Magic Kingdom.

We saw all of the Magic Kingdom in three days. One day was an early start until 11pm and the other two we went to the park around midday and left around closing (11pm).

The heat has been extremely hot and walking around the parks between 12-4pm is not pleasant. We found that it is best to use this time to go for a nice long sit down/lunch or queue for something inside. The park is manic at this time as well and queues are at their busiest. I thought the park was best at night with all the lights on, it’s looks fantastic. It’s also a great time to hit the rides. We went on Splash and Thunder Mountain in Frontierland 3 times in 20 minutes and as we were just about to go down the big drop on Splash the fireworks started which was a real treat. Both rides give a great view of the castle at night time. My advice would be to spend one day seeing all the parades (there’s quite a few) then spend another going on rides during parade times as the queues are much shorter! Never get in the queue for Splash or Thunder mountain during the day without a Fastpass, at night you can walk straight on!

Fireworks at 10pm, great show. Get there EARLY. Go slightly right of castle towards Tomorrowland for a good view. Don’t leave straight after the fireworks as the queues are huge! Stick around and go in the shops or have a drink.

Pack ponchos, umbrellas and hats, fans and sunscreen as it swaps from heavy rain to burning sun quite often. If you’re taking a pushchair take an extra poncho to over it with as many attractions make you leave it outside and it can get soaked. You can hire a pushchair for $15 a day. Even if your child doesn’t really use a buggy they are handy to hold all the bags etc!

Disney do a photo pass now where you get a card from a photographer and any photos they take in any of the parks get loaded onto the card. You can then view all the photos online and purchase 30 days after they were taken. TAKE A PHOTO OF THE BACK OF YOUR CARD with the number on so that if you loose it you can still view the pictures.

Dining for us at the Magic Kingdom – we made reservations for the Crystal Palace at 1.30pm. It is an American buffet – all you can eat. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eyore. It was $75 for us (2 adults and 1 child). To keep the cost down use reservations for lunch time as the price can nearly double for a dinner time reservation. In terms of counter service food we ate in Peco Bills Cafe and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe where it cost around $40 to feed us three – things like salads, burgers, chicken, ribs.

Your child needs to be 40″ tall to get on most rides, 44″ and 48″ for some of the more intense ones. Under 40″ there’s not many exciting rides they can do. Faye, age 3 is exactly 40″.

Fast passes can be used on a few attractions and if you use them wisely you can get a few in one day. This can involve someone running around a bit to go and fetch them but it is worth it. These enable you to jump the queue so you only wait about 5 minutes rather than 55.

Meeting characters is LONG, be prepared! They come and go which can be frustrating. We got a lot of signatures in Faye’s book and people asked us a lot how we did it. My advice, plan your day, plan the timings. We would get in line for a character, then as we got nearer the front, Craig would take Faye to meet them whilst I ran ahead to get in the next queue. It can be very boring for a three year old so it helped to minimise the queuing a little for her. We did most of our characters during the midday heat, rather than queuing for rides. Most of them only stay out till early evening and they’re always busy so it’s just something you have to get on with. If you go to Mickey’s theatre right by the entrance and Pete’s Circus Top in Fantasyland you get Minnie, Micky, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and some princesses. Some of these you can get a Fastpass for or the queues are shorter.

There is a place called Castle Couture at the back of Cinderella’s Castle which girls go to get made into a princess which is EXPENSIVE but loads of parents had paid to get it done. Lucky for me, Faye is more of the type of girl to play with the water hose than worry about her hair. I won’t lie, some girls came away looking more drag queen than princess!

Rides not worth a wait in my opinion were;
Goofys Barnstormer
Stitch’s Great Escape

Rides we loved;
Splash Mountain
Thunder Mountain
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Pirates of Caribbean

Money wise we spent between $60 and $150 a day.

This place is not for resting. Expect to walk a lot and sweat a lot from 9am to 11pm!

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Philly.

We’re just about finishing up here in Philadelphia and packing to fly to Orlando early in the morning.

We’ve had a much more chilled out week in Philadelphia, both catching up on some much needed sleep.

