West Coast USA 2017

Los Angeles

Day 1

Oh my goodness! What a looooooonnnng day…. 34 hours & approximately 2 hours sleep (& that is at best). What a whirlwind. Up to catch the MEL- LAX via Auckland Air New Zealand flight. Approximately 15 hours flying time all up. Smooth flight although quite cramped as seems Economy Class is getting more & more crammed. Service by Air New Zealand staff was friendly & the best part was when we discovered on the inflight entertainment screen we could order as many snacks & drinks as we liked for FREE.

2 hours wait time in Customs which was exhausting, then the shuttle bus to the Alamo Rental Car depot. It was here that we hired our 15 seater van. Together, with Ian driving we navigated the roads to Disneyland. We FINALLY made it to Disneyland. Wonderful achievement & such a happy place.

We FINALLY made it to Disneyland where our 3 bedroom corner suite awaits us complete with lit up singing Bedhead.

No time to dawdle. My nephew Mitch, his wife Rachel & my Great Nephew, Colton are in town along with his Mum, Belinda, his sister, Sienna and his Nanny – Bev. Time to meet up. So after strolling through Downtown Disney we meet up at The Cheesecake Factory where we wait a long long time for a table, then a long long time to be served. It is Graduation time & there are Graduation parties & celebrations everywhere so Anaheim is BUSY. The queues when we went through Downtown Disney earlier for Disneyland were massive. Disneyland had stopped accepting new entrants while California Adventure was the only park that patrons could get in. Madness!

We had a plan to go to the second Electrical Light parade st 10:45 as we figured most of the crowds would be dwindling. 10:05pm & we FINALLY manage to leave the Cheesecake Factory. We got down there at 7:15pm, got a table at 9:00pm & finished eating by 10:05pm. Quick goodbyes & we sprint down to Disneyland which is between 1km & 2km away. In the gate & we get prime position for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Go Team Mason!

The Main Street Electrical Parade is magical & we had extra fun because we were seated at the start of the Parade we followed the parade through to the castle. SO much fun dancing behind the parade! We almost felt famous!

11:30pm & we gain entry to Its A small World ride. Such a happy relaxing ride. Just before midnight and we ‘just’ get on the third last ride of the evening of The Storybook Canal. Such pretty lights and relaxing but we need to do this ride during the day too.

The park is still super busy. I think our Gold Coast theme parks could learn a lot from Disney. At Disney if you line up for a ride before midnight (official park closing time) you will get on the ride – even if it is a long wait & it is 2am in the morning! So much fun!

We are wrecked so we go ‘home’ to Disneyland Hotel for 5 hours sleep before we wake up for early entry Magic Morning to California Adventure. Entry time is 7am.

Day 2

Starbucks for breakfast then Magic Morning Admission to California Adventure Park and we run down to Cars Land. Straight on the awesome Radiator Springs ride we have heard so much about. So much fun! By the time we get off the ride wait lines increase dramatically. As the day continues the crowds increase but we are so lucky we have our own personal tour guide – Lachie.

Lachy has been amazing getting us on rides with minimal wait times and fast passes to the most popular rides where wait times were increasing to 2 hours. No 2 hour waits for us – the longest we may have waited was 20 minutes.

On a MASSIVELY busy day we went on 11 rides, met 5 characters, had front row position to the Soundsational Parade, dinner at the Blue Bayou -a restaurant set in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in New Orleans Square at Disneyland and the “Remember… Dreams Come True” fireworks.

My favourite ride today was Soarin’ where we soared around the world including Australia. It was amazing. Unfortunately Brittany left her Minnie Mouse ears on the ride. They have been reported at Lost & Found but chances of finding her ears? Hmmmmm…..at Disneyland – it would be a miracle. Around 80,000 people would have walked through the gates yesterday. HUGE Crowds.

14 hours later & having had just 7 hours sleep since we left home we are exhausted & as soon as we get back to Disneyland Hotel our heads hit the pillow & we are asleep.

Day 3

Up early for our 1 ½ hour drive into Universal Studios. We purchased our tickets directly from Universal which allowed us early entry. We were too exhausted to get up at 5:30am so we got up at 6am instead. We arrived just after 7:30am, paid for front gate car parking & we entered the park at 7:40am. 20 minutes before other ticket holders which meant less crowds.

We ran directly to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Oh my goodness! Universal has outdone themselves here. The attention to detail is mind boggling. We had a short wait for the Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey Ride which was A-MAZING. Ride technology these days is incredible!

