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Thursday, October 18, 2012


I spend a lot of time in the City of Angels exploring the best places to travel with your kids, and this is one city that knows how to have a devil of a good time when it comes to Halloween. From the world’s largest Halloween street party to family-friendly Halloween events at museums and other cultural institutions, spell-binding attractions and spine-tingling nightlife, LA is the Capital of Fright and Delight. 

Here's my pick of the fiendish fun and spooky scares:  

1.    The West Hollywood Carnival (31st Oct)
Mingle with the mortals at this famed Halloween street party celebrations, drawing more than half a million people to revel in the streets around the Santa Monica Boulevard. The free carnival also includes a pet costume contest, ‘Drag Racing’ – relay races for people dressed in drag, and pumpkin carving competitions.

2.    Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood (dates until 31st Oct)
Southern California’s most terrifying and exciting annual Halloween event, Universal Studios Hollywood hosts a set of spine-chillingly haunted attractions with five new unrivalled film production-quality mazes, including one by legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper. A new signature backlot attraction ‘Terror Tram: Invaded by the Walking Dead’ takes daring visitors behind the scenes to the historic Universal backlot where the horror film genre was born.

3.    Dearly Departed Tours (daily, year-round)
Dearly Departed offers various tours that explore the twisted underbelly of Los Angeles, everything from celebrity scandals and deaths to horror film locations and infamous crime scenes. Options include Hollywood’s Tragical History Tour and the Helter Skelter Tour. Just for Halloween, Dearly Departed will take guests on a Halloween tour devoted to world-famous horror film locations around Hollywood and Pasadena.

4.    Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, Long Beach (select dates until 31st Oct)
With a reputation as one of Los Angeles’ most haunted places, enter the harbour to witness blood-curdling attractions on ship and shore with mazes, monsters, and 20-foot tall flames. The annual event will host guests with potent potions, devilishly good food and riveting live entertainment.

5.    Annual King Tut’s Tomb at the Egyptian Theatre (27th Oct)
Dubbed the biggest Halloween party in Hollywood, party with Egyptian queens and pharaohs in the classic courtyard illuminated with red and amber lighting at this red carpet moonlit masquerade party. Party-goers can boogie in classic Hollywood style to the tunes of three DJ. The event will also showcase a dazzling laser and lightshow, dance floors – including the Haunted Pyramid Dance Room, go-go dancers and a Halloween costume contest.

6.    Haunted Museum at the Natural History Museum (28th Oct)
The theme for the 9th Annual Haunted Museum is ‘Land of Awes’, a family-friendly event where guests can help put the Scarecrow back together, watch a performance by Dancing Flying Monkeys, learn about marine fossils from Kansas City, see tree frogs in the Enchanted Rainforest and go on a scavenger hunt to find the ruby slippers.

7.    Los Angeles Haunted Hayride at the Old Zoo at Griffith Park (dates until 31st Oct)
One of the city’s most idyllic locations by day with fantastic views over the city, Friffith Park is the backdrop for one of LA’s creepiest locations on select October nights. This tour takes thrill-seekers on a night ride through abandoned cages and habitats set deep in the dark woods of Griffith Park. Also returning to the Haunted Hayride experience is the ‘In Between’ dark maze where visitors are given a small lantern to find their way through amongst unknown creatures in the shadows. A sideshow area includes magic shows, psychics and a house of mirrors.

8.    Old Town Haunt (select dates until 31st Oct)
Descent into the dark basement of the historical Union Savings Bank Building for a devil of a good time; sealed off for decades, it is reported to be haunted. Enhanced with detailed sets from Hollywood shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Haunted Mansion and Indiana Jones, visitors will find this attraction truly spook-tacluar.

9.    Halloween Silent Film at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (31st Oct)
Film buffs will enjoy visual chills accompanied by live aural thrills when silent film ‘Cat & The Canary’ is shown. The film is about the wealthy Cyrus West whose will is read to his relatives who spend the night in his mansion and are stalked by ‘The Cat’, a mysterious escapee from the local asylum. This 1927 classic silent film is accompanied by Clark Wilson on the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s organ to add a suitably eerie musical backdrop.

10.  Halloween & Mourning Tours at Heritage Square (28th & 29th Oct)
A two day event where visitors can learn about Victoria era death and mourning etiquette and participate in a funeral inside one of Heritage Square’s historic homes. See how other cultures celebrate and remember their loved, find out what hair jewellery is, and consult fortune tellers. Children can play period games, make 19th century harvest crafts, choose a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch to take home and carve, bob for apples and listen to spooky stories by the San Gabriel Valley Storytellers.

For more information on Los Angeles and the latest from its neighbourhoods, visit www.discoverlosangeles.com, like on facebook at www.facebook.com/losangelesfan, and follow on Twitter @discoverLA

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Maldives: The Best Place to Travel with Kids For the Perfect His, Hers & Theirs Getaway

When you're planning family travel with children in tow it’s hard to please everyone. I think I've come up with the perfect solution for the best place to travel with the kids, so  the whole family can have a stress-free His, Hers & Theirs Holiday’. 

Her idea of a perfect holiday is absorbing as much Vitamin-D as possible, immersed in a good book, a smiley man with a tray, the clinking sound of ice in a glass and the smell of soothing coconut oil.
His idea of a perfect holiday is high-octane, adrenalin pumping thrills, venturing off to discover new lands, getting in touch with the culture and mixing with the locals. 
   Their idea of a perfect holiday is noise, hubbub and proximity to a video screen, sugar and plenty of kidcentric pampering. 

