Last year, as many of you know, we embarked on our biggest trip to date with BattleKid. It was a two-week USA road trip taking in the stunning Yellowstone National Park, smoky Missoula in Montana and the hip and vibrant city of Portland. Missoula is a place not many people will have heard of, us included before our trip, but is definitely worth a visit. And today I’m going to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow, should you be visiting yourself with a toddler or young kids.
Now, we chose Missoula, which is in the state of Montana, as it was roughly the halfway point between Yellowstone and Portland. Stopping there would enable us to break up the driving and have some down time with BattleKid during our road trip. We also chose it because there was a town called Lolo right beside it and also Lolo National Forest. Lolo is the nickname my Dad got from his first grandson and it stuck. So naturally we needed to visit the town that shares his name.
We also intended to visit Lolo National Forest but alas it was not to be. Montana was cloaked in smoke due to widespread forest fires, some of which had reached Lolo National Forest, causing it to be closed to the public for safety. But it gives us a reason to return. With the forest no longer an option, we needed to find things to do in Missoula with kids.
Our first port of call was Google. We searched for things to do with kids in Missoula. These had to include fun activities for kids as we had BattleKid with us. We were also fortunate that our AirBnB host had left a few magazines in the apartment one of which had articles about things to do in Montana with kids. The articles proved so useful to us. They not only showed what to do with kids in Missoula and the wider Montana area, they also gave some ideas of free things to do in Missoula.
Armed with as much information as possible, we set out to discover Missoula and other nearby things that we otherwise would have missed had the forest been open. And as a result, I am able to share with you 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow. All of these are fun things to do in Missoula and the slightly wider areas around it.
5 Things to Do in Missoula with a Toddler in Tow
Have a Picnic in Caras Park Missoula
Caras Park is located in Downtown Missoula along the Clark Fort River. It is a lovely area and the Park Pavilion plays host to a variety of events throughout the year including music concerts, festivals and even a type of Oktoberfest, which was being set up the day we had our picnic in the park.
We visited one day during our time in Missoula after being in the wider Montana area, and I had packed a picnic. We found some picnic benches near the Pavilion and enjoyed our lunch in the sun. Other families soon joined us on the adjacent benches for their own picnics. And if you don’t want to sit on the benches there are plenty of lovely grassy areas for picnic blankets too. Afterwards, you can enjoy one of the following two things.
Have a Ride on the Carousel for Missoula
Located in Caras Park, the Carousel for Missoula was opened in 1995 and was the culmination of the labour of many volunteers and over 100,000 construction hours. Featuring 38 hand-carved ponies, two chariots, 14 gargoyles, mirror frames and the largest band organ in continuous use in America, it is somewhere kids, young and old, can enjoy. You need a token per ride, which costs just 75c, and if you, as a parent, want to ride and share a pony with your child (as I did), it will cost you two tokens.
There is also a chance to win free rides by collecting rings from a chute as you pass by, but you need to be on an outside pony to try your luck. BattleKid and I enjoyed two rides together and he didn’t want to get off. The Carousel for Missoula is really one of the fun things to do in Missoula with kids that shouldn’t be missed. It is open 364 days of the year between 11 and 5.30.
Let your toddler run wild in the Dragon Hollow Playground
Also located in Caras Park, right beside the Carousel for Missoula, the Dragon Hollow playground is a brilliant place to visit with toddlers and kids. It was designed by artists and consultants after getting advice and ideas from local school children. It is a very safe playground which is enclosed by a picket fence and has chip bark flooring. Featuring a huge Dragon themed play house with tunnels, stairs and slides, BattleKid had a great time weaving his way through to the biggest slide he could find!
There are also swings, musical play features and an area for smaller children. It is suitable for kids from 18 months to 12 years of age, is open all year round and is free to use. There are seats around the playground for parents to take a breather. One thing I will point out is that once your child enters the dragon, you cannot easily see them until they emerge from a slide. So just be cautious. But it is one of the best wooden playhouses I have ever come across and BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed himself here.
Visit the National Bison Range
Established in 1908 as a sanctuary for the American bison, the National Bison Range is located approximately an hour north of Missoula. It was one of the places featured in the magazines that our AirBnB host had left in the apartment and somewhere we might have missed. It is home to a herd of between 350 and 500 bison but is also home to other animals such as coyote, black bear, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorn deer.
There are two routes you can drive at the Bison Range. The short Prairie Drive is open all-year round while the longer Red Sleep Mountain Drive is only open from mid-May to early October. We did the Red Sleep Mountain Drive and it was challenging. It has sharp switch-backs and steep declines and I’d recommend you do this in a 4×4 car due to the roughness of the road. Note, this drive is closed during the winter months.
Although we had seen bison in Yellowstone, we were hoping to see other animals and saw elk and pronghorn deer during our visit. A day pass costs just $5 (you can get an annual oass valid from your first visit for just $15), and the gates are generally open from 7am to 7pm. The visitor’s centre, where you pay, has plenty of information about the range and also has toilets too. Although we only spent a few hours there it was worth the drive from Missoula.