As we are still so tired & we hadn’t yet eaten breakfast we made the decision to eat at the Three Broomsticks Restaurant. Meals were reasonably priced & the best part was that Butter Beer was supplied with all meals. I wasn’t sure about the whole Butter Beer thing but oh my goodness, Frozen Butter Beer was super delicious. Kynan & Kobi opted for non-frozen which they weren’t raving about, so if you ever get Butter Beer opt for the frozen!

Next stop was the Lower Lot where we snagged a photo with a Dinosaur & Megatron (a very obnoxious Transformer). Rides down here were The Mummy Returns, Jurassic Park & Transformers.

Back up the 4 escalators & we make it back just in time for the Special Effects show. Seeing a stunt man set on fire was most certainly the highlight here.

We nab some photos with some roaming characters & bump into Belinda, Mitch & the gang on the way to the Waterworld show. We got soaked in the soak zone here – & I mean soaked!

Next stop is the Studio Tour. This would probably have to be the highlight at Universal with a tour of lots of movie sets & some Fast & Furious fun at the end.

The Simpsons & Despicable Me rides were so-so. There are a lot of simulator rides at Universal!

The Animal Actors show was cute – featuring animals from blockbuster movies.

Outside Universal is lots of cafes & shops. We met Belinda, Mitch & Co. at the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We arrived back to Disneyland Hotel just before 10pm. Straight to bed with the rules for tomorrow morning being that we wake up when we wake up – no early morning agendas!

Day 4

We slept in! This morning we arrived at Disneyland Park at 11am. Went back to Disneyland Hotel for a dinner & swim break, then re-entered the park just before 9pm. First thing we did was check in on Lost & Found & amazingly Brittanys Minnie Mouse ears were handed in & returned.

But, Oh my goodness! – the crowd was massive again today. So, so busy which is making it tricky to take in the Disney magic. Disney does handle large crowds well but the streets of Disneyland are just FULL. The other glitch has been that the Monorail & Train are not in operation so we are doing an incredible amount of walking & surprisingly not much eating – we don’t have time for that.

However, we still conquered with our max wait time only being around 25 minutes.

We rode 10 rides (half of these were during our second re-entry of the park at 9pm), met 7 characters (Eeyore, Tigger & Pooh were the best), tried our best to laugh at The Laughing Stock Co. show playing at The Golden Horseshoe (this show was actually really disappointing), but we did thoroughly enjoy The Disneyland Band.

Ian & the kids had a swim & relax at The Disneyland Resort, while Brittany & I had a nice relax in the hotel.

‘Home’ at 11:30pm & looking forward to our 8am ‘sleep-in’ tomorrow. The parks don’t open until 10am & we have early entry at California Adventure at 9am. Dreaming Disney.

Day 5

Early entry today was at California Adventure for 9am & had an amazing day. We had 3 highlights.

1/ Avengers Training ‘soft opening’. We were super excited because Brooke, Kynan & Kobi were the first EVER to undertake The Avengers training. Guardians of the Galaxy is opening on 26th May & there is a lot of hype about it. We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time for the kids to undertake The Avengers training which is part of their Summer of Heroes theme.

2/ Frozen Stageshow was A-MAZING. The show was 25 minutes late starting & after lining up one hour before showtime we were getting restless! However, the show was very much worth the wait. Super professional & magical.

3/ World of Color Laser Light & Water Show. Phenomenal display showcasing many of the Disney movies. We left the park feeling very happy – even though we were a little cold from the mist created by the water jets.

Up early again tomorrow for another magic morning at Disney. Park opens at 7am for Hotel Guests.

Most photos from today are on the other camera so only a small selection from my phone today.

Day 6

Early entry into Disneyland today, so up & at ’em! We arrive at Disneyland around 7:10am but there are lots of people in the queue so we enter around 7:15am. Straight to Peter Pans Flight as this ride is perpetually long & the best time to go to avoid queues is first thing.

Today we did a lot of the rides we had not yet covered, most of them being ‘opening day’ rides invented 60 years ago.

We had a ‘rest’ in the middle of the day after experiencing lunch at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. Some stayed at Disney trying to do some celebrity spotting (Brittany & Lachlan), as there is a lot of media excitement about the much anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy ride opening. Some shopped & some had a nap.

In the evening we ate at a bakery in Downtown Disney, saw World of Color for a second time – that’s how much we loved it, and rode the Pirates of the Caribbean. Brittany & Lachlan stayed on a little longer to ride Indiana Jones which is due to re-open tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are driving to Las Vegas with Mitchell, Rachel & Colton.

Las Vegas

Day 7

This morning we had breakfast with Chip & Dale, Minnie Mouse, Pluto & Goofy at Goofy’s Kitchen! That was fun. This is our last morning at The Disneyland Hotel. We are sad to leave & the kids are sad they didn’t get to try out the Monorail Waterslides.

