Kids Guide to Ghost Town Alive at Knotts Berry Farm

Ghost Town Alive is my absolute most favorite thing at Knotts Berry Farm.  In fact, it is the sole reason why we decided to buy Season Passes last year.  It is a completely immersive character experience that takes place during the Summer in the old west part of Knotts.  The area itself is called “Ghost Town” on the map, but the local citizens refer to it as the city of Calico, the Jewel of the West.

This is the third season of Ghost Town Alive, so there is some backstory to get caught up on.  The town is divided into the “good guys” dressed to the nines in their corsets and top hats versus the “bad guys”, the bandits aka the Mayfield clan.  A good way to identify a bandit is to look for jeans, bandanas, and cowboy hats.  The same citizens tend to stick around their home base, so you will typically find the same familiar faces on future visits.  If you are a frequent visitor, you will make some very meaningful connections throughout the season.

At the end of last summer, Ophelia and her dad, Peg Leg, found gold in the mine which allowed them to buy back the deed to Calico from the the Mayfields.  You can find Ophelia at the front of Ghost Town in the Assay office.  This year you’ll meet a new character from the Mayfield family who is  bound to stir things up.  Every day, the city of Calico celebrates Founder’s Day, which is the day that the city was founded.  There are several skits that happen during the day which will reveal the mystery of who actually owns the town.  You’ll be able to experience a bank robbery, trial, vote, all culminating with the Hoe Down that takes place at 5:30.  You do not have to stick around all day to experience Ghost Town Alive, but the more you get involved, the more you’ll benefit.  You can definitely stop by any time of the day to get a feel of the amazing feel of Calico.

To get started on your adventure, I recommend starting at Town Hall, which is located at the back corner of Ghost Town next to the big red school house.  Here, you’ll meet the Mayor, Miss Pearl the Mayor’s Wife (our all time favorite person), Deputy Mayor, Judge, or County Clerk One Shot (a former bandit turned good during a previous season–another one of our favorites!).  You can be sworn in as an official citizen of Calico and get a quick history lesson of who’s who.

Another one of our favorite buildings is the red school house.  The girls got to know the school teacher Miss Lucy last summer and we were all so excited to see her back on her porch this year.  There are some new teachers in the school house this summer who are eager to give you a lesson or show you around the historical school house.  You can even participate in a hoop and stick race every day at 11:00.

Further down the road is the Bank of Calico.  Depending on the time of day, you can catch a glimpse of the huge gold nugget or ask to see what’s inside the vault.  Keep your eyes and ears out for activity around the bank–you might even get recruited to a posse!

The Saloon is our favorite place in Calico!  The girls grew particularly fond of the Calico Saloon show and became the can can dancer’s biggest fans.  I would recommend getting to the saloon at least 20 minutes before the show times since these shows do fill up quickly.  While you are in there, you can order a sasparilla or famous Calico berry soda.  They also serve alcohol and fresh popcorn.

As you turn the corner around the saloon, you’ll come across the Newspaper office.  There are four editions of the newspaper printed every day!  Depending on how things go throughout the day, the latest headlines are published in the newspaper.  You might find Izzy, the town reporter lurking around Calico trying to get the latest scoop.  Kids love talking to her because she might put your name in the newspaper!  Right next door to the Newspaper office is the town Post Office.  If you talk to any citizen of Calico, you will probably get sent on a task to deliver a message.  The Post office is a good place to turn to if you’re not sure where a citizen resides or if they ask you to look for any messages for them.  You can also learn how to write your name in morse code.

On the other side of the road you’ll find Miss Violet’s hotel which is hidden in between the funnel cake place and Sad Eye Joe.  In this hidden gem, you can find Miss Violet’s beauty supplies.  She is also the queen of brain teasers so she has a couple of games that you can play.  One of our favorites is arranging the guests into the correct rooms based on their preferences.

If you visit one building in this stretch of Calico, you must visit Miss Donna’s dress shop.  The girls always ask to make a bow with her which you can take home.  She also has vintage presses so you can design and color your own dress.  There is a huge display of antique sewing items and live demonstrations for weaving.  While you are there, ask her about her colorful books and what “MB” stands for.

