him. It’s full of the humour we always expect from the movies and some of the action sequences are so great to watch. I love all the fight scenes where not only do the titular characters shrink and grow constantly but they also use other objects as weapons or barricades. The scene in the kitchen is particularly good. As is the car chase scene which has the added bonus of Luis having his first ‘shrinking’ experience.

They use some cool tried and tested SFX in this – Micheal Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer as youngsters using the same tech as they did with flashback scenes with Robert Downey Jnr in Iron Man.

There is a villian – The Ghost – who tries to scupper the creation of the tunnel and recovery of Janet and wants to use the technology to rid her of her powers instead. It’s as always predictable in that good trumps evil but the story of getting there is really compelling.

I watched this in 3D.  I always watch the Marvel movies in 3D. It adds so much to the visuals of the film and really puts you inside the movie. I don’t know what it is about Marvel Studios but they seem to do this like no-one else.

All in all its a fun, action packed movie. One of my favourites but then I love Paul Rudd and apart from Mike in Friends this is by far my favourite of all his roles.

After seeing the extra scene at the end I’m even more impatient for the next Avengers movie too can it be May already?

For my other non-Disney movie and day out reviews click here

Image

Solo – Movie Review

After the first wave of prequels being so shocking I’m always a little scared with these new films in case they end up being just as rubbish.

I was not a fan of Rogue One. I didn’t get it, I couldn’t really follow it and to be honest it was a disappointing movie for me so this being another ‘Origins’ movie and not the next ‘chapter’ in Star Wars filled me with a little bit of dread.  I’d seen a few trailers some making the film look amazing but the last one not so much so going into this today I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was very quickly put in my place.

This is better than Rogue One from the get-go.

The opening scene sets you up for what this movie is going to be like. Its action from the first second.

With Ron Howard directing you’re always going to get something that isn’t terrible but this well and truly exceeded my expectations.

The story was intriguing, although I think that had a  lot to do with Han being a familiar and well loved character already, it was interesting seeing how he became the person we know him as. My favourite thing about the movie though is the relationship with Chewie throughout it, from the second they meet it’s funny and endearing and full of the banter we have in the Star Wars movies we love.

There’s so many twists and turns, just when you think you know whats coming there’s a curveball thrown at you.

Visually as you would expect from the Star Wars Universe this is stunning. There’s vehicle chases and daredevil stunts in the Millenium Falcon. Just when you think there isn’t anything more they can do with Star Wars you get this. Loads of new, but familiar, characters. The humour we expect (but didn’t get in THOSE movies), good guys, bad guys and good vs evil.

Casting in this is wonderful. Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany in particular are great in this. Paul Bettany does seem to have a knack for being the creepy English guy.

I’ve actually seen this film twice now and as with most movies I noticed a load more stuff second time round. In fact I think I enjoyed it even more on the second watch.

Alden Ehrenreich is so good as Han. Watching this time I could imagine Harrison Ford saying and doing things the way that he does, it’s almost like he’s channeling him. He was a great choice to play him.

Donald Glover is so great as Lando. Charming and slightly eccentric.

The humour in this is brilliant. I love the comedy in the franchise – which is why I hated the prequels so much it was all a bit wooden acting wise and not enough humour – L3 will have you all laughing. And wanting a droid like her.

SFX in this are so good too. You almost can’t tell what is CGI and what props were actually built.

The shock ending of this film leaves a lot of unanswered questions which does mean I need to sit through those awful ones to refresh my memory of what happens next. But it also leaves this well and truly open for a sequel to bridge the gap between this and A New Hope. It appears that Alden has signed a 3 movie deal with the studio so it is highly likely there is another on the horizon but rumor has it that the much talked about Boba Fett movie could act as the unofficial sequel instead. Only time will tell I guess.

If you haven’t seen this film or are putting it off for fear of being disappointed then go book some tickets.

I’ll be going again this week just to see if there’s any other bits I missed!

Image

A Spoonful of Sherman and a Handful of Oscar….

 

Disney nights out are the best nights out and this week I got to see a Disney type show that I’d wanted to watch for a while.

The show is A Spoonful of Sherman, a musical journey through the life and work of the wonderful Sherman Brothers who were of course famous for writing all the songs you remember from those classic Disney movies like ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’.

