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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. Even during Australia’s December summer-time heat, the season is aglow.
What better way to escape the frigid blizzards and precarious storms of the Northern Hemisphere during the holiday season than by venturing to the Land Down Under. Many travelers to Australia during this time head to the Gold Coast in Queensland to relax on sun-drenched beaches. However, if you are looking for a coastal escape beyond the sand that embraces the magical spirit of the holiday season, visit one (or perhaps three) of Theme Park Capital’s five playgrounds. This including Movie World, Dreamworld, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild, and WhiteWater World.
Wonderment, joy, and imagination: the spirit of the season at these theme parks is ever present, which also makes visiting them a great gift idea for the whole family.
Savor the Season
Can you imagine snow during summer? At Movie World, enjoy a magical family evening under a canopy of twinkling Christmas lights and snow! Well, not snow made of ice, but snow no less. Running from December 13 to the 27, this nighttime winter wonderland will dazzle your Yuletide senses with carolers, a Christmas parade, and even ice-skating. For those seeking an even greater holiday thrill during this extravaganza, check out Ice Age Christmas 4D. Provoking mammoth-sized laughs, this thrilling adventure will take you through the chilly lost world of dinosaurs. You’ll leave saying, “Baby, it’s cold outside!”
This Christmas, Santa will be at Movie World, why shouldn’t you?
See the World
Of course, a White Christmas isn’t the only draw to Gold Coast theme parks. Perhaps your children have “see the world” jotted down on their gift wish list? The good news: you can grant them this and more. A one-day World Pass to Dreamworld and WhiteWater World is available online for $89.99 for adults and $69.99 for children. The pass grants unlimited access to both parks.
Accompany your gifted World Pass with a suggested itinerary. At Dreamworld, start the day at the brand new Cub College where tiger brothers Baru and Ravi will demonstrate their prowling prowess in the big cat kingdom during their new show, which starts December 26. Wandering from island territory, don’t forget to swing by the jungle to observe your favorite characters of Madagascar in action like Alex the lion and King Julien the party-loving lemur. Venturing onward, there’s also the Land of Awesome where you’ll meet Kung Fu Panda who hails from China.
After a day of exploring, it’s important to cool down. For a refreshing perspective on the world, use your World Pass and wander to WhiteWater World. With three slide towers, this water park combines adrenaline-pumping thrills with family-style fun.
Try out the newly refurbished Pipeline Plunge or explore the Cave of Waves. If surfing is on your Christmas list, then learn how to carve the waves at the Learn to Surf School! For only $75 you’ll get a two-hour lesson, equipment, a qualified coach, and more! The park also offers night surf classes after hours.
Take the Plunge
Honestly, between hosting parties and tending to family members, the holidays are always stressful. So, after the season passes, it’s time to relax and cool off. Take the plunge and head to Wet’n’Wild! Wash away the holiday blues at Calypso Beach, floating down the lazy river past tropical gardens or reclining on shady soft-sand beaches while the kids go play at either the Giant Wave Pool or Buccaneer Bay. Or, initiate some family bonding over at Mammoth Falls where together you’ll ride raging rapids in a four-person tube.
After Christmas, the New Year brings new ambition. If you’re an animal lover like I am, perhaps that resolution is to finally see seals at play, feed a stingray, or witness penguins splashing about their natural habitat. Maintaining the season’s spirit of wonderment, head to Sea World! Start at Dinosaur Island where you’ll journey back in time 65 million years to the prehistoric era when dinosaurs ruled the earth and become a paleontologist. Go back to the future to meet Australia’s only baby Polar Bear ‘Henry’. This gorgeous bundle of fluff has just come out to play at Polar Bear Shores ‘Polar Pre-School’.
No matter which theme park you choose to explore while on the Gold Coast during the holidays, pick the one that keeps your child-like sense of the season alive. For ticket prices, click here.
Your heart thuds like an accelerating drum beat. It’s the feeling of falling, excitement. Life becomes a rush. From inside your cubicle, you begin to hear the shrill grunt of an electric pencil sharpener on your desk as the rev of an engine. You slip your sunglasses over your eyes as if they were goggles, recline in your wheelie chair, grip an imaginary steering wheel, and prep for take-off just as your boss swoops around the corner to ask you about spreadsheets. Oh, the pained desire to be a Hollywood stunt driver, something that may belong in your current workplace daydreams.
