Walt Disney World diaries: Magic Kingdom

The second park, Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is hands down one of my favourite places in the world. It basically says what it is on the tin and if you ever get the opportunity to go, you should. On this trip the second park we visited was Magic Kingdom and if you would like to read the first part of the Walt Disney World diaries series you can click here.

Beginning at Adventureland

An image of Adventureland, Magic Kingdom
An image of Adventureland, Magic Kingdom

There are two ways in which people usually venture around Magic Kingdom you either begin at Tomorrowland or Adventureland. Due to Adventureland normally being the least busy we began there. I immediately got early FastPasses for Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Carribean and The Haunted Mansion. In Adventureland, you will find a series of rides and the shops are mainly featuring characters such as Aladdin and Moana. There’s also an Aladdin and Jasmine meet near the Magic Carpet ride.

Tangled at Magic Kingdom

The Tangled bathrooms, Magic Kingdom
The Tangled bathrooms

Between Adventureland and Frontierland we rode Pirates Of The Carribean, you also have the option to meet Jack Sparrow. Next, we headed to Frontierland which is home of Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain before then heading to Liberty Square. Liberty Square is home to my sister’s favourite ride, The Haunted Mansion, which we usually ride several times if possible. Magic Kingdom was so busy our only option was to keep booking fast passes as the queues were enormous.

We stumbled on an area which was not there the last time we visited and was of particular interest to me as I am a huge fan of the Disney film Tangled. Right next to the Haunted Mansion I noticed horseshoe prints with the name Maximus, if you have seen the movie Tangled you will know this is the name of the horse. As we got closer to the top of the bank I saw a Tangled theme bathroom and the Tangled tower along with several hidden Pascal’s you can find around the area.

It’s a small world after all

It's a small world, Magic Kingdom
‘It’s a small world’ ride, Magic Kingdom

After the Tangled area, we had a fast pass booked for an old school classic – It’s A Small World. This ride is in the Fantasyland area which also features the Peter Pan ride, Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, Mad Tea Party, Carousel, Phiharmagic and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This area is also full of character meets with Disney Princess’ so a lot of photo pass opportunities are available. I also really like the Beauty and The Beast area in Fantasy Land. This features the Be Our Guest restaurant, where you can dine with the beast. There is also a meet with Gaston as well as the Tales with Belle attraction.

Tomorrowland

Stitch meet and greet, Magic Kingdom
Stitch meet and greet, Magic Kingdom

We ended the day visiting Tomorrowland. Although, we did visit the small circus area for some snacks which I will show you in another post. We immediately headed to the Stitch meet as he is my sister’s absolute favourite and she was eager to get a photo. This meet was my favourite as the cast member really interacted and we got a lot of good pictures. We then headed for the Buzz Lightyear ride which is one of my favourites. Similar to Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios, it is a competitive shooting game. You also get a photo pass on the ride.

Buzz Lightyear space ranger spin, Tomorrowland
Buzz Lightyear ride, Magic Kingdom

I will suggest trying to get a ticket including a memory maker. Our tickets were from FloridaTix and it was included in with the price. This means you get all ride photos, meet and greets and photo opportunities within the parks.

At last, I see the light

Tangled photo pass opportunity, Magic Kingdom.
Tangled lantern photo pass, Magic Kingdom

We finished the evening with my favourite photo pass opportunities across Disneyworld – the Tangled lanterns. There is also Happily Ever After which is a show projected on the castle with music and fireworks.

Top Tips for Magic Kingdom

Cinderella castle, Magic Kingdom
In front of the Cinderella Castle

If you are visiting Magic Kingdom, go early. There are lots of attractions, meet and greets, photo opportunities and it will take all day. In my experience, this is always the busiest park so it’s definitely worth utilising fast passes or spreading it over several visits. There are also some incredible snacks, some of which I will show you in a future post. Also, just take the time to look around at some of the incredible theming, find the hidden mickeys and the tiny details that make the park so special.

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you missed my previous post about Hollywood Studios you can click here.

Thank you for reading and look out for my next post about Epcot!

Life Of Riley: Food Review

After hearing some positive comments about the food at Life Of Riley we decided to try it for ourselves…

What is Life Of Riley?