You can’t miss the huge jail cell outside of the Sheriff’s office!  If you’d like a photo inside the jail, just ask the Sheriff.  Inside the office, you’ll find a slew of wanted posters which describe the bandits a little better.  If you’re looking for something unique to do, strike up a game of cards.

The Ghost Town Alive day ends with the Founder’s Day Hoe Down at 5:30 in Calico Square right outside the saloon.  All the citizens of Calico come together for an interactive dance with the guests.  You are bound to see some familiar faces and grab a dance or two before the evening ends.  This is everyone’s favorite part of the day and a great bookend before heading home.

Ghost Town Alive is open 10 a.m. daily Saturday, May 26, through Aug. 19, plus Aug. 24-26 and Aug. 31-Sept. 3.

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Why I Brought my Wedding Dress to the Aquarium of the Pacific

Ten years ago, we rented out the Aquarium of the Pacific to exchange vows in front of  our closest friends and family.  Even back then, my husband and I were fans of theme parks, zoos and aquariums, so we wanted to incorporate that into our wedding.

When I was visiting my parents’ house not too long ago, I came across my wedding dress which was stashed away in a closet.  I immediately knew what I wanted to do to commemorate our 10 year wedding anniversary.

As soon as the girls saw me pull out the dress, they wanted to put it on.  They giggled as they asked, “Do I look pretty, Mommy?  Your dress is so beautiful, Mommy!”  LittleGray even said she hopes to wear it one day when she gets married.   I was hopeful that I would get some side by side photos at the actual places where we took our wedding pictures at the Aquarium of the Pacific.  Yes, this meant I actually brought in my huge wedding dress into the Aquarium!

I got a few stares as we were shooting some pictures around the aquarium.  I mean, it’s not every day that you see a baby in a full fledged wedding dress.  To manage the crowds, we visited the aquarium towards the end of the day and brought out the wedding dress during the last hour they were open.  My husband and I had to tag team and work quickly lifting the girls in and out of the dress.  I also forgot my clips to cinch up the back, so we were rigging the dress with a couple of safety pins.  Luckily the girls were great sports and were always camera ready!  Some of my favorite pictures were taken from inside the seal and sea lion tunnel.

While our entire wedding day went by in a blur, there is this iconic picture of my husband and me in front of the shark tank that really stands out in my mind.  It was wild to see how much our family has changed in just 10 years!

During our “first look” before we got married, my husband secretly bought me a plush narwhal from the gift shop.  We had a small collection of sea life animals that we had acquired while we were dating.  On the day we recreated these photos, we found another stuffed narwhal for the girls!

My favorite part of this entire process was seeing how similar my daughters resembled me.  It was super sentimental to think of their future wedding days!  Even though they are still so little, it was a great reminder that time is a thief and to appreciate these moments with them while they are young.

While we were at the Aquarium of the Pacific, we were able to enjoy the exhibits.  We used to have passes when LittleGray was a baby, but we hadn’t be back in awhile.  Their favorite part was finding Nemo and Dory and walking through the shark and ray tunnel!  LittleSage has always loved sting rays.  The girls couldn’t stop gushing about how neat it was to see all the different types of fish and are begging to come back again soon!

Thank you so much to the Aquarium of the Pacific for this walk down memory lane!  For more information about visiting the aquarium, you can visit their website here.  I honestly don’t remember the specific design of my wedding dress, but it is designed by Casablanca Bridal.

A Very Lavish Tea Party for Fancy Nancy (that’s a fancy word for fancy)

A few days ago, the girls and I were invited to attend a viewing tea party at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.  Fancy Nancy is a beloved children’s book series written by Jane O’Conner and illustrated by Robin Glasser.  The books feature a little girl, Nancy, who loves tutus, fancy words (sometimes in French!), and imagination.  Nancy’s best friend, Bree, is always by her side through every adventure.  This book series is being transformed into Disney Junior’s newest animated series featuring all new stories written by head writer Krista Tucker.  The new show is premiering on Friday, July 13, only on Disney Junior.

