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Old 18 Mar 24, 08:58 PM  
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kateb78
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Vegas, Burbank, Anaheim and Carlsbad - March 24 trip summary

As always, I’ll never get round to a full trip report, but here’s a summary with pics! My husband and I (we met up with some others in Vegas too) went for a 13 night trip staying in 4 hotels in Vegas and California, making up for some stuff we missed during our 2020 covid trip where we were sent home early because of the travel ban coming into effect.

Travel

We live in Yorkshire so opted to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn T2/3 the night before our flight. As it turned out, Virgin pushed our flight time back so we would have been fine if we’d not stayed… but it made a very relaxing start to the trip! We had a runway view and it was partly paid for using Hotel.com vouchers so felt very reasonably priced.



We used Purple Parking m&g which was very straightforward and even dropped at T2 so we could have an easier walk to the hotel, and collected from T3. No issue with that. All pretty efficient. Purple and Maple use the same staff and facilities it seems, so we would use again and just book with whoever was cheapest. Left an AirTag in the car so could see it was moved to the Bath Road parking garage and then to a farm a few miles from the airport. I assume the farm is just an address and it’s officially a parking facility. The car came back with a few miles on the clock but was clean and tidy so can’t complain!

We used Virgin credit card points to bag UC flights to Vegas and premium home from LAX. We did it that way round to enjoy the Heathrow clubhouse and make the most of UC whilst we were awake.

The clubhouse was great. And as our flight time had been changed to 5.35pm, we had a long time to enjoy it, heading in just before 11am. Champagne was on tap and we spent time in several of the different areas of the clubhouse with excellent service wherever we sat. The handy QR code on every table means you can be really spoiled. We enjoyed breakfast, cocktails, champagne, tea and cookies, and other nibbles before the flight.



The flight was on a 787 and has the UC layout which we really didn’t like. The seats were comfy but you face into the aisle with the window behind you. V weird. I know they say don’t book flights based on the aircraft but I’d be very reluctant to book UC on this aircraft type again and would definitely try to plan it so I didn’t!

The flight was uneventful, the food was ok and there were plenty of drinks offered.

We were off the plane, through immigration, collected luggage, walked to the taxi rank and got to our hotel within an hour. We were pretty amazed at that as the immigration hall is usually a zoo. It was 8pm though and we were the only plane so that all helped.

Coming home, we flew from LAX in premium. This was on an A350 and feels like a nicer plane. Screens are better on these aircraft but it’s all much of a muchness. Food was ok. Overnight flights are a necessary evil so we’d booked the back row of 2 in the PE section hoping for some sleep. The Virgin crew - though all friendly - just didn’t seem to acknowledge that this was a night flight and chatted loudly the whole way home. Drove me insane! However, needs must and the flight was smooth and landed a little ahead of schedule.

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Old 18 Mar 24, 10:48 PM  
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Vegas

This was trip number 7 to Vegas so we know what we like to do when we’re there.

We had 2 nights comped and 3 nights casino rate at the Venetian which made it ridiculously cheap to stay there!



We checked in and were given a room in the Venezia tower. It took aaaaages to walk there as the place is huge! We were a bit disappointed with the room which was a bit run down and had a view over the pool/courtyard so it was quite dark. As we were passing the reception desk a bit later, we stopped to mention it and they said they’d change our room the following day. Our luck was totally in as they upgraded us to the Palazzo which is our favourite! I always think most customer service in America is exceptional and this was a great example.


Things we did in Vegas

Eiffel Tower
We went up during the day (no queue) to watch the fountains. They didn’t happen. We didn’t know why. We heard the next morning on the news that it was because a rare bird had stopped off on the lake. Imagine! How did they know it was there? Cause havoc. We asked if we could use our tickets again and to our surprise they said yes! We then went up a couple of days later at night and watched the show. Another result!



Royal Bar Crawl
Bought tickets for this from Groupon and it gave 5 drinks at 5 bars in Circa, Golden Gate and The D downtown. We haven’t really spent a lot of time on Fremont Street so used this as an excuse. It was good fun! The pours were strong and we enjoyed a flutter in each of the casinos.



High Roller Happy Half Hour
We bought the tickets for this from an offer on Vegas.com - we wouldn’t have paid full price as we’ve done this before. Our friends had never been on it though so we had a good time and had lots of drinks plus a shot at the top of the wheel! A fun way to spend half an hour… and we staggered off a little bit 🤪



Postcards from Earth at The Sphere
Wow! What a venue. It was a bit chaotic getting inside, but once the show started that was forgotten. It’s amazing. Bit of an unnecessary story but the visuals are fabulous. It’s like a giant Soarin!