Inside Life Of Riley, Sunderland
Inside Life Of Riley, Sunderland

Life Of Riley is a venue situated on Green Terrace in Sunderland City Centre. As well as offering food it is also a very popular nightlife location, offering live music, pre-match entertainment and karaoke nights. You can find more about what’s on offer by visiting their Facebook page here.

Life of Riley’s menu

The food menu had a range of different options available from lighter bites such as panini’s and wraps to meals such as mince and dumplings, burgers and steaks. Life Of Riley also offers a Sunday dinner which often gets great reviews. The food is also very reasonably priced with an 8oz rump steak and chunky chips costing less than £10. We visited on a Saturday afternoon before the football match began and both opted for the chicken and bacon wrap from the lighter menu along with some chunky chips to share.

Our Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Life Of Riley. The wraps were stuffed with good quality chicken and the bacon was not fatty or cut too thickly. Although it was a simple meal it was delicious and done to perfection. The chunky chips were also amazing, they were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I am quite fussy so didn’t have any salad with mine but my partner enjoyed the salad with honey drizzle and cleaned his plate. As well as the food tasting amazing we also had cocktails which were on 2 for 1 during the happy hour. We tried a Zombie Ice Tea and a Long Island Ice Tea.

rhdr

I also thought that the service and staff were fantastic. Our order for food was dealt with promptly and the food was hot when we received it. The bar staff were very nice and I enjoyed chatting to Allison and Kody whilst our order was being prepared. Josh was new to working behind the bar but was very polite. He ensured he received support when required and apologized if he was slightly slower but wanted to ensure our order was correct. The manager Andrew was also very nice. We noticed he was very supportive and contributed to serving the food and drinks instead of just making the other members of staff do everything. Overall, I really enjoyed having food and drinks at Life Of Riley and the staff made the experience better. I would definitely return again in the future.

Walt Disney World diaries: Hollywood Studios

Beginning with Hollywood Studios

To start my Walt Disney World diaries series I’ve decided to begin with the first park I visited on my May 2019 trip to Florida, Hollywood Studios. The last time I came here was in 2013 and A LOT has changed since then.

Toy Story Land

Entrance to Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios, Orlando.
Entrance to Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios

The first and most recent change to the Hollywood Studios park was the opening of Toy Story Land in 2018. On my previous visits to the park, I’ve ridden Toy Story Mania but this part of the park was non-existent. We began at Toy Story Land to see if we could get on Slinky Dog Dash as we were unable to get a FastPass for it but at park opening the queue was already 120 minutes long. We also had a look at the swirling saucers which was a 60-minute wait. Although both rides did look fun, the wait time was too long to wait in 35-degree heat as for my family they were not necessarily must-do attractions. The theming of the land was amazing but this was the busiest part of the park by a mile off.

Pixar Place

Photo pass photographer spot at Pixar Place, Hollywood Studios in Florida.
Photo pass opportunity at Pixar Place, Hollywood Studios

Another new addition to Hollywood Studios was the Pixar Place area. Although this area wasn’t big in terms of attractions this was a great spot for photo opportunities. There was plenty of photo pass photographers and the option to take photos with props as well as a Character Meet with Edna Mode which was a must-do for me. The queue was less than 5 minutes long. This part of Hollywood Studios was mainly home to The Incredibles and they also have a dance party with all of the characters.

Meet and Greet photo pass spot with Edna Mode at Hollywood Studios.
Meet and Greet with Edna Mode at Hollywood Studios

Meeting Mike and Sulley

Mike and Sulley photo pass meet and greet at Hollywood Studios
Mike and Sulley meet and greet, Hollywood Studios

After exploring Pixar Place we wanted to stay close as had a Toy Story Mania FastPass within the hour so we headed over to meet Mike and Sulley at Walt Disney Presents in Animation Courtyard. This was a museum which had a lot of information on Hollywood Studios. It also featured the expansion of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge which is coming later this year on August 29th. They also gave a first look at the Aladdin live-action movie which was due to be released. The line for the meet up was very long – a lot longer than advertised! We then watched The Little Mermaid show which was right next door.