Fair not nine-to-fivers; we are not just dreamers. We are creatures of incredible feats and these things we hope to accomplish are only things we haven’t done yet. There is one catalyst, however, that helps us transcend the barriers of flying, swimming with dolphins, and even speed car racing: theme parks.
The even better option than visiting a theme park near home is to visit a theme park during travel. While wandering about Australia’s Gold Coast, why not journey to Theme Park Capital: a collection of “worlds” to discover Down Under. This includes Movie World, Dreamworld, Sea World, Wet‘n’Wild, and WhiteWater World.
Now that you know about the wonders of the Gold Coast, your only choice is to transition from the voice that says, “I could never fly!” to the voice that says, “I can!” As Peter Pan said, it’s only a matter of believing.
Here are the five Gold Coast theme parks that will help you etch adventures off your bucket list.
Be a Hero at Movie World
Wish you could be a superhero for a day? No problem. Look to the sky, is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Movie World’s Superman Escape! If you think you have the gusto of our favorite red-caped hero, jump aboard this nearly 2,500 foot-long rollercoaster and test your wits. You’ll go zero to sixty miles-per-hour in only two seconds, skyrocketing around weightless drops and vertical climbs. Don’t forget to bring your own cape.
Not a thrill seeker? Bucket lists aren’t always comprised of heart-thumping challenges. If you’re like me and hail from a hometown like Southern California where the weather is always fine, perhaps the experience of an enchanting winter wonderland is on your list. At Movie World, bring that fantasy to life to the tune of a White Christmas. The best part about this experience is that you can actually be there for Christmas and since it’s summer in Australia, you can wear shorts.
During the White Christmas, the whole park glows with a million twinkling lights, snowfalls, and a Christmas parade. Even Santa will be there, so why shouldn’t you? White Christmas is a special night-time event that runs from December 13 to the 27.
Park open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Anzac Day and Christmas. A one-day pass is available online for $89.99 for adults and $69.99 for children.
Dare to Dreamworld
Looking for a theme park that encourages you to dream big? Here’s an entire world dedicated to the imagination sure to check more than one item off that bucket list. At Dreamworld become a karate kid with Kung Fu Panda, ride the wild rapids of Thunder River Rapids or even engage in laser combat through the depths of a city. Zombie Evilution – The Battle for Kevil Hill has begun and YOU need to choose a side.
An animal loving bucket lister, you say? If you’ve always dreamed of meeting a tiger first-hand, then take off for Tiger Island where brothers Baru and Ravi will be showing off during their new tiger show, which starts December 26.
Park open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Christmas and Anzac Day. A one-day World Pass to Dreamworld and WhiteWater World is available online for $89.99 for adults and $69.99 for children.
Splash Around at Sea World
An admission: when I was a child, every year on my Christmas wish list would appear the very honest, heart-filled desire for a dolphin. I didn’t understand why this was not logistical. I just daydreamed about interacting with my favorite sea creatures. While my parents were very generous in their gift giving and continued to encourage me to dream this never transcended to reality. Perhaps you sympathize if this too has been your dream.
On the Gold Coast, however, there exists an ocean of opportunity to live out this bucket list item at Sea World. In fact, their show Imagine is a great place to witness the agility and grace of dolphins in their own sandy lagoon called Dolphin Cove, which was built especially for them. If you’re very lucky, then you might get chosen to interact with the dolphins on stage.
Let’s just say you’re an animal lover whose dream is witnessing the glory of other mammals beside dolphins. Come to Sea World and meet Australia’s only baby Polar Bear ‘Henry’. This gorgeous bundle of fluff has just come out to play at Polar Bear Shores ‘Polar Pre-School’.
Park open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is closed on Christmas. A one-day pass is available online for $89.99 for adults and $69.99 for children.
