We may be the only country to celebrate the fact that a king survived an attempt on his life by lighting bonfires and fireworks, and continue to celebrate this over 400 years later, but we aren’t the only ones to commemorate a historical event using fireworks. Guy Fawkes Night is fast approaching and while you’re probably prepping for a big bonfire and making sure you have plenty of sparklers to go round, let’s take a lot at some fireworks festivals throughout the world which could provide you with inspiration for your next holiday.
Fourth of July Celebrations – U.S.A.
Fourth of July is a holiday that celebrates the founding of America, therefore it’s fitting that some of the best fireworks displays happen in the capital, Washington, D.C. There are also many, many superb displays in New York. Grab a free view of fireworks from Brooklyn Bridge Park, or book yourself on a cruise and see the firworks from the water. Let’s not forget the family firm favourite that is Disney World, Florida. Fourth of July celebrations there capture the true spirit of America, their fireworks celebration is not simply a fireworks display but is hailed as a “concert in the sky”.
Extend your summer or get in early for half term. The kids are back to school and a new (school) year is starting. Why not have something to look forward to, like an autumn tan, a spring in your step and a good injection of vitamin D in some of our favourite half term holiday picks. We take a look at where is hot during half term and what makes a great choice for children of all ages. If you fancy water slide parks, history lessons or just plain, old sandcastles and paddling in the sea, find out where to go with our best value destinations for half term holidays.
Where to spend your half term holidays
1. The Canaries – With an abundance of beaches, scuba diving, family bike rides and fantastic weather, cheap half term holidays in the Canaries are an obvious choice. Why not spend long, lazy days working on a winter tan on a black sandy beach in Tenerife, hike up the side of a volcano in Gran Canaria, or take a glass bottomed boat tour in Playa del Ingles? There is something to suit every type of family in the Canaries. Stay at Barcelo Lanzarote in Costa Teguise which offers adult and children’s swimming pools, playgrounds, kids club, giant monopoly and water slides as well as a spa for mum and dad.
2. Algarve – The Southern area of Portugal is still warm in October and there is plenty for children of all ages to keep busy with. Albufeira is a good family friendly hub, with plenty of child friendly restaurants, a sandy golden beach and nearby water parks. Stay at the Monica Isabel Beach Club in Albufeira, where you’ll find a great welcome, great rooms and great value.
3. Crete – The southern Aegean is ideal in October. Prices have dropped, but temperatures are still high and Crete is a perennial choice for family friendly holidays. Stay at the Knossos Beach Bungalows and Suites, right on a sandy beach, with lots of loungers, umbrellas and children’s activities available.
4. Marrakech – is an exciting, exotic holiday choice all year, but especially good around October. It’s still warm and at only three hours flying time, it’s not too far to get somewhere very exotic. Children and adults can enjoy hiking in the Atlas Mountains, visiting the colourful souks or exploring the Kasbahs. Stay at the Aqua Fun Club – All Inclusive. This 5* accommodation has extensive spa facilities as well as water slides, adult and children only pools, a rafting river and children’s aqua tower.
5. Rome – If you want to get some learning in during the half term break, why not choose a city break in Rome. The weather should still be ok, in the early 20s and you and your children can enjoy seeing the Colosseum and some gladiators up close, head for the Time Elevator Roma (a high tech history lesson made with some very special effects) spark imaginations at the Explora children’s museum and munch on pasta and pizza. Stay at the RSH Spanish Steps Apartments, centrally located near the Trevi Fountain and with plenty of space for all the family after long days exploring the city.
6. Florida – has over 1,000 miles of sandy beaches, is the home of theme parks and has some of the best shopping in the world. Then of course there is Disney World to think of. Meet Mickey Mouse, see the fireworks and parades and generally have the time of your life and a half term holiday you’ll never forget. Stay at the Disney Area Superior Homes for a home away from home experience in Orlando and all the amenities you want within easy reach of the World Disney World Resort.
Tell us your choices for the best half term holidays and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
Kate Power is community manager for Purple Travel.
Taking the kids to Disney? Make sure your trip-of-a-lifetime goes as smoothly as possible with our top best Disney tips for getting around with little ones in some of the best theme parks in the world.
Don’t try to do everything: You want Disney to be the best experience for everyone and it won’t be if you’re suffering from exhaustion! Slow down and take in all the fun and don’t be afraid to head back to your hotel pool for a chill out.
Age check: Be sure to check out the age and height requirements before you go, you don’t want to get someone all excited about a ride they won’t be able to get on.