Star Tours and meeting Chewbacca

Chewbacca meet and greet, Hollywood Studios
Chewbacca meet and greet, Hollywood Studios

After our FastPass for Toy Story Mania, we then had to head over to Star Tours for our next FastPass. This has been at the park since 1987 but was revamped in 2010 and is a virtual reality ride. After Star Tours, we then watched my Dad’s favourite – Indiana Jones. This is a stunt show involving the audience and is worth a watch. I really wanted to meet Olaf who was quite close to Star Tours but the queue was quite a wait and my final FastPass was at the other side of the park. We instead decided to go to the Star Wars Launch Bay and meet Chewbacca which was only a 10-minute wait. We then ended the day with my favourite ride Rock’n’Rollercoaster.

Other things to do in Hollywood Studios

This was how we spent our day in Hollywood Studios but there are other things there which we did not do but have done previously. I’d recommend the Beauty and The Beast stage show, we would have watched it but the times clashed with our plans. I’d have liked to have tried the Toy Story rides but the waits were just too long and another popular attraction is the Tower Of Terror. Although this is a staple attraction at Hollywood Studios and I have been on it before it’s not really a must-do for me. I prefer the rollercoasters and again this gets quite busy. If you’re visiting Hollywood Studios you can always have a look at the Walt Disney World website for more details. I’d also recommend the Fantasmic! show especially if it’s your first time.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my time in Hollywood Studios. I’ll be continuing my Walt Disney World Diaries series next week with the second park I visited – Magic Kingdom.

Berlin City Break

Berlin City Break

So this blog post is a bit late, I actually visited Berlin in November 2018 but haven’t got round to posting about it yet as I’ve been so busy with university. We travelled at the end of November flying with Easyjet from Newcastle and stayed at Frederics Berlin City Hackeschermarkt which are serviced apartments. The apartments were clean and close to both public transport and the main attractions in the area (unfortunately I did not take a picture of our room – sorry!).

Berliner Dom. Berlin Cathedral Church
Berlin Cathedral Church aka Berliner Dom
In front of the Berliner Dom

Day One – Sightseeing

We got there quite late at night so just went for a couple of drinks in the local area of Hackeschermarkt before beginning our first full day sightseeing and taking in all Berlin has to offer. I didn’t really have a clue where I was going so kind of drifted towards the Brandenburg Gate but we got to see the Berliner Dom on the way as the majority of landmarks were close together.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Our next destination was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which is very sad as it commemorates up to six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. We then headed to Potsdamer Platz (and Cara’s coffee shop) to continue exploring. Unfortunately, we were a little early for all of the Christmas markets as they did not begin until the final week in November so we were a few days early but we still saw a small one there. I tried a Bratwurst which I didn’t think I would enjoy but it was actually delicious. Luke’s Currywurst, however, not so appetizing to look at.

Topography of Terror

After this, I had looked at the Topography of Terror online and thought it would be really interesting so we decided to go and have a look. Some of the content I found really upsetting and terrifying, it was difficult to come to terms with the fact it really happened. This is a free museum and well worth a look. We also saw the remaining part of the Berlin Wall before heading to Checkpoint Charlie. After the day’s sightseeing, we decided to head out for some food and drinks. We found one of the waiters in the restaurant we went to very helpful and he pointed us to an area to get drinks. I really liked the Vulcano Bar as the staff were so nice.

Checkpoint Charlie

Day Two – Stasi Prison

Our second day we visited the Stasi prison which was where political criminals were kept and interrogated. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and both English and German tours are provided throughout the day. We got there via the tram service which was straight forward and easy to use as well as being the quickest way of getting to the prison.

Stasi Prison

The tour took up quite a lot of our day but we still ventured out on an evening, got some food and had some drinks. We found it quite difficult to find busy bars in our area but it is so casual over there people literally walk around with bottles of beer in their hands.

East Side Gallery

Day three – East Side Gallery

Just before we caught our flight home we managed to squeeze in a visit to the East Side Gallery to look at all the graffiti artwork. It was so interesting and unusual we saw the famous “the kiss” along with so many others.

The Kiss

So that was a short diary of my time in Berlin. This post is fairly brief and I wish I had included a bit more about where I ate and drank and how much things were etc. but we only had a short space of time here so I really wanted to see as much as possible. I was also quite unwell after visiting the prison on our second day so wasn’t really up to much that evening. I hope this gives some ideas on what to do in Berlin but there was so much more I could have explored and I would love to go back in the future.