Visit Ewam Buddha Garden, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
This was one of the most surprising places we visited in Montana. Situated in Arlee, about 40 minutes north of Missoula, the Ewam Buddha Garden has to be one of the most peaceful and tranquil places we’ve ever visited.
In the centre of the garden lies a 24-foot tall statue of Yum Chenmo. One thousand Montana-made images of Buddha are arranged in the shape of an eight-spoked Dharma wheel, which encircle Yum Chenmo. 1000 additional stupas surmount the two exterior throne walls, creating the outer rim of the Dharma wheel. And it is a mesmorising sight to see.
The gardens also have a small lake hosting fish and surrounded by large Buddha statues. The garden is open all year round from dawn until dusk and is free to visit (with donation boxes at various points throughout the garden). It was designed for people to enjoy the space, flowers and serene surroundings. Guided tours are available and there is also a gift shop and ample parking.
Once we found out about the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas we knew we had to visit it. A dear friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism. BattleKid enjoyed our walk around the garden, stopping here and there to admire certain Buddha statues and to say hello to the fish. I’m just sorry we didn’t know there was a prayer flag mount there before we went, or we would have created our own to add. You wouldn’t think this is a place to visit with kids but BattleKid really enjoyed it, so I’m sure your kids would too. And as it is on the same route as the Bison Range you could visit both in one day.
I can hand-on-heart say we enjoyed each and every one of these activities in Missoula and Montana. And in hindsight the forest fires and resulting smoke were a blessing in disguise. We might not have visited any of these sights had it not been for the fact that Lolo National Forest, our original reason for visiting Missoula, was closed. Our sudden change of plans worked out for the best and we got to visit places even BattleKid enjoyed.
So, if you are wondering what to do in Missoula and Montana with toddlers and young children, I hope I’ve given you some ideas of both paid and free things to do with my 5 things to do in Missoula with a toddler in tow.
And if you are considering visiting the USA with kids and not sure what there is to do with them in certain cities, these posts might help decide for you!
We are a family that love to travel. Simple. If you hadn’t figured that out already, then where have you been. I wrote a post recently about how travelling has taken on a different shape since BattleKid came along and has even changed since then. A little while ago, we adults sat down and listed out everywhere we’d love to go with BattleKid and what started as a list has become our long-term travel plans as a family.
I was born abroad to Irish parents and have travelled since I was very young. BattleDad less so, but has made up for it in more recent years. I think my love of travelling comes from my Dad. He was a deep-sea fisherman in the 60’s, travelling as far North as Iceland, and has so many tales to tell about that time.
Then, shortly after marrying my Mum, they emigrated to South Africa, before heading into Botswana, where both one of my sisters and I were born. A return trip to Ireland for just over a year was followed by five more years in South Africa where my middle sister was born. We also spent a summer in Saudi Arabia, all thanks to my Dad’s work. So, you could say travelling is in our blood.
BattleDad visited America as a baby and had plenty of holidays with his family to the UK and around Ireland, but his first real foray into travelling abroad came when he spent a year working at what was then called EuroDisney, as a member of the opening crew. Since then he has travelled to many European countries, most of them with me. He has returned to America several times over, both for work and with us, and has even visited India and Singapore for work, destinations BattleKid and I are yet to visit.
So, travelling is a big feature in our family life. And none more so than with the adventure we embarked on last May when we up sticks and moved from wet and windy Wales to sunnier Portugal. And our travels don’t stop there. Since moving to Portugal, we have done a two-week USA Road trip, which was epic. We have returned to the UK for a mid-week break in Bluestone, and visited Disneyland Paris for the first time as a family, celebrating 25 years since BattleDad’s time as part of the opening crew.
We already have no less than three destinations organised for trips next year, which I will reveal in my Holiday Diaries Plan for 2018. But there is such a big world out there and so many amazing palces we want to visit, that we decided to write them all down. And we will be doing our best to tick them off slowly as we fit in travel around work and school.
So, what are our long-term family travel plans? Well, they had to be split into two categories. The first category consists of non-bucket list destinations we plan to visit with BattleKid while he is still young. We realise he might not retain great memories of these trips, but we also know they will be destinations he could easily return to when he’s older.
The second category of bucket list destinations in our long-term travel plans are more far-flung, exotic, or expensive destinations. These are more once-in-a-lifetime destinations and we want to be able to share these with him and know he will have memories of them, particularly if he cannot return to them in the future for one reason or another.
Interested to see where is on our two lists, and why? Read on.
Non-bucket List Destinations in Our Long-term Travel Plans
Route 66 – This is a trip my sister-in-law has done twice, once with twins and then again with their younger brother. And having done our own USA road trip, Route 66 is definitely on our list. It’s a classic road trip route and takes in many great states and cities in one trip. Our plan is to try organise this one in a few years’ time.
The Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego via San Francisco to Seattle – Another USA Road trip high on our to-do list is the full length of the West Coast of America, taking in San Diego, San Francisco and ending in Seattle. For most of it we’d plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway along Highway 1 and the 101.
