Florida 2011 – Trip Diary – Part 3

Posted in Travel on April 25th, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday January 18 – We began the day  at Sizzler’s breakfast buffet, again.  If you are noticing a pattern, you won’t be surprised to see this in the diary for pretty much every day of the week.  The prices there were great ($3.99 per adult and kids were free!), the food wasn’t bad, and it left our group full enough to sustain us until mid-afternoon, which saved us a lot of money.  Today was Epcot day, and it was a great day – the sun finally came out, and the temp was in the low 70s.  We rode the usual favorites, and we got to take our daughter Disney on my favorite Epcot ride Soarin’ for the first time because she was finally tall enough – and she liked it!  Epcot has a World Showcase which is an area set up like different countries, so we took the ferry to Germany and walked to Japan for their delicious snow cones.  We walked around the lake through Morocco and Italy, and stopped in Norway and Mexico for their boat rides which are very cool.  Someday I would like to visit the countries in Epcot, sampling the ethnic foods as I go – but that’s more of a retirement plan since the kids would never go for that now!  Oh, and we ran into Stitch in America!

After the day at Epcot, we sent the little ones home with Grandma, and Hubby, Jamy and I attempted to find a good place to eat dinner, but to our surprise, there weren’t many good dinner choices left at 10pm, even in Orlando.  We ended up at Perkins – famished – and they were out of most everything I asked for.  I stomached the sandwich I got, which wasn’t very good, and Hubby was not too happy with his salad.  We did end up with a box of Eclairs to go, and those were pretty good  – well, what little of them we had anyway once the kids got a hold of them.  Our friend Derek arrived that night while we were sleeping, so our next day would see one more joining our group…

Wednesday January 19 – Breakfast at Sizzler (did you think I was exaggerating about eating there every day?), then on to the Magic Kingdom where we spent a fun-filled day.  We learned that there is an expansion planned and under construction to double the size of Fantasyland, so we are looking forward to seeing that on a future visit.  Splashwater Falls was undergoing maintenance (usually does in January when we go, but this is a small price to pay for ideal weather and low crowds  – BEST time to visit Orlando!!), but we enjoyed the classics like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (and little Disney liked this one, even though it is a roller coaster!), Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Hubby’s and my personal favorite that many others find to be lame,  The Carousel of Progress.  We skipped out on Space Mountain this time, mainly because the kids wouldn’t have liked it, and we don’t find that its long wait it worth it for a herky-jerky outdated roller coaster.  If you are into indoor roller coasters in the dark, I’ve always liked the Aerosmith one at Disney’s MGM, er, Hollywood Studios, although  we never find that park worth the time for a visit since there isn’t much there.  And King’s Island in Mason Ohio outside of Cincinnati has a SUPER dark coaster called Flight of Fear.  But back in Orlando, the People Mover ride in the Magic Kingdom, an elevated train-type ride that goes all around Tomorrowland, treated us to a one-of-a-kind glimpse inside Space Mountain – with the lights on!!  The People Mover travels into the Space Mountain building, but usually you can only see the glowing streaks of the ride trains as they zip past.  Because of a ride malfunction, the lights in the building were on, so we got an insider’s view of all the tracks and trains which was pretty cool!!  After the Magic Kingdom, Derek, Chris and I took the two oldest kids to Fun Spot to try the extreme go-karts, but it didn’t go over so well.  The oldest hated them, and she made me go putt-putt-putt all the way up the spiral and around the track – that was not fun; I’m more pedal-to-the-metal!  But we all took a spin on the bumper cars, and that was some great old-fashioned family fun that everyone was able to enjoy.