Food
We ate at The Golden Steer, Wynn Buffet, Mon Ami Gabi, Peppermill, Grand Lux Cafe, America at NYNY, Virgil’s BBQ, Earl of Sandwich. All was good - nothing exceptional - and all was expensive!

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Old 19 Mar 24, 12:50 AM  
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Burbank

We left Vegas having not made our millions 😭 Luckily we had another week of holiday to look forward to!

We collected our hire car from Alamo at the airport - booked as always through Andy at DFCH. We skipped the counter and went straight to the garage where we were offered a Chevy Tahoe, Nissan Armada or a Ford Expedition. Husband chose the Tahoe and was very pleased with it.

The drive to Burbank was broken up with a stop at Peggy Sue’s and a detour through Baker to see the thermometer. It’s a bit of a boring drive but places like this make it more fun.



Our Burbank hotel was Coast Anabelle which was perfectly nice and in a decent location. They also offered a free shuttle bus to Warner Bros, Universal and downtown Burbank which was super convenient.



Things we did in Burbank

Warner Bros Studio Tour
Booked tickets for the basic tour through Undercover Tourist. We really enjoyed it. There was a 1 hour guided tour on trolleys and then a 2+ hour bit you could do on your own. We hadn’t heard of lots of the shows they talked about but it was great fun going on the sound stage of All American. We also saw the outdoor sets and houses used for Gilmore Girls (and lots of other things but I loved that show!).



In the self guided part there are lots of items from famous films and TV shows including the Central Perk set from Friends



Lots of costumes were on show too



We had a great time on the tour and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in behind the scenes of famous films and tv shows.

Lake Hollywood Park
We didn’t fancy the hike up to the Hollywood sign and had seen this park recommended several times. It have an excellent view of the sign and the drive up to the park was also unexpected - small windy roads with some fab houses to gawk at!



It was very busy but there was street parking available if you’re prepared to go a little further from the central parking area. Thank goodness for Google Maps 😆

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
This was a highlight for us. I’m not sure what I was expecting but this was a really well laid out museum in an amazing location with stunning views over Simi Valley. It houses a replica of Reagan’s Oval Office and the retired Air Force One plane he used in the most magnificent custom built display area. It’s also the resting place of both Reagans and you can see why they loved the place so much.




Griffith Observatory
We didn’t realise at the time we booked that it was Oscars weekend while we were in Burbank. It meant that there was so much traffic - and it’s bad at the best of times! As a result, we didn’t get to the observatory until Monday which is the only day it’s closed. It was a shame but we still spent some time walking around and taking in the views.

Parking is at the bottom of the hill near the Greek Theatre (but I’ve hurt my knee and couldn’t manage the walk), or further up the hill closer to the observatory where you’ll pay $10 an hour. Once the parking lots are full then it’s street parking with meters so can be tough to get a spot. We tried on Sunday with no joy, but on Monday we were able to park right at the top of the road.


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Old 19 Mar 24, 01:14 AM  
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Anaheim

The journey from Burbank to Anaheim took about an hour. We stopped off at the Outlets at Orange. These were a bit meh but did have a Panda Express where we stopped for the mandatory orange chicken!

We stayed at Ayres Hotel Orange which was a bargain compared to the hotels nearer Disney. This hotel is about 4 miles away from the parks, just off the I5 ($10 in an Uber or $6 for a day on the local shuttle bus run by ART). It was a great hotel, spotlessly clean and very comfortable with a free hot breakfast every morning.



Things we did in Anaheim

Crystal Cathedral
We then visited the Crystal Cathedral. Wow! What a spectacle. It was built by a branch of the reformed church in America but when they filed for bankruptcy it was bought by the Catholic diocese of Orange and is now used as the cathedral for the diocese.



Disneyland
We had 2 day park hopper tickets and booked our first day reservation at Disneyland. As it turns out we didn’t park hop as we wanted to “complete” the park in the day. We did pretty well!

The first 2 hours of the day are lovely and quiet and then the madness begins! It was busy. We managed without Genie+ though.



Our first ride was the carousel which was lovely as we’d never done this before. Some traditional Disney magic here!

For lunch we tried the legendary Monte Cristo. Hate to say it but I wasn’t a fan!


We made up for it with plenty of other snacks though!


We watched the parade (another first for us!)