I’d read about this a little while ago so I was so excited to finally see it!

Not only that on searching for the venue postcode online before we left I found that the writer, and son of Robert, Robbie Sherman was doing a little Q&A and a meet and greet before the show.  So obviously we booked it! I just thought it’d  be an interesting chance to find out some Disney history and stories from someone who had the inside track little did I know how good of a decision that was to be!!

I’m not sure if this is something that he does at all of the shows but if you’re going to one and he is there, I urge you to book it. It’s so worth it for a Disney fan!!

It was a really relaxed affair with maybe 20 or so of us in a room while Robbie chatted to us and told us a bit about his family history and the writing of the musical. He was such a lovely man and filled with so much knowledge and talks about his late father and uncle (and Grandfather who also wrote songs you will actually know) with such fondness. It was clear Disney was and still is such a big part of his life.

He told us the story of how ‘It’s a Small World’ came about and honestly my whole opinion of that song has changed so much after hearing it.  Yes its annoying. Yes it gets stuck in your head but the underlying message is one of hope and unity. Even though it sounds like a simple melody the way it was written so you can sing both the verse and the choruses over each other without them overlapping is something I never thought of but realise now how hard it is to write something like that.

We were told stories about Walt and had the opportunity to ask questions which was wonderful. I could have listen to him talk all day and there’s so much I could have asked him about, hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to interview him properly one day.

But the best bit? Robbie bought memorabilia!! And not just your average type either. He bought the Oscars his Dad and Uncle had won for Mary Poppins. THE ACTUAL OSCARS! And we got to hold them! Heavier that you would think! (excuse the face I was a little excited)

31793604_10157511678874498_8859922171871363072_n

Not only that he had the Grammy they won

31589215_10157511679174498_5975906144332283904_n

And the ‘Mousker’ or ‘Disney Legend’ award too, the one I was most excited about cos it’s shaped like Mickey…

31740043_10157511679464498_5290407584111525888_n

He had some cool copies of other stuff like the nominations for some of the awards and a a score signed by the nine old men…

31841944_10157511678739498_614996848150577152_n.jpg

 

31732182_10157511679579498_1617281896792719360_n

31755351_10157511679039498_1191617880043552768_n

The musical itself was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect other than the fact that there would be Disney music in it.

The musical told the story not just of the Sherman Brothers that we know but also the rest of the Sherman family, grandparents and great grandparents who were also composers right up to Robbie who himself is one.

The cast of this were wonderful.

It’s not like your average musical, there’s no major set changes, no acting as such. The whole show is centered around a piano. No orchestra. Just the piano and 5 vocals. Exactly the way the songs were written.

31786619_10157511685814498_2675386260264058880_n

The cast were fabulous and even that held some nostalgia for me as Mark Read from A1 stars in this – as well as Disney, boybands were another big part of my teenage years – having interviewed him in the past I know how much of a Disney fan he is so for him being in a show such as this is a dream come true.

We managed to have him in on the Voice FM Drive time show talking about it all you can listen to that here:

https://www.voicefmradio.co.uk/drive-time-on-voice-fm-12-apr-2018/

All your favourite Sherman songs are in this show highlights for me though were definitely Marks rendition of ‘The Ugly Bug Ball’ a song which Walt was not convinced with as he didn’t want a song with the word ‘ugly’ in it. I love this song anyway but the way Mark did it was so fun, with different voices and things.

Sophie Louise Dann’s version of ‘Feed The Birds’ was captivating, and I loved all the Mary Poppins songs Jenna Innes sang, with just a hint of Mary in her with her shoes and the way she stood.

The chemistry between her and Glen Facey was brilliant and I really enjoyed all the songs that they sang together.

‘Over Somebody Else’s Shoulder’ wasn’t a song I’d ever heard before but I really liked the way that was executed. It’s such a sweet love song and so clever with the lyrics.

My favourite thing about this show though? Ben Stock! He was amazing! An absolute joy to watch on the stage and his performance of ‘Crunchy Crackers’ from Robbies musical ‘Love Birds’ was the absolute hands down showstopper of the show! I need to see that musical now!

