Things are going to be getting pretty interesting here on Leave on the Wind, because while I may be talking some planning over on the other blog, my life is going to involve thinking about and planning a few other people’s travel rather than my own. Why?
Well, I am getting married.
…. in about 3 months; less than 100 days in fact.
… and the groom currently lives in Germany.
… and the best man and maid of honor both live in different parts of North Carolina.
…. and they all have different schedules and needs for getting out here.
In other words, while I am excited to be getting married and everything else that is to come, I also have a whole lot of stuff I will be working to stay on top of.
Luckily, we are keeping things small and cheap so those three are really the only people who have to travel. But then there are the local (almost staycation-like) factors that include road-tripping to get registered as a military spouse, getting a hotel or an apartment for the 15 days Ry will be here, and the time we want to stay down near Disneyland.
So yea, it’s going to be a hectic few months and then some European/German trips where I can’t wait to explore and show my (soon-to-be) husband the parts of the world he hasn’t had the opportunities to explore.
All this and so much more to come, but until then:
Last week, I talked about my big trip to Disneyland with Ryan – our crazy, nerdy adventure and I didn’t even remember to mention our adventure in pin trading (another big part of our adventure that slowed our pace through the park even more).
But instead of going on more and more about Disneyland, which I could because I truly enjoy it so much, I will be looking and talking more about the amazing experience we had at the hotel shaped like a castle a street or two down from the park: The Majestic Garden Hotel.
First and foremost, this is not an official Disneyland Park Hotel – staying here may bring you closer to the park so you can get in earlier or sleep in depending on your preferences, however, it doesn’t give you perks like early entry to the parks (called the Extra Magic Hour which changes by day from one park to the other) and the ability to send bought items back to the hotels so you don’t have to carry them away and don’t have to turn around and scavenge for your prizes at the end, busy shopping part of your day. While there are other perks (like access to the pools at any of the resorts), there aren’t any kind of deals on tickets or the merchandise at either park.
When weighing these perks against astronomical prices I have found at these resorts, I have been pretty permanently turned off of them. I remember walking through the Grand California when I was younger to meet mom who was rooming there for a business conference and the entire place smelled amazing – this is a smell that finds me every single time I walk by the hotel. I haven’t been inside since but that is how strong a response this place leaves with me.
Again, despite all of this, I can’t even explain how much I love The Majestic Garden Hotel.
The hotel is absolutely amazing in terms of all the things it offers, it’s tiny fairy tale details, the price, the access to the parks, it’s views and (at least for us) it’s discounts. Unfortunately, I had a phone debacle after our trip so the majority of our hotel pictures are gone as well – meaning one more reason to come back and recreate some garden photos! – but I will still talk about everything else.
Basically, you are staying in a castle with fairy tales woven throughout it – there are different parts of a tale about a princess and a castle covering the walls and floors as you wander through the hotel – so seriously, feel free to wander. This is the story of Princess Corinne who you can meet or write to during your stay here. This is a lot of fun for little ones who love princesses!
There are pools and gardens and the hotel restaurant is amazing – I am a picky breakfast eater but their buffet was amazing and so was the grilled cheese and tomato soup we had for lunch (they even gave us the kids grilled cheese price alongside the soup). We didn’t spend a ton of time here, however, I was so taken aback by all of these amazing features.
Before you look at the room here, you should check out all of the deals that they cycle through throughout the year. We used the Military discount that got us a double queen room for $90 a night, plus free parking (usually $16 a day), and free transport to and from the park with some of the nicest shuttle drivers I have ever met!
Again, we were here as a couple, but there were many families who were having a blast as well. I am very hopeful that I will be returning here soon enough, but until then, do some research and chase your own magic adventures!
Having grown up in LA and with a mom who worked for Disney during that time, Disneyland has always felt like an extension of my backyard. This has shaped the way I look at the park as well as how I tackle the challenges from ride closures to long lines.
However, my normal pattern was thrown off completely the last time I visited the park with Ryan. As an active member of the military, Ryan was able to get me a three day pass (which let us finish his last two days) for less than a regular park hopper. This meant we didn’t feel all the time constraints that come with the high price tag associated with a family trip to these one of a kind parks.
