I’m in a Boeing 737-800 on its approach I to London City airport, my chosen destination, and I’m at the controls. “That’s pretty small,” my co-pilot and instructor, Scott Hatmaker, comments as he spies the distant speck of runway in London’s Royal Docks, with the familiar Docklands skyline beyond.
Familiar to me, that is – this is Scott’s first time there. He guides me on the steep approach flight path while I concentrate on keeping the correct angle of descent and direction amid the cockpit’s bewildering array of dials, switches and instruments. I nail a perfect landing on the tiny Tarmac strip shoehorned between two docks.
“Wow, that was pretty close,” Scott says with relief when the plane finally comes to rest at the extreme end of the runway. Only then do I reveal that Boeing 737s cannot land at London City because the runway is too short!
We are in Anaheim flight simulation centre Flightdeck, an unassuming industrial estate just two miles from Disneyland, and I’m very chuffed with my piloting skills on the full-size 737 simulator.
I’m enjoying an adventure day prior to the start of US travel industry convention IPW in Anaheim. This autumn, Flightdeck will move to entertainment and dining district Garden Walk, a block away from Disneyland.
Anaheim attracted a record 24.4 million visitors in 2018, an increase of 30% since 2013, and has been gunning for more visitors with major attraction, hotel and tourism investment totalling $4.5 billion in the past three years alone. More than 1,500 new rooms have been added in the greater Anaheim Resort district since 2016, with more coming this year, while new restaurants and craft breweries have opened in revamped neighbourhoods.
The biggest news for Anaheim this year is the debut of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the 14-acre Star Wars-themed land at Disneyland that opened on 31 May. It reportedly cost $1 billion and is Disneyland’s largest-ever expansion. A similar park opens at Walt Disney World in Florida on 29 August. According to Disney, they are the most technologically advanced and immersive lands it has ever built.
If the queues at the IPW opening night event at Disneyland – where delegates are given a preview of Galaxy’s Edge – are anything to go by, it’s going to be a huge hit with visitors. I wait in line for an hour to take the Millennium Falcon on a Resistance smuggling mission on the thrilling, interactive Smugglers Run ride. Six people are accommodated at a time, each given a designated role of pilot, gunner or engineer. Needless to say, I’m a pilot.
The new Star Wars land also features a Rise of the Resistance ride along with two other attractions and food outlets.
Having escaped the clutches of the First Order, I hang up my pilot goggles to sit back and enjoy other rides including the fun Pirates of the Caribbean.
Anaheim continues to enhance its reputation as a family destination but, as I have discovered to my enjoyment, it isn’t just child’s play. Adults can join in the fun as well.
Gold Medal offers a seven-night twin centre for a family of four with three nights in Los Angeles and four nights at Anaheim’s Great Wolf Lodge, including flights and car rental from £729pp. Two-day, one-park Disneyland admission tickets cost £213 per adult and £199 per child.
Brand USA’s third giant-screen IMAX movie will be released next year. Into America’s Wild will be “a cross- country journey to scenic byways, ancient homelands, little-known gems and hidden trails that form the natural tapestry of America”, according to Brand USA president and chief executive Chris Thompson.
Orlando attracted a record 75 million visitors in 2018, an increase of 4.2% on the previous year, ranking it as the top US travel destination. Major expansion is being undertaken at all its main theme parks, and a new terminal adding 19 more gates will open at Orlando International airport in 2021.
New York’s Empire State Building is partnering with destination marketing organisation NYC & Company to open a new interactive experience called NYC: Above and Beyond this autumn. Situated on the 80th oor, it will encourage guests to create their own personalised trip itinerary for their stay. The building receives four million visitors a year.
Colorado Spring’s historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway will reopen in 2021 with new track, engines and rail cars in a $100 million revamp. Owned by landmark resort The Broadmoor, it has been closed since late 2017.