Friday, November 20, 2015

Where dreams do come true

The kids had been begging me to take them to Dreamworld for ages.

In the old days, when we lived in Brisbane, and I covered a lot of animal, travel and entertainment stories for national and international magazines and newspapers, we were regulars at theme parks.

Probably the last proper visit to Dreamworld was when the Wiggles and  Hi-Five (the original members of both groups) performed at the park. That's how long ago it was! And we were regularly invited to cover major events.

A young Chase even was cuddled by Kathleen de Leon, who confessed she was very clucky at the time (pre her marriage to Daniel Jones).

More recently, we attended a live filming of a Big Brother eviction. But that was really just an evening, live-filming event, and we didn't actually get to see any of the park. (Even though, as a veteran Big Brother reporter, seeing the experience through my childrens' eyes was a completely new experience. And awesome!)

So it was great to revisit Dreamworld with my older, wiser, stronger kids.

It was all fresh for my teens, who had been too young to remember the theme park from their visits as Wiggle-loving toddlers. (How I would love to post some pics of those days, but I think my offspring would kill me  or even worse, exact their revenge at a later date...)

  Dreamworld has been revamped and rethemed since then. And big time. So the visit was just as much fun for me. 

It was also the first time I have taken my kids to a theme park as teenagers.

These days they have gone well and truly beyond the kiddy rides and are way into the fast and furious thrills. They love the animals, colour and adventure as well, and they're fit enough to want to keep on exploring, rather than tiring and asking to go home way before we've seen everything.

In fact, this time it was the adult who was flagging way before they did. 
But I still had a very long drive home to 'look forward to...

We had plenty to enjoy in the meantime.

Map Guy wasted no time decided which attraction which we should head to first, while a certain Miss 12 was attracted by the pretties. A little bit of her mother in her then ...

Actually Harmonie was just like a kid in a candy store ... funny that 

Mmm... chocolate

Time for a coffee, but an iced version, because even at 10 am it was so freaking hot. #thisisQueensland

Zombie Evilution was first on the list. The kids were keen for me to go into battle, but as soon as they read the exclusion list (weak neck, motion sickness, weak back, nervous disorders, recent surgery) I was dispatched to be Bag Lady while they had the fun. Apparently Chase was the winner for his team! For the record, I am sure I would have kicked some serious Zombie butt in there ... 

Zombie Central 

The iconic Shark Shack food outlet. This is where the hungry Man Child chose to have a snack, while Miss 12 and an adult friend went on the Wipeout. Luckily, the two facilities are next to each other, because, although Harmonie was well taken care of, she also wanted me to take photos and videos. And although Mr 14 thinks he is bullet-proof, I didn't want to leave him alone. Okay, call me a helicopter mum. but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I was hovering more than helicoptering, in any case.

About to be wiped out ... My daughter has a stronger stomach than me!

But everyone went on The Claw. Well except me. Bag Lady duties you see ... Apparently it was Teh Awesome

An iconic Dreamworld stand. Important fact: You can get your refillable slushie containers refilled here also

Chase's mid-morning snack, which cost around $26. You don't have to buy the special drink container (which costs extra) but the idea is you can then refill it at a vast discount throughout the park. And they have something cool to take home.To be honest though, there were only a few stands/facilities that sold the slushie drinks, which were what the kids were after. And the hot dog stand and Shark Shack closed early, even though it was school holidays. (Trust me - I walked there especially to refill it when we couldn't fill slushies elsewhere). 

Just riding along 


I must confess: I wanted desperately to have my photo taken with the Madagascar crew. But no one would join me, and because we were running out of time (the kids had a plane to catch in Brisbane that night), I didn't feel like we could take time for a photo opportunity for me. I had only watched that movie a million times because of the kids!That particular area was Nick Jnr the last time we visited, and Dreamworld have done a great job at rebranding the whole feel of the area.

After all those rides, I did insist that I get a 'turn' at doing something I wanted to do. And that was to see the animals, including the tigers. Again, I've been lucky enough to get up close and personal with the tigers in a previous life - I've even had one jump over my head, and yes I've patted them - but I can't go to Dreamworld without checking in.

They are just like big pussycats (but not really), and what you see really depends on what they are doing and how they feel on the day.

The kids saw their first Cassowary that they remember, though we have seen them before. I encountered cassowaries a few times in the wild when I lived in Far North Queensland, and it's always a treat to see these rare, flightless birds. "Look, an emu," shouted a bogan to his kids, as he rushed on by. I had to be restrained from running after him and giving him a talking to. 

