Florida 2011 – Trip Diary – Part 2

Posted in Travel on March 3rd, 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday January 16 – We drove over to Congo River mini golf to try to feed the gators they have there, which never works out because it’s usually too cold in January for the cold-blooded gators to care much about eating, and this time was no exception.  But we spent a long time just watching the gators and their habitat-mate turtles climbing around and over each other, getting in and out of the water – kind of like a free little zoo exhibit.  My kids are too little to enjoy or let us enjoy playing mini-golf, so we went to Sizzler for an all-you-can eat lunch buffet.  We spent the afternoon relaxing at the house so Hubby could watch the Chicago Bears game and the kids could swim, and we even took a dip ourselves at half-time.  For dinner, we went to Medieval Times, which is a dinner show – it is SO fun!!!  Everyone is seated around an arena, and the audience eats a Medieval-style feast while watching a show complete with horse, knights, and jousting.  You are assigned a seat in a certain color section (we were green – note the crown in the picture below), and you cheer on your color knight in the jousting and games  – it’s a blast!!

After watching the knights duke it out, Grandma took the kids back to the house and we took Jamy on the extreme go-karts at Fun Spot.  The track called The Vortex is wicked; you wind up and around 3 or 4 times until you reach the top, and it’s strange to be up so high in a go-kart.  But you don’t really have time to think about that, because there is a steep drop down, followed by a couple of hairpin /  bowl-like turns that you have to  navigate as driver of the kart!  Super fun, though not for everyone.  We thought this is what caused Jamy’s back injury that ended up plaguing his trip, but turns out it was something else.  And we took our daughters on these go-karts later in the week – with helmets of course –  and our oldest hated them and wouldn’t let me use the accelerator; it was SO frustrating!!  Our daredevil 6-year-old Sammie loved it though, and I found her to be a passenger more willing to go my speed – pedal to the metal!!

Monday January 17 – We ate breakfast at Sizzler at their breakfast buffet, and then headed out to Universal Studios as planned despite the dire forecast of rain all day, and the weathermen were not mistaken.  It was like a monsoon when we arrived, and scarcely let up all day.  Many of the rides at Universal are indoor, but Hubby and I did take a bit of a gamble (and lost) when we got in line for the new Rip Ride Rockit coaster.  They had to shut the ride down when they saw lightning, and wouldn’t you know it, we were first in line!  After investing that much time waiting, we really didn’t want to get out of line, but the kids were waiting with Grandma and Jamy, so we called them to see if they were ok and able to stay dry.  We waited probably about 20 minutes, and it was fun to try to read the different hand signals and procedures the staff was doing to see if we would get to ride soon or not.  Finally, they opened the coaster, and we were first –  test rats.  This coaster looks more intimidating than it is, mostly because the first lift is straight up, face pointed at the sky, your back is parallel to the ground.  Other than that, it’s a pretty lame coaster; the best thing about it is that you get to choose a song to listen to while you’re on it, and your song choice plays in the speakers behind your head.  I chose “Devil Went Down to Georgia” which made a very good coaster theme song, but the coaster was so tame that I was able to do some air-fiddling along to the song.  I heard Hubby beside me rocking out to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, and that seemed like fun too, but I wasn’t about to wait in line again for this ride.  The other thing that stank about the Rip Rockit is the rain – riding a coaster in the rain is not a lot of fun.  The rain pelts your face; it hurts and you can’t see anything, so it takes a lot of the fun out of it.  And oh yeah, this is how soggy we looked when we were done riding:

Most of us made the best of the rain; after all, where we were from in Ohio the weather was sub-zero, so rainy 50’s still felt good to us.  Our oldest was not a happy camper, however, and she soon grew tired of walking around in the rain, even though Grandma splurged and bought the kids ponchos – I didn’t think to bring any, but maybe I will next time.  It never does the all-day-rain thing in Florida!  It usually rains or storms for less than an hour and then the sun comes back out so we were unprepared for the all day down-pour.  But seriously, how could Universal be anything but fun?  Even though the rain slowed us down a bit, we were still able to catch our first glimpse of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – it was very cool!!

Hogwarts castle was amazing, and I guess I must have misplaced the picture I made Hubby take of me in Hogsmeade, which was beautiful at night.  We got some Butterbeer, and it was yummier than the version we attempted at one of our game nights here in Ohio.  The Wizarding World has 3 rides, and we only had time to get on The Forbidden Journey on this day – that’s the one inside the castle.  While you wait in line, there is plenty to see – it looks like you are on the movie set except better because it doesn’t look like a set – it looks real!  The portraits move and talk, and there are 3D projections of Harry, Ron, and Hermione that look like real people.  As you wind around the corridors of the castle, you get to explore many scenes straight from the books and movies: Dumbledore’s office, Gryffindor common room – even the Sorting Hat makes an appearance!  And the ride itself is amazing!!  If you are a Harry Potter fan, this area is a must-see!!  Though we did have a slight oopsie – while trying to rush over to the Harry Potter World before the park closed, we skipped lunch, so now we were cold, wet, and hungry.  It would have been ok, except that once we snaked throughout the corridors of the Hogwarts castle, we learned that the Forbidden Journey ride was down.  After waiting in the dark hallway listening to the Sorting Hat give his spiel over and over and on empty stomachs, we had had it – especially grumpy oldest who, if you remember, was not happy with  the day at Universal in the rain to begin with.  Our torturous wait in the hallway of Hogwarts became so irritating that I wished my husband had bought the flaming wallet we had seen at the magic show – so we could throw it at the Sorting Hat, flames and all!  😉