All in all this is a great show, fab music intertwined with anecdotes and stories reminding us – as if we could forget – just how talented the Sherman family are.

You can find more about the show and book tickets here:

http://aspoonfulofsherman.com/#tourdates

 

Day 7 – A Deserted Wizarding World, preparing for Irma and meeting a Polar Bear

Today is the main reason we decided to stay at Hard Rock Hotel.

Staying on site gives you the early entry and both parts of the Wizarding World open an hour early for hotel guests. 8am in our case at this time of year. We got up early, checked out and walked to Universal Studios. Literally a 5 minute walk if that! No need to get on a bus, train, monorail or boat.

Nothing else bar Starbucks and a few places to eat were open and we were a little disappointed to learn that Gringotts didn’t actually open until the park did. That being said there is so much to look at in Diagon Alley and we had so much fun looking about and being able to have pictures without loads of people in the background. Paul even pretended he knew what Harry Potter was all about and had a go at being a wizard!

Anyone who’s been here knows how immersive it is and it does really feel like you’re entering the wizarding world. Even with the ride closed the hour we had before opening wasn’t anywhere near enough time to explore it all in peace!

We spent a lot of time doing spells and wondering around the shops and into Ollivanders to see how the wand chooses the wizard. One of the little extra things I really wanted to do that I’d kept quiet from Amelia was visit the money exchange where you can change up your dollars (a minimum of $10) to wizarding money with the help of one of the gringotts goblins. Fully interactive of course.

The money can only be spent in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or of course makes a relatively cheap souvenir. We kept ours.  We did video our experience in the money exchange as well as most of the trip so when I can get my head round editing I’ll put all that up as well.

Food in Diagon Alley, well snacks, are magical too. We had the obligatory Butterbeer which comes frozen or normal, and is every bit as delicious as I remember but a little too sweet for some people. We had Earl Grey and Lavender Ice Cream which was lovely but in typical Orlando style even one scoop was far too big! Amelia was sensible and went for a no melt ice cream from the sweet shop. It looked fabulous but was essentially just a pot of frosting, very good frosting but frosting all the same.  Pumpkin spice is one of my favourite things in Orlando so we went for a Pumpkin Pasty which was ok and we also bought a cauldron cake – we skipped breakfast so we were all a bit hungry!

I really enjoyed just wandering around and to be honest I could have quite happily walked around all day. But we needed to get as much done as possible as we needed to find a Walmart to stock up on rations for when Irma hit.

We had a quick stop off at The Night Bus and a chat with Stan and the shrunken heads before we took a little walk over to the other side of the park to see a show I’d been dying to watch for a while.

IMG_8453

That didn’t happen straightaway however as Paul nearly had some sort of fit after The Blues Brothers were walking along. He loves the Blues Brothers and we were planning on making sure we caught their show but we ended up seeing an earlier one. Paul even got involved in it, again to be seen in an upcoming vlog!

The Blues Brothers show is one of those must sees, everyone knows all the songs and it’s so entertaining and funny. Lots of audience participation and the performers are really really good 🙂

Jaws the ride may now be a distant memory but you can’t visit Universal Studios without finding the famous shark himself and inspecting the inside of his mouth.

IMG_8463

We did try and go to Richter Burger for lunch which does some of the best burgers but sadly it was closed.

The park was very quiet today, eerily so, due I would imagine to the upcoming storm. Most of the people in the parks were on holiday, I think most locals were out getting supplies.

If you’re planning a trip to Universal or have been before and are looking for something different to do, make a spot in your itinerary for the Horror Make Up Show. It’s not something I was overly interested in on previous trips just thinking it would be like some of the animation classes you used to get at Disney which although I enjoyed it wasn’t something I would rush to do again. I actually saw a vlog on it a few months after we booked and I laughed so hard! So we decided to give it a go 🙂 Plus it’s inside and it’s been raining on and off quite heavily all day.

It’s a live stage show with 2 fantastically funny hosts who show a few techniques for horror make up and blood and then show clips of the movies that they’re used on. And the movies the hosts have worked on. An unsuspecting audience member – sadly not one of us – gets roped in to be made up as well.

