Over the last five years, my husband and I, with our pair of little rascals in tow, have done the rounds of Disneyland in Hong Kong and Tokyo, Universal Studios in Osaka and Singapore, and even visited a little known “theme park” in Tumon, Guam with its grand total of three rides fit for a grade school fair.
But even if it takes close to an hour to queue up for each attraction at the major parks, ditto for that 10-second photo op with larger than life characters, nothing can beat the joy of seeing your little ones’ faces light up in awe, and their voices squeal in delight over every wondrous moment that fills their little hearts to overflowing.
Yet again, while I do love Mickey and friends (not to mention my lifetime idols in the Disney Princesses), as well as Elmo, Shrek, Snoopy et. al., I have to confess that to see them every summer and Christmas break somehow takes away from the magic that theme parks ought to bring the old besides the young.
In fact, even my eldest, a tireless five-year-old, seemed content with just a single day around Hong Kong Disneyland this summer, even when we had already purchased the customary two-day passes that left him wanting for more in previous years.
So much as theme park holidays are the easiest, most convenient, and seemingly surefire hits of a trip to plan for a young family, I knew the time had come to find something new for the boys and I to enjoy come our next holiday at the end of year.
Luckily, just as I was starting to forget that vow I made in June, I found myself onboard Cebu Pacific’s spanking new Airbus A330 bound for its maiden flight to Sydney, Australia on September 9, not knowing that endless wondrous ideas would be waiting for the mom in me Down Under.
Faces lit up and voices squealed in delight over the next four days of our ensuing trip to Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, Australia, and a side visit to the nearby Blue Mountain region two weeks ago.
And no, I wasn’t with my two overactive boys and their dad on holiday, but was in the company of the eight-member Philippine press group that Cebu Pacific and JG Summit Holdings invited on its inaugural flight to the world famous city.
Unabashedly, these well-travelled journalists—myself included—turned into wide-eyed children at key highlights of the superbly organized familiarization tour by state tourism agency Destination New South Wales.
How could we not when we found ourselves fascinated by Australia’s greatest riches from one day to the next?
Imagine the experience of getting on a glass bottom boat to see a spectrum of sea life, from endless schools of clown fish to gentle looking giant sharks, swimming happily beneath your feet.
Consider the thrill of looking deep into a giraffe’s mesmerizing eyes as the beautiful animal eats chunks of carrots straight out of your hand.
How about getting up close and personal with animals native only to Australia? The globally beloved kangaroos and koalas; creatures you never even knew existed before like the adorably plump marsupial quokka (pronounced “kwok-uh”), and the hedgehog-looking echidna (pronounced “i-kid-na”). Extraordinary is surely the word that comes to mind.
For sure, my boys will marvel at the opportunity to meet the real life versions of at least two cartoon characters they thought they knew from TV. The Tazmanian Devil and Agent P—the platypus from Disney’s Phineas and Ferb—which just doesn’t look like their animated counterparts.
As you can tell, this endless stream of exciting possibilities can easily bring out the child in anyone. And believe it or not, the list above comes from just two must-see destinations in Sydney—the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium at the tourist hub that is Darling Harbour; and the utterly impressive Taronga Zoo, which is sprawled across the most expensive real estate suburb just outside the capital.
I haven’t gone on what lies beyond an hour and a half’s drive from the city: a visit to the rainforests of the Blue Mountains via Scenic World’s railways and cable cars; a courtesy call to the region’s famed Three Sisters rock formation; and the incredible “Breakfast with the Kangaroos Tour” in the great outdoors, where Australia’s star is free to hop about the vast virgin land that is a proud World Heritage site of the Blue Mountains.
If these “natural highs” fail to top my children’s theme park thrills, I can no longer imagine what else will. I can’t wait to take them there.
What makes a trip to Sydney even more worthwhile and appealing is that it combines endless ecological attractions for children with the sophistication and city adventures that my dominantly urban tastes are drawn to.
The mere sight of Sydney’s four icons—architectural masterpieces that are the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Tower, and Queen Victoria Building—brings an overload of visual pleasure for the ardent fan of beauty in me.
But then again, to see them from such daring vantage points such as a mast-climb on a 19th century tall ship as it sails the Sydney Harbour; or chained at dusk to a railing outside the Sydney Tower Eye’s peak no doubt redefine the possibilities of sight-seeing in my books.
Indeed, the famously adventure-seeking Australians cannot be suppressed even in the urban jungle, and having experienced their spirited nature traipsing all over the heart of Sydney, I knew I looked and sounded just like my guileless boys would have every step of the way.