We did finally get on the ride, and it was awesome, but my oldest neglected to try it –  she doesn’t like anything faster or more thrilling than the Scrambler.  As I said, the ride was amazing, so now we were all famished after a day at Universal.  But being budget-conscious we wanted to leave the parks before finding dinner, though I must confess: I was so hungry that the idea of the ‘whopper bar’ on Universal’s City Walk that had turned my stomach that very morning was actually sounding quite good after a day walking around in the rain!  We ended up at Denny’s, which is a place I hadn’t been to in probably over a decade, and while the food wasn’t great, it sufficed.

(to be continued in part 3)

 

Vacation Diary – Chapter One

Posted in Travel on October 28th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Because Disney World and the Orlando area in Florida are our favorite places to vacation, we make it a point to go as often as we possibly can.  The last few trips we’ve made, I’ve been careful to keep a trip diary – a notebook log of things we do as well as hints that might help us make the next journey.  Each trip to FL sees me taking a notebook for our trip diary, and I write about various things in it, depending how much downtime I have to write while the kids are sleeping.  Here is an excerpt from the diary for this trip:

FRIDAY OCT 17, 2008 – Left town about 5:30pm.  Unfortunately, our local Burger King we decided to get for dinner took about 30 minutes!  Kids were rambunctious, so we stopped at a McDonald’s Playland in downstate Ohio, wondering how we were ever going to make it the remaining 1,000 miles and back again (at least I was!).  The good news is, the Playland seemed to tire out the kids and they fell asleep.  They woke around midnight, but a trip into the gas station seemed to comfort Disney (almost 2 year old) and the kids slept until about 8 am Sat morning.
SAT OCT 18, 2008 – We stopped at another McD’s Playland to blow off some steam, but it was raining, so their outdoor playplace was closed.  The kids handled it well.  This was north of coastal Brunswick, GA, so we made pretty good time the night before – thanks to sleepless driver Chris!  Since the weather was nice, when we saw a sign around Jacksonville, FL that the beach was only 4 miles away, we decided to stop.  We had a great time, and the kids had lots of fun wading in the ocean and collecting seashells.  After that, it was on to Orlando, and we stopped and picked up the key for our condo rental when we got there.  We then made it to the condo – which was over 10 miles away, much to our surprise – where our faithful driver promptly crashed leaving me to facilitate the activities of 4 well-rested kids.  But no problem, I was glad to do it.  After all, I had been afforded a nice nap in the car on the way down, a luxury my husband didn’t get.  Of course, I’m a person who does best with 8-10 hours of sleep, not that I ever get close to that, but still…  So I’m doing my best to summon all the patience I have so I can watch the kids who would not let me nap, and I ended up taking the younger two to Walgreens with me to get some supplies.  The place we stayed in was very nice, but it didn’t come with anything – no soap, shampoo, paper towels, beverages…  for a family of 6 staying for a week, these were necessities I would need at the local Walgreens.  I killed some time there, got lost on the way back, and by the time I had unloaded kids and groceries, my husband was rested and ready for some fun.  We went to Golden Corral for dinner…  delicious.  Reminder for those of you who live in urban areas – we’re not used to a variety when it comes to eating out.  So, when we eat out, even at major chain restaurants, we appreciate them in a way we never did when they were available constantly. 