The Receipts Podcast and why I love it

Since the majority of my posts recently have been travel guides I thought I would creep in with something different. This post is about my new favourite podcast, The Receipts Podcast. I figured since I have spent every car journey since discovering them avidly listening, they deserved some love on my blog.

So, just to tell you a little about the podcast I’ve taken this description from Google Podcasts…

‘#TheReceiptsPodcast is a fun, honest podcast fronted by three girls who willingly talk about anything and everything. From relationships to situationships to everyday life experiences, you can expect unadulterated girl talk with no filter.’

The hosts are Milena, Tolly and Audrey and they each bring something different to the podcast which is what makes it work so well. They are absolutely hilarious and their content is full of singing and epic one-liners (Milena calling someone’s mum a sideman had me in hysterics!). Although the majority of episodes are full of real talk and humour the one’s I really enjoy are the minisodes called Your Receipts.

Your Receipts is where the girls basically ask for dilemmas which they solve and give advice on.  They literally range from little things like “Should I give a girl my basketball jersey?” to a lot more serious topics involving pregnancy and family situations. I absolutely adore how honest the girls are and how they also bring past life experience in to help other people solve their dilemmas.

So basically what I want you to do is go and check the girls out on their podcast and you can become addicted to listening like me and you can have a genuinely more interesting commute to work every morning. They release a new episode every Wednesday which alternates between a normal episode and a Your Receipts episode.

Follow the girls on twitter too, they are also funny on there. Tolly also has recently started a love letter series here you should also check out:

Audrey @Ghanasfinestx

Milena @Milenasanchezx

Tolly: @Tolly_T 

Happy listening, you can thank me later!

Cara x

New York Travel Guide Day 4: Madame Tussauds and travel terrors!

Welcome to the last edition of my New York travel guide which includes my trip to Madame Tussauds as well as a collection of travel tips and travel terrors relating to my trip to New York City. I also have part one, part two and part three you can go and look at. This post is all about my trip to Madame Tussauds and my travel nightmares coming home.

Cute kitty in Petco

My final day

So our final day was predominantly spent shopping in New York. I really wanted to visit PetCo for some goodies for my darling angel Tigerlilli and was very sad looking at the pets up for adoption. We also visited the Korean part of New York which had an abundance of skin care and face masks – I am a big fan of Koran skincare! We did also explore the bigger department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s but huge busy places really aren’t my cup of tea! My favourite shop was Bath and Bodywork’s.

The Flat Iron Building New York
The Flat Iron Building

We also saw the Flat Iron Building whilst trying to find Forbidden Planet although it was good to see I wouldn’t make a purpose of wandering that far out without a metro pass unless you’re in that area anyway.

Rupaul Charles waxwork Madame Tussauds
Rupaul Madame Tussaud’s

We also visited Madame Tussaud’s during the evening time and naturally I gravitated straight towards Rupaul! It was full of waxwork models and some more interactive attractions. 

Marvel 4d

We went in the Marvel 4d show which was really good, there was another interactive experience but it involved zombies and this did not sit well with my younger sister. I really enjoyed the waxworks you could really interact with such as the ET one below.

ET waxwork Madame Tussauds New York
ET 

My holiday hell!

The hulk Madame Tussauds New York
The Hulk

So, although I did have a great time, the thing which ruined my holiday was the dilemma’s we faced on the way home (and my next phone bill faced after). Upon travelling on the bus back to Stewart airport we were informed our flight back to Edinburgh was cancelled with no explanation. Another passenger approached us and showed us a text he had received this morning and said they had arranged another Norwegian airlines flight to get them home but my dad hadn’t received any communications from them.

Ghostbusters

Things not going to plan give me major anxiety so this was such an inconvenience. I had to call Norwegian airlines from America who offered me a flight from JFK to Stockholm which had one seat for a family of four, then another flight to Paris which was even later. Then the flight to Edinburgh from Paris was too late as messed with everyone’s plans and work commitments so I ended up opting for a Newcastle flight from Paris which got us home at 3pm but my dad would still have to go to Edinburgh to collect his car. I was ten contacted again and told the Paris flight was delayed and I would miss the Newcastle flight so I had to then fly to Amsterdam before Newcastle.