Canada – And more specifically the National Parks of Jasper and Banff. Friends of ours honeymooned there and have stunning pictures and amazing tales that we knew we had to put them on our long-term travel plans. They potentially could be combined with the destination below for a nice long three-week trip.
Glacier National Park, Montana – We’d heard of Glacier before our trip to Yellowstone but didn’t factor it into our trip. It was recommended to us by a few people during our trip, and having looked at pictures since our return, it’s another place we really want to visit.
Cape Town and the Kruger National Park – I lived in South Africa for over five years when I was younger, but we left just before the troubles started in the late 1980’s, and I’ll be honest and say there aren’t many places there I’d like to return to. That said, Cape Town is somewhere I never visited and is a place BattleDad has always wanted to visit. But if we were going all that way, I’d have to combine a visit to Cape Town with at least a week in the Kruger National Park. My Dad took my sister and I when I was seven, but I have no memories of it, other than the tales my Dad tells us and a few photos. My sister and her South African boyfriend usually go when they visit his family, so maybe we’ll tag along in a year or two!
Croatia – Croatia has been on our list for a few years and we very nearly booked a trip there last year, but Yellowstone took priority. I’d love to visit Dubrovnik and travel along the coast North towards Pula. A work colleague of mine visited there a few years ago and it looks stunning.
Italian lakes – In particular, Lake Como and Lake Guarda are on our long-term travel plans list, especially after we enjoyed our holiday at Lake Bled so much. A lakeside holiday had never ever featured for me before we visited Bled with friends but with so much to see and do, they can be a great holiday destination for families.
Cinque Terre – Another Italian destination, I hadn’t heard or come across Cinque Terre until I saw a drone video on Facebook taken over Cinque Terre. From there I started looking at pictures and reading blog posts about it and it went straight onto our list from there. A visit to Florence and Pisa would have to be combined with this trip though.
Paris – BattleDad lived in Paris for a year during his time at EuroDisney and he took me to Paris for my 30th birthday, the first of five trips for us as a couple. I had visited during a school trip, but that first trip with BattleDad started a lifelong love affair with the city. It remains my favourite city in the world and can be thoroughly enjoyed whatever time of year you visit, so long as you dress appropriately. I cannot wait to explore it with BattleKid and to see it through fresh eyes and from a child’s perspective.
Amsterdam – BattleDad, his sisters and I visited Amsterdam five years ago, one cold and snowy December and had a blast. But it was a short weekend visit and felt a bit rushed. I’d love to return with BattleKid and wander the canals, exploring it with him.
Marrakesh – This city in Morocco has been one I’d love to visit for a long time and now that we’re living in Portugal it is even closer. We can either fly there or we could even drive via the Gibraltar strait ferry. Having seen many colourful pictures of this city and reading many posts about it, I’d love to visit with BattleKid in the not so distant future.
New York – New York had been on mine and BattleDad’s wish list for many, many years, and two years ago we finally visited for the first time with BattleKid in tow. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we proved that New York CAN be done with a toddler in tow. We plan to return in a few years’ time to visit some of the places we didn’t fit in during our first visit.
Black Forest – This area in Southern Germany is somewhere that has recently become more attractive and higher up on our priority list since discovering that there are many castles to be explored in Southern Germany. We’ve never visited Germany, but this area has always been on our to-do list, and what better way to discover a country for the first time than with our son.
Switzerland – BattleDad and I have visited Zurich, but never went further than a quick day trip to Lake Lucerne. Switzerland is a country we’ve always wanted to explore, and we might just combine it with both the Black Forest and the next destination during an awesome European road trip.
Austria – Another country yet to be visited by us, Austria has always fascinated us and yet never really made it near the top of our travel priority list. However, having done some initial research it would be easy to combine it with both Switzerland and Southern Germany in a European road trip.
Prague – BattleDad very nearly went to Prague on a stag do, but for some reason didn’t make it. This is a European city that has always been mentioned whenever we’ve been looking into booking our next getaway but somehow never got booked. We’d love to explore this city with BattleKid.
Budapest – Again, like the previous city, Budapest is somewhere we’ve always listed as a place we’d love to visit but never made it to. My mum has been and thoroughly enjoyed it, so we’ll visit at some stage.
Latvia – I’m not really sure what it is that has made Latvia make our list, but I think it must have been from reading some blog posts about it,
Iceland – Another destination BattleDad and I have had the privilege of visiting as a couple, it is a place we want to return to with BattleKid. Not so much to see the Northern Lights as we neve saw there for more than 5 seconds there, but to explore the geysers and glaciers of the Golden Circle. And of course, to enjoy another day at the Blue Lagoon.
Ireland road trip – BattleDad and I had two honeymoons and our first was a road trip around the West Coast of Ireland. It was the first time we had really ventured into areas of Ireland we’d never visited previously and made us soon realise there was so much more of our home country we had yet to visit. BattleKid has also only ever visited Dublin and Kildare when we have returned to Ireland to see family. So top of our list is a road trip in Ireland to areas we’ve not visited as a family. And I have to say I cannot wait to see more of the Emerald Isle.