There are screens in the theatre – which isn’t that big – so any tricks they show you are shown close up on those 🙂

It’s a great way to spend half an hour, you won’t be disappointed and honestly it’s one of the funniest shows I’ve seen 🙂

Plus you can have your throat cut by the hosts after if you want to…

IMG_8502

One thing I only found out about recently were the impromptu ‘dance parties’ involving the floats from the Superstar parade. We were lucky on coming out of the show to stumble upon a Despicable Me one. Amelia got picked to be a Minion which she loved and you can have a dance with all the characters to the music from the film. I was just really excited that you can meet the girls!

These are really good fun and kids love it!

IMG_8507

It turns out we were in a great location for meeting characters here, after the dance party we spotted Popeye, Beetlejuice, Scooby Doo and The Simpsons. Some with photographers so we could take advantage of the photopass.

Shaggy and Scooby are always fun to meet. Other places where you can use the photopass are with the meets with Transformers, Minions and Shrek.

I finally got to do the Transformers ride which I wasn’t all that impressed with. The ride tech is brilliant and the special effects are really good but it’s not really that much different to Spider-Man, it’s just the story is about Transformers instead. I prefer Spider-Man.

The Despicable Me ride is one I always enjoy, I love the films and the Minions do make me laugh. Best bit of the ride though is undoubtedly when you exit to a dance floor where you can dance with the Minions 🙂

61396_090817_000202499

After a quick? stop in Walmart and $200 of groceries later – we were told we could be in our rooms for 48 hours so we needed enough to last – we went back to Port Orleans, without getting lost for a quick dip in the pool.

I really enjoyed the pool at Port Orleans, it’s a great size and has a slide. There’s always activities for the kids as well, at an extra cost though.

There is also a bar that does some brilliant cocktails and an adults only Jacuzzi which we most definitely made the most of.

We decided to spend the evening in Disney Springs. The beauty of staying at Port Orleans is that you can get to Disney Springs on a boat which was fun. They run quite late into the evening as well it’s a less crowded more fun way to get about than the buses.

boat

We had a reservation at T-Rex where I really wanted to try the famed Cottontini 🙂

It’s basically a martini poured over candy floss (or cotton candy as they call it). I went for the apple one and I loved it. If you don’t like sweet things you won’t like it. The Candy Floss dissolves as you pour the drink over it. I ended up having 2 and another fruity cocktail as well. You get to keep the cocktail shaker when you order as well so you get a little reminder.

Food wise we really enjoyed T Rex, I’d read a lot of bad reviews about it but honestly apart from it being loud, it is dinosaur themed and comes from the same people who do Rainforest Café so you do expect a certain amount of ‘background’ noise from all the things that go on. I don’t remember exactly what happens in T-Rex I think it’s supposed to mimic the demise of the dinosaurs but there are animatronics all over the place and it’s a great fun place to eat with kids.

After the cocktails we had a rather tipsy wander around the Springs. I love the shops in Disney Springs so much grown up Disney merchandise from homeware and clothes to artwork, I never buy a lot but I just like to look.

One of the things I was super excited about was meeting the Coca Cola Polar bear. I’d watched some videos of him on YouTube and he really made me laugh so finding him was one of the things on my bucket list for this trip. He was brilliant, such a fun character meet and all the photos – in fact all the photo ops in Disney Springs – are included with memory maker. We loved him that much we went back twice.

We also had more cocktails on the rooftop bar at Coca Cola Store. You can have them with all the different coke products you can try in Epcot at Club Cool, I wasn’t brave enough to try the Beverley one so I went for something raspberry flavoured although all I could taste was the alcohol. Don’t forget if you are over 21 and old enough to drink in Orlando you will need to prove it so make sure you have ID with you.

The rooftop bar is lovely, it gives you great views over the Springs, the shop was great as well. It wasn’t there last time I visited so I was excited to have a look 🙂

Feeling ever so slightly tipsy we went back to the boat to go back, tomorrow is the last day the parks are open before Irma hits so we’re off for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – Islands of Adventure, Blue Man Group and a present from Spiderman.

Up a little bit later today and headed off to find a Waffle House for breakfast – guess what? – we got lost and couldn’t find one!! So we ended up in an IHOP near Universal.  I remember going to IHOP loads on my first ever trip over here nearly 20 years ago.