New York City
NYC

Instead of an hour coach trip from Manhattan to Stewart Airport then a direct flight to Edinburgh followed by a drive home for lunch time I had a coach trip from the airport and back, a taxi ride to JFK airport, a flight to Paris departing at 2am instead of 10:30pm, a flight to Amsterdam and then I finally arrived in Newcastle at 11pm. This was 13 hours later than my estimated arrival. My dad then had to travel to Edinburgh via train to retrieve the car. We were also subjected to tired old planes with no entertainment and although we paid for reserved seats we could not sit together.

My top travel tips for New York

  • Pack for literally anything it could be sunny one day, snowing the next
  • Get discounted entry into some of the main attractions such as the National History Museum (Read travel guide posts 2 or 3)
  • Don’t buy a travel pass for the subway (see travel guide 2)
  • Avoid Norweigan airlines

Thank you so much for reading my travel guides if you would like to visit part one, part two or part three please do so! I hope you’ve enjoyed my insights and if you have any New York related questions please feel free to ask!

Cara x

New York travel guide Day 3: The American Museum of National History and Central Park

Welcome to part three of my New York travel guide all about Central Park and The American Museum of National History! If you would like to revisit part one or part two of my New York travel guides please do so by clicking them! We decided to visit both of these locations in the same day because they were both very close to each other and both take a while to explore!

The American Museum of National History

Outside the American Museum of National History
Outside the American Museum of National History

This museum is gigantic so I’d thoroughly reccomend getting a map from the reception upon entry, it’s very easy to get lost. It covers animals from different countries, people from different countries, dinosaurs, historical figures along with biology and space. Most of the museum is included with a ticket but you may need to pay more for special exhibits. 

In front of the elephants in the African Mammals exhibit
In front of the elephants in the African Mammals exhibit

You could easily spend the whole day in this museum it’s so big but we decided just to pick out some of the exhibits we wanted to visit. The animal exhibits were definately a firm favourite as as well as the animals being so realistic, the settings and greenery were too which was a far cry from the New York city outside!

The huge whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.
The huge whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life

In the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life a huge 94 foot whale is suspended from the ceiling and 122 foot long skeleton of a Titanosaur stands in the dinosaur exhibit. There’s some really amazing things to look at and see and I can imagine this being the most amazing school trip for the kids that live in New York. I’m sure the class I work with would love to visit here!

The titanosaur
The titanosaur

You can also visit the famous Num Num from the movie Night At The Museum which was actually set in The American Museum of National History, in New York!

Num Num from Night at the Museum
Num Num from Night at the Museum

Another top tip for the museum is to pay what you want! Obviously there is a suggested donation amount but if you are only calling in for a particular exhibit or for a small amount of time it’s worth offering your own donation it also means you can avoid using your city pass and save it for another place. However, this does not apply to the special exhibits so you may need to pay more in order to visit those. If you would like to find out more about the museum, I have linked their website here.

The mammoths
The mammoths

Central Park

Bow Bridge at Central Park
Bow Bridge at Central Park

Central Park is a gigantic park in the middle of New York which has been regularly featured in different movies and TV shows. This particular part is Bow Bridge which was in one of my favourite teen movies, Uptown Girls.

Squirrel in Central Park
Squirrel in Central Park

The park featured a lot of squirrels which darted around and lots of different greenery. I also visited the John Lennon memorial and the statues of Alice and Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson. It was a great way to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There is also a zoo which I didn’t visit but apparently the other New York zoo’s are higher on reccomendations. 

Central Park
My sister and I in Central Park

Although I enjoyed Central Park it does take a WHILE to walk round, it’s so easy to get lost in here and the majority of it is just an actual park so I’m glad we were also able to fit something else into our day as a lot of people opt to spend the day here. 

Thank you so much for reading and check out my next post coming soon which is part 4!

Lots of love,

Cara x

New York travel guide Day 2: Brooklyn Bridge, DUMBO and 9/11 Memorial Museum

Welcome to part two of my New York travel guide, if you haven’t read part one yet then click here and you can read about getting there, my hotel and the sights I saw on day one of my trip.

Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO

The view of New York from Brooklyn
The view of New York from Brooklyn

To start our second day in New York, we got the subway over to Brooklyn heights and explored DUMBO which is the underpass. It was such a hot day and the view of all the skyscrapers was amazing from the other side of the water.