Thailand – We were unsure which list to put Thailand on as it can often be regarded as a bucket list destination. However, holidays to Thailand do not cost an arm and a leg if you are savvy enough. And we also thought it could be a destination we’d enjoy but was still reachable by BattleKid later in life. So, it’s made the non-bucket list of our long-term travel plans. The only thing is choosing when to go. We’re eager to go soon but at the same time do not want to go during monsoon season. But I do think we’ll visit within the next three years.
Rome – Again, Rome is a city BattleDad and I have visited before and thoroughly enjoyed. We both like Roman history, BattleDad more so than me, and we’d love to revisit with BattleKid. I think this city can be enjoyed at any age, and can be a wonderful educational trip with children.
Disney World Florida – Having visited Disneyland Paris, no long-term travel plans with kids would be complete without a trip to Disney World Florida. I think I’d like to visit it once but perhaps when BattleKid has a few more years on him.
Sardinia – This Italian island has been on our list, like so many, for a few years but never quite got booked. I think we’d probably do a mini road trip around the island with BattleKid to take in as much of it as we could.
Madeira – Madeira had not even featured for us prior to us moving to Portugal. But, this Portuguese island off the Northwest coast of Africa came to my attention via a blog post by Ana of Faded Spring. It looks amazing and would be easily accessible to us from Portugal.
Santorini – This Greek island in the Aegean Sea immediately came to my attention when I saw pictures of its famous white buildings with the blue roofs. It looks like such a picturesque place to visit and easily done with children.
Tuscany – Another area of Italy we’d love to visit is Tuscany. With both Pisa and Florence located within this region, it has been on our list for a while and could easily be combined into a two-week road trip with Cinque Terre.
Moscow – BattleDad very nearly visited Moscow during one of his last contracts but work decided against it. With so much to see and do in this amazing city, it’s somewhere we’ve both wanted to visit for a while. Whether we do or not remains to be seen, but we will still keep it on our list.
Barcelona – This Spanish city is somewhere many of our friends and family have visited but is somewhere that has seemed to escape us. With the Sagrada Familia and more to see and do, I think we’d easily enjoy this city with BattleKid.
Spanish road trip – One road trip we’ve loosely research and which we could easily do from where we live would be a road trip around Spain, taking in Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Salamanca. It would be great to see some of the famous Spanish cities and their history all in one trip.
Portuguese road trip – We have so much of Portugal yet to explore and what better way to do it than on a road trip. If we were to do this trip, we’d be looking at visiting places such as Evora, Castelo Branco, Porto, Coimbra, Caldas de Rainha, Obidos, Sintra, Lisbon, Setubal and Sines. My parents have visited most of the towns and cities near Lisbon and we’d love to visit ourselves.
Lapland – Who doesn’t want to bring their children to see Santa in Lapland. And we plan to do so in the next few years. We’ll visit Finnish Lapland and will most likely spend a day or two in Helsinki as well during the trip.
Scotland – A country full of myths and legends, BattleDad and I have always wanted to visit Scotland but never managed it while we were living in the UK. I think we’ll make a point of visiting it one summer while BattleKid is off school and make a road trip of it. You never know, we might even see the Loch Ness monster!
Bucket List Destinations in Our Long-term Travel Plans
Yellowstone and Oregon – Although this trip was on our bucket list, we bit the bullet and visited it last year. Yellowstone was a place BattleDad and I wanted to visit for aged, and although we really wanted to visit it with BattleKid when he was older, impatience got the better of us. And even though he may not remember much of it, we all thoroughly enjoyed this trip and it gave us our road trip bug!
Australia and New Zealand – If we are going to visit the Southern Hemisphere, we are going to visit both Australia and New Zealand in the one trip. Why go all that way only to visit one destination? It makes more sense to visit both in one go and tick them off the list together. If we ever manage to do this trip I think it’ll probably be a three or four-week trip to give us time to adjust to the new time zone and to take our time exploring two countries we’ve always wanted to visit,
Cambodia – Had either of us gone backpacking in our late teens or early twenties, we both agree Cambodia would have been top of our must-visit lists. I especially want to visit and photograph Angkor Wat. Every time I see pictures of it, or read a blog post about it, it sparks my interest yet again. But this is definitely one we’d like BattleKid to have memories of.
Vietnam – Possibly to be combined with a trip to Cambodia, this is another of the famous backpacking destinations that we’d love to visit. We know people who have visited it and their stories are just wonderful to listen to. If we don’t manage it as a family, I will be highly recommending BattleKid goes travelling before settling down into a career and will encourage him to make sure he includes South East Asia as a destination along those travels.
Nepal – This is a destination not many people would include in their bucket lists, but it is somewhere BattleDad and I have always wanted to visit. One of the homes to Mount Everest it is a country steeped in culture and history.
Tibet – The other home to Mount Everest and thought of as the spiritual home of Tibetan Buddhism, the world’s highest country has long been on our list of places we’d love to visit and even more since a close friend of ours in Wales introduced us to Buddhism.