We picked up Mitchell, Rachel & Colton from the Howard Johnson in Anaheim and begun our road trip. 3 stops & 5 hours later we reach Las Vegas. Unfortunately we have a couple of casualties from our extremely busy Disney lifestyle. Lachlan & Kobi both are feeling quite unwell – hence the couple of extra stops.

The drive is on a highway with the landscape slowly changing from hills to cactuses with donkeys in the fields & desert.

Finally we reach our destination. We drop The Pitt Family off at the Tropicana & we find our destination across the road & The MGM Grand Hotel & Resorts.

We get 2 rooms opposite each other & spend the rest of the evening ‘in’. Sick kids quarantined with Ian & myself and the other 4 kids in their happy place in their own room opposite.

Room service for dinner & we have a cute visitor for the evening – Colton. The ‘well’ children have a wonderful time playing with their cousin Colton but look to Ian & myself when he starts to get a little restless & teary.

Colton is such a good boy & sleeps soundly until his parents picked him up in the early hours of the morning. We are so happy we can help Mitchell & Rachel to have some kid-free time.

Tomorrow we will venture out into the world of Las Vegas – the place that never sleeps. We will be cautioning the children & reminding them we are no longer in the Disney Bubble.

Day 8

We are starting to understand Las Vegas. This morning we had breakfast downstairs at the MGM & the crowd here is one of a kind. Anything goes! Women are really dressed up, or wearing very little – as Brooke puts it – some of the outfits some women wear she finds ‘disturbing’. Throughout the day we would point out the ‘oddities’ we would find to each other.

After breakfast we went for a walk down the famous Las Vegas ‘Strip’. We found M&Ms world (4 storeys of it), Coca-Cola world (only 2 storeys), Hard Rock Cafe, then we found my most favourite store – ROSS! We girls got stuck in there for quite some time trying on the bargains.

By the time we had finished here it was time to get dressed up and go to the David Copperfield Show which was A-MAZING!

Then we went out on The Strip again where some people were starting to wear less clothes & act more & more strangely. Mickey & Minnie Mouse were wanting photos taken with them as well as Captain America, Darth Vader & Pluto – but NO THANKYOU – their costumes were obviously not authentic, Minnie was cracking her knuckles & Captain America was certainly no Captain America. We had been warned about these characters as they expect you to pay them after a photo has been taken with them. We steered clear.

During our walk we also enquired about prices for other shows like Cirque de Soleil & the Excalibur show. We enquirer about the cost of the massive roller coaster at New York New York. Enquiries is really as far as we have gone as everything here is really expensive. Tomorrow we are seeking out the free entertainment as it is around – just tricky to find. 3 days in Vegas is enough for us.

Overall we have felt fairly safe but as the night set in we stuck closer & closer together. The worse thing that has happened is some angry guy running the opposite way up the escalator & nearly knocking us all over.

After this incident we thought it might be time to take cover – so we stopped by for dinner at Bubba Gumps which was yummy.

Then we strolled back to the safety of our room at the MGM Grand.

Day 9

This morning we just hung out at the MGM Grand Pools which are huge! We spent 2 – 3 hours poolside & cruising the lazy river. It is Memorial Day Weekend & there are lots of people. Lots of alcohol, lots of people just hanging poolside & drinking & smoking lots! There are quite a few families around too, but while most adults are respectful one lady randomly grabbed Kynan’s tube on the lazy river & flipped him. He was bewildered by her behavior so we watched her & she did it again to other children. I reported her to the lifeguard & next lap she was checking her phone messages with her back to the tubes. There is lots of bizarre behavior & this place actually reminds me of Pleasure Island (Pinocchio), people can actually do as they please. I was doing lots of people watching. Poolside service was excellent. There was lots of staff taking food & beverage orders & booking them up to the patrons rooms. It is all too easy to eat, drink & be merry and spend lots of money.

After our poolside relax we picked up our car from Valet Parking – while we were waiting we did more people watching. We then headed Downtown. We have been told to be careful Downtown & to stay on the strip but we really do want to see more of Vegas.

First stop was the famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. We were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking & smaller than expected crowds. Chris was very attentive to our requests & we managed to find a few bits & pieces of Disney Memorabilia that we thought was reasonably priced. We bartered & made 4 purchases.

Unfortunately the main stars of the show were not there but we were happy with Chris (who is a background character), & Jim the security / doorperson. They were super friendly & appreciated that we were Australian.