Sound familiar?  The Maldives may just have the answer to your family travel prayers... 


 For Him:

Get a taste of true Maldivian culture on a local island tour to explore the fishing village, visit the mosque, primary school and meet the locals. Vilu Reef participate in a community involvement project so guests can also donate supplies to the local school children
Slice the waves on a catamaran or take an exhilarating ride on a wake board, as well as lots of other adrenalin-fuelled activities at the resort’s watersports centre
 Experience the thrills of traditional hand-reel fishing aboard a dhoni boat and savour the sweet taste of success as Vilu Reef’s chef prepares the day’s catch to perfection
Snorkel the resort’s amazing house reef, or dive deeper into the ocean to reveal hidden treasures and a myriad of colours of the Maldives’ rich underwater life

For Her:

  • Surrounded by shimmering pools of emerald and sapphire water and bathed in swathes of golden sand beaches, this unspoilt island is a beach-lover’s paradise
  • At Vilu Reef Beach & Spa Resort there’s an infinity pool with huge sun deck overlooking the lagoon and ocean, plus plenty of cheery waiters to bring cocktails, fresh fruit juices or tasty snacks. A tranquil Sun Spa, hidden away in the lush greenery of the island, offers a huge array of relaxing massages, holistic and Ayurvedic treatments, facials and scrubs to indulge yourself in.

Travelbag (www.travelbag.co.uk) offers seven nights at Vilu Reef Beach & Spa Resort from only £999 per person in June 2013. The price includes return flights from Heathrow with Qatar, accommodation in a garden villa on a half-board basis, resort seaplane transfers, taxes and surcharges. Book by 31 March 2013.

For Them:

Located on breathtaking Mudhdhoo Island - northwest of the capital Malé - Dusit Thani was newly opened in February.  The resort boasts 46 Beach Villas, two Beach Residences, 30 Lagoon Villa with Pools, 20 Ocean Villas with Pools and two Ocean Pavilions.  Extensive facilities include the largest pool  in the Maldives, pool bar, over-water and grill restaurants, elevated spa, tennis courts, dive centre and numerous water activities in and around the resort.  It is just 35 minutes travel time via sea plane from Malé International Airport. Dusit Thani Maldives is a Preferred Boutique Resort, the first in the Indian Ocean.

Now the Devarana Spa at the Dusit Thani Maldives has launched a bespoke spa programme exclusively for children aged between 6 and 14 years old called “happiness for the little one”. The brand new a la carte spa menu comprises of five specialist treatments, all of which have been carefully designed to balance energy and engender pure relaxation. Treatments available include: 
Happy Feet (60mins): Relieve tired and weary feet from swimming and snorkelling with peppermint foot soak, followed by a jolly foot massage using cheery green grass scented lotion.
Lavender Lullaby (60mins): This calming and balancing head treatment starts with warm lavender oil hair mask and ends wonderfully with a relaxing Ayurvedic head massage to promote sweet dreams at night.  
Magical Massage (60mins): Mix your own magic potion from the exquisite selection of aromatic oils. Then use it for the ultimate relaxing massage from top to toe.  
Pretty Sweet Hands (60mins): Indulge in the sweetest pampering starting with chocolate & caramel hand wrap, followed by a hand massage using floral-scented lotion and a mini manicure. Pick your favourite glittering and island dream nail colours for the perfect beach chic style.
Spalicious Treat (90mins): The yummiest body treat for young souls. Spoil your body and mind with a total flavourful and unwinding journey that begins with a warm chocolate milk foot soak, followed by a soft lavender coconut cupcake rub, and ends delightfully with a mellow oil massage. 

For the Entire Family:

This unique group tour takes in a plethora of idyllic islands, allowing you a chance to experience the highlights of this tropical paradise, with the freedom to move around, explore and meet the locals. Visit deserted islands, sand bars, coral reefs and the best swimming and snorkelling spots. Experience true Maldivian culture and cuisine staying on a local island and then finish the tour at The Royal Island Resort & Spa where facilities include two restaurants, four bars, a spa, watersports and PADI dive centre.

Prices start from £999 per person, to include nine nights’ varied accommodation staying a night in a Malé hotel, three nights on board a yacht, two nights in a local island guest house and three nights in a five-star villa resort, all on a mixed-board basis with snorkelling gear provided and the services of a local tour leader throughout.

Prices do not include international flights. 
Contact Encounters Travel (www.encounterstravel.com)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Your unwanted currency helps fight child poverty

If, like me, you travel with small children, 
it's good to know that now we can give something back to kids 
less fortunate than our own.

The Children’s Society has today launched a new partnership 
with Travelex Foreign Currency Services that will see 
unwanted holiday currency, foreign coins and notes turned into 
vital funds to help some of society’s most 
disadvantaged children.

Two thirds of travellers return from abroad with foreign currency and the average holidaymaker returns home 
with just over £28 in notes and coins.

This new partnership hopes to raise over £25,000 in the next year that will go towards helping hundreds 
of vulnerable children simply through collecting unused currency.

Just 5% of people ever change the foreign money back into sterling. 
Worse still, 17% admit they have thrown away the money on returning, rather than be lumbered with loose change. 
Only 4% donate it to charity, even though it is easy to hand it over to good causes.

Visa Europe estimates that UK travellers amass on average more than £900m unused foreign currency a year.

Collection boxes are located at all 84 Children’s Society shops, and collection pouches can be provided for 
offices, schools and churches.  
For your nearest Children’s Society shop 
please visit The Children’s Society or call their supporter care team on 0300 303 7000.