Bhutan – Another Asian country we’d love to visit, Bhutan made its way onto our list when we saw pictures of the most amazing looking Buddhist temple on the side of a mountain – The Tiger’s Nest. Built in 1692 on the side of a mountain, Paro Taktsang, to give it its proper name is somewhere I really want to visit with BattleKid when he is around nine or ten. We’ll have to train as a family for this one as it’s on average an eight-hour round-trip trek up the mountain and down again to visit it. But it would be worth it if this blog post is anything to go by.
China – BattleDad and I very nearly booked a tour of China a few years ago but for some reason didn’t in the end. We watched the BBC series Wild China and that was it, I wanted to go. I’d love to visit the Great Wall of China, see the Forbidden City and visit areas of the Yangtze River and Yunnan Province. But this is firmly one of our bucket list destinations.
Mongolia – Parts of Mongolia were featured in the BBC series on Wild China and it is a country that has been on my Dad’s bucket list for many many years. We also saw Mongolia in the series The Long Way Down and it was this that sparked our own interest in Mongolia. We’d love to visit in July for the Naadam festivals and looked into it for this year. However, my Dad would prefer to go off the beaten track and I cannot do that with BattleKid in tow. I want to do a private guided tour. So, we’ll wait a few years for this one. I do think living in Portugal and getting used to the heat of July will stand us in good stead when we do eventually visit Mongolia. I know Mongolia can be done with kids from this post by the Smiths Holiday Road.
Norway – BattleDad and I saw, and photographed, the Northern Lights when we visited Tromso in 2012. And ever since BattleKid came along I’ve longed to return to Tromso with him during winter for a variety of reasons. We’d love to go Northern Lights hunting with him, visit the Sami’s and also do a husky sleigh ride. But, this trip is one I want him to have memories of his whole life. So, we’re biding our time until he is about ten or eleven and then we’ll organise this trip.
Botswana – The country of my birth and a country I must visit before I die. We left Botswana before I was two years of age, so I have no memories of it. I’d like to see Orapa, the town at the mine I was born in. And I’d love to see the animals at the Okavango Delta, preferably during migration season. This was featured in the BBC nature series, Nature’s Great Events and I think would be thoroughly enjoyed by us all.
Argentina – The only South American country to make our list, Argentina is a country we’d love to visit. And especially the region of Patagonia. Pictures of this area always look amazing.
Japan – This destination is one we’d love to do but we will be sorely torn as to when to go. There are two seasons I’d love to see in Japan. Springtime, for the cherry blossom trees, and autumn for the colours of the Japanese acers. I do think autumn will probably win out over spring should we get the chance to go to the Far East.
Seychelles and Maldives – I’ve put these two destinations together as it really wouldn’t bother me which I got the chance to visit. These two tropical paradise destinations have been places we’d love to visit but were always just a little beyond our budget.
Myanmar – Formerly Burma, Myanmar is somewhere I’d like to visit but may be torn about given its reputation where human rights are concerned. That said, you only need to Google images from the country to see how stunning some of the architecture and landscapes look.
Sri Lanka – A destination that BattleDad and I considered as a holiday spot a few years ago, we’d love to visit Sri Lanka one day. I’ve read a few blog posts about the diversity of the island and think we’d really enjoy it.
Cuba – We have had the privilege of visiting Cuba on our proper honeymoon the year we fell pregnant with BattleKid. It was also shortly before the USA lifted the embargoes on Cuba so we got to see it before it opened up again. Having seen the pictures and short videos a friends captured on her recent visit, I’d love to return one day with BattleKid. I’d be interested to see if it changes much from when we first visited. I’d also be able to see a lot more of the island as we had to stay close to our resort as I couldn’t use regular mosquito repellent.
So, there you have it. The Battle Family’s long-term travel plans including both a non-bucket list and a bucket list of destinations around the world. Much of our non-bucket list includes European cities and places we believe would be easily accessible to BattleKid when he is older, should he wish to return.
Our bucket list is just that, a bucket list of destinations we’d love to visit with him, but might not. We’d want to visit these places with him when he is older as they are certainly bucket list destinations, most likely visited just once-in-a-lifetime. That said, should we be lucky enough to win the lottery, I plan to visit as many of the countries in the world as I can possibly stomach. A girl’s gotta have dreams, hey!
What countries or destinations are on your family’s long-term travel plans?
We woke just after 7am and got ourselves washed, dressed and ready to head to the airport. Given the traffic on the way to Disneyland four days ago, we didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
We checked out and BattleDad was about to call an Uber until he noticed the pickup point was by the RER station. We really didn’t want to have to walk all the way there, and the Magic Shuttle bus was parked outside so we decided to hop onto it. It left on time and started making its way around the various Disney hotels for picked but, with only two to spare, hurdle five of the holiday happened.