For dinner we ventured next door to Ricks #1 BBQ in Nevada. This was nice & bizarre in that a wedding was being celebrated. This is a small building & certainly not where you would think would be the prime choice for a wedding celebration. But this is Las Vegas & anything goes. We presume this couple just got married at one of the many wedding chapels. There was the happy couple, a couple of attendants and about 4 guests.

Next stop was The Mob Museum. This museum documents the history of the Underworld that founded Las Vegas – the place where rules are few, casinos are everywhere and alcohol is plentiful. This museum was well worth a visit & we were wishing we had more time there but our next stop awaited.

The next stop was Fremont Street where women & men are posing for photos with little left for the imagination. The music is loud & the atmosphere is a party one. Again there are people everywhere & we are sticking close. Our reason for visiting is to witness the Viva Vision Light Show. The screen is 457 metres long & 27 metres wide. Every hour on the hour the screen lights up with images & accompanying music. The shows each hour are different. The 8pm show was a tribute to America – we noticed all the ‘people’ images were of white people. The tribute included the Presidents (including Trump), & their servicemen. Very patriotic. While the show was going people were flying under the screen on a flying fox and another method where they were almost flying. That was fun to watch.

We had now seen enough of Fremont Street & walked back to the car, drive back to the hotel then caught the Monorail to Caesers Place where we saw their 11 minute free animatronic show – The Fall of Atlantis, Brooke purchased some light up shoes from Skechers, then we went to the Bellagio water show which is a water display set to music. Again the crowds are stifling, there are smokers everywhere, to get to anywhere we have to walk through the casinos, the music is loud but I must say a lot of my favourite songs have been booming through the speakers of which I have been impressed, the cars on the street are out of control and the streets smell. We are relieved to get back to our hotel.

Las Vegas we are pleased to have visited & see what all the fuss is about. It is an amazing unusual city – actually we have not known if we are in the USA, France, Egypt, Italy, Hollywood, or New York. I have noticed Australia is not represented.

However, we are happy to depart tomorrow, particularly because it is Memorial Day & rumour has it that ISIS are planning some lone wolf attacks around the city on Memorial Day.


I’m not surprised as if they could carry out attacks here it would hurt America. There are people everywhere here and it is impossible for there to be full police presence. We don’t need that kind of excitement so we’re out of here first thing in the morning. Goodbye Vegas! Thank you for the memories. Next stop is Hollywood.

Los Angeles

Day 10

Today we were happy to say “Goodbye Vegas”. As it was Memorial Day the traffic was horrendous & it took us 7 hours with 2 stops to get to our destination – The Magic Castle, Hollywood.

About half an hour into our trip we literally had a standstill with the traffic on a highway in the middle of the desert. It felt like the scene of a movie. “Folks” were getting out of their cars & having chats to other “folks”. I reckon it was a good 15 – 20 minutes, maybe even more, before the traffic actually moved. As we moved we noted some police cars on the side of the road & a citizen being handcuffed!

The drive was worth it though as we arrived at our destination. Although our hotel doesn’t look fancy from the front, it is amazing! We were greeted with a glass of lemonade & happy smiles. We were then informed about all the accommodation has to offer. A swimming pool that is heated all year round complete with an emergency popsicle hotline phone. Yep! This could be dangerous. We can pick up the phone & ask for popsicles anytime we want – even at 4am in the morning. Brooke & Kynan were super quick to try this system out & it really worked. Staff came out with popsicle sticks almost immediately – & with a smile on their face.

Not only that, there is a full list of snacks we can have whenever we want, self serve ice cream is available for most of the day, & soft drinks & water are available 24/7 from a drink machine.

And then there is more – free DVDs and Boardgames to loan. Then there is my personal favourite – FREE washing. Yep! They will wash our clothes for FREE. Unfortunately for them I actually knew of this perk & have saved up all the washing. This also means Brittany will have everything freshly washed for her Summer Camp Adventure. The service is 24 hours so we were sure to hand our washing in early.

We are staying just around the corner from Hollywood Boulevard so we ventured out in the evening & wandered down the Hall of Fame, walked past the Chinese Theatre & generally took in the atmosphere. We quickly learned which street performers to take notice of & which ones not to. I must say I am disappointed in Hollywood. Certainly not the glitz & glamour I imagined. Steven Spielberg Star was super dirty. However, I did see some favourite stars on the sidewalk we snatched a few photos with.

We didn’t stay that long as we didn’t feel super safe & we were super tired. We opted to walk back to our room & take advantage of the hotels dine in / takeaway service. While we waited for our dinner we refreshed our memory with the CARS movie and took advantage of the free popcorn, snacks & drinks! Tomorrow we will get up early to go to the Warner Bros Studio Tour.