SUN OCT 19 – slept in, had lunch at Golden Corral.  Read my post about the previous night’s activities if you don’t understand why we had two meals in a row with Golden Corral.  I would say the lunch is even better then the dinner.  So then we went to Old Town, which is a row of shops fashioned like an old fashioned Main Street – there’s even a general store where they sell little glass bottles of Pepsi for 50¢.  When we first started going to Old Town 10 years ago, those little bottles were a quarter, but I’m not complaining – there’s something about the glass bottle that makes that Pepsi taste extra good.  Maybe it’s the thirst quenching reflief it provides after walking around in the Florida heat, or maybe it’s the always much needed caffeine boost – whatever the reason, that little bottle always hits the spot.  The Main St. part of Old Town is about 4-5 blocks long, and at each end, there are carnival rides.  The roller coaster is jerky but fun, and I went on the swinging boat ride which was scarier than it looked!  My fearless daughter, who always wants to try the big rides but isn’t tall enough yet, was shaken enough on the swinging boat ride that she cried.  We sat on the end, which I knew would be more thrilling than the middle, but I didn’t realize how much more mild the middle would be until I rode there with our friend Jamiahsh.  We had lots of fun at Old Town and kinda lost track of time.  We wouldn’t have been late for the dinner show Arabian Nights if we hadn’t left the tickets back at the condo…  oops.  We had to walk around in the dark and missed the first few minutes of the show.  At least they let my husband in, who let us out at the door and had to park the car.  The worker in the parking lot told him to give all the tickets to me, but when my husband tried to get in, they gave him a hard time without a ticket!  Thank goodness he was able to get in and also find us in the dark.  Arabian Nights is a great show.  Think Medieval Times (if you’ve been there) without the chivalrous games.  Well, there is a chariot race, but there are more acrobatics and horse dancing – the horses are gorgeous.  My husband calls it Medieval Times for girls, and all us girls in the family love it.  My husband was able to get a good deal on tickets online, so the show cost less than a regular dinner!  And their food is really good.  It’s served with all-you-can-drink pop, which backfired a little bit because in the dark with the show going on, it was difficult to notice that our 2-year-old Disney was drinking A LOT of pop.  So next thing I know, she’s walking around, and she starts going up the stairs and tells me she’ll be right back.  I said, no, Disney let’s stay in our seats, and then she YELLED at me – “I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!”.  It wasn’t a really angry outburst, but if you know sweet little Disney, it was so out of character for her that it was hilarious.  She was all hepped up on sugar and pop.  So there’s our first 2 days in Florida.  We started Monday off with a time share presentation – ugh – so I’ll take that as my cue to stop posting for now.  This post is long enough, wouldn’t you say?

Walking With Dinosaurs

Posted in Current Events, Kids, Theater on May 29th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In case you haven’t heard of it, Walking With Dinosaurs is a traveling show that is based on the BBC documentary of the same name.  It is in Fort Wayne, Indiana this week, which isn’t too far from us.  They’ve been advertising it heavily, and I’ve been meaning to check out ticket info, but I kept forgetting.  Thanks to our local paper who ran a story about it the other day, I was reminded about it just in time!  Seems the tickets are QUITE costly!  However, my computer-savvy husband went online and found a discount that saved us SO much money on tickets, but only if we went opening night…  So, we dragged all the kids to Fort Wayne to see some dinosaurs on a school night.  Let me say, it was SOOO worth it!

It’s been a really long time since I was really excited about something that actually ended up measuring up to my expectations.  I was really excited about this show; I thought it would be a good show, but I will say that it EXCEEDED my expectations!  Not only was it visually stunning, It was a perfect show for the whole family.  There were lifelike dinosaurs engaging in battles, flying, and scavenging…  what’s not to like?!?  We have kids of all ages and bravery levels, and they were all entertained.  Our 8-year-old and our 4-year-old did get a little nervous in the beginning, but their fear quickly turned to excitement and awe once the dinosaurs started appearing.  Our 19-month-old LOVED everything about the show.  She is getting to the age where it’s hard for her to sit still, especially now that she can walk, but she watched every moment of this show, and clapped and laughed so hard that I was even distracted from the dinosaurs at times by my daughter’s cuteness.  I wasn’t distracted too much though, cuz the dinosaurs were totally AWESOME!  They were life-size and SO realistic looking, it was amazing.  Our seats were great too – best in the house, front row center.  These dinosaurs were even better looking than the ones in the movie Jurassic Park!  Walking With Dinosaurs operates on a $20 million dollar budget, and it shows!

I would venture to say that this is probably the best professional live show I have ever seen, and that includes musicals from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Phantom of the Opera, Camelot, and Les Miserables to other shows like Monsters Inc. on Ice, Dragon Tales Live, and dinner shows like Medieval Times, Arabian Nights, and Pirates Dinner Adventure in Orlando, Florida.  This was fun for the whole family; probably even most fun for my husband and I!  If the tickets weren’t so pricey, I would definitely go back and see the show again – even with the $20-30 it cost in gas money alone.  My 4-year-old suffered from what I call “fundown” after the show – a feeling of disappointment when an event is over that is so intense for kids, they usually cry or throw tantrums.  But I can’t say I blame her.  When I realized the show was ending, I had my own “fundown” when I realized there weren’t going to be any more dinosaurs!

Totally awesome show – wait, that’s not even the right word.  It was more of an experience than a show.  Even better than the dinosaur-themed rides at Disney World and Universal Studios.  As we were leaving the coliseum, the rest of the audience seemed very pleased as well.  Everyone was smiling and jabbering about the dinosaurs a mile a minute.  They also had one actor – who was upstaged by the dinosaurs, of course! – and some other props and effects in the show that made it totally awesome.  Also pretty impressive were the rows upon rows of trailers parked outside that carry the dinosaurs from venue to venue.  I knew it would take a few semis to cart around all those dinosaurs, but there were probably at least 25 semis parked out there!  It is understandable that all these lifesize dinosaurs would create such an entourage, since the Brachiosaurus alone was 36 feet tall and 56 feet from nose to tail.

If this live show experience is going to be anywhere near your hometown, I highly recommend that you do your best to get tickets.  It is a perfect show for the young and old, dinosaur fans, skeptics, or even those who are indifferent to the world’s history; I don’t see how anyone could NOT enjoy Walking With Dinosaurs!