Fail to plan, plan to fail: Disney makes it easy to plan your trip, including a daily planner to guide you through the best selection of amusements and shows to suit you and your little ones.
Go at the right time: Remember that the height of summer means crowds, heat, mosquitoes, maybe even different opening hours, so keep this in mind when you’re booking those tickets!
Don’t forget your supplies: Some tasty snacks and especially a couple of bottles of water make those long queues a lot more bearable.
Book in advance: There’s a tonne of great eating options and even a free advance reservation system. Use it! Just remember, this won’t actually mean they’ll hold your table, but you’ll be seated and ready to eat quickly.
Label your child! This may sound a little strange, but it’s a big place and it’s easy for kids to wander off. If you’ve got a few running around, instead of growing an extra pair of eyes, using an ID bracelet with your name and contact details could save on nightmares.
Whistle while you work: Our top tip is of course; to remember you are there for a good time, not a long time! So, go and enjoy yourself, make the most of a wonderful holiday experience.
At the end of every day, when herds of worn out, nauseous, sunburned park visitors have all left the premises, the Disney crew releases the cats. And by that we mean actual, four-legged, furry, feral felines, not Simba or one of the Aristocats. Cats play a vital role in the maintenance of the park, released every night to control its mouse population – there’s only room for two mice in the park and those are Mickey and Minnie.
More than 600 million guests have visited Disneyland since opening day and every year, these guests consume an estimated 3 million hamburgers, 2 million hot dogs, 6.5 million orders of french fries, 1.6 million servings of popcorn, 3.2 million servings of ice cream, 1.9 million gallons of soft drinks and 2.8 million churros.
One of the cleverest Disney Secrets? Disneyland Park does not sell chewing gum because Walt Disney wanted to keep the park clean.
Originally, Disney cast members and even guests of the park, where not allowed to have moustaches, the reason being that Disney wanted to maintain that clean, all American look. Today, guests can have whatever facial hair they like but as far as cast members are concerned, they’re still a no-go.
Mickey Mouse symbols were hidden all over the park by Disney’s architects and engineers (or Imagineers). You can find Mickey on the dining table in the Haunted Mansion made out of a plate and saucers, among the treasures of Jack Sparrow on The Pirates of the Caribbean and hundreds of other locations.
Up until 2001, Disney staff was not allowed to bring their own underwear when they were in character in case it bunched up and became visible under the costume. Instead, cast members were issued company jock straps, cycling shorts or tights, which they had to hand in at the end of every day to be washed with their costumes – pretty gross, huh? Of all the perks you can get pre-faced by the word “company,” “jock strap” really falls short – way below “company car” and “company credit card”, that’s for sure.
Splash Mountain earned a reputation a few years ago for being the perfect place for drunken youths to flash the cameras. Becoming known as Flash Mountain, the situation got so bad that Disney were forced to create a position solely to search through the ride photos for rogue genitalia before displaying them on the video screens.
Disneyland creator Walt Disney was the original voice of Mickey Mouse for two decades, winning more Oscars (32) than anyone else in history. And what’s more? He attended only one year of high school.
The latest weird trend at Disney is for folks to have their ashes buried in the grounds of rides, the most popular of which is the Haunted Mansion. Security and custodial crews actually have to closely monitor surveillance and even walk the length of the track after-hours to look for suspicious piles of ash and bone fragments.
When Disneyland was under construction, Walt Disney had a private apartment installed over the historic fire station on Main Street in order to supervise the builders. When complete, he and his family continued to use the apartment frequently, leaving a light burning in the window to symbolize his presence. Since Disney’s death in 1966, the light has been left on in honour of his memory.
Gay Days is a week or so out of the year where the homosexual community comes together as a group at Disneyland Resort. To this date, Disney steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that Gay Days is a real thing despite tens of thousands of participants.
Many a Disney cast member has gone on to international fame (most likely not those who were employed to look out for flashers on Splash Mountain or pick up ashes of guerrilla Disney burials). From the age of 10 to 18, comedian Steve Martin worked at the park, beginning by selling guide books at the gate, then selling souvenir spinning lassos in Frontierland, until his final position selling packaged magic tricks and joke novelties at the old Merlin’s Magic Shop in Fantasyland. There he became an accomplished magician, learnt to juggle from Disneyland Court Jester, Christopher Fair, and modelled his trademark, “Well, excuuuuuse me,” phrase on the exasperated outbursts of a woman he worked with at the park.