When I was thinking of outfits for this event, I was fully planning on having the girls wear some simple dresses from their closet.  The night before the event, I casually wondered if any Fancy Nancy episodes were already available.  I discovered that the first episode was released early on Amazon, so we all snuggled in to watch it.  I wasn’t even five minutes into the episode until I realized that I needed to make Nancy and Bree’s dresses.  I checked my fabric stash and I miraculously had all the colors I needed.  I even had the right color red buffalo plaid flannel to match Nancy’s mom!  I might have stayed up until 4 in the morning making their picture perfect dresses, but it was completely worth it when they were able to wear it in front of the animators and creative Fancy Nancy team.  It was the complement of my life when one of the animators stopped me to tell me he liked LittleGray’s Bree dress!

At the event, we were able to screen the first episode of Fancy Nancy.  Even though the girls had been binge watching the same episode on repeat, they hung on to every word of the story.  It was a completely out of body experience when I realized that the girls were sitting inches away from creators of Fancy Nancy herself.  We were able to meet with Robin Glasser, the illustrator of the books, and Krista Tucker, the head writer of the television series.  I was completely in awe of how much Robin treated these littlest fans with the utmost respect.  There are over 50 new stories just in the first season of Disney Fancy Nancy and I can not wait to see what Krista and her team have come up with.

During the event, the soundtrack was playing in the background.  There was one song in particular, “Stand Up!”, that struck a cord with me.  The song is about social justice and what to do if you feel like there is a rule that seems unfair and needs to be changed.  It was in this moment that I realized that this is going to be a show unlike any other.  Disney Fancy Nancy is going beyond the typical pink sparkles and is addressing life’s hard issues in a way that children are going to understand.  When I spoke with Krista, she emphasized that she really wanted this show to be relatable and important to all children, and not just little girls who like to dress up.  As a mom of two very impressionable little girls, I am very excited for what this show is going to present to this generation.

I was so honored to be a part of this event alongside some of my favorite blog moms.  It was the first time that a lot of our children were able to meet and it was so cute seeing everyone in their finest tea party clothes.  Thank you again, Disney Junior, for such a lavish evening!  Merci millefois!

Kids Guide to Knott’s Soak City Water Park

Even though we are Knott’s Berry Farm Season Pass Holders (the purple pass!), we have never been to their water park Soak City!  Our family received tickets and we decided to visit on one of the busiest days of the American year:  the 4th of July.  For reference, LittleGray is 6 and just hit 42″ but did not want to try the big 42″ and up slides.  LittleSage was way too short for any of the big slides but enjoyed the all ages areas with the family.  There is a huge section of the park with the 42″ and 48″ slides that we didn’t visit since the girls were too short and timid.

I have to admit, I was scared!  I’ve heard all the rumors about how it would be crowded and hot, but the girls were so excited to spend a day as a family.  The girls aren’t necessarily the strongest of swimmers and we were adding an additional level of uncertainty by going on a national holiday.  I asked around for tips, and the number one piece of advice was to get there early!

Parking:  Even though Soak City opened at 10 in the morning, I wanted to get to the parking lot an hour in advance to process our tickets and get through security.  The parking for Soak City is at the same main parking lot as Knott’s Berry Farm (the very first left as you enter and go under the underpass).  The Soak City entrance is at the far corner of the lot, and there are signs saying “Soak City” that will lead you the right direction.  If you park on the “main” side of the lot (meaning the side where you would usually park if you’re going to Knotts), take a left before you go under the underpass.

There is a shaded path alongside a river that leads directly to Soak City.  This is also how you get to Knott’s Independence Hall, which is the historic brick building replica of the Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  There are restrooms in the smaller brick building to the right.  The Soak City entrance is just to the left of Independence Hall.

Gremmie Lagoon:  If you have kids shorter than 42″, you’re going to want to head directly for Gremmie Lagoon.  This are is reserved for guests under 54″ and it is huge!  Even though this was one of the busiest days of the year, it did not feel crowded.  The lines for these slides were only a few minutes long.  I am 100% a helicopter mom when it comes around water.  Since it was our first time at Soak City, I did not feel comfortable letting the girls explore on their own.  My husband and I took on a one-on-one approach with the girls.  Our safety rules were that the girls had to look up every 5 seconds to make sure they could see a parent and to always ask before going to a different part of the lagoon.

