Author: Bree James

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DARE TO DREAM AT HONG KONG DISNEYLAND

If you are looking for the magical experience of Disneyland (but without the long haul to the United States), you can find everything you’d expect and more in Hong Kong.

2016 is Hong Kong Disneyland’s 10-year celebration too, making it a wonderful time to visit!

As soon as you catch the Disney Train you know you are in for a special day. The smell of sweet popcorn and fairy floss fills the air, and the excitement builds as soon as you get through the Disney gates.

All your favourite traditional characters, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Pluto, Chip & Dale, Duffy and Shellie May, are scattered around the theme park at different times of the day and are more than happy to offer their hugs and happy smiles for snaps.

There are also some fantastic newer characters like Baymax from Big Hero Six who is super cuddly!

There are seven themed-lands to check out and enjoy the rides! These were our favourites:

Toy Story Land was a favourite with the boys. The RC Racer was more for kids seven and above but it was sensational.

At Grizzly Gulch, the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars ride was also awesome. The unexpected ride backwards will get the kids screaming!

The boys absolutely loved the Space Mountain rollercoaster ride at Tomorrowland. Think about all the things that make for a great roller-coaster ride, and add in pitch black!

Fantasyland was another great land. Ensure you get a spot near the Disney castle before the parade. There are white lines and you first watch the parade with all your favourite characters going by which is awesome. Then, after the parade, you turn to the castle to watch the Disney in the Stars fireworks and lightshow- it is beautiful.

After the fireworks, the park closes and it is time to go home.

When taking the kids to Disneyland Hong Kong, keep these top tips in mind:

  1. Get a family photo at the castle on dusk for a beautiful shot.
  2. Buy themed shirts or hats to wear. It makes the photos better and are a great keepsake.
  3. Get a photo with Micky Mouse when you see him!
  4. Take a water bottle and refill at the many water stations.
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TOP 10 FAMILY-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO IN HONG KONG

There are plenty of fun things to do with kids in Hong Kong. We spent our days exploring this beautiful city and taking in as many family-friendly activities as possible.

Here are my top ten things to do:

OCEAN PARK

Ocean Park is an amazing, world-acclaimed amusement park set on over 91 hectares of land with sensational views of, you guessed it, the ocean.

Pair this view with the craziest cliff-scaling rollercoaster I have ever been on (known as the Hair Raiser), an awesome cable car and Ocean Express train that takes you from one end of the park to the other and a marine and animal life centre (with pandas, dolphins, sea lions, seals, monkeys and more!) and you’ve got the making of an incredibly educational and entertaining day.

NGONG PING 360 Cable Car

Embark on a ride of a life-time with the spectacular 5.7 kilometer 25-minute Skyrail with views of the airport, South China Sea, and mountainous terrain over to Lantau Island. We had a Crystal Cabin which was a little more expensive but meant we could skip the queue and got a bird’s eyes view with a glass bottom cable.

NGONG PING VILLAGE – LANTAU ISLAND

Once you hop off the Cable Car you arrive at Lantau Island, a gorgeous little township with restaurants, two theatres (Motion 360 which showed a cute 3D movie for the kids, and Stage 360, a live show with stuntmen performing classic Kung Fu moves).

The best part, however, was the walk up to the giant Tian Tan Buddha-the world’s largest seated, outdoor Bronze Buddha- very impressive!

TAI O VILLAGE

This picturesque fishing village is home to some of the country’s best shrimp paste but the locals also sell amazing dried seafood, sea cucumbers, fish, shrimp, mussels and more.

DISNEYLAND HONG KONG

Turning 10, this year, Disneyland Hong Kong is in the celebration spirit! For Spring (until 29 May) they have an Easter Extravaganza with more than 100 colourful Disney eggs throughout the seven diverse lands.

Baymax from Big Hero 6 has recently debuted at Disneyland and he gives the best hugs. The boys absolutely loved the rides and seeing all of their favourite characters.