We don’t live too far from the park – about a 45 minute trip through LA – but because we were going to go two days in a row, we decided to look at hotels near the park. Now, I for one have not researched Disney hotels recently but, my goodness, unless you are willing to sell body parts, I don’t suggest these despite all the perks that can come with these packages.
Instead, we stayed at the Majestic, a hotel shaped like a castle a tiny jump away from the park. With the military discount, we got a deal for a double queen sized room, with free parking and a free shuttle to and from the parks, all for $90, but even without them, this place is beautiful and a steal! I am in love with this hotel and will be going into that more next week because there is so much to talk about.
A small insider tip and a huge trend at Disney that I have been playing with, but is so much fun with someone to dress up with, is Disneybound. The big trouble I have with this is that some people go too far – they end up more in the costume realm than the impression of a character. We did Flynn and Rapunzel one day and Peter and Wendy the next. This involved analyzing shapes and colors and then matching up details so that when you stand together, people can tell based on your joint appearance. Ryan got the best reaction to his detail – a thimble necklace – because cast members loved the attention to classic story details.
The other newer experience I had was taking my time – something I only recommend if you can spend multiple days here. We explored the newly opened Pirates’ Island – old Tom Sawyers Island with a face lift – and had the best time. I’d love to get a group in Peter Pan and the Lost Boys Disneybound to play sardines all over the island – again, the kind of things you can do when you aren’t worried about hitting every ride in the park.
Disneyland is changing all the time whether in big renovations or by the season and while the price tag is steep, there is something special as wither a visitor or local, walking though the gates.
But back to one of those tips: if you are worried about crowds and long lines but feel like you need to do more than just prioritize, consider how you feel about face characters. The busier the park is, the more characters you will see wandering the park and watching them is it’s own kind of fun.
I have other news that and connections to this park, but that’ll be coming out in the next couple of weeks. Until then,
While last week I talked a lot about the pros and cons of timeshares, now I want to talk about all the fun Ryan and I had hanging out in Arizona.
Honestly, I am starting to think that Ryan and I can’t have a trip where we don’t road trip at least a little. We took the longer distance route to avoid the long-weekend traffic to Las Vegas so we stopped in at one of the diners along Route 66 – making me realize that this is one road trips still sitting on my travel bucket list!
But down to the real matter at hand: London Bridge Resort, Arizona.
We had so much fun during this long weekend trip. The resort was beautiful with great rooms, a few pools (which we didn’t use), river walks and parks, boat trip opportunities, and casinos (again we opted out of these) all either at the resort or a short distance from where we were staying.
As part of our deal, our room had roof access, two queen sized beds, a kitchen and living/dining room area, and two balconies – in other words, it was huge! (especially because it ended up being just the two of us.) Still, as I have said, having a nice living quarters has its advantages, but you shouldn’t be spending your whole time in the room so all the extra living space doesn’t necessarily benefit you all that much. However, because of the nature of our trip – a long relaxing weekend and having to change outfits for different activities on multiple days – we did end up spending more time than I normally would in this space.
Even if you aren’t here as an owner, there are plenty of things you can get into even though this resort town feels small.
The boat trips cost more than they would during the weekend we spent here, but you have a variety of them to choose from to explore the lake, the old mines areas, the lighthouses, or head over to the casino – this apparently is cheaper and has an amazing view on the lake at sunset! The river walks and parks are nice to wander through as well, and we even spotted a few wake-boarders and kayakers.
Then there are events weekly at the resort (again they cost a little more but they are options). There is a club and mixology lessons both as part of the resort for those of us over 21. The local movie theater closes early but it is also much cheaper than going in LA so we saw two movies and had nice date nights in the local scene.
Again, London Bridge is more like a small resort town which has it’s own kinds of pros and cons. The biggest two are: Pro – everything is close enough that you can easily walk wherever you need to go (this makes drinking an easy option); and Con – there are limited options on what you can do. This isn’t an action packed resort – there are water sports and limited resort activities, but beyond that, you are seriously limited unless you can make your own fun or have access to a boat to use the lake at your leisure.
So, if you are looking to really relax and have a slow break from your reality, this is a great spot with historic appeal (walking on one of London’s original bridges just off the boarder of Arizona and California was weirdly entertaining); but if you are looking for all action, all the time, I’d look for something a little further along.