Thursday January 20 – Breakfast at Sizzler (every day – told ya!), then on to our second day at Universal, this time with Derek, although we lost one because by now, Jamy’s back pain was so bad that he had to stay in the rental house and relax all day.   Thankfully it did not rain this time, and we had a wonderful day.  It was a bit chilly, but we couldn’t resist the urge to ride Bluto’s Barges 3 (or was it 4?  I can’t remember) times in a row –  we were drenched!  Smarter ones in our group (Derek and Grandma) opted to stay out and stay dry, but those of us who got off soaked (and shivered) had a blast.  It’s a large round boat that’s propelled down a raging river of rapids; every time it dips, the riders on that side get drenched by a wave that cascades over the wall of the boat.  Then there are waterfalls and waterspouts – it’s so much fun to bond with the strangers in your boat as you take turns laughing over who gets soaked and who dodges the torrents of water – whether everyone speaks English or not, there is bonding in the boat!  Next it was on to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I think I talked about this earlier in this diary – it’s amazing; that’s all I need to repeat.  We went on the Forbidden  Journey ride again, this time with Derek, and he really liked it.  Unfortunately, they decided that Sammie had shrunk an inch or two since Monday, and she no longer met the height requirement, so she had to wait in the child swap room – which is actually quite entertaining because they  have the old Harry Potter movies playing, and I had forgotten how young Harry Potter (actor Daniel Radcliffe) was when the movies began.
After Universal, we went to the McDonald’s largest Playplace where the kids had a blast.  Grandma stayed with them while Hubby, Derek and I went to the Titanic attraction I’ve always wanted to see.  Unfortunately, our adventure was a bit marred when Hubby was pulled over and ticketed for U-turn in a No U-turn intersection.  In our opinion, it should have been a warning  – clearly we were tourists, it was an honest mistake, he didn’t do  it when there was oncoming traffic present so no one was in direct danger, and of the 3 people in the car, not one of us saw the (supposed) no U-turn sign.  Personally, I think  Orlando should treat their tourists a little more like the guests that they are, especially considering how much money  the average tourist brings into their local economy.  Also, they seemed to milk us for every penny – the ticket itself was very expensive, and because we were from out of town, we couldn’t even show up to traffic court and contest the ticket, not to mention that when we returned home, we were bombarded with offers of traffic school via mail, which showed that they were looking for even more money by selling our info to these traffic schools so they could bombard us with ads.  A frustrating episode in our otherwise super vacation, but that’s enough – traffic ticket tangent over!
So back to the Titanic exhibit…  I’ve always wanted to see it, but it’s quite pricey, and we were always nervous about spending so much on trying something new that we didn’t even know would be worth the cost or not.  So enter Groupon – before we left, there was a Groupon for Titanic, and we got it.  It kind of obligated us to fitting this in since we already had tickets, but with the money we saved on Groupon, it was worth it.  And, we even made it on time, getting pulled over and all!  Upon entry, each visitor gets a little card with the name and info of a Titanic passenger, and one of the rooms at the end of the tour has a wall with all the names of the passengers on it.  The lights go down, and the names of the passengers who survived stay bold while the names of those who perished are hollow, so you can see if “your” passenger made it.  Mine survived, which I had guessed correctly because she had been a first class passenger.  Our tour guide (portraying the famous Titanic personality “Unsinkable” Molly Brown) was very knowledgeable about all things Titanic, but our friend Derek’s passenger card stumped her – the name on his card was half-solid, half-hollowed, so we don’t know if he made it through the ill-fated voyage or not.  But overall, it was a lot of fun, and a well spent hour or two.  I’ve always been  a Titanic buff (excluding the movie which I feel really commercialized, cheapened, and capitalized on the tragedy and the great loss of life involved – enough about that), so this museum was right up my alley.  There were re-creations to see and explore (a first class cabin, the deck, which they had even chilled to provide an example of the actual temperature that night, and the grand staircase, see picture below), as well as actual artifacts recovered from the bottom of the ocean, like dishes.  There was room after room of signs to read and pictures to look at, and as much as I don’t like the movie, they even had a few costumes and props from it which were interesting to see.  Among my favorite parts of the exhibit:  the hall of newspapers, which had newspaper editions reporting the disaster in 1912 from all over the country, complete with early 20th century advertisements and other news articles.
I also found this quite remarkable:  it was an ordinary cooler, and the exploration staff autographed it and put it down at the bottom of the ocean where the Titanic now lies.  I forgot how long it was there, but it’s not nearly as long as the remains of the ship have been there, and this is what the ocean pressure did to it:

Interesting as it may be, it is a sad representation of what will happen to the remains of the luxury liner itself.  Scientists estimate that it won’t last more than 50 additional years if people don’t find a way to salvage it and bring it up for study.