The RC Racer in Toy Story Land, Big Grizzly Mountain mine cars and Space Mountain were clear favourites with the boys.  The fireworks and lightshow at the end of the night were amazing to finish a spectacular day of “Happily Ever After”.

THE PEAK

You can catch the Peak Tram or a taxi to the top and take in the incredible views of the city and harbour below. There are plenty of other things to see to compliment the trek up including the Trick Eye Museum, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

MARKETS

There are three main markets, the Ladies Markets, Stanley Street Markets and Temple Street Night Markets with lots of great bargains if you’re willing to haggle.

STAR FERRY

This is one of Hong Kong’s most iconic attractions – a must-do at night to view all the pretty city lights.

HONG KONG OBSERVATION WHEEL

We could view this from our hotel, so it was a given that we would end up on it at some point! It is massive Ferris Wheel, right on the water giving you sensational views of the city.

SKY100

The 7th highest commercial building in the world and the tallest building in Hong Kong, Sky100 offers a panoramic view of the heart of the city and Victoria Harbour – sixty seconds and you are 100 floors high.

Make sure you also check out my other blogs on Hong Kong, including my top foods to try and transportation tips.

Top Ten Foods to try in Hong Kong – click here.

Tips for getting around Hong Kong – click here.

Hello Hong Kong – click here.

HELLO HONG KONG - WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT TO DO|||||

HELLO HONG KONG – WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT TO DO

Hong Kong is southeastern Chinese city buzzing with people to meet, places to see and food to try!

Vibrant and densely populated, it is a major port, global financial centre and home to many expats.

The majority of people speak English, and all signage is in English so you do not need to worry about any language barriers. Hong Kong has an amazing food, entertainment and shopping scene making it a great place for families to visit for a stop over to another country or for an entire holiday.

Where to stay:

The Salisbury – YMCA

www.salisburyymca.com.hk

This family-friendly hotel is part of one of the oldest and largest movements for youth in the world; not only are you staying in a great place, but you are staying somewhere that is making a difference.

The hotel is simply stunning with a gym, sauna, large pool, squash courts, rock climbing facility, two amazing restaurants, and even a laundry to do your own washing.

The rooms are also fantastic. Ours had a large king size bed, and a double pull out sofa for the kids with the option of fold out beds.

What to Do:

We did heaps of great things, and could have done a lot more! Here are my top ten things to do:

1. OCEAN PARK

Ocean Park is an amazing, world-acclaimed amusement park set on over 91 hectares of land with sensational views of, you guessed it, the ocean.

Pair this view with the craziest cliff-scaling rollercoaster I have ever been on (known as the Hair Raiser), an awesome cable car and Ocean Express train that takes you from one end of the park to the other and a marine and animal life centre (with pandas, dolphins, sea lions, seals, monkeys and more!) and you’ve got the making of an incredibly educational and entertaining day.

2. NGONG PING 360 Cable Car

Embark on a ride of a life-time with the spectacular 5.7 kilometer 25-minute Skyrail with views of the airport, South China Sea, and mountainous terrain over to Lantau Island. We had a Crystal Cabin which was a little more expensive but meant we could skip the queue and got a bird’s eyes view with a glass bottom cable.

3. NGONG PING VILLAGE – LANTAU ISLAND

Once you hop off the Cable Car you arrive at Lantau Island, a gorgeous little township with restaurants, two theatres (Motion 360 which showed a cute 3D movie for the kids, and Stage 360, a live show with stuntmen performing classic Kung Fu moves).

The best part, however, was the walk up to the giant Tian Tan Buddha-the world’s largest seated, outdoor Bronze Buddha- very impressive!

4. TAI O VILLAGE

This picturesque fishing village is home to some of the country’s best shrimp paste but the locals also sell amazing dried seafood, sea cucumbers, fish, shrimp, mussels and more.