A photo of at the DUMBO underpass with a view of Manhattan Bridge
Photo spot at DUMBO with a view of Manhattan bridge

We walked around for a little while and found the place where a lot of people decide to take Instagram shots in the middle of the road with the Manhattan bridge behind them. I of course, had to join in and get mine took although the sun was very bright and in my eyes so it was hard to get a reasonable shot. I was also very boiling in that coat.

Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn bridge was very very busy when we walked over it. Although I can imagine you are able to get some great shots on the bridge it’s very difficult due to the number of people crossing and also the number of people stopping dead in front of you in the middle of the bridge to get a photo themselves. Be nice and find a spot to the side.

The view walking across Brooklyn Bridge
The view walking across Brooklyn Bridge

Staten Island Ferry and The Statue of Liberty

The view of Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry
The view of Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry

We then took another subway to get to the Staten Island ferry.  We weren’t too bothered about actually visiting Ellis Island, we just wanted to see the statue so we opted for the free ferry. It doesn’t take long and gives you a pretty good view of the statue but you need to be quick to get off the boat at Staten Island and then back on another boat to return.

The Statue Of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty

9/11 Memorial Museaum + Ground Zero New York

Inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum
Inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum

This museum and general area of New York is really really upsetting and I can see why some people choose not to visit but it was probably one of the highlights of the trip as I found it absolutely fascinating. 

The 9/11 Memorial Pools
The 9/11 Memorial Pools

We first went to the memorial pools which were placed where the twin towers were and had the names of several people who had lost their lives during 9/11.

Fire engine at the 9/11 Memorial Museum
Fire engine at the 9/11 Memorial Museum

My dad and I then went into the museum which was so interesting and moving, it included lots of information about 9/11 and all of the people involved such as the fire service, police force, ambulance services, animals and all of those who worked in the building

Fire truck 9/11 Memorial Museum
Another fire truck 9/11 Memorial Museum

With my dad actually being  a firefighter we were so captured by the damaged fire trucks and stories of the firefighters that assisted during the fire and it was sad to think that everyone involved woke up to a normal day without any idea what was ahead.

Sirius the police dog, 9/11 memorial museum
Sirius the police dog, 9/11 Memorial Museum

I was also really touched by the story of the police dog, Sirius who was killed during 9/11 and they had a photo dedicated to him. The saddest part was definately the room filled with all the photo’s, items and stories of those who lost their lives which was an exhibition where photo’s were not permitted.

9/11 Memorial Museum
9/11 Memorial Museum

The above photo of the blue tiles also had a touching story behind it as each shade represents one persons memory of the colour of the sky that day. You can find more details on the 9/11 memorial museum here.

My top tips

Subway: A kind homeless man called Austin made us aware of not buying passes for everyone and this saved us a lot of money.  The passes are 40$ per person but buying one card that you can top up saves a lot of money. Up to 4 people can use a card and each journey is 2.75$ so you’re only really paying for what you need.

Free entry to 9/11 Memorial Museum: Visit the museum on a Tuesday just before 5pm and you are allowed to enter for free. They do suggest making a donation and every donation above 5$ you get a free wristband which is a nice thing to remember the place by.

I hope you all enjoyed the second edition of my New York travel guide. Please check out part three here which includes the Museum of Natural History, Central Park.

Thanks for reading,

Cara x

New York travel guide Day 1: Top of the Rock, Grand Central Station and Empire State Building

Recently I took a trip to the big apple with my family as an early gift for my mam’s 50th birthday. The trip lasted 5 days and was completely exhausting so this has took me a while to put together. When researching New York I found most of my help and recommendations came from online websites such as Pintrest, Instagram and other blogs so here is the first part of my five part travel guide to New York city!

Travelling to New York

Outside the Wyndham A New Yorker hotel

My family and I travelled to New York using Norweigan airlines on a direct flight from Edinburgh Airport to Stewart Airport. We travelled from Sunderland to Edinburgh by car and then from Stewart Airport to Manhattan we got the bus which was 20$ each. I will explain more about my flight experiences in a later post but my journey there was tolerable althought the aeroplane had no Wifi or entertainment which was very dissappointing as we were expecting it.

We stayed in the Wyndham A New Yorker hotel on 8th avenue which I was pleasantly surprised with. Although a 3* they were very accomodating, the kind lady at the front desk, Julia, upgraded us to a larger room the second night which had a fantastic view of the Empire State building. I also found the other front desk and security staff very friendly as well as the mail room staff who helped me with my Halloween costume order!