The hotels been perfect, The Cromwell Inn. Everything you need and helpful staff. A light breakfast each morning until 10am, aircon, wifi, huge comfortable bed. Two minute walk to a shop and a brisk five minute walk to nearest subway line and bus stops. The hotel is located on Temple university campus and can be booked out quite far in advance around times like graduation. Again, we paid around £80 per night. The earlier you book, the better the rate.

SEPTA is the transport system. You buy tokens to use it. It’s something like $3.10 for two tokens (a return journey). You can buy day and family passes If you’re going to do a lot of travelling. The SEPTA map is quite confusing as it involves, underground, trollies, regional rail and buses. I felt it was very complicated to use and did not feel comfortable. Something like one in three stations are wheelchair accessible (meaning there’s lifts for pushchairs and wider ticket gates) on stations that aren’t wheelchair friendly there are a lot of steps and I had to lift the pushchair up over my head to get through the ticket barriers, with the ticket lady telling me I shouldn’t be using that station – but why should I walk two more blocks just because I have a child?! Compared to Washington’s Metro system which was clean and easy to use, the SEPTA system was a major downgrade. It smelt of urine, often had homeless people everywhere and the trains are incredibly noisy. On a more positive note was the Philly Phlash, a purple trolley that has around 19 stops in downtown Philadelphia. It stops at all the tourist attractions or very nearby and loops round all day. It is not supposed to be a tour bus, but if you get a good driver he points out all the sights. You can buy tickets on the bus or at one of the visitor centres. It costs $2 a ride so is very cheap. I would use that rather than paying $30 for a sightseeing bus. Children under 4 ride free.

On your first day of exploring go to the Independence Visitors Centre which is next to Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It sells tickets to most attractions in Philly, has maps, leaflets, gift shop, cafe and toilets. Most buses, the Phlash and a subway line are right next to it. Liberty Bell is free and Independence Hall is free, you just need to get a ticket with an entry time from the visitors centre. City Hall is a few blocks up and also has a visitors centre and next to that is Love Park/JFK Plaza which is good to hang out at on a nice day.

The Please Touch Museum is Philadelphia’s children’s museum. $16 per person, under 1 goes free. It was smaller than the Boston one and can be done in a morning or afternoon does not take all day. There’s a cafe there with a variety of hot and cold food. Cost me $14 for our lunch. I take water everywhere with me to save buying drinks, so that helps to keep the cost down. Faye had a wonderful time here, it is set up to let children have ago and doing all things that adults do in the small city of Philadelphia they have recreated. Things like driving a bus, working in a supermarket, putting petrol into a car, working in a hospital, shoe shop and so on. There is also an Alice in Wonderland section for children to explore as well as a big water play section full of rubber ducks. The museum is well worth a visit and can be reached via the Phlash bus.

We also visited the US Mint which Is opened 9-4.30 for free tours. We had a ten minute queue here as you have to show ID. Once inside its a self guided tour to explore the history and the factory where they make the coins. Only took around an hour but Faye surprisingly enjoyed watching the factory making the coins which was nice.

Franklin Square is a good spot for children. Open 7 days a week, from around 10-9 most days. There is a carousel – $2.50 a ride, mini golf – $7 and a large playground as well as a fountain. There is also a well known cafe called Square Burger that serves all sorts of hot and cold snacks and shakes at very reasonable prices.

Smiths Memorial Playground is another spot I wanted to take Faye, however both days I tried to go it was shut due to bad weather. It is a free in and outdoor park that from the outside looks great.

I also had my first run in with a police officer in Philly. Faye wanted me to take a picture of her in front of Independence Hall but it is right on a road so to get her and the Hall in the shot I had to take it from the other side of the road. So, I crossed Faye over the narrow one way road, told her where to stand then I popped back across the road and turned round to take the photo when a Police Officer came running over shouting at me for abandoning my child. He grabbed Faye by the shoulder and called me stupid so I crossed back across the road and he shouted at me calling me a ‘stupid girl’ for abandoning Faye, when I tried to explain what I was doing he kept shouting so then I got mad and shouted back at him as I didn’t appreciate him calling me stupid repeatedly, he then called the other officers in the area on his radio and gave my description before telling me I was banned from the park surrounding Independence Hall and so I just walked away with him still shouting – and after all that I didn’t even get the photo! So just a word of warning don’t take photos of children in front of Independence Hall!!

The Cromwell Inn

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