Hubby and I in front of the actual sized re-creation of the Titanic's Grand Staircase

After Titanic, we stopped at Dippin’ Dots, but it was our only taste of the delicious ice creamish treat for this trip, and I was SO disappointed to find out they discontinued my favorite flavor of Dippin’ Dots:  Root Beer Float.  🙁

Playing Tourist In Toledo

Posted in Travel on August 9th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It began with terrible news – my husband’s uncle had a massive heart attack and was in a coma.  His uncle was in Youngstown Ohio, on his way from Illinois to Washington DC where he was going to take his two sons for a vacation.  A week ago Sunday, we packed up our family and were ready to head to Youngstown to be with the boys since they didn’t have any other family in the area, but at the last minute, we found out that their mom was on her way.

We were all packed and ready to go, plus the summer almost got by without us taking a  family vacation.  Sure, we had some fun excursions with extended family and friends, but nothing with all 6 of us, just the 6 of us.  So we changed our destination from Youngstown to Toledo, cut out a bunch of that driving, and were able to utilize a hotel gift certificate that had been burning a hole in our pockets.  Although Toledo is not our home town, we live only an hour away so we visit often, which is why I used the term ‘playing tourist’.

We went to the zoo (for the umpteenth time, but I could never get sick of the zoo, NEVER!), ate some delicious food, and swam in the hotel pool a bunch.  We visited a mall; something I haven’t done in probably over a decade (I don’t count our local mall – it’s more than half vacant, and its food court has only one restaurant left!), and I was disappointed to learn that the mall’s Dippin’ Dots store (which is the only one anywhere nearby) DOES NOT carry my favorite flavor – Root Beer Float!  But the Dippin’ Dots were still delicious, and besides, that’s just one more thing that makes Orlando that much more special – plenty of Root Beer Float Dippin’ Dots in the store near Disney World, how I miss that place.  We couldn’t believe how crowded the Toledo mall was on a Wednesday afternoon, and because I hadn’t been in one in years, there were all these new gadgets, gizmos, and what-nots that our family had to check out and play around with, probably making us look like total hicks.  But that’s ok, we had fun!  And not only do I love living in a rural area because we have no crime, crowds, or traffic, but it makes things like visiting malls or big movie theaters rare treats and fun vacations!

4 party animals in the hotel

Probably the most fun I had on this vacation was when we rented a pontoon boat and took it into Lake Erie.  Now, don’t be fooled by stats – You wouldn’t know that Lake Erie is the second smallest of the Great Lakes in surface area when you’re out there on a boat – you go out far enough, and you can’t see shore, like all of the Great Lakes.  When we looked at a map when we got home, we found that we had barely even gotten into the lake, yet it took us about 30 minutes to get there and there was water as  far as the eye can see.  Setting Lake Erie apart from the others is its relatively shallow depths, at least on the west side of the lake where we were visiting – the water averaged 1-3 feet in depth!  It looked really strange to see people standing in the lake, really far from shore, with water only up to their knees!

There were some interesting and fun islands to explore; we anchored our boat near the Woodtick Peninsula and waded onto the beach for some sea shell hunting and sand playing.

My kids were well behaved on the boat, and they enjoyed themselves, with the little guy even finding time for his afternoon nap.

(Note the can of precious Coke Zero clutched in his hand.  He stole it from his dad, but apparently it didn’t help keep him awake!)

We wanted to dock at a cool looking place called Turtle Island, but it didn’t seem very kid-friendly – maybe next time if Hubby and I can get back for date night.  Turtle Island (click the link for more history) was once destined to be a great resort island, but plans fell through, and it remains abandoned.  There are some abandoned structures that remain on  the island, including an old lighthouse and an old-fashioned crane (on the right of the island in this picture).