There are four main attractions in Gremmie Lagoon:  spray fountains, submarine walkthrough covered slide, big octopus slide, and small boat slide.  On side of the lagoon without the slides are animals to climb on.  There is also ample space to splash around or just sit in the water and relax.  The boat slide was hands down LittleSage’s FAVORITE part of the entire water park.  She would go down this slide and immediately get back in line.  LittleGray loved the submarine and the octopus slide.  The fountain area was in a very shallow area so if you have a child who does not like the deeper water, this will be the spot you want to focus on.

Wave Pool and Lazy River:  These are the two biggest family attractions for guests of all ages.  All children under 48″ are required to wear life jackets.  Soak City provides life jackets, but you can also bring in your own Coast Guard approved life jacket (puddle jumpers are allowed!). You don’t need an intertube to enjoy these attractions, but they will definitely enhance them!  LittleGray preferred to swim freely in a life jacket while LittleSage was way more comfortable sitting in an intertube with one of us.

Getting an intertube can be a challenge especially on busier days.  The slides, wave pool, and lazy river all have their own unique intertubes which stay at the attraction when you leave.  You do have the option of renting your own intertube for $10 a day which is good everywhere.  If you don’t have your own tube, you just have to be patient and wait for someone to be done with theirs.  At the wave pool, we got lucky, and another mom handed me hers as she was on her way out.  Since the lazy river is so popular, there is often a line to grab a tube at one of the two entrances.  You can also do a lap without a tube and see if anyone wants to ditch their tube somewhere along the route.  We spent most of our time in the wave pool and it was the best time we’ve had together as a family!  We also brought our go pro and let the girls take a few videos from their perspective.

Our Setup:  As soon as we entered Soak City, we headed directly to Gremmie’s Lagoon.  Since annual passholders got early admission that day, all of the chairs in the shade were already claimed.  We found a couple of chairs alongside the grass, so we threw our towels on them and parked our wagon right behind our chairs.  If you want a relaxing place away from kids splashing and playing in the lagoon, head for the grass.  If you know your child is going to be wanting to spend most of their time in the fountains or on the slides, then try to claim a chair along the perimeter of the lagoon.  The entire area is backed by the lazy river which cools off the area nicely.  Another great area to set up camp is by the wave pool because it is convenient to the bathrooms and drink refill station.

What we brought:

  • Wagon to hold all our gear
  • ziplock bags!  I did not have a chance to pick up a waterproof cell phone case, so I triple bagged our phones and brought them in with us.
  • umbrella (make sure it’s under 8 feet in diameter)
  • towels–I brought 6 and used every one!  I used them for the ground, on the Soak City chairs, to dry off, and to cover our belongings to keep them out of the sun
  • sunscreen–be sure to reapply often!  I preferred the spray kind so I didn’t have to dry off before reapplying
  • small cooler with fruit and snacks (no outside food is permitted, but individually portioned snacks, water, and sports drinks are allowed)
  • thermos cups–I have the purple refillable cup from Knotts which also works at Soak City.  I always pour my drinks into my thermos cup so it stays cooler longer.  I still had ice in it at the end of the day!
  • small wet bag to hold suits–this also was super helpful in holding cups and bringing back lunch to our spots
  • sunglasses–it is so bright especially since the sun is reflecting off the water.  The girls don’t usually wear sunglasses but I wish I made them wear them all day.  LittleGray didn’t wear them and she got burned right under her eyes
  • change of clothes and underwear–this is often overlooked, but the drive home will be so much more comfortable in dry clothes!
  • small face towel–I wish I brought this!  There were so many times when water would get into the girls eyes and I wish I had a little cloth to help them dry off.

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We got to Soak City right when it opened at 10:00 and didn’t leave until 5:00!  If you have the purple Knotts pass, you can add on the Soak City gold pass option at any time (you just pay the difference in price).  Looking ahead, I would definitely add the Soak City option when buying your passes for 2019.  I believe the difference in price was only about $20.  With the girls being so little and needing constant supervision, I definitely appreciated the help of my husband being there so we could split up and give each child one on one attention.  I don’t think I’d be able to go alone with the girls without my husband just because they are not strong swimmers.  This was the perfect way to spend a hot summer day as a family, and it might even become a new 4th of July tradition!

I posted our entire visit on our instastories highlights. You can find them here.