The evening show was just the projections (still never seen the fireworks! ) and was a good party atmosphere.



It was a long day but we were pleased we’d done everything we wanted to without mad rushing around.

California Adventure
Again, the first couple of hours were pretty quiet but then it was BEDLAM! We decided to buy Genie+ at $30 each to help us skips some of the major queues.

The food and wine festival was on and the queues were immense. I didn’t have the patience to queue for any of the snacks and even mobile ordering was hard work. So we made do with our Lamplight Lounge reservation and enjoyed our lobster nachos and cocktails!



Because we had Genie+ we did everything we wanted with the exception of Radiator Springs Racers where even the single rider queue was 90 minutes! Loved Guardians and Web Slingers, both were new to us.





The park looks great in the evenings.



We joined the virtual queue for World of Color at lunchtime and got into the yellow viewing area at 8pm for the 9pm show. Be careful at the front as you’ll definitely get wet!



Over the 2 days we’d walked 16 miles so we definitely made the most of our Disney time!

Edited at 03:05 PM.
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Old 19 Mar 24, 01:14 AM  
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Carlsbad

We’d booked a couple of days on the beach at the end of the trip because we knew we’d be worn out…. It was a good decision!

We stayed at Beach Terrace Inn which is right on the beach. It’s a gorgeous, family run hotel and we loved it. We’ll definitely go back there.




They kindly gave us an upgrade to a “horizon view” room and we spend many happy hours on the balcony there.

All access to the beach was down lots of steps, so this place probably isn’t suitable for anyone with limited mobility.


Things we did in Carlsbad

Not a lot really! It’s a lovely town and we wandered round the shopping streets and found plenty of places to eat and drink. It’s very much a relaxed and chilled out place. The beach is beautiful and there are always surfers catching the waves.

Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Very similar to Orlando outlets with all the usual suspects there. We didn’t find any bargains sadly but had a pleasant lunch in Ruby’s Diner!

Flower fields
We did go and look at the flower fields (acres and acres of ranunculus) from the road above them, but as they weren’t in full bloom we thought that it probably wouldn’t justify the entrance fee. It looked very pretty though and I can imagine in a few weeks time it’ll be gorgeous.


Carlsbad Village
There are loads of independent shops and restaurants here, plus you can get the Coaster train to San Diego. We were going to do this but as we only had 2 days, we thought we’d be wiser just using the time to wind down.


Sunsets
Carlsbad does sunsets very well!

Edited at 06:01 PM.
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Old 19 Mar 24, 06:09 PM  
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Final thoughts

It was a packed trip with lots going on. We walked a total of 80 miles and drove about 600 miles.

Prices in the US are expensive, but Vegas is particularly noticeable. We were last there in November 2022 and it was expensive then, but even more so now! If you can get away from the main drag then you definitely see a difference.

We didn’t notice anywhere being particularly “grabby” for tips and just went with the flow depending on the service we received. It was mostly very good even in the busy places.

Everywhere was busy - and we’ve been to all these places in March before. But if you plan and don’t expect to see everything then you’ll get plenty done and enjoy the atmosphere.

I’m sure we’ll be back before too long! If I can help with any questions then please ask away!

Edited at 06:13 PM.
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Old 19 Mar 24, 08:20 PM  
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spenners's Reviews
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Thanks for posting, have enjoyed reading along.
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Old 20 Mar 24, 10:46 AM  
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Thanks for posting-it looked like a great trip. Nice to have the trip to Carlsbad at the end for a rest. It looks a nice place, not somewhere I’ve seen before in reports, and the hotel looks lovely.
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Old 20 Mar 24, 12:06 PM  
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Great trip, thanks for sharing. We are visiting LV in a few weeks, we last visted about ten years ago so I'm sure a lot has changed. We plan to visit Fremont street, we didn't previously so we might look at the groupon bar crawl
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Old 20 Mar 24, 05:34 PM  
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Originally Posted by dismamx2 View Post
Great trip, thanks for sharing. We are visiting LV in a few weeks, we last visted about ten years ago so I'm sure a lot has changed. We plan to visit Fremont street, we didn't previously so we might look at the groupon bar crawl
Oh yes lots has changed! We went to the new Fontainebleau resort too which has just opened. The north end of the strip has changed a lot over the last few years with Resorts World too. I’m sure you’ll enjoy exploring!

The bar crawl was good fun and meant we saw places we’d never been to before. With the Groupon and a discount code it worked out at about £30 per person which was good value considering the amount of drinks we had! Enjoy your trip
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