Have to say this time we were so not impressed and it wasn’t what we’ve come to love about eating out over here – and boy do we love eating out over here!! We had a miserable waitress who told Amelia off for looking at and smelling the different flavoured syrups for the pancakes on our table and when the – very small – meals came out no cutlery for Amelia, she had to go and ask for it herself.  I ordered a breakfast but asked for no eggs as I have an allergy and was told they can’t be substituted so I basically ended up paying 8 dollars for 2 small pieces of bacon and a hash brown!! The food itself was OK but the bad service made it a not very good experience to the day. $40 that cost us. I don’t recommend it at all, if you want a good value breakfast then Waffle House all the way – if only we could find one! They were literally everywhere yesterday why is it when you want to find something you can’t!!

We got to Universal at around 10:30 and to be honest considering it is Labor Day weekend it wasn’t actually that busy until we got to the turnstiles. Inside the park we went to get my Access Pass which I didn’t think I’d get after the rules had changed but it turns out I do so that made our day good again 🙂

They do ask a few questions about how your disability affects you and that’s how they determine what pass you need. It works really well and wait times less than 30 minutes allow you to go in the express pass lane any longer you get a return time.

We went straight to Seuss Landing one of my favourite lands. I love it. First ride was Cat in the Hat 🙂 We didn’t manage to do Islands on our last trip so it was exciting to  be back.  We went on the Trolley Ride around Seuss landing too which gives you an amazing view of the whole park.

There’s a cool little show in Seuss with all the characters which we missed by a few minutes but we did get to the meet and greet which was really exciting and only maybe 2 minute wait for each of them. Super speedy!! It was actually really quiet most of the rides were walk on with less than 15 minute wait.

Headed over to Marvel Super Hero Island for Spiderman ride and also to meet the man himself who took a liking to Amelia ‘the girl who can fly’ and we ended up with our print with him free 🙂

We talked before we left about getting the photo package at Universal and the very lovely cast member at the Spiderman photo op gave us the 14 day package for the price of 3 which was awesome. It’s definitely worth it and I’ll go into more detail about where you can use it etc in a later blog.

21389180_10210139834473036_1534434038_o

No visit to Islands is complete without a soaking on the Popeye ride, we have some fab video of how soaked we got, we may as well of just had a shower that’s what we looked like. Then on to get even more soaked from Rocky and Bullwinkle. One thing we noticed about that ride was how much it really needed a bit of TLC, it didn’t look as clean as the other rides and it looked really unloved, apart from the length of the ride and the way that side of things worked it just reminded us of being at Chessington…

We then made our way over to Hogsmeade which was insanely busy, my only complaint about all of the Wizarding World is how thin all the walkways seem to be you just feel like there’s too many people too close to you and you’re bottlenecked in. Now it may be an illusion because the buildings are pretty high compared to some of the others and obviously we all know that’s what London/England in general is like but a couple more inches would make a big difference!!

We rode forbidden journey which I love, I don’t however love the spiders in it as you can see from the photo above which gave everyone a good laugh!!

After that off to citywalk to try out Toothsome one of our most anticipated eateries and it is out of this world in terms of ambience and service. We loved it even with the $100 price tag however in the grand scheme of things the food itself wasn’t that amazing, the puddings were though so maybe just go there for that side of things. I will be going back before we come home to purchase some sweets to bring home. Not as presents for people, all for me 🙂

DSCN0056

We ended our evening with a visit to Blue Man, I won’t bore you again with all the info on how awesome it is, I did a pretty extensive blog on that a while ago which you can read here Blue Man Group – Is it worth it?  What I will say about the show is no matter how many times you do it you cannot get bored, it’s still as hilarious as the first and second times I saw it and I cannot stress enough how much of a good time you will have at it and look you can meet the Blue Men after…

DSCN0057

Oh and guess what happened on the way home? We got lost. Again.

Another early morning tomorrow for us, breakfast with Lilo and Stitch 🙂

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.

IMG_5988

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.

ifiranthezoo2

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

trex

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.

olive

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.

commports

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.

universal-terminator-2-3-d-ride-reach-out-c

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.

IMG_5620

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?