Since Turtle Island is way out in the lake, you wouldn’t expect there to be wildlife, but we saw this fox looking for fish on the beach – so cool to see!!  Perhaps because of the shallow nature of this part of Lake Erie, animals can just walk out to the islands, or maybe the fox was a stowaway.  Pardon the bumpiness of the video – taking pictures and video was something I struggled with the entire time on the bobbing boat!

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There is also a “haunted lighthouse” (in reality it’s called the Toledo Harbor Light) that looks very cool and emits a ghostly warning horn every few minutes.

As we were floating nearby gaping at it, a Coast Guard boat came speeding up to us, lights flashing and all.  What the…?  There were four Coast Guard officers on the boat, all armed, and the one in charge informed us that they “had the authority of the US government” and were going to board our boat and search it.

As serious as it seemed, they must have liked what they saw because we were awarded a “good as gold” form, which means that we had been following all the maritime laws and regulations.  But it was kind of a strange experience to be all alone floating in the middle of Lake Erie one minute, only to have a boat full of gun-wielding government agents on your case the next…  They were nice enough, I suppose, but sheesh, why our boat?  Later when we returned to shore, the owner of the boat rental place said that in all their years of renting out their boats, none of their clients had ever undergone a boarding inspection by the Coast Guard.  Lucky us.  Perhaps with all my kids on board, they were suspicious of some illegal Canadian smuggling, eh?

Despite all the high-seas adventure, the vacation was fun and so refreshing to be able to spend time together as a family without distraction, not having to worry about household chores, responsibilities, or Dad’s work for a few days.  Just what I needed to get out of my kids-are-fighting-constantly-rut at home, and hey – I even lost track of that back-to-school countdown I had been swearing by before the vacation!

And the best news of all this?  Hubby’s uncle has been released from the hospital and is now recovering at home.  Time will tell us what he will need to make his heart healthier, but for now, he is out of immediate danger and for that, we are so thankful!

Fun At The Jubilee

Posted in animals on June 21st, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

For the life of me, I could not think of a creative title for this blog post, so I just went with a logical one.  Our town has an annual Jubilee – a little carnival on the town square that comes once a year.  For all but 1 of the 7 years that we’ve lived here (we were out of town during that missed year), we’ve enjoyed the Jubilee, especially now that we live within walking distance and don’t have to worry about parking – we can come and go as we please, and it’s especially nice to spend a night at the Jubilee and run home for potty breaks rather than using the disgusting Port-O-Potties.  It’s fun to walk around the square and soak up the bustling atmosphere while chatting with familiar faces among the crowd.  Although carnival rides are quite costly these days, we are lucky that my husband’s birthday always falls during the week of the Jubilee and that we have some generous relatives who send him much-appreciated birthday money (which my husband is always more than happy to spend on the kids at the Jubilee).  The kids had a night of fun on the carnival rides, and there was an extra treat at the Jubilee this year –  an animal show!!!

I, like many of my friends it turns out, was thinking that the animal show would not be anything spectacular – a few snakes, a parrot, and maybe a jumping dog or two.  But this was more like a traveling zoo – in my backyard!!!  First, a disclaimer – I love animals.  But I’m not one of those PETA activists – I find most people like that over-the-top; you know, those people who spend their time protesting the “horrible” conditions of zoos, blah, blah…  that’s not me.  I won’t go into too much detail, but basically I believe in taking good care of animals.  I believe that most zoos accomplish that, and overall, I believe that zoos are a great way to educate the public about animals and get people to care enough to want to take actions that will stop the destruction of wild animal habitats and the killing of species throughout the world.  That’s it in a nutshell, and I’ll stop there since that isn’t really what this post is about.  My point in bringing this up is to say that when I first heard there was going to be an animal show at the Jubilee, I wasn’t going to go, much like when I refuse to attend circuses (I’m not an extremist, but circuses ARE bad for animals!!  But that’s a whole ‘nother post…).  So we were at the Jubilee, and there was a huge crowd over by the animal stage, and my curiosity got the better of me – so we checked it out.

