Windsor is about 3.5 hours from where we live. It's not a bad distance, but we thought it might be nice to split up the drive down and see something else on the way. We decided to stop in Birmingham and see a large aquarium that is there. We were smart enough to pre-buy our tickets, but we weren't smart enough to consider how busy it would be on the weekend! It was packed. There were loads and loads of people. But the exhibits were neat and we had a really good time looking at the fish. There were several amazing shark tanks and a really cool final tank that had TWO massive sea turtles.
Birmingham is a beautiful city and after the aquarium we took a walk around the canal system (and did some caching, of course).
(Here are some of us having a snack and holding flat Uncle - I'll explain him in a different post.)
While wandering around Birmingham we got caught in a large and sudden thunderstorm. We had been searching for a place to have tea and a treat, when a large black cloud came over the city. All of a sudden there was lightening and thunder and the rain started pouring down!!! We made a mad dash for a small coffee shop and sat in the glass ceiling store and watched the fantastic weather show. The kids were happy with delicious cupcakes and Dadam and I refreshed ourselves with some coffee.
The next day, having made our way down to Windsor, we went to an amazing science exploration museum and hiking park. We thoroughly combed through every bit of the museum, doing every hands on experiment at least four times. The kids had a fantastic time. After our picnic lunch, we took advantage of the myriad hiking paths and did a few caches while enjoying the beautiful weather.
The paths were hiking and biking paths. It was nice to see so many people out and about, but the bikes were moving and we did have to pay attention to keep out of the way. It was a nice day, none the less.
The next day was LEGO LAND!!! We planned to be there as the gates opened because we were using some coupons and other offers that couldn't be used to pre-buy tickets. We had a quicky breakfast, packed our lunch and got moving. Everyone was very excited and we were among the first in the parking lot! We had decided to walk to the farthest rides from the entrance, hoping that it would give us the best chance to ride some of the more popular rides when there was no line. Our plan worked, but there was one snag. Only PrincessE was tall enough to ride the rides by herself. Everyone else needed an adult with them on the ride. So we discovered we had to wait in line, get up to the ride and then rotate through the children and adults to make sure that everyone had a go. I was slightly nervous about leaving PrincessE and The Boy-child to wait, but they were allowed to wait where everyone was exiting/entering and the park staff knew they were there.
We first tried out a small roller coaster. PrincessE was the only one who was a big fan. Then PrincessE and The Boy-child went with Dadam and tried out the biggest roller coaster at the park. It was a pretty mild "big" roller coaster, but The Boy-child was not.a.fan. PrincessE really liked it and she and I went back and rode it again. We pulled out our map and tried out the spider spinner (tea cup ride), viking boat (just the big kids and a grownup) and some other little rides. The kids were desperate to go on the "driving school" track and so we headed over there. There was a small oval track for the little kids, Lulu and Noodle. And a big track, complete with stop signs, roundabouts, working lights and a gas station for the big kids! I think the most interesting part of the ride was that there was no central bar to keep the cars on course. Even Lulu and Noodle had free reign over where their car was going! They each crashed in to the curb a couple of times, but for the most part they stayed on course. PrincessE and The Boy-child had a fantastic time, from all reports and LOVED driving all by themselves!
We headed out and had lunch, then went back in for more rides. The lines got really long after lunch and we only got through a few rides. The low point of the day came when we were on a water ride and PrincessE lost her favorite hat. I don't know what Dadam and I were thinking, we didn't tell her to take it off before she got on the ride! She was heartbroken and began to cry even before she got off the ride. She sobbed, "This is was my favorite ride, before my hat flew off into the water!" I felt so bad for her and so incredibly stupid. Dadam and I knew better and should have remembered to have her take her hat off. Bah.
We wandered, had a snack, stood in line some more and then grabbed some dinner. The park was definitely quieter in the evening hours, but we took full advantage and did the drive your own boat ride and a cool computer animated racing ride. We really enjoyed the lego models; they were amazing!
It was a great day at Lego Land and I definitely think we'll have to go back. There were quite a few rides that we never got the chance to go on. I think that spending a couple days there, with two more adults and possibly NOT during school holiday is probably the best bet for enjoying the rest of the park.
The last day in Windsor we planned to visit the Castle. We've seen the other royal residences and wanted to experience this one too. (It is said to be the Queen's favorite!) I purchased tickets ahead of time (and some extras for us to take the Great Kitchen tour). I was so happy we had gotten tickets ahead, as the lines were already out of the castle by the time we arrived for our tour! We got super-star treatment from a FABULOUS customer service rep, who got us to the head of the pre-purchased-tickets-check-in-line and personally saw us through the security. We did have to run a bit to get to the place where the special tour started, but it was well worth it. There was one other three person family on the tour with us and it was AMAZING. We got to see the main kitchen for the castle (been in use for hundreds of years) and some of the discoveries that were made after the fire of 1992. Super cool. Highly recommended. I think the kids were a bit let down, after the previous day's excitement of Lego Land, but they were good sports and very well behaved. They did admit they enjoyed seeing the huge kitchen and giant mixers, soup cookers, walk in refrigerators and other super-sized kitchen equipment. One of my personal favorites was seeing a Victorian Era bread oven that is still in use!
We took a walk through the royal apartments (the historical ones, as the Queen's apartments aren't open) and around the outside of the palace. Noodle and The Boy-child had their pictures taken with some gaurds.