5. DISNEYLAND HONG KONG

Turning 10, this year, Disneyland Hong Kong is in the celebration spirit! For Spring (until 29 May) they have an Easter Extravaganza with more than 100 colourful Disney eggs throughout the seven diverse lands.

Baymax from Big Hero 6 has recently debuted at Disneyland and he gives the best hugs. The boys absolutely loved the rides and seeing all of their favourite characters.

The RC Racer in Toy Story Land, Big Grizzly Mountain mine cars and Space Mountain were clear favourites with the boys.  The fireworks and lightshow at the end of the night were amazing to finish a spectacular day of “Happily Ever After”.

disney

6. THE PEAK

You can catch the Peak Tram or a taxi to the top and take in the incredible views of the city and harbour below. There are plenty of other things to see to compliment the trek up including the Trick Eye Museum, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

7. MARKETS

There are three main markets, the Ladies Markets, Stanley Street Markets and Temple Street Night Markets with lots of great bargains if you’re willing to haggle.

8. STAR FERRY

This is one of Hong Kong’s most iconic attractions – a must-do at night to view all the pretty city lights.

9. HONG KONG OBSERVATION WHEEL

We could view this from our hotel, so it was a given that we would end up on it at some point! It is massive Ferris Wheel, right on the water giving you sensational views of the city.

10. SKY100

The 7th highest commercial building in the world and the tallest building in Hong Kong, Sky100 offers a panoramic view of the heart of the city and Victoria Harbour – sixty seconds and you are 100 floors high.

 

TEN FOODS ALL AUSTRALIANS NEED TO TRY IN JAPAN|

TEN FOODS ALL AUSTRALIANS NEED TO TRY IN JAPAN

There are so many things to do in Japan with kids. It is seriously a family friendly destination that exceeded my expectations. When in Japan, there are some things that you must try.

So take a trip down taste-test lane with our guide to the top ten things to test out whilst in Japan.

Hot Sake & Sapporo Beer

These are the alcoholic beverages for Mum and Dad to try.

Dango

Dango are little Japanese dumplings served on sticks of three or four. Flavours vary by season.

Taiyaki

Taiyaki is a Japanese fish shaped cake (and sometimes teddy shaped), a bit like a pancake. It is commonly filled with red bean paste, cheese or custard.

Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron plate to cook in front of guests at restaurants – it is super fun, especially for the younger ones!

Nikuman

Or, pork buns, are fluffy bread type rolls with yummy pork in the middle.

Gyoza

Gyoza are small handcrafted dumplings with mince, cabbage and other yummy ingredients. They are either steamed or pan fried and are a huge hit with the kids.

Ramen Noodles

Find a restaurant that only serves Ramen for an awesome soup with noodles and, usually pork – AMAZING! You have a choice between four different broths that make up the base of the soup.

Sushi

Just like at home, but better of course!

Tempura

Vegetables and meats are often served cold, but are still yummy.

Yakitori

Yakitori is a style of meat or vegetable stick grilled over hot coals.

Make sure you stay tuned for Bree’s Family Passports guide to things to do with the kids in Japan.

BREE'S FAMILY PASSPORT - UNIVERSAL STUDIOS OSAKA|||||

FUN FAMILY DAY OUT AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS OSAKA

Universal Studios theme park caters especially well for families (probably better than they do in Australia). They have parents’ rooms complete with a baby feeding and nappy changing area, plus hot water dispensers and microwaves for preparing baby formula or food. You can also hire a wheelchair or stroller if you need.

There are attractions a plenty with literally hundreds of things to do. My advice? Be strategic. Take a good look at the park map and circle all the things you want to see and do. For children under six, I would recommend Universal Wonderland, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street.

The rides

But, for my two boys, aged four and six, Snoopy’s Great Race Rollercoaster was a firm favourite. However, they also really loved the Spiderman and Jurassic Park boat ride where they got to see huge dinosaurs.

For older children (and husbands), Harry Potter is a very popular ride. Jaws was also a favourite, even though this ride was made even scarier by our Japanese hosts’ high-pitched commentary on what was happening.

