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TRAVEL / Jan ‘2019

A family trip of a lifetime to the USA

TRAVEL / JAN ‘2019

A family trip of a lifetime to the USA

I recently took my 10 year old daughter and 7 year old son on a trip of a lifetime to California.

Words Kate Durack

Not wanting to venture too far in the three weeks I had allocated to spend in the States with my two children, we focused on spending time in southern California and Las Vegas.

We began in downtown LA which has the finest museums, including Broad Museum of Contemporary Art, which has free public admission to a vast collection of works, and the California Science Center, which has Apollo and Gemini Space capsules on display, Fighter jets hanging from the ceiling, the Space Shuttle, Endeavour, and a stunning rose garden for the kids to run around.

We visited Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust which was confronting, viewing original artefacts and reading the personal accounts from Holocaust survivors, creating an appreciation of the ‘realness’ of this monolithic event.

We visited Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust www.lamoth.org which was confronting, viewing original artefacts and reading the personal accounts from Holocaust survivors.

The Brea Tar Pits and Museum was interesting. The tar pits are open air bubbling pools of liquid tar are a mass graveyard, stacked with the bones of giant ice age animals that stumbled into the tar pits and drowned more than 20,000 years ago. In the museum we were dwarfed by rare and complete skeletons of Woolly mammoths, giant sloths and sabre tooth tigers that actually roamed central Los Angeles tens of thousands of years ago.

We stayed in West Hollywood for a few nights which enabled us to do the obligatory Walk of Fame and a tour of Hollywood where we glimpsed the hedges, walls and gates from which Hollywood’s rich and famous dwell, among whom included Katie Perry, Justin Timberlake, Isla Fisher and Sasha Baron Cohen, Gwen Stefani, Simon Cowell and drive through the exclusive Beverley Hills, roamed through the iconic Rodeo Drive and enjoyed a glass of bubbly and fresh seafood at dusk on Sunset Boulevard.

Universal Studios was an unexpected highlight – it was fantastic – with interactive adventures, thrills and phenomenal special effects.

Universal Studios was an unexpected highlight – it was fantastic – with interactive adventures, thrills and phenomenal special effects. It comprises theme-park rollercoasters, rides and shows, all within the setting of well-known movies and TV series.

We were haunted by a nightmarish journey through the zombie world of The Walking Dead, and surprised and thrilled by cheeky fun and surprises during Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and then cooled off from the water thrown about during the spectacular WaterWorld show, which features fire, water eruptions, explosions, jet skis, acrobatics and incredible stunts.

Our courage was tested on a terrifying adventure through Jurassic Park (without a doubt, this is the scariest roller coaster I have ever been on) and we were spooked by a chilling tunnel ride through Revenge of the Mummy. Universal’s newest edition includes Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™.

We stayed in Anaheim which was very convenient for us to walk to Disneyland on the two days we had allocated. This was only just enough time to experience both the original Disneyland Park as well as Disney California Adventure Park www.disneyland.disney.go.com

The original Disneyland Park was my favourite with nostalgic romance of yesteryear with olde worlde candy shops and quaint streets, a fairyland and the enchanted Sleeping Beauty castle.

The original Disneyland Park was my favourite with nostalgic romance of yesteryear with olde worlde candy shops and quaint streets, a fairyland and the enchanted Sleeping Beauty castle.

Rides and experiences were numerous – from the dizzying Mad Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland, through to the original personalities of Mickey Mouse and Daffy Duck. It really is a magical wonderland with eight themed lands, each hosting authentic adventures ranging from Mark Twain’s riverboat, a haunted mansion where the walls get smaller, the eerie carousel of the Pirates of the Caribbean and a lifelike Jungle Cruise. It’s a place of storybooks and dreams, and, a Bucket List must.

My son was six and just old enough, while my 10 year old daughter relished every moment and I was able to relive the romance of childhood.

We hired a car and drove out to Las Vegas from Anaheim which was a fun way to see some outback countryside, including driving through the Valley of Death during a heatwave. We stopped off at a ghost town, Calico, the remnants of a Gold Rush era, preserved as it would have been from the early 1900s, just before it was deserted. It is definitely worth taking the 10-minute drive off the highway and through the dirt track and tumbleweeds to experience this authentic time warp.

We stopped off at a ghost town, Calico, the remnants of a Gold Rush era, preserved as it would have been from the early 1900s, just before it was deserted.

Driving through the wastelands of desolate land and cacti and then arriving in a city of sin, Las Vegas, set in the desert of lights, thrills and entertainment, was a sensory experience.

The stimulation and excess was fascinating – the flamboyant show girls parading on the evening streets, the spectacular lights and music, and of course the casinos which we walked through on our way to feast on the magnificent buffet dinners.

A highlight was visiting The Sugar Factory – a modern, real life improvement on Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. Iridescent blue cocktails steaming with frozen ice, rainbow sliders (Mini Burgers served on colourful buns), Lollipop Passion and Fried Macaroni & Cheese Pop were some of the flamboyant items on the menu.

A highlight was visiting The Sugar Factory – a modern, real life improvement on Charlie’s Chocolate Factory.

It is truly a creative masterpiece made from lollies, chocolate, soft drinks and fried food, endorsed by celebrities, including Katie Perry, the Kardashians, Mariah Carey and Brittney Spears.

Our primary purpose for visiting San Diego was to experience Legoland California and the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. This zoo was amazing – Gorillas, flamingos, pandas, wolves, sloths and even polar bears call this place home. We had a personal tour on a buggy which was very special as we got to learn about penguins, get close to a baby armadillo and feed a strange camel-like creature which had an abnormally long tongue!

Legoland was my son’s favourite activity on our 5-week trip to America and Mexico. It was certainly impressive and suitable for children of all ages as well as adults, with 50 rides, shows and attractions, including a water park to cool off at the end of the day and Sea Life Aquarium. We enjoyed the 4D Legomovie, which was a 4D sensory experience! The Safari Trek and Jay’s Lightning Drill were lots of fun and the kids really loved the Driving School where they were able to drive their own little cars and receive their very own Driver’s Licence.

Kate Durack