Like I kept saying all weekend, it was like a zoo in my backyard!  They had a tortoise, a turtle, a huge python, an albino cobra, a monitor lizard (komodo dragon’s cousin), an eagle owl (largest species of owl in the world with striking orange eyes), a blue and gold macaw parrot, a binturong (rare mammal who is always sleeping every time I see it at the zoo – this is the first time I’ve actually seen one awake and in action.  They have an odd buttery popcorn smell.  I put a picture of one below if you’re curious.), a kangaroo, a monkey, a full-sized leopard, AND… a 4-week-old white tiger!  The animals seemed well-cared for and their keepers were caring and knowledgeable, so I was quick to become a big fan – in fact, I attended 3 of the 8 shows they put on while they were in town!  I would have gone to more, but it was tough enough to get my little guy to sit through the two we brought him to (especially when there were very rude kids standing in front of him – I was so mad!).

Saturday was one of my favorite days ever with me getting to take my kids to TWO animal shows and another one of my favorite things – a PARADE!!  I just love small town parades, and this one was especially great – the weather was perfect (in the 80’s, but with big puffy clouds and a nice breeze, humidity not too high for once), and two of my kids were marching in it!  PLUS, there was a vehicle handing out free stuffed dogs at the end, so we got one for each kid!  Best.  Jubilee.  Ever.  🙂  Even if I didn’t make my annual trek to the Dippin’ Dots stand this year – that should tell  you how much I enjoyed the animal show!

Jubilant Jubilee Time

Posted in Everyday Life on July 3rd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Once a year, like many around the nation, our small town has a festival complete with carnival rides, games, and fried foods galore.  Upon seeing how quickly our money disappears year after year, we vow to never return to our town’s festival, called the Jubilee.  But somehow, we find ourselves back there year after year, and the kids always do have a great time, despite the fact that a family could go broke because of this thing.

This year’s Jubilee was great.  My girls were looking forward to  it for an entire week.  Once they began to pull up the trailers and set up the rides come Sunday, the kids’ excitement was unstoppable.  And because we formulated a careful budget plan regarding the Jubilee this year, Mom and Dad were happy to see the little ones so excited.  But there was one problem we did not foresee nor did we warn the kids about – the possibility of rain.  And you know what I’m talking about – these traveling amusement companies are not going to refund your money just because it rained a little and they had to shut down some rides.  it was quite a gamble – dash the hopes of the little ones or take our chances with the rain (and judging by the radar, we could tell it was probably going to rain all night).  We decided to take our chances with the rain, especially since we were assured that they would keep the rides open unless there was lightening.  Luckily for us, the gamble paid off, and we were all able to enjoy many (wet) hours riding the rides, sampling the food (including my favorite Jubilee treat, Root Beer Float flavored Dippin’ Dots), and mingling with friends we bumped into along the way.

The kids had a great time, and so did my husband and I, even though we rode ourselves sick.  A ride called the Hurricane (boats that fly in a circle) was the one that did in my hubby, while the Orbiter made me feel like I suddenly aged a decade or two.  Immediately following the Orbiter, with my head spinning, I made the unwise decision to get on a ride called Rock O Plane which is essentially a Ferris Wheel with circular cages instead of benches – and as the large wheel turns, the small cages with the passengers in them spin around independently, going upside down and sometimes trapping the riders facing head-first for what seems like forever…  fun, but the combination of all those rides made my head spin for the rest of the night!

We returned to the Jubilee with my parents when they came to visit on Saturday when there were live bands to listen to, and it was just a nice atmosphere.  The kids each got to ride a few more rides, and they were satisfied until next year…

New York Trip Diary Volume 4

Posted in Travel on March 27th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

NEW YORK TRIP – MARCH 20-23, 2009 – TAYLOR: 9 yrs, SAMMIE: 4 yrs, DISNEY: 2½ yrs, CHRISTOPHER: 8 mos

(continued from previous posts)