Most ride waits are 60 minutes for the popular ones but single rider lines usually shorter if you don’t mind riding the attractions with strangers.

Another great option for rides is to “Child Switch,” which enables guests with children who do not meet an attractions height or other requirements to take turns and enjoy the attraction without having to line up again.

Tickets also include a “Timed Ride” where you can book a ride with long line-ups for a certain time and return to it later instead of waiting for two hours in line. You can also buy express passes which allow you to hop in an express line. Because a lot of people buy these, you still have to wait, but usually only for half the time.

Food and drink

The food and drinks are reasonably priced – not double the usual price like in Australia – and they can also offer allergen-free menus if you ask. There are plenty of dining options in the park with both Asian and American style foods. Just outside the park is Universal City which has an array of restaurants including Hard Rock Café if you are tired of Japanese food, or a Japanese Buffet for $25 for 90 minutes.

Allow all day to explore the park. Get there early (it opens between 9 and 9.30am) or stay late (it closes between 7.00-9.00pm dependent on the time of the year). And don’t miss the parade at the end of the night where all your children’s favourite characters – Minions, Shrek, Sesame Street – take to the streets.

Cost will vary slightly but children three and under are free.

Check out Universal Studios for more information on this fantastic day out with your family in Japan. And, if you and the little ones are venturing over to Japan for a holiday, make sure you have a read of our Hot Tips for Families travelling to Japan.

12 THINGS TO DO IN JAPAN THAT DON'T INVOLVE SNOW||||||

12 THINGS TO DO IN JAPAN THAT DON’T INVOLVE SNOW

“Oh, you’re going to Japan? Are you going skiing?”

This seems to be the first thing anyone asked when we told them we were heading to Japan for a family holiday. With two energetic boys, aged three and six, it is something that we would love to do one day, but not this time.

This time we were taking the boys to check out the sites of Japan.

Even if you are not a fan of skiing, there are plenty of snow-free activities to do with kids of all ages. Our holiday started and finished in Osaka and I couldn’t help but share our top 12 things to do:

1. Check out the Osaka Castle Museum

Time: Allow 2 -3 hours

Location: Osaka

More info: www.osakacastle.net/english/

We stayed at the Hotel Osaka Castle and thus the Osaka Castle was a leisurely 15 minute walk from our hotel. Walking into the gardens and then over the bridge to the base of the castle was breathtaking. This amazing castle has a rich ancient history and learning about the building’s past and seeing it firsthand had us filled with awe.

There was also a lovely pond filled with turtles but our boys couldn’t look past the martial arts building where we got to see, as our boys put it, “the ninja’s” performing martial arts.

2. Spot Deer at Nara Park

Time: A full day

Location: Nara

More info: www.visitnara.jp/destinations/area/nara-park/

Nara Park is a beautiful and idyllic park about 40 minutes outside of Osaka. Along the tracks to the temple you will see gorgeous deer that are more than comfortable with people and happy to feed from your hands.

3. Visit Universal Studios Osaka

Time: All day

Location: Osaka

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y4cxmtlh

Universal Studios Osaka is the official Hollywood theme park in Japan. There are attractions a plenty with literally hundreds of things to do. My advice – be strategic. Take a good look at the park map and circle all the things you want to see and do.

Snoopy’s Great Race Rollercoaster was a firm favourite and our boys also loved the Spiderman and Jurassic Park boat ride, as well as the Universal Wonderland, Hello Kitty and Sesame Street themed areas. At the end of the night there is a parade with all your favourite characters – Minions, Elmo, Shrek and many more.

Most ride waits are 60 minutes for the popular ones. But there are ticket options available such as a “child switch” and “timed ride” ticket where you can book a ride with long line ups for a certain time and return to it later instead of waiting. You can also buy express passes which allow you to hop in an express line. As a lot of people buy these, you still have to wait, but only half the time.

