Before P started school, we decided that we should do one last big holiday, out of season, while we still could and so began the plan for a longed for trip to the United States. I spent a year in the States after finishing High School and was lucky enough to enjoy another holiday there with my parents a few years later and hubby spent time in Texas for work so we wanted something new. After much debate, we decided to focus on the West Coast, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, New York and Niagara Falls. We had 3 weeks in total and so set about allocating time to the places we wanted to visit.
We flew in to Los Angeles, hired a car and spent the afternoon and night in LA. The following day, we were awake early so started our journey up to Santa Barbara with plenty of time to stop at various places along the way.
We stopped off at Venice Beach and then at the Santa Monica Pier which was fantastic. The beach was great and the Pier had lots to see and do. From there we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway (which goes all the way up to San Francisco) and arrived in Santa Barbara in the afternoon with enough time for another visit to the beach. The sun was just winding down and cast a beautiful glow over everything. P and D dashed in and out of the waves and just enjoyed being out in the sunshine and warmth. When P started to wind down, we headed in to a fabulous restaurant right on the beach and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner with a view to marvel at.
We left the Santa Barbara after lunch and headed down to Anaheim, the home of Disneyland California, and on to our next adventure. Now, there are many things that can be said about Disneyland, but one thing is for sure, it is awesome! There is something for everyone and it really stimulates your senses. What was meant to be a highlight for P, turned out to be a fabulous highlight for us all. It is magic, crowds and all 🙂
We spent 2 days at Disneyland and still didn’t get round to everything but managed to include all the essential bits. P ran from one attraction to the next until eventually just crashing for the night. To break from all the excitement (read Mum and Dad needed something a bit more adult before diving back in to all the kiddie goodness) we did a day trip (self organised) to Los Angeles to see the sights. We drove through Bel Air, Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills to the Observatory to view the Hollywood sign. We stopped off to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Graumanns Theatre and the Kodak Theatre as well as Rodeo Drive before heading back to Anaheim. Though we didn’t celeb spot, we certainly saw how the other half lives 🙂
The following morning, we piled back into the car and headed for San Diego for Sea World and the World Famous San Diego Zoo. With a little clever planning, we managed to work our way around Sea World, taking in all of the shows and seeing the exhibits in between. We even signed up for the Dine with Shamu experience and had our lunch poolside while the Orcas practiced their show with their trainers. We could have had more time there, but to be honest, we saw enough to satisfy us. The Zoo was again a different experience, so much to see and do and lots of walking but very well laid out and another awesome experience.
From San Diego, we said goodbye to the West Coast and headed inland for Las Vegas. We skirted Death Valley and the Mohave Desert travelling along the famous Route 66 and found ourselves in the Oasis of Sin City. We were wary that we would struggle for entertainment for P, but the opposite was in fact true. Granted, we didn’t park off in front of the slots and leave her to it but there is an amazing amount of kid friendly activities to hand. We went to Cirque du Soleil – Mystere that first night. It was spectacular and we were all captivated. The next day was spent traipsing from building to building taking in the architecture and design that defines LV. We went to the aquarium at the Mandalay Bay, visited the Lion Habitat and had lunch at the Rainforest Cafe inside the MGM Grand and walked down to see the fountains and foyer of the Bellagio.
The next day we headed out for the Grand Canyon, driving via Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. The countryside changed with each mile and provided a plethora of photo opps. We stopped at a brilliant cafe, called Last Stop, along the way and ate the best burger and fries that side of the State Border 🙂 We arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park at sunset and managed one sneak peek at the Canyon before heading off to snuggle up in bed… very chilly compared to the coast.
We woke early and spent the day driving up and down the South Rim of the Canyon for some unbelievable panoramas. It truly is a breathtakingly beautiful place. We ended the day with a helicopter ride over the North and South Rim of the canyon. The intention was to spend part of the next day looking at more of the Canyon, but we woke to snow and so decided to head back to Vegas early. Snow in May, who would have thought!
We had made a reservation for dinner at the Eifel Restaurant at the Paris Hotel and so headed over there in time to see the lights of the strip come on and waited for the Fountains display in front of the Bellagio Hotel which we could see from the restaurant. We ate magnificent food and after P fell asleep on the seat, relaxed and enjoyed all that the restaurant had to offer.
The next morning was a really early start as we headed to the airport for our flight to New York. I was so looking forward to the time in New York. I have been twice before but never really managed to take it all in, so this time, with a family of my own, I was determined to do just that. We actually stayed in New Jersey but the Manhattan skyline was visible from our bay side room.
The first morning was met with gentle rain but it didn’t deter us. We headed for Central Park and really enjoyed the peace and quiet, just wondering around taking in Strawberry Fields, Literary Walk and a carriage ride around the lower half of the park. We then wandered down to the Rockefeller Centre and went up to the top for panoramic views of the whole of Manhattan. We then meandered down to Times Square visiting FAO Schwarz and Toys R Us along the way. We sat down in the middle of Times Square to watch the lights come on before heading back to our hotel.
A day trip to Niagara Falls meant another very early start. We flew up, hired a car to drive to and from the airport and got a late flight back. What a brilliant day out. This was by far, our best weather day and it was refreshing to enjoy uninterrupted sunshine, especially considering how wet we got 🙂 We did the Maid of the Mist boat tour as well as The Cave of the Winds Walk which only opened for the season the day before. Water levels were high and it was exhilarating to be up close to the falls. It was tired little bods that fell into bed that night.
The sun continued to shine the next morning and we headed up town to see if we could wrangle a ticket to see the Yankee’s vs Mets baseball game at Yankee Stadium. We paid a bit more for good seats but it was well worth it. The atmosphere was electric and we couldn’t have picked a more exciting game to watch. We ate hot dogs and drank beer/ lemonade for Miss P and sang songs and cheered for the Yankees because that is what you do at a baseball game 😉 We thought that we might only stay for a bit but stayed for the entire game and then headed back to mid-town for an evening harbour cruise to see the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan from the water at night. A great way to end the day.
The following day being our last day in the US was used for last bits of sightseeing and shopping before heading for the airport and returning to London. We went Downtown to Lower Manhatten to the 911 memorial and to see the new building project underway. We then walked back through China Town, Little Italy, Soho and eventually to midtown. We had a jam-packed but relaxed holiday that has left us closer as a family, more knowledgeable about that side of the sea, and more determined to make all our adventures so memorable!