Somehow, and I really don’t know how he managed it, the driver collided with the steel gate to the Sequoia Lodge Hotel. A gate that was open. It resulted in the bus stopping at the barriers while the driver called a supervisor. He arrived within minutes, but we sat there for almost 20 more minutes while the hotel gate people and the supervisor argued it out.
BattleDad ended up arguing with the supervisor to get us moving, as there was nothing wrong with the bus other than some superficial damage. The supervisor was also arguing with another couple who didn’t have a Magic Shuttle voucher. BattleDad said either get the bus moving or call taxis for everyone on the bus as we were now running late. He soon changed his tune when BattleDad said, in French, I also speak French my friends. I don’t think he was expecting that.
Finally, at 9am, the time we should have been arriving at the airport, we left the Sequoia Lodge and still had 30 miles to go in heavy rush hour traffic. I watched the clock getting closer and closer to our check-in time closing. But, with only about 30 minutes to spare, we arrived at Orly. We tipped the driver as he was having a bad start to his day and said we hoped he had a better day tomorrow after a bottle of wine on us. He was very grateful.
We then had a job to find the Transavia check-in desks which are hidden away on a lower floor of Orly, with NO signs indicating which way to go. I’ve never come across a more disorganised set of desks. We checked in, got rid of our bags and very quickly made our way to security where we somehow missed the Fast Track security line. Thankfully the gentleman directing people in the main line ushered us into a quieter line that happened to leave us closer to our gate.
We had just enough time for BattleDad to grab some Laduree macarons before heading for our gate where our flight was already boarding ahead of schedule. I dread to think how things might have turned out if BattleDad hadn’t argued with the supervisor to get us moving. There was no need for the bus to be sitting there as the supervisor was perfectly capable of sorting out the mess with the hotel after the driver had given his licence details.
We left Orly on time and thankfully left the rain and cold too. WE flew south and were greeted by blue skies and temperatures heading for 20C. A stark contrast to the previous few days. We picked up our car and drove home, absolutely shattered after our first family visit to Disneyland Paris. See you in 2022!
We were up by 7.20am and got ourselves dressed and packed for the day. As we had another character’s breakfast this morning at 8.15am, we left just before 8am and waited behind just two other groups before being let into the Disney park at 8am.
We managed to properly get ‘The Picture’, albeit in the early morning light before heading over to the Plaza Gardens restaurant for our second characters breakfast. This was an all-together quieter affair as there was no queue to get in at 8.15am. A lot of people arrived afterwards. We were seated in a different section to the first day and once again Mickey Mouse made a beeline for our table.
We saw Daisy Duck again and this time also met Scrooge McDuck who hadn’t been at our previous breakfast. We filled our bellies and decided to leave before the Winnie the Pooh characters came over. We figured we had our autographs and pictures with them from the first breakfast so didn’t really need to see them again.
As it was still EMT, we decided to go and do the official Meet Mickey. Although we had the photos from breakfast, we wanted to meet Mickey in the official capacity as we had done the meet and greet with Minnie Mouse the previous morning. So, this would top off the meet and greets nicely. On our way there we walked through the dragon’s cave under the castle and BattleKid wasn’t having a bar of the green dragon, despite him being a dragon hunter!
Then, we headed for Mickey’s building at the back of Fantasyland and saw the queue time was 40 minutes. This was doable, especially as they had old Mickey Mouse cartoons running on a screen in the queuing room.
However, one thing we had forgotten to do in our haste to get out of the restaurant was visit the toilet. BattleKid was occasionally dancing like he does when he needs to go, but as we were halfway through the queue I didn’t really want to leave it. The decision was made to wait it out and hope we got to meet Mickey for those dreaded words were uttered. If they were I was fully prepared to drink my water in my drinks bottle and let him pee into that.
Thankfully it didn’t come to that and it was soon our turn to meet the main man himself. It’s slick operation (one I won’t go into too much detail about). We took some photos on our cameras before the photographer took the official ones. Mickey was brilliant with BattleKid once he spotted his jumper. We got some family pictures too, before leaving satisfied with our visit. A trip to the toilet was done before we did anything else. The Mickey queue had felt like we were in a race to see which would come first. Mickey or a discreet wee into a bottle! And I was glad we had done the meet and greet when we did as the queue time had jumped from 40 minutes to 70 by the time we came out.
After this we took BattleKid on the It’s a Small World ride and he loved it. I, too, was suitably impressed by this ride and was glad we’d fitted it in. It is a very colourful, vibrant ride and yes, the song is still stuck in my head!
At that stage we’d pretty much ticked off everything I wanted to do in Fantasyland. As it was nearly 10am, I let BattleDad head for the Indian Jones ride, while I took BattleKid on the Dumbo ride again. It made sense to split up, so everyone got to do what they wanted.
I came across some extremely rude and ignorant Spanish people in the queue for the Dumbo ride and their behaviour and rudeness just beggar’s belief. Disney can bring out the worst in people I can tell you! They basically pushed their way past BattleKid and I as we got towards the entrance to the ride as one child in their party had gotten in the queue before us. I had let their mother and two siblings past us, but as we got to the entrance, SIX adults pushed past us to join this mother and three children. SIX adults for a kids ride! I really couldn’t believe it. I stared into their faces and down at BattleKid, but they just didn’t care. I was livid. And the outcome of their rudeness. Two had wait until the next rotation.