Kids Guide to Performing Arts

One of my greatest joys is seeing people do what they love. I’ve never seen this ring more true that in musical theater. Ever since I was little, I have loved musicals. I used to watch the Mary Martin Peter Pan VHS until it eventually broke. The first real Broadway show was “The Lion King” followed quickly by “Wicked” which I saw multiple times. As soon as “Aladdin” was released, the soundtrack quickly became a staple in our car (“Frozen” is currently the new favorite–I can’t wait until it starts touring!).

LittleGray’s first Broadway experience was when Aladdin came to the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. I was able to purchase advance tickets with my Disney Visa Card…for 5 months later. It was nothing but magical to see her face glow with excitement as she saw real people perform the songs we’ve sang in our car countless times. When last minute tickets for Cinderella at the Pantages became available, I jumped at the chance and decided to buy LittleSage a ticket as well. Both of the girls were enthralled and felt like literal princesses (and a pumpkin) as they waltzed out of the Pantages. I’m not one to cry, but I definitely teared up every time Cinderella transformed her dress!

While attending Broadway shows at the Pantages is a dream come true, I can’t keep dropping $50-100 a ticket. I recently discovered Encore South Bay productions which is a non-profit educational theater company that seeks to build community and transform lives by providing high quality, intensive musical and theater training as well as performances in the South Bay and Los Angeles Harbor areas.

The first Encore performance we saw was Mary Poppins back in January. I got a last minute ticket deal from Goldstar and actually got my tickets for FREE (well, $9 after service fees). I was surprised to see so many little kids in the production since I didn’t realize that they are also a performing arts education program as well. When The Hunchback of Notre Dame tickets popped up on Goldstar, I immediately bought them.

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To prepare the girls for the show, I made them Clopin and Esmeralda costumes. We listened to the soundtrack in the car and they gleefully exclaimed, “That’s me, Mom!” when they heard Clopin and Esmeralda sing. During the show, they sang along with the familiar songs. My favorite part about local musical theater is when the cast comes out to meet people after the show The girls were positively star struck as the cast danced with them and posed for pictures.

If you are local to the Los Angeles or Orange County area and looking for a performing arts summer camp, Encore offers one and two week classes. Children ages 4 to 18 participate in daily intensive rehearsals that cumulate into a show at the end of the session. The two week programs are Mary Poppins, Shakespeare Camp, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland Jr. Their one week camps are Avengers vs Justice League, Trolls, and Harry Potter. You can find more information about tuition and enrollment here.

Encore holds open auditions for all of their productions and have roles for all ages! Their next production is Peter Pan which has roles for children as young as 4 years old. Auditions are being held on September 9 for both adults and children. The student tuition is $525 which covers all rehearsals from September 20 through the performances at the end of July. This is about the same price as one would pay for monthly dance lessons and a recital fee, except you get the additional benefit of having the experience of being a part of a professional stage show. After meeting the cast of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the girls have caught the performing bug and can’t wait to get on stage!

 

On How this Vanilla OC Mom Celebrates Pride

I was lucky.  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in a family that supported the LGBTQ community.  Although we were a quiet, Asian-American family, the church that we attended encouraged open doors and inclusion (Chinese Community United Methodist Church).  Even though my parents raised us to have open minds and open hearts, my vanilla suburban upbringing did not give me many opportunities to actually be around many members of the LGBTQ society.  My friends were very similar to me–Asian, AP Classes, music, and church small group.

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I didn’t meet someone my age who was openly gay until I was an adult.  It wasn’t until I had children until I met someone who was transgender.  I didn’t even know what the term “gender fluid” even really meant simply because it wasn’t part of my every day narrative.  I never realized that some of my close friends who are in heterosexual relationships also identified as bisexual.  While my heart had nothing against people in the LGBTQ community, my mind still had to do a double take simply because I had never been immersed in this culture.

Being active in the Disney community has been such a blessing.  We have made friends from every walk of life and some of the best people in the world have been become our extended family.  Many of these friends are part of the LGBTQ community.  My children love these people as their aunties and uncles regardless if they are male, female, non conforming, or if they have a boyfriend, girlfriend, single, or married.  To them, all they know is that they are loved, they are trusted, and they are people.