Sunday, March 22 – Learning from our mistake the previous day, we decided to eat breakfast in the room, and it was much less expensive, we had plenty of room, and we didn’t have to worry about the kids disturbing anyone.  After breakfast, we headed to the city again, even though we were all kind of sick of it at that point.  But when I had heard that we’d be going to New York, the top site to see on my list was the World Trade Center site.  So even though we were sick of the commute to the city and searching for buses, we headed out to see Ground Zero.  We caught another bus tour, but this one was “hop on, hop off”, meaning you could get off at any of the stops, unlike the bus tour we had taken the night before.  But in New York city traffic, we still ended up being on the bus for about an hour, much to the kids’ dismay since they were starting to find the bus tours boring.  But 3/4 of the kids took a nap (and hubby too!), which left me and Jamy to listen (and giggle) at the tour guide – a very hyper Asian woman with a very thick accent.  She was very informative (when we could understand her, of course), but she would interject between her touring tidbits with concerns she had about the traffic – at one point she talked (nicely) to another bus, telling it we were there first and not to hit us.  Another time, a man boarded the bus who was selling water and popcorn, and she felt the need to tell us, “this is not a movie theater”.  Duh.

Anyway, we arrived at Ground Zero, but I think I’m going to do a separate post on that experience – it really was mind-blowing.

We left the Trade Center site and went into the World Financial Center – a beautiful building where people were very nice and gave us detailed directions about how to get to the ferry without using the famous New York grunt n’ gesture.  The best news is that we weren’t going to have to take a Waterways bus!  Seems the ferry came right over to the financial district – YAY!  On the way to the river, we found some gelato to buy in the financial center.  Gelato is a type of Italian ice cream handmade on the spot, and it is incredible.  I had trouble deciding on just 3 flavors, but I chose well: cookie dough, pistachio, and raspberry.  They were all delicious, but the raspberry was especially amazing.  For those of you who know me, you will be shocked to learn that I like gelato even more than I like Dippin’ Dots – that is how good it is!

So we made our way to the riverfront, and when we got to the ferry station, it was closed.  Honestly, you’d think that at least 1 of the 5 or more people who had given us directions would have known this, but I guess not.  And I don’t think they were playing a trick on us because unlike the grunt n’ gesture-ers, they were really nice – I think they just genuinely didn’t know.  So here we were again.  Stuck in New York with no Waterways bus to be found.  My husband was very smart when he read the fine print on the Waterways card we had that said Waterways buses would stop at any city bus stop on a Waterways route, so all we had to do was find one of those.  We asked some not-so-friendly construction workers, who  said that there were NO city bus stops on the entire street we were on.  So we used the map on the Waterways card, and we went a few blocks this way and a few blocks that way, and we found a city bus stop which we thought was on a Waterways route…  Unfortunately the only way to check if we were right was to sit and wait for a bus that might never come, but lo and behold, there was another Waterways bus, and my husband again jumped in front of it while we quickly scooped up all the kids before the driver changed his mind.  We were really getting the hang of this now, but that was our last Waterways bus, thank goodness!  Here is a picture of our 8-month-old’s ET impression – Manny Jamy was the lucky baby-wearer since my back never would have tolerated it all day and we wanted to leave my husband open for our clingy 2-year-old:

ny-trip-march-20-23-2009-christophers-et-impression

We got back to the hotel which is where we had left our car, and my husband used their Wi-Fi to find us a hotel in Pittsburgh.  We were having such a good time that we figured we’d extend the trip a little and make one more zoo stop.  The only problem is, we didn’t make it to our Pittsburgh hotel until 3 in the morning due to a 2 hour stop at Houlihan’s for dinner!  Why diid it take so long?  We were kind of a large party, and the place was mobbed.  Add in 2 poopie diapers and a bathroom full of drunks, and well, you do the math.  Some guy stopped on his way to the bar to gush over the baby, and while he was doing that, his girlfriend took a nasty spill up the bar stairs, glass (already empty, of course) flying out of her hand and everything.  Instead of trying to get up, she just lay there, probably because she was so drunk (she wasn’t hurt; I saw her later and she was fine), and her equally drunk boyfriend didn’t even notice all of this.  So I said, “Is she ok?” and when he turned to look, I fled with the baby.  Interesting experience, but one that makes me even more thankful for home sweet home  – we never have those kinds of crowds in our restaurants!  Like I said, we got to our Pittsburgh hotel about 3 in the morning, and we had kids who didn’t want to go back to sleep.  But we finally got them down, and we got a few hours of shut-eye before it was time to get up and add a new zoo to my list!