We try to find out about hotels that are out of the ordinary, from the sublime to the ridiculous A Night Less Ordinary is all about a nights sleep with a difference. Fromsleeping in a silver mine, to spending a night in ahotel made of cake, expect the unexpected.
What’s the gimmick? We can’t imagine more of a dream come true for a little princess, than a night in Cinderella’s Castle. The dream room was made real by Disney bosses in 2005, at the Magic Kingdom.
Why Stay? It’s got antique furniture, huge shimmering mosaics and all the comforts you can imagine. Top that with some extra special modern touches such as the jacuzzi suite and you’ve got a stay that’s made for royalty!
The WOW factor? A little Princess’s dream has never seemed more realistic.
What does it say about the human race that we are prepared to pay good money to scare the wits out of ourselves? We have our bodies thrown around the sharp corners, tunnels and twists at high velocity, while strapped in with little more than a glorified seat-belt. The adrenalin rush that each trip provides is surely addictive, and with coaster designers becoming ever more innovative in their sadistic desire to scare us half to death, the roller coaster stakes are higher than ever. Here are the world’s top six scariest roller coasters.
This Russian roller coaster was supposedly designed to make its passengers throw up on themselves. Located at a theme park set deep into woodland, it spins, flips and rocks passengers in all directions for the ultimate stomach-churning effect (just make sure you don’t eat too much before boarding). The ride is one of Vekoma’s Waikiki Wave Super Flip rides (of which there is another in Mexico and one in Australia). The roller coaster can bend in all directions, allowing for diagonal twists and turns rather than just horizontal. One side of the ride moves in a clockwise direction, while the other moves in an anti-clockwise direction, meaning passengers are swung back and forth, hung upside down and tossed around in a vomit-inducing random fashion.
Batman The Ride has a particularly dark history. A teenager on a church trip was decapitated after entering a restricted area below. The 11-story-high ride was closed after the incident, but re-opened a few days later, only to take the life of a 58-year-old park worker in 2002, when he was in a restricted area while the coaster was operating. The man was kicked in the head by a passenger, who herself was hospitalised, though she ultimately survived the accident.
Shambhala at PortAventura, Spain
As well as being the tallest ride in Europe, Shambala is also the ride with the tallest drop (78m) and longest hyper coaster track (more than 1,650m). Its drop is enough to turn your stomach inside out and choose some of the other roller coasters around the world.
Formula Rossa at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi
Formula Rossa is currently the fastest roller coaster in the world, reaching a staggering 240km per hour in less than five seconds. The velocity is such that passengers in the front seats are required to wear goggles to protect their eyes from the potential damage caused by a high speed impact with a flying insect.
Expedition Everest at Disney World, USA
This relatively new and relatively tame roller coaster at Disney’s Animal Kingdom still managed to kill a passenger, at least indirectly. A 44-year-old Florida man was unconscious when his cart pulled into the unloading station, and an employee and a park guest immediately tried to revive him. He was later pronounced dead, the victim of a heart attack, at a local hospital. Disney officials determined that the ride was operating normally when the man died. Maybe the surprise near the end of the coaster’s run startled him to death?
Cobra at Tivoli Friheden, Denmark
This amusement park in Aarhus, Denmark opened its new Cobra coaster in June of this year, only to shut it down eight days later after a section of track fell apart, sending a car off the rails and injuring four passengers. The ride’s now closed, as the park decides what to do: scrap it entirely or rebuild it. If it does re-open, we don’t think we’ll be signing up to ride it.
Fun, fun, fun at Disneyland USA Surely a no brainer, Disneyland is the chance to treat your kids (and yourself) to an unforgettable adventure. The Radisson WorldGate Hotel in Kissimmee is just a mile from Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios. You can even watch the theme park’s fireworks show from your room and hit the shops for some much needed retail therapy. It’s really the cherry on top of any family holidays you might be after.
Hit the beach in the BalearicsMajorca, Menorca and Ibiza, take your pick: The handy family run Hotel Almudaini in Palma de Mallorca, is just a few minutes’ walk from Passeig Maritimo and almost every amenity in town – the port, palace and market. For Menorca head for the family friendly resort of Cala’n Forcat, with its beaches, bouncy castles and aqua parks. Remember, Ibiza is not just for serious partying, there’s a softer, gentler side, with cosy villas away from the clubbing centres, but lively enough for mum and dad to enjoy too. Try Santa Eulalia, or Es Cana for great family holidays in the sunshine.
