Our family holiday to the USA

Calder & Lawson Accountant Viv Donovan enjoyed a three week holiday in the USA in April with her husband and two children. She shares her incredible experiences:

Our first stop was seven nights in Anaheim. Arriving Sunday afternoon, we headed straight to Staples Center in LA to watch the LA Lakers play the Memphis Grizzlies. What an experience - stadium food, supporter gear and much more.

We spent Monday shopping at Citadel Outlet Shops, outlet shopping at it's best.  We hired a car so we had the flexibility to stay as long as we liked and put all our shopping in the car.

We had a 3-day Park Hopper pass to Disneyland, which meant we could go between the two parks as many times as we liked.  We spent one full day at Disneyland, one full day at Disney California Adventure Park and the last day we spent between the two parks, catching up on rides wed missed on the other days, and the one's the kids wanted to do again.  This pass gives you a Magic Morning entry that means you can enter the park early before anyone else;  great for getting a head start on the crowds.

We were there for Spring Break so there were large crowds but we planned our days well and mapped out which rides we wanted to go on each day, and the parks are open longer hours to accommodate the crowds over the holiday period. The shows in the evening and the parades are a must see, the highlight for us was the World of Colour Show at California Adventure Park.

The shops and restaurants on Disney Way are a must see.  The kids had a fantastic time at Build-a-Bear and Ridemakerz, building their very own teddy bears and remote control cars, any kids dream store.

We spent a full day at Universal Studios, action packed and great for older kids.  I recommend at least one full day here, as there is so much to do.  Make sure you do the Studio Tour first.  We purchased Front of Line Passes for Universal Studios and this was well worth paying the extra, as we did not have to wait in any queues. We also attended a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament.  This was a fantastic evening where you get to eat your food with your hands and see a spectacular Medieval Show with knights on horseback.

On the last day we hired a Mustang convertible for the day and drove into Hollywood to see the Chinese Theatre.  We did a small-organized open top bus tour around the Stars homes, through Beverley Hills and Rodeo Drive, and then drove ourselves out to Santa Monica in the afternoon and had dinner and watched the sunset on the pier and of course had a photo at the final point of the famous Route 66.

Pier Small

Next stop was Las Vegas.  We flew in from LA and had five nights here and could have had a couple more! Initially we were a little concerned that there wouldn't be much to do for the kids, but we were very pleasantly surprised to say the least.

We had a full 12-hour day with Pink Jeep Tours Las Vegas and went out to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon.  This was an amazing tour, our tour guide was so knowledgeable and very accommodating.  We helicoptered down to the Grand Canyon and then went on a pontoon boat on the Colorado River. We then helicoptered back out of the Canyon and had an authentic saloon style BBQ lunch.  Then onto the Skywalk, this is not for the faint hearted and if you have trouble with heights you may want to re-think, but why would you go all that way and not conquer your fears.  This was well worth paying the extra, what an amazing structure and the views are out of this world.  We drove home via the Hoover Dam, which is another spectacular structure.

You can't leave Vegas without seeing some sort of show.  We were lucky enough to see Michael Jackson One which was out of this world.  We also took the kids to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, which we could have done in LA also.

We spent a day and evening walking the strip, taking in the sights and sounds.  We also spent a day doing rides at Circus - Circus Casino and the New York - New York Roller Coaster.  We took an evening ride on the newly opened High Roller, which is like the London Eye except bigger.  This was great at night and we had fantastic views along the strip.

There is also great shopping in Vegas with two really good outlets plus a selection of high-end fashion retailers. Whether you're a high-end shopper or an outlet shopper, Vegas has it all covered.

The last leg of the trip was six nights in San Francisco.  We stayed on Fisherman's Wharf, which I highly recommend, great places to eat and so much to see. The first night we took the kids to a San Francisco Giants Baseball game which is well worth the experience if your kids love any sport, the Americans certainly do sporting events very well.

The next day we caught the ferry over to Tiburon and spent the day with friends looking around Sausalito. A drive down Lombard Street, the most crooked street in San Francisco, is also well worth the experience. That night we did the evening tour out to Alcatraz including the walking audio tour of The Rock.  The ferry ride back into San Francisco is beautiful and the lights of the city were amazing at night.

San Fran Small

We spent the whole day on the hop on hop off trams and explored all the amazing sights around the city. We took the kids to the California Academy of Sciences which is amazing, everything is interactive and you see things from so many different perspectives. Well worth visiting with your kids.

It wouldn't be right to visit San Francisco without a walk down to Pier 39 to visit the Aquarium and to see the resident seal colony, and a trip on the old Cable Cars. But one of the biggest highlights for us was an afternoon guided bike tour across the Golden Gate Bridge.  We had two very energetic and knowledgeable tour guides take just our family on a very cool bike ride.

We were very fortunate with the weather and would recommend going at this time of year as it was not too hot and we only had half a day of rain. We had a fantastic holiday and have so many amazing memories, these just a few of the highlights.  We have so many memories that our children will cherish forever, they are already organising where they would like to go next.

Written by Viv Donovan at 12:00

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