Jubilee Time

Posted in Kids on June 18th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s time for our town’s annual summer fest; they call it the Jubilee.  Every year I’m compelled to attend, even though I become more disenchanted with the whole affair as years pass.  I just really like summer fest atmospheres, and I can’t resist going when we live within blocks of it.  It’s fun to take all the kids there without having to pack up everyone in the car, spend a few bucks for gas to get there, or haggle over parking.  But as every cost in our economy rises, the Jubilee is no exception.  And if the kids had lots of fun, it’d be worth it, but every year it seems the Jubilee finds ways to cut corners and disappoint my kids. 

Take this year, for example.  “Wrist band day” was on the first day of the carnival; a day when you buy a wristband for one “low” price (now $16, up $2 from the $14 it cost last year) and it gets you on “unlimited” rides.  I think they planned wrist band day on the first day of the carnival for a reason – before anyone could get to the carnival and look around to see that some of the usual rides are missing.  Not only that, but for small children, because of height requirements, there are only about 4 rides they were able to use their wristband on.  My 4-year-old is a little daredevil and wanted to ride everything, including the “Kamikaze”, a ride that goes upside down.  She was too small to ride that one of course, and I completely understood the rhyme and reason for that rule, however, when she got excited about the Ferris Wheel only to be turned away, I began to lose my patience.  Seems the rules require that she ride with an adult, no problem there, my husband would have rode with her even though he’s not crazy about ferris wheels…  except that the escorting adult had to have 3 tickets to ride!  And at $1.50/ticket, we’re talking about spending an extra $4.50 for one ride, on top of the $32 we had already spent on wristbands for my 2 daughters – just for my daughter to follow their rule and be escorted on the ferris wheel – no thanks.  So after 2 disappointments, we went over to the other side of the Jubilee and found the “scrambler” ride, so my daughters went on it and had a good time.  They got in line to go again, and 4-year-old Sammie was turned away because she wasn’t tall enough – apparently she shrank while waiting in line to go a second time?  Again, I’m all for abiding by safety rules, etc., but they need to adopt a uniform policy that will be in place the entire run of the carnival.  Try explaining to a 4-year-old that she isn’t tall enough to ride a ride that she just got finished riding!  We actually ran into the same problem at Disney World, but they were very sympathetic and understanding and offered us ride passes as compensation.  And as if all this at the Jubilee weren’t enough, my daughters have a favorite “ride” at the Jubilee every year – the funhouse.  They actually usually have 2 funhouses, but for whatever reason, my girls have their favorite.  So they’re standing there on the steps of their favorite funhouse, waiting to get in, and the ride operator is trying to tell them something, and that’s when I see the signs.  “No wristbands or tickets.  This ride is $2”  WHAT?!?  Why would they do this?  To make money obviously, but that funhouse had no one there all night, was it really worth it to disappoint all the kids who go there year after year and look forward to that funhouse?  And like I said, since wristband night was on the first day of the Jubilee, we didn’t have an opportunity to tour the grounds to see what would be included in the purchase of the wristband – regrettably.

Despite all the disappointments, my daughters took them all in stride and still had fun.  We ran into some friends, so we decided to take one of their daughters home with us for a sleepover.  Even though we had bought the wristbands that were good until 11, we just wanted out of there after all the disappointment and money wasting.  I did get my Dippin’ Dots, but the vendor forgot my root beer float this year 🙁  I was pretty happy with the cookie dough that my husband got for me, and it was actually better than I remember.  Not worth going back to the Jubilee for more, but still good.  I think we’re done with the Jubilee already this year.  We usually go back Friday night for the karaoke contest and Saturday after the parade, but I think we can find something better (and cheaper!) to do this year.  Next year, maybe we’ll plan a vacation for Jubilee week and skip it all together!