Surf it Up at Wet‘n’Wild Water World
Most of us, I imagine, would love to fearlessly ride giant swells, but the threat of sharks and rips may keep us away from this bucket list item. Hang ten at Wet‘n’Wild with the Flow Rider, a wave simulator for people of amateur and pro surfing skills. Imagine pure, continuous wave action outfitted with different board options.
For those who want to leave it to the pros, Wet‘n’Wild is also good for thrill seeking bucket listers. If you seek an absolute adrenaline rush, then AquaLoop would be at the top of your list. Slide down one of four transparent looping slides that starts out with a 40-foot free fall drop and transitions upward to a full-looping slide at 37 miles-per-hour. The park also hosts rides with names like Kamikaze, SkyCoaster, and Tornado.
Park is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Christmas and Anzac Day. A one-day pass is available online for $59.99 for adults and $34.99 for children.
Take the Plunge at WhiteWater World
Maybe it’s time to answer to your inner child. Maintaining a sense of play as an adult can actually lengthen life expectancy. Many might find the simple act of play at the top of their bucket list and are in search of a specific mechanism to drive this forward. Enter WhiteWater World — the Gold Coast theme park that boasts a death-defying ride with the benign title, Wedgie. Butterflies soar through your stomach as you stand a top a platform that releases to drop you downward. Then, you’ll barrel through a translucent tube, plummeting feet-first five stories down.
For more play, check out Pipeline Plunge, which has gone through a series of recent refurbishments. There’s also Cave of Waves, which undulates swells for splashing, and The Bro, which sends you surging headfirst down a maze of twists and turns.
Park open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 5:00 p.m. on weekends. It is closed on Christmas and Anzac Day. A one-day World Pass to Dreamworld and WhiteWater World is available online for $89.99 for adults and $69.99 for children.
No matter the nature of your bucket list, Theme Park Capital of Australia on the Gold Coast will help you check off something you’ve always dreamed of doing. Celebrate your achievements with a VIP Pass to visit Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild for only $99.99 or with a World Pass to Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and SkyPoint from $79.99* (*child price). Or customize your own action-packed list by clicking here.
Love on Uros Island felt like home.
Across a floating reed barge, a young girl dragged me toward one of five reed huts, her florescent pink skirt swooshing through blades of stale yellow lake grass. We stumbled inside the structure where she pointed to a satellite-powered television perched on a reed table. On screen, a couple followed Spanish love quarrels with passionate kissing. The little girl squealed, then leapt into her mother’s lap. Their arms fell over each other to form a vivid embrace like an overlapping ball of rainbow rubber bands. They giggled. Motherly love, I thought, is the grace of the world. And on an island on Lake Titicaca in southern Peru, I felt the essence of home.
Familiarity in the unknown: a ubiquitous experience among travelers who venture to distant lands, to territories some would never dream of traveling. Lake Titicaca was completely off my radar for a long time. Going there inspired me to add unique destinations to my itinerary like Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Jodhpur, India.
When you journey into the unknown, enlightenment occurs in the house of the unfamiliar, which might bear heart-warming similarities to your own home. So fear not new and daring experiences.
Here are five curious places on my adventure radar that should also be on yours.
Can you live without visiting the origin of human beings? I’m not sure I can. Enter the Cradle of Civilization: Ethiopia. As the only African country never colonized by a European power, Ethiopian thrives with over 80 unique ethnic tribes. The most popularly photography tribes punctuate the southern savannah. Bordered by two countries with risky travel reputations, Sudan and Somalia, Ethiopia has garnered a touch of what some sociologists call the bad neighbor reputation, but that does not speak truth of the country’s real situation. I’ve been instructed to practice the normal travel precautions there and also to embrace the warmth of the people.
Ethiopia is home to the oldest human skeletal remains, dated back to 4.4 million years old. Traveling here gives not only an experience of the ancient but also an escape of unique culture.
What I’m Dreaming About:
- Hanging with Rastafarian settlers at Shashamane: a Jamaican community 150 miles from capital city Addis Ababa.
- Cruising about Ethiopia’s largest body of water, Lake Tana, to visit ancient island monasteries and spy on hippos bathing in the Blue Nile.