4. Ride the World’s Fastest Train

Time: Approximately 3 hours from Tokyo to Osaka but can vary

Location: Across Japan

More info: www.acprail.com/rail-passes/japan-rail/bullet-train

Prepare for a heart-pounding journey with the “Shinkansen” or Bullet Train. The train is very luxurious and spacious and a great way to travel and still see the sights such as Mount Fuji. You can’t buy hot food on the train but they do sell ice-creams, drinks, chips and other items.

5. Do a Family Karaoke Session in Tokyo

Time: 2 hours

Location: Tokyo

You can’t go to Tokyo and not try out a karaoke booth! You pay by the hour, and if you are going early (around 6.00pm) some of them are more than happy to let you take your kids in. It is a private booth where you can order food and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, and sing your heart out in you private sound proofed room.

6. Uncover the Incredible Awesomeness of Legoland on Odaiba Island

Time: Allow 2-3 hours

Location: Odaiba Island, Tokyo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y5emzvkr

Odaiba Island is a monorail ride from Tokyo. There is lots to do here but the Legoland Discovery Centre was our favourite. There are over 3 million Lego bricks inside, plus a Master Builders workshop area, indoor play centre, Mini Land where you can see a Lego version of the city of Japan (amazing!), and lots more.

7. Explore the Sony Explora Science Museum on Odaiba Island

Time: Allow 1-2 hours

Location: Odaiba Island, Tokyo

More info: www.sonyexplorascience.jp/english/sony e

The Sony Explora Science Museum focuses on teaching children about light and sound. See how your voice works as a visual, try the motion-censored puppet where a character on screen will do the same moves and facial expressions as you, and even have a “smile fight” with Mum or Dad to see who has the best smile.

8. Meet Ri Ri and Shin Shin, the Panda Pair at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo

Time: Allow 4 – 5 hours

Location: Tokyo

More Info: http://www.tokyo-zoo.net/english/ueno/

As Japan’s oldest zoo, Ueno Zoo is a must-see for families. There are plenty of animals from penguins to tigers, but the highlight had to be the pandas. It is pram friendly and I would suggest taking some snacks.

9. Take in the Tokyo Toy Museum

Time: Allow 3-4 hours

Location: Tokyo

More info http://goodtoy.org/ttm/

The Tokyo Toy Museum was amazing. Our kids LOVED all the traditional Japanese wooden toys. There are three levels, and each will encourage your children to play, create, and learn.

There is a Toy Factory where we paid a little extra ($10) to participate in a workshop and paint a Babushka doll. There is also a wooden baby room especially designed for kids under two, a games salon with amazing analogue games that will make your children think, and the Toy Red Square where the boys loved playing make believe with the Japanese wooden kitchen. Our boys didn’t want to leave, but they were getting hungry!

10. Visit Tokyo DisneySea

Time: All day

Location: Tokyo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yyx4rt57

DisneySea is one part of Disneyland and has a more rustic and Mediterranean feel to it. The best area for youngsters was the Mermaid Lagoon. This amazing replication of Under the Sea is amazing, and the kids loved hanging out here for some downtime. These rides suit children of all ages and there is a great roller-coaster for kids 90cm and over.

There are plenty of places to rest, relax and change bub, with fantastic parenting, stroller and various ride passes to cut down on the waiting times.

11. Take in Tokyo Disneyland

Time: All day

Location: Tokyo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yyx4rt57

Disneyland is everything Disney you can imagine, but in Japanese of course. We loved every moment here and 90% of the rides were suitable for our kids. We decided to have a buffet for our dinner and then watched the Grand Parade with all the Disney characters. It was as magical as you would expect and our children had stars in their eyes for days after.

12. Visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Time: Allow 2-3 hours

Location: Tokyo

Stop at a bakery and grab some yummy food and head to the gardens to have a picnic. This park has the biggest gardens in Tokyo and they were beautiful. We saw a traditional Japanese garden and if you are there in early spring you will see the 65 varieties of Cherry Blossom bloom.