First day in New York

New York Public Library

View of the New York public library
Outside the New York public library

Firstly, we started the day mainly sightseeing and getting our bearings in mid-town which was the area we were staying in. One of our first photo stops was the New York public library which was featured in the popular film, Ghostbusters.

Top of the rock

Ice rink in Rockefeller plaza
Ice rink in Rockefeller plaza

We then headed over to Rockefeller plaza, home of the Rockerfellar centre along with NCB News and various shops and restaurants. We decided our first excursion would be the Top of the Rock, a fantasic view of the New York city skyline. 

View from Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller centre
Views from Top of the Rock

I took a lot of photo’s on Top of the Rock as the view was phenomenal. One side you could see how huge central park is and the other was mainly the large buildings including the Empire State building which you can see above. It’s best to get here early so expect to que both for the tickets and to get into the actual attraction as it’s super busy, I’d also recommend making sure you go on a clear day or you wont see a thing. My family used a New York explorer pass which you can find here on Expedia for 3,4,5 and 7 New York attractions.

Pumpkins in Rockefeller Plaza
Pumpkin decor in Rockefeller Plaza

After that we had a wander around Rockefeller Plaza and visited some cute shops, I really loved the Kawaii shop! My sisters firm favourite however, was definately the Nintendo shop as she went to New York with two soft toys and came back with eight!

Donkey Kong in the Nintendo Store
Statue of Donkey Kong in the Nintendo Store

My favourite meal in New York

Pizza burger from Black Tap New York city
Amazing pizza burger!

After stumbling upon them on their Instagram which is linked here, I could not come to New York and not try Black Tap on my first day. The food completely lived up to the hype and the que outside. I ordered the pizza burger which is above which arrived with the most amazing pizza sauce EVER. The two servers we had which were Daniel and Samantha were also very attentive and since it was so busy they regularly updated us with how long we were expecting to wait.

Cookies 'N' Cream milkshake from Black Tap NYC
This cookies’n’cream milkshake was the best!

I then finished off with this absolutely amazing cookies ‘n’ cream milkshake which had oreo pieces and a huge cookie sandwich on top. The milkshakes here were absolutely amazing and I was so torn whether to opt for this one of the standard cookie milkshake but I would have enjoyed both. My dad also opted for one of these but his was the fruity pebbles version and he also finished that. Although the bill was quite pricey here at 15$ for the milkshake alone it was well worth it and I’d highly recommend you visit if in New York. It also is enough to fill you for the full day as I couldn’t eat anything else!

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station

Our second photo stop was Grand Central Stations. Although not much to do here it’s worth a see and a photo due to it being so famous. There’s a few little shops inside too but they are rather pricey, typical for a train station.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station

Empire State building

At the Empire State Building view of New York at night
The view from the Empire State was amazing

We decided to visit the Empire State building by night which was amazing as it was a magical experience seeing the city all light up at night. We decided to go at night as I saw many blogs and Instagram posts recommending it and it was a great recommendation as there was barely any ques! We once again used our New York explorer pass for this and it was our second attraction.

New York at night from the Empire State building
New York at night from the Empire State building

First look around Times Square

Times Square at night
Times Square at night

We ended the evening by having a look around Times Square which was full of people shopping, dining and visiting the theatre. We sadly did not go and see a show because the tickets were very expensive and we couldn’t agree on which one we wanted.  Harry Potter and The Cursed Child would be my choice which was the most expensive (still looks amazing, I will see it one day).

M&M world
M&M world Statue Of Liberty

We did however, visit the M&M’s world which was similar to the one’s I’ve been to in London and Florida and we got bags of the one’s we couldn’t get in a standard pack as it wasn’t worth getting the standard M&M’s as it was around 7$ per half a pound! We also saw a gigantic teddy bear and some other cool shops around Times Square.

I hope you enjoyed the first of my four part travel guide and are looking forward to the next post. Next week I will tell you all about the 9/11 memorial museum and Brooklyn Bridge so keep watching! What’s your favourite place in New York?

You can find part two of the guide here.

I have also added part three here.