Ski adventure in Borovets Bulgaria is a fab choice for families with children, with a snow park especially for youngsters and wide runs in amongst green pine forests. There is a high standard of English speaking schools, and it’s a good choice for beginners, improvers or advanced skiers. Depending on where you stay there is free nursery or ski school as well as a great selection of cosy restaurants or day trips to the capital Sofia. The Hotel Rila has gorgeous views, mountain biking and hiking trips organised by qualified guides along with a great location right at the bottom of the ski runs.
Tropical getaway Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa, Riviera Maya, Mexico the ideal in all inclusive, the Dreams in Tulum has excellent rooms, some with ocean or garden views and a private terrace. The onsite Explorer’s Club offers a Mayan themed world of fun for children aged between three and 12. Daily activities include climbing walls, splash fountains and outdoor movie screenings. For more adventurous kids, there’s a camping adventure every week.
Cruise in Turkey A great choice for one parent families, you join a party atmosphere on a cruise past tiny fishing villages, practically deserted beaches and tonnes of kayaking, swimming or diving. In the evenings, parents can gather on deck and relax over a glass of local brew, while the kids are entertained with movies.
Family luxury Cyprus The Almyra Hotel in Paphos is the perfect laidback getaway that’s is both stylish and child friendly. Children of all ages are at the heart of this hotel, with excellent childcare available. This includes supervised clubs, indoor and outdoor play areas, interconnecting rooms and children’s menus and a Baby Go Lightly service, so you can order all sorts of baby necessities before you arrive, e.g. nappies, car seats etc. For older children and teenagers, there is a dedicated ‘urban graffiti’ designed area with video games and big screens.
Dude Ranch, in the USA A holiday with a difference, this is the chance to test your cowboy skills. Set on a huge ranch, you and your family will be surrounded by breathtaking scenery and glorious sunsets. The Elk Mountain Ranch is known as the “White Water Capital of Colorado” and there is plenty of opportunity to go rafting along with hayrides, biking and erm, square dancing. A great choice for children, each day has a theme such as cowboy or Indian, there are dedicated camp counsellors and even a water slide park nearby, meaning every base is covered.
Classic sunshine Depending on who you talk to, there are a couple of thousand islands in Greece, so there is plenty to choose from. To top it off, it’s one of the best places for a bargain break; there is a big push to get visitors in this year, so prices have dropped and there is room for haggling. Try the resort of Amoudara in Crete, with a three mile long stretch of sand and tonnes of tavernas to lunch in. For days out try the Labyrinth of Knossos or the AquaWorld Aquarium and stay at the Castro Hotel, just a couple of minutes from a private beach, with its own pool and plenty of restaurants nearby.
City running: The New York City run is one of the top marathons around the world, with plenty of space for spectators. Around two million people throng the city streets each year just to cheer on their favourites. Entries are by lottery, so get your application in by April for your chance to run through all five boroughs. (November 10, 2013.)
Ice, Ice, Baby: The Antarctic Ice Marathon is one for the hardcore. Running on ice with temperatures dropping below 0, it’s certainly one for the absolutely committed… and a little crazy! (November 20, 2013.)
Desert Running: From one extreme to another, how about a six stage trek through the Sahara in Morocco. Temperatures can top 100 degrees, sandstorms can temporarily blind you and there are no shops to stop and pick up a handy bottle of water, all your supplies go on your back. (March 17, 2013)
Safari Marathon: A double loop around Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy will take you past zebras, giraffes and plenty of other wildlife. Try not to worry too much about lions and tigers – rangers and helicopters are on hand to rescue any runners that might come a cropper. (June 22, 2013.)
Great Wall adventure: How often will you get to walk on the Great Wall of China, let alone race along it? You’ll certainly feel like you’ve completed a workout over the gruelling but picturesque 5164 steps and paths. (May 18, 2013.)
The classic: The Athens City Marathon is the stuff of legend, literally. The home of the first ever marathon, it follows the route of a messenger who was delivering the news of Greece’s victory in the Battle of Marathon. It’s told he made his winning cry before collapsing on arrival in Athens. Today, the epic run finishes in the historic Olympic Stadium in the centre of the city. (November 10, 2013.)
Rookie runners:The Walt Disney World Half Marathon weekend is a good place to start for beginner runners. You can take the kids for an adventure of a lifetime and get a family run in at the same time. (February 22-24, 2013)
Rural running: The Connemarathon in Ireland will take you over mountains, glacier lakes, bogs and rolling hills and countryside of the West Coast. A great way to discover the Emerald Isle running a marathon with a difference. (April 7, 2013.)
Visit Purple Travel now to find out more about holidays with a difference.