Anyway, we enjoyed the ride together and after it ran to meet BattleDad in the queue for the Baloo and King Louie meet and greet. There was no official photographer with them, which I already knew, but I had hoped to do this meet and greet and thankfully we got the chance.
After this we visited Captain Jack’s restaurant to confirm our booking for 1pm, especially after the mix up the day before. It was confirmed, and we decided to take a ride on the Disneyland train around the edge of the park for something different to do. We timed it well as we only had a few minutes to wait before the train pulled into the Fantasyland station. And BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed it.
With a little bit of time before lunch, we did Pirates of the Caribbean again as the queue was just 5 minutes and BattleKid enjoyed it more this time, pointing out the dog with the jail key and the man with the several hats on his head. And before entering the restaurant, I met a lady to give her some of our meal vouchers we weren’t going to use on the Friday and she was very grateful.
We were still waiting on our friends to arrive, but as it was cold we went inside and were seated straight away. And who should wander over to our table but Captain Jack Sparrow himself. I had forgotten he sometimes roams the restaurant. He had a chat with BattleKid before we got some pictures with him and he left BattleKid a lovely message in his autograph book. Our friends made it in just in time for a quick photo and signature from him.
Our meal was very nice, and we enjoyed a Mickey Mouse birthday cake, as between our two families, we have 5 birthdays within five weeks around the Christmas period. It was an amazing chocolate cake and worth the money I paid for it.
We were a bit later leaving the restaurant than I had hoped. We had missed the Mickey and the Magician show in Studios the day before due to our reservation mix-up and it was a show everyone had been raving about. Our choice at this stage was to run for the 3.35pm time, so we could get back for the main parade at 5pm in the Disney park. Or, we could forgo the main parade, take our time and catch the 4.40pm showing of it. The latter is what we opted for, particularly as it was raining by now and none of us wanted to be standing in the rain for the parade and the waiting time before it.
We decided to stop by our hotel room for BattleKid’s buggy and meet our friends at the entrance to the Mickey and the Magician show around 4.20pm. We wandered up Main Street via one or two shops in a bid to find BattleDad a 25th anniversary jacket in his size to no avail. Thankfully we had another option.
We had spoken to a cast member in the boutique in our hotel the previous night who had given BattleDad the official product code and an email for the manufacturers. The cast member, Rocky, said to email them and if they had them in stock we could buy direct from them. As no shops within the parks had his size, BattleDad tried this option, and as I type this post, a 25th anniversary jacket in his size is on its way to Portugal!
We met our friends outside the auditorium at our agreed time and by then the queue was at the turnstiles. Again, we met more ignorant and rude people and BattleKid ended up falling asleep in BattleDad’s arms. At 4.40pm, the doors opened, and we found a seat for us all. We managed to wake BattleKid and enjoyed the fabulous show with some popcorn I’d bought the day before. I was so glad we took the decision to go see this show as it was well worth it.
We figured that we’d seen the Christmas parade, and our friends had caught some of it again earlier this day. Everyone on the Disney Facebook groups said it was not to be missed and they were right. It was worth missing the main parade for and as a bonus, we were out of the rain.
After the show we said a fond farewell to our friends as we’d booked dinner in our hotel restaurant for ourselves that night. We got back shortly after 5.30pm, had warm baths and got ourselves dressed for dinner in the California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel.
And it was a meal worth waiting for. This restaurant is a fine-dining experience and we had to top up our vouchers for the meal. And it was worth every penny. Hot, tasty food that was well presented. BattleKid even surprised us by eating his vegetable starter in full. He also enjoyed his fruit salad for dessert. It was a fabulous way to end our first family trip to Disneyland Paris and is a meal we won’t forget in a hurry. It was by far the best meal of the entire trip.
After dinner we bought our final souvenirs in our hotel gift shop and took some pictures of the amazingly decorated lobby.
We did our final packing before bed as we had an early start to the airport. We were all in bed before 10pm, shattered after three great days at Disneyland Paris. Our next planned visit is in five years’ time and I think it will be an all-together different affair. BattleKid will be eight and I think the meet and greets will be replaced by roller-coaster thrills.
We were up shortly after 7.20am, got ourselves dressed and headed for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We had a nice table with a view of the castle. Breakfast was quite similar to that on offer at the character’s breakfast with both a hot and cold buffet, fruits, yogurt and cereals. We filled our bellies and were going to head straight to Studios having brought our day bag with us.
But, we had an unexpected but delightful stop just outside the restaurant when we happened upon Minnie Mouse doing a meet and greet. We weren’t going to miss this chance to meet the main lady herself, especially as the queue was short and she had an official photographer with her. Our wait was less than 10 minutes. She kindly signed BattleKid’s autograph book before he, and then us as a family, had photos taken with her.