The obligatory koala shot. There are more koalas at Dreamworld than you can poke a stick at. Not that you would ever do that. Perhaps a better term would be: 'Find asleep in the fork of a gumtree'
We saw more animals (and there are so many including kangaoos, wombats, dingoes, Tassie devils, crocodiles, and emus. Ahem. But my son began having an allergic reaction to either the animal food or one of the animals, so we had to move on.

It was fine, as going on the water rides took his mind off things and his reaction cleared. I joined him for this ride, which I have done a zillion times, but I still screamed like a girl, And afterwards, my pants were soaked. Because of the Water Ride you understand. 

We also went on a circular water ride but no one could get a pic of that one, because we all rode on it.  In fact, we couldn't get a pic of everything, and we didn't get to do or see everything we wanted to do. (You seriously need a few days ....)

We ended the day with a slice of American-style pizza (and chips for those who needed them). A nearby sandwich joint did not sell sandwiches, only subs and and a few sad pieces of sushi, but perhaps it was the time of day and they had sold out.

We were really sad as it was time to get on the road to Brisbane and we'd only seen a percentage of the park. And the big loss was that our entry included the adjacent WhiteWater World too, which we would have loved to have tried out.

At the time, Dreamworld was running a promotion where patrons could renew their tickets on leaving, allowing entry into both worlds and the Skypoint Observation Tower at Q1, the highest beachside observation tower in Australia, until the end of June 2016. (For a small fee, conditions applied).
We really wanted to do that, but there was only one operator on duty, a line of people, and a seemingly particularly demanding couple taking up all her time when we were leaving the park. We waited and waited, but that couple's queries never got finalised.

With the clock ticking, we had to leave. but I'd recommend checking it out if you are visiting the Gold Coast or a resident, because just one more visit would make it more than worth your while.  

Our verdict?

 Having visited Dreamworld pre-kids, with babies and toddlers, young kids, and now teens, a visit to Dreamworld is a must for all ages. It's no Disneyland, nor has it ever tried to be. It's an iconic Australian theme park, that has moved with the times and really does have something for all ages and tastes. 

Our tips

  •  Plan ahead. Work out what you want to see the most and head there first (and if the queue is really long, go somewhere else and come back later).
  • Take snacks, and/or refillable water bottles. Generally, you're not allowed to take your own food in, but staff turn a blind eye to you bringing in water bottles each and a few snacks that fit into your bags.
  • Queensland is hot, even in winter. Slap on the sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and reapply the sunscreen often. Drink plenty of water.
  • If you have a legitimate food allergy or condition, you are allowed to take food in (check first regarding conditions), but I find kids usually don't care about the food as much as the rides and experiences. 
  • The main trick is keeping all of you hydrated. There are water points throughout the park where you can refill your bottles. Staff aren't going to make a fuss about a few vegemite sandwiches or snack packs, but don't try to bring in an esky. You can still have a picnic but you might be asked to leave your esky in the car, get a pass out and come back later. Unless you have the real allergies or food conditions, and can provide proof of these.
  •  I must admit, shelling out $26-ish for a hotdog, chips and drink was a lot to swallow (get it?) for just one teen's snack, particularly when he needed more food and drink later. And it was pronounced only 'edible'. 
  • I would welcome more healthy choices. 
  • At the time we went for our second 'lunch/snack', there were a few pieces of sushi left that didn't look appetising, and as I said, no sandwiches available for a tween who just wanted a vegemite sambo. She chose a New York slice of pizza instead, joined by her brother. One of them had a meal deal and one just a slice. I think it was another $30 or so for that, and they were still hungry. (Don't worry - we grabbed Japanese food on the way to the airport). 
  • Having said that, a trip to a theme park, sporting event, upmarket resort, theatrical presentation or similar is a very rare treat for most families, and food and drink costs are always high. When you keep that in mind, our Aussie parks are quite reasonable compared with others around the world.
  • Try to avoid the gift shops. Because - money and stuff. But if you do go, they actually have good quality merchandise and a lot of it is practical. Like drink bottles, cups, collectables and pens.  
  • Go to the loo! It should go without saying, but if you see a loo without a queue, especially if you have small children, elderly parents, or a Mummy Bladder, GO! Because the minute you are busting, you will not be able to find one for ages. And then there will be a line for kilometres. (Okay, I do have a tendancy to dramatise). The same goes for water fountains and the stalls with slushie machines. 
  • Get there early. It's in a pain in the butt to set the alarm during a Gold Coast holiday, but it's well worth it when you burst through those turnstiles early, feel like you have the park to yourself, and get straight to the ride you've been aching to do, without having to wait. 
  • Allow extra time to leave if there are special deals on. 
  • Just enjoy. Have no expectations. If one ride has a long queue, another will not. If someone is tired, a show will be on. It's all about the fun. And the #DWhappiness