- Feasting on Injera, the foundational bread of Ethiopian cuisine used to serve sauces and curries. I enjoy the communal aspect of Ethiopian food and would love the chance to share it with locals.
It wasn’t until a year ago I realized Tasmania actually forms part of Australia; I mistook it for a tribal desert inhabited by spinning devils. Aware of my embarrassing faux pas, I’ve realized the Tasman travel experience is one of treks through World Heritage wilderness, game fishing on pristine shores, and interaction with humble (English speaking) humanity. If Australia doesn’t have wild side enough, journey across the Bass Strait (where Great White Sharks breed) to the other land down under, Tasmania. And life can only be truly Tasie when you sacrifice your phone signal and head straight for the wilderness.
What I’m Dreaming About:
- Marveling at the Aurora Australis, Tasmania’s southern lights.
- Journeying to the east coast fishing village of Bicheno to nosh on fresh seafood and take a penguin tour.
- Wandering about Hobart’s cobblestone streets to uncover the capital city’s unique convict history and prison ruins.
Home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world (130 million years old to be exact), Asia’s third largest island knows what wild means. Borneo is divided into thirds with large sections belonging to Indonesia and Malaysia and one small portion, Brunei, forming its own nation. The Malaysian portion of Borneo is divided into Sabah and Sarawak.
A journey here means spying on orangutans hanging out in jungle canopies, diving in Pulau Sipadan, and exploring Dayak longhouses — traditional dwelling quarters of Borneo’s native people. For city dwellers, Sabah’s capital city Kota Kinabula is a feast of fusion melding European with Malay, Chinese, and Filipino, a cultural cross-section best demonstrated by local food. Pack your fork and chopsticks but don’t forget your rain jacket, this place averages 157 inches (13 feet) of rain per year.
What I’m Dreaming About:
- Watching apes play at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.
- Soaking in nature’s sulphuric tub at Poring Hot Springs.
- Over nighting with one of 35 local families at Miso Walai Village Homestay.
Home to sacred spaces and happy faces, Bhutan appeals to both my heart and spirit. Sandwiched between China and India, this land-locked country measures development in Gross National Happiness. When it comes to happiness, the Bhutanese lead lives of the highest satisfaction. The question then isn’t why go, it’s why haven’t I gone yet? Red rice paddies flourish, fortresses jet out from cliff sides, and lunar festivals prompt blessed mask dances in the only remaining great Himalayan Kingdom, also known as the last Shangri-La.
What I’m Dreaming About:
- Meditating at the Tiger’s Nest monastery, a Himilayan Buddhist temple in Paro.
- Meeting Monks at Rimpung Dzong school
- Spotting black-necked cranes at Phobjikha Valley.
Ah, Iceland: even the word feels like either a refreshing cold drink or a stick of mint gum. Crampons are not necessary to explore the entire country, but you will need them should you decide to brave the icy cliffs of Sólheimajökull. This Nordic land of Viking heritage is home to flocks of Puffins, culinary dishes involving succulent lamb, and a music scene thumping with eclectic beats. Take note: travel in summer when the sun beams for nearly twenty-two hours a day and avoid winters, which enshroud the country in darkness. Stay on the lookout for huldufólk: Icelandic elves or hidden people as they are more appropriately referred. Though a facet of Icelandic folklore, some locals may defend their actual existence. You decide.
What I’m Dreaming About:
- Working on my tan under the midnight sun.
- Bathing in the outdoor geothermal spa at Blue Lagoon.
- Standing in awe of exploding geysers, the surging Gullfoss Falls, and Westman Island’s trickling lava flows.
Whether you decide to play with orangutans in Borneo or feast on injera in Ethiopia, the adventure is always best shared with other travelers who, like you, are testing the limits of the human spirit. Create an essence of the familiar by arranging a trip with travelers like yourself that value adventure with My Adventure Store.
Classic Journeys Founder Edward Piegza and I discuss some of the most adventurous, yet popular, places to travel this year. Our conversation covers Bhutan, Myanmar, Croatia, Turkey, and Cuba. Classic Journeys ventures to these (and many other destinations), embracing local perspective and also providing a boutique experience. For more information visit www.classicjourneys.com.