Thanks for reading,

Lots of love

Cara x

Harry Potter Day! Warner Bros Studio Tour London

I visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London, which is Harry Potter themed on the 29th of September this year.  We picked an ideal time to go as it was the second day of the ‘Dark Arts’ Halloween event so some aspects of the tour were added or changed for Halloween. I had a spectacular time and took some amazing photos, so I thought I’d share my experience.

Getting there (It’s going to be a bumpy ride!)

My boyfriend and I drove as we spent the weekend in London. The tour is based in the Watford area and another popular method of transport was the Harry Potter bus. This was available from central London and other locations which also allowed you to travel directly to the studio tour.

Standing on the night bus featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What to do when you arrive

First thing you need to do is collect your tickets. You can either wait in the que and get help from someone or collect them yourself from the machines. They also have three of the chess pieces featured in Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone outside the front entrance. Upon walking in you are checked by security then you walk in to some moulds of the casts hand prints as well as the costumes for the spin off from the Harry Potter films, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Once you’ve followed the long winding path with quotes in the style of Marauders Map you then reach the beginning.

The winding path featuring Harry Potter quotes in the style of Marauders Map

Joining the que

Once you’ve walked through the long path there’s a Starbucks, a shop and a was to actually start the tour. You can’t eat or drink whilst walking around the handcrafted because a lot of the set and the characters costumes are real. However, there is a cafe halfway through where you can purchase refreshments. Don’t visit the shop just yet as you will get a chance once the tour has ended. Join the que and see Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs before you go inside!

The cupboard under the stairs

What to expect

There’s absolutely tonnes to see during the tour as it contains many scenes, costumes and props from the Harry Potter films. It’s advisable to not rush through as you might miss something and you can’t go back to it once you’ve passed. The first part you enter is the great hall which has a lot to take in, it features costumes of the professors, food props from the banquets and costumes relevant to each of the houses.

Floating pumpkin heads in the Great Hall featured in Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone

Dark Arts Halloween Event

As you can see above, the Great Hall was decorated with pumpkins for the Dark Arts Halloween event which was also seen in the film, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. The pumpkins were hand-carved and unique so that no two were the same. The other features included the option to see how Troll snot, fluffy’s drool and unicorn blood were created. One of the best touches was the live battle with death eaters which was staged in the backlot. The actors wore the death eater masks featured in the films which were unique and handcrafted to reflect their personality. There was an even mixture of male and female death eaters and they included the masks of Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. I got a fantastic picture with the death eater starring as Lucius!

Myself after the death eater duel with Lucius Malfoy

Interactive and photo opportunities

Each part of the tour was not short of opportunities to interact and take photos. There was a photo opportunity to sit at Hagrid’s table, which makes the person sitting at the front look seemingly large!

My boyfriend and I in Hagrid’s house

There was also the option to hold your hand over a broom and have it rise into your grasp. You also had the option to actually ride on a broom, learn wand dualling techniques and ride the Hogwarts Express.

Outside of Privet Drive
The typical Platform 9 and 3/4 picture
Tom Riddell’s gravestone

Fantastic Beasts and how they made them

Another really fascinating aspect of the tour was seeing all the creatures used in the film and how they were made. The goblins, elves, trolls, dragons and even Buckbeak the Hippogriff were featured. A lot of masks were featured in the Harry Potter films!

Buckbeak and I
Fawkes the phoenix

The Back lot Cafe

Another favourite aspect of my experience was in the cafe at the middle of the tour. Although this sold standard refreshments and food such as burgers and water it also sold Harry Potter themed treats. These treats were a Butterbeer and Butterbeer flavoured ice cream which were amazing! Although quite pricey at around £5 for the ice cream and £7 for the Butterbeer in a souvenir tankard.

Butterbeer ice cream and Butterbeer

Shopping

There are three shops, one small shop after the forbidden forest, one at the Hogwarts Express and one huge one at the end. In my opinion the shops are expensive so bring plenty of money. It includes plush toys (pygmy puffs are the cutest), stationary and your normal mugs and magnets. In addition to this, some Harry Potter specific items are available for purchase such as robes, wands and sweets. I bought a cute pygmy puff keyring, a marauders map mug and a chocolate wand for my sister. If I get the chance to go back I will 100% buy pygmy puff slippers!

How adorable are the pygmy puff slippers?

Do you want to visit?

If you would like to experience the world of Harry Potter head over to their website here. An average adult ticket is priced at £41.