Day 11

This morning we woke early to drive to Warner Bros Studio Tour. This went for 2 ½ hours & was fun! We saw where Pretty Little Liars, Gilmore Girls, Big Bang Bang Theory, & lots of other TV shows and Movies have been filmed. I wanted to see the Bewitched house but our tour guides hadn’t even heard of that show. Hmmmmm……generation gap. We eventually worked out the house would be there but approx 1 mile from where we were, so I didn’t get to see that.

We saw lots of artefacts from Harry Potter Movie, Suicide Squad & other Warner Bros movies.

In the middle of the day we returned to The Magic Castle & the kids spent the afternoon in the pool & calling the ’emergency popsicle’ hotline 3 times during their swim.

At 3:30pm we went on an open top Bus Tour to check out the highlights of LA including Star Homes. Sam, Lisa, Karol, Caath & Tracy – you will get a laugh out of this. We even saw where Tom Jones lives! 😄

The most interesting houses was probably Katy Perry’s, Aaron Spellings old home which apparently now belongs to David Beckham & Marilyn Monroes home.

In the evening we had a giant & I mean GIANT pizza for dinner & watched he end of the CARS movie.

Tomorrow we take Brittany to the airport so she can catch a flight to Cincinnati, Ohio. 😢

Day 12

This morning we drove to LAX Airport & waved Brittany farewell for her flight to to Cincinnati, Ohio where she will be spending the next few months at Summer Camp Swoneky. Saying goodbye was sad but was made easier by her obvious happiness. We were pleased to here that she arrived safe & sound.

At the airport while Brittany was checking in a funny thing happened. We saw flashing lights – it was the Papparazzi! Myself nor anyone around had no clue who the famous person was, however I managed to snap a blurry shot of ‘the star’ anyway. As the paparazzi was walking back I asked them! It was Shawn King – Larry Kings wife. I don’t know what scandal they were reporting on but I found the photos online & Lachlan and Brooke made the background of one of the photos. Too funny!

Once we’d safely waved Brittany off we drove to Venice Beach / Muscle Beach, hired some bikes, rode to Santa Monica Pier, had some lunch at Pier Burgers, enjoyed the atmosphere & rode back. It was an overcast day today so I don’t think the area was as ‘colourful’ as I believe it can sometimes be which was a good thing!

Of special mention would be that Kobi spectacularly fell off his bike grazing his tummy. At Santa Monica Pier Ian took Kobi into the police station to ask where he could purchase a bandaid. The police officer took one look at Kobi’s wound and decided to take matters into his own hands & put a massive bandage around his gash. Kobi was very pleased with the end result.

After Santa Monica we drove to an outlet shopping centre & snapped up some bargains. Once back at The Magic Castle the kids had a swim, a couple of emergency popsicles, ice-cream & eventually dinner which was Thai Take-Away delivered to our room.

Tomorrow we transfer back to Anaheim to Disneys California Adventure Hotel for one last day of Disney Magic before we catch a plane Friday evening.

Day 13

This morning we hiked up to the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, drove to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. Hung out at the Hotel Pool, Waterslides & Spa.

The 5 kids ventured into Disneyland by themselves while Ian & I meandered around California Adventure & Disneyland. Our job was primarily to save a prime position for the fireworks display. So we did! We sat & we sat & we sat & we people watched and I sat on some chewing gum and I met a lady & her daughter from Arizona! I learned more about American life & was astounded to know that this lady carries a concealed gun while she goes for her daily jog. She was a lovely lady with 5 children and she was here just with her 4th born 9 year old for some one on one time.

Ian & I saved the spot for 2 ½ hours only to have crowds & crowds of people stand in front of us with children in their shoulders and crowds of people behind us trying to take our spots. No! No! No! Don’t mess with us. Us Masons held our ground and teamed up with our newfound Arizona friends to assure safety in numbers. Disney really needs to work out a system for watching the fireworks as it was frustrating but nevertheless a beautiful amazing display with Tinkerbell really flying over the castle!

Last day tomorrow. USA has been amazing & we would love to come back & see some more of the real USA. Praying the USA will be kind to Brittany over the next 3 months.

Day 14

Better late than never. June 2nd was the final day of our holiday. We spent the day, of course, at California Adventure and Disneyland. Our plane didn’t leave until late in the evening so we managed to stay at Disneyland until 5pm and finished off with my favourite Soundsational Parade. USA we have loved visiting and hope to be back again one day soon. So much to see and do!

We had a very safe and smooth flight home with Air New Zealand.

Until next holiday…….over and out!


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