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To us, Pride month isn’t necessarily focusing on how boys like boys, or how two women can be a family, or what pronouns are sensitive.  On a very basic level, Pride is normalizing people.  The first step to fully understanding a community that is not inherently your own is to be a part of it.  I did not have the luxury of personally knowing LGBTQ people.  I am so grateful that so many of my children’s aunties and uncles are LGBTQ so they will grow up learning that sexual or gender preference does not make a lick of difference when it comes to connecting to someone on a personal level.  Being gay is not an “oddity”.  Being trans is not a “curiosity”.  It is just simply a trait like if someone has curly hair.  My hope for my girls is that LGBTQ relationships become as commonplace as interracial marriage.  There was a time in history where my husband and I would be shamed, just because we fell in love.  I am extremely relieved that the world has moved past that and my interracial daughters do not have to live in fear.

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Pride month is also a reminder for us to celebrate differences, support the ones that we love, and an outward symbol of acceptance, inclusion, and kindness.  One of my favorite companies, primary.com posted how they outfitted OC Pride’s youngest Grand Marshal (side note, if you have not heard of C.J. and his amazing family, run yourself over to Raising my Rainbow).  I was surprised to hear that their instagram posts were receiving a lot of hate, causing people to “unfollow” and write bigoted comments.  This is what I don’t understand:  why would someone publicly show that they are unkind?  Why would someone go out of their way just to be purposefully hateful?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand how someone can be personally conflicted and have their own convictions about the LGTBQ community.  Many people I love do not share the same political and religious views as me and I can totally respect that.  What I don’t accept is the crossing the line into hurting someone just because they are different.

One of the biggest life lessons I teach my girls is that if something is not directly affecting you, you need not fight it.  Does it directly affect you if two men want to get married?  Nope.  Does it negatively impact your life if a lesbian couple fosters a child?  There is literally nothing negative about that statement.  Does it matter if the boy who sits next to you in class chooses to wear a skirt or has an amazing contour?  No, but you should probably befriend him to get some rad makeup tips.  People who go out of their way to spew hate makes them a hater.  Why would someone want to advertise them self as a hater?  Instead, I want to teach my children to choose kindness and to spread love.  Life is a lot brighter when it is bathed in positivity.

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We wear rainbows to support our LGBTQ family.  We know them, we see them, and we love them.  We don’t pretend that their journey is easy.  Our hearts break when we see the hateful words, not only for the recipients of those words, but for the haters for they have so much darkness in their souls.  I am proud that I can call so many of my friends LGTBQ people.  I am proud that my daughters have so many of these people in their lives.  I am proud that they are being raised in an environment that supports inclusion.  I am proud that their hearts will be beautiful.  I am proud that they will see the world in color and celebrate differences instead of shying away from them.  I am proud that our world is slowly but surely moving in the direction of acceptance.  I am Proud.

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Kids Guide to the RMS Queen Mary

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The RMS Queen Mary has held a special spot in our Family’s history since my Husband and I got married at the Long Beach Aquarium 10 years ago.  This beautiful ship is in the background of many of our wedding photos, so we thought it would be a perfect place to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

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The Queen Mary was built in the 1930s to be a luxury way to travel to and from England.  It was modeled after the Titanic which is why it looks so similar.  The ship played an influential role in WW2 transporting troops and coined the name “The Gray Ghost” since it was painted gray for camouflage and virtually undetectable.  After being transformed back into a luxury ship, she sailed for a number of years before being acquired by Long Beach in the late 1960s to be turned into a hotel and tourist attraction.

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When I told people that we were staying overnight at the Queen Mary, the number one response I got was, “Isn’t it haunted?”  Luckily, I didn’t know too many of the ghost story folklore, so I was able to enjoy our overnight stay untriggered (I am the biggest scaredy cat!).  More about it’s haunted history later!

We checked into our rooms after hours around 8:00 and we had the entire ship to explore!  The girls loved exploring the original corridors and historical staircases.  We found our way to the top of the ship and even crashed a wedding!  This was my favorite part of our entire stay because we got to experience the ship with zero crowds.  The photo above was in the model ship room where the tours met during the day.  The girls loved looking at everything at their leisure.