What a lovely surprise to find coming out of breakfast. It did mean we were running slightly behind getting into Studios. And once we were in, we had one other special appointment to make. Our meet and greet with my favourite, Goofy. This was my non-negotiable, so we joined the queue. Halfway around we heard those dreaded words “I need a wee”. So BattleDad ran with BattleKid to find toilets and ran back, just in time for our turn. I had let two Spanish families go ahead of me by this stage.
And whether we got disapproving looks from anyone or not for me keeping our place, I didn’t care. We’d queued and waited our turn and I was getting those pictures come hell or high water. During our wait we had a change over of Goofy and unfortunately the official photographer never returned with the character. So, we could only get our own photos. But at least it was done.
Next on the agenda was Ratatouille. Again, this was a ride everyone had said do during EMT or Fast Pass because of the length of the queues, so we joined the queue shortly after 9am and it moved reasonably quickly, with us getting on the ride within 20 minutes.
And what a ride it is. A 3-D interactive ride, BattleKid wasn’t too sure of it again but, having only watched the movie for the first time recently, Mum and Dad thoroughly enjoyed it.
After Ratatouille, we dressed BattleKid in his Buzz Lightyear outfit and I took him into that queue while BattleDad went to do the Hollywood Tower of Terror. It’s not a ride that appeals to me, so it made sense to let him do that while we waited to meet Buzz. I was praying BattleKid wouldn’t want the toilet before our turn and thankfully he didn’t.
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Buzz was brilliant with BattleKid thanks to his costume. Once we’d got our photos and his autograph (a stamp) we headed off to find BattleDad via the toilets. We had a quick costume stage as we were heading to meet our friends at the back-lot stage for the Moteurs show. Just outside the show area is one of BattleKid’s favourite characters, Lightening McQueen. We got some pictures and headed into the show.
And my word, it was great, especially for our motorbike-mad child. It is set up like a movie set and a director talks you through the stunt scenes they are shooting. First up was a drive though by Lightening before the motorbikes took to the stage. Following these are dramatic car chases and even our friends 11-month-old daughter was enthralled.
I have to say it was very well done and enjoyed by us all. We had a little bit of time before our friends had planned a meet and greet with Spiderman. Although he hadn’t been on our hit-list, he was very good with the boys and showed them how to do Spiderman hands. BattleKid is still practising them at home!
Following this, we had enough time to do the Cars Quatro Rally ride before heading to Bistro Chez Remy for lunch at 1pm. And this was our second hurdle of the holiday. When we went to the reception desk we were told that our booking had been for 12pm, not 1pm! I had definitely booked for 1pm and we were told if we wanted to eat there we’d have to come back at 2.30pm. I couldn’t believe it. We took the new reservation as I did not want to miss the chance to eat there, with it having had glowing reviews and recommendations by many of my fellow bloggers.
We had a walk around the Studios and visited the shops in the main building before heading back to Chez Remy for 2.20pm. However, it took until 2.50pm to be seated. As we walked through the restaurant towards our table at the back beside the windows to the ride I spied A LOT of empty tables. It didn’t make sense that they were all empty, despite the receptionist telling people they were fully booked. I can only put it down to a lack of staff as there was not a lack of tables.
We were seated, placed our order and had a lovely time chatting before our meal started to arrive. Again, not hot, but warmer than previous meals, the food was very good, and our steaks were amazing. I fully understood why this restaurant got some big thumbs up from others. The ambience and decor were perfect, and the food was very good. It could have been a little bit warmer though.
We didn’t leave the restaurant until nearly 5pm (due to a problem with our friend’s son) and by then it was starting to get dark and colder. We wandered around the Toy Story area before making our way out of Studios and into the Disney Village.
We waved goodbye to our friends as we were headed for the World of Disney shop in the Village for some shopping.
And here was hurdle number three. I filled a basket with some shopping including lots of Christmas decorations for us, my folks and for BattleKid’s two classroom assistants here in Portugal. AS I headed for the tills, BattleDad waited outside with the boy. I had my hotel charge card so thought I didn’t need our bag. However, as the total was over €100, the lady on the till needed to see some ID to confirm the name on the charge card.
We hadn’t needed ID using the card before, but then again, all transactions up to that point had been below €100. I had to call BattleDad to come back with ID, at which point he said he was at our room as BattleKid needed the toilet. Within 10 minutes he was back with my driving licence and we could pay and leave with our purchases. My licence went into my lanyard with the charge card at that stage in case I needed it again. Finally, we were headed for our room and another bath to get warm.
Afterwards we ordered room service. A pot of tea for BattleDad and I, and a plate of biscuits arrived quite quickly. The biscuits turned out to be macarons and a slice of cake (all for just €5) and we shared them with BattleKid before getting into bed. Tomorrow was to be our last day in Disneyland and we planned to spend it in the Disney park ticking off some final wish-list things.
Our restaurant booking mix-up meant we didn’t get on as many rides as I had hoped in the Studios park, but we got to do three meet and greets, eat in Chez Remy and caught the Moteurs Action show, so we were happy with that.
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