The next morning, we woke up early to explore the ship before the tours started for the day.  Our room had a working porthole and it was so peaceful to wake up to the sound of the tide and seagulls.  There were several fun photo spots throughout the ship!

We had the “Grand Passport” tour package which included The Glory Days Historical Tour, the Haunted Encounters tour, the Princess Diana exhibit, Winston Churchill war exhibit, and a 4-D Movie (on the day we went you could choose either Shark or Queen Mary).  Officer James was our tour guide for the Glory Days Historical tour and if you have the chance to tour with him, take it!  He has been with the Queen Mary for 14 years and kept the girls attention throughout the entire tour.  I was honestly super scared of the Haunted Encounters tour, especially since I heard that our tour guide Sean was known to be one of the spookiest.  The Haunted Encounters tour is NOT the same as the tours with special effects, and it is not meant to be scary at all.  I am pleased to say that Sean did not scare the girls (or me!) at all and did a great job about talking about the ghost folklore that the ship is known for.  There was one part of the the tour where you are taken through part of a maze that is used during Halloween during their haunted house season, but neither of the girls were afraid to walk through.

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A little note about tour packages.  Adult Admission to the boat is $32, and each tour is $10.  The Princess Diana exhibit is $10, and the 4D movie is $6, so with the Grand Passport, you are getting a $68 value for $45.  If you were to choose just one tour, I would definitely recommend the Glory Days History tour.  Since we took the tours after we explored the ship the night before, it gave me a whole new appreciation for this gorgeous ship.  I’m glad we chose to do the Haunted Encounters tour AFTER we stayed overnight, because I’m that type of person who will scare super easily.  Another thing to note that since this is a real ship from the 1930s, the walkways and staircases are narrow and not super stroller friendly.  If you can avoid bringing a stroller, I would leave it at home.  The girls loved being able to wander free by foot, and they were welcomed to sit on the carpet or floor during the tour presentations.

If you want to explore the ship for FREE (meaning, no $32 entry!), the Queen Mary offers “Free after 6” (blackout days apply).  This allows you to roam around the ship at your leisure.  There are 2 restaurants on board which offer fine dining as well as a historical Observation Bar which is seen in many Hollywood movies.  On top of getting in for Free after 6, your parking is also complimentary if you dine at one of their restaurants or spend at least $20 at the bar.  We ate ate the Promenade for lunch and the food was delicious!  The ambiance was perfect with the beautiful harbor views.

This was definitely a trip to remember!  The girls thought it was so special that they got to spend overnight on a real boat.  If you are looking for a summer getaway, the Queen Mary is a great choice.  With the blazing summer temperatures, the ship offers a wonderful climate controlled atmosphere away from the sun.  I would definitely recommend a hotel stay if you’d like to get the full Queen Mary experience.  Here is an approximate price breakdown:

  • a hotel stay for our family of 4 was about $250 after taxes and fees
  • if we did not stay at the hotel, it would have cost $32 per adult and $25 for kids 4-11.  My youngest was free since she is under 4.  It would have been $89 just to set foot on the ship to explore, so it isn’t much more to stay the night to take advantage of exploring the ship late at night and early in the morning before the crowds come.
  • our tour package was $45 per adult and a little cheaper for kids.  Each tour is about $10, so you can definitely choose which one you’d like to do.  However, if you’re paying $32 to come aboard the ship, and $10 for one tour, I would rather pay the extra $3 to experience all the tours the ship has to offer.
  • Another option is to stay at at the hotel, which also includes the $32 entrance fee.  This also allows you to buy the tour packages a la carte.  (So for our family, if we just wanted to do the Glory Days Tour and explore the ship, we would have paid about $250 for the hotel stay, and just $30 for the tour.
  • If you just want to explore the ship, I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the “Free after 6” days.  This allows you to roam around the ship without a guide.  If you don’t eat at one of their restaurants, parking is around $20.  Parking is complimentary if you grab dinner or drinks on the ship.  This is a GREAT option for those who want a fun dinner out or a family evening activity.

familyqm

I documented our entire stay over on our instagram account http://www.instagram.com/LittleGrayThread under the “Queen Mary” highlights.  We are extremely thankful for this opportunity to review this beautiful ship!  Our stay and tours was hosted by the Queen Mary, but all reviews and opinions are my own.