Thursday, July 7, 2016

Florida adventures

 5/19 - we left our home in our rental car (both of our cars have over 100K miles so we thought it would be better to rent) and spent the night in Paducah, KY.
 5/20 - we drove several hours and met my parents for lunch in Chattanooga, TN because their van had broken down!  We ended up taking my mom with us and heading down, with the rest of the family (my dad, brother, sister-in-law, and their 3 kids) getting on the road 2 hours later (now in their own rental, leaving their van in TN to get fixed).
 5/21 - we got to Daytona Beach, Florida around midnight on the 21st and crashed!  When we got up, we were so excited to meet up with our friends who moved to Florida about a year ago.  It was great to see them and a fantastic way to start the trip!  They hung out at the beach with us all morning, and then we went back to our room and had a late lunch of pizza.  So fun to see them!

We had dinner at this yummy local seafood place.
That evening we went for a swim in the hotel pool and played in the lazy river.

 5/22 - Levi was not a huge fan of the water - he doesn't like being splashed in the face so ocean waves aren't his favorite.  However, he loved playing in the sand!  Josiah stayed in the water almost the whole time and had such a blast playing with his cousins in the waves!

 Jessica (my sister in law) rented a paddle board...which is very challenging to ride in the waves on a windy day!  Jason gave it a shot and was able to stand up for very short periods of time. :)

That night we walked to Joe's Crab Shack for some yummy seafood and fun bibs.

 If you can't tell - Josiah already has a sunburn at this point because I couldn't keep that guy out of the water long enough to keep sunscreen on his face!

 Then we walked along the beach looking for crabs.  We really just found trash.  I picked up a bag full on our way back to the hotel because I'm a hippie like that.

5/23 - Jessica and I got up early and headed down to the beach for some morning yoga.  It was beautiful out there!
 We took advantage of our last morning at the beach!

 After a few pics, we packed up and hopped in the car to head to Orlando for part 2 of our trip.

We checked in to our condo and then made the short trek to Disney Springs (an outdoor Disney shopping area) where we had lunch and picked up some souvenirs.  It was much easier to buy here than to tote things around while we were in the theme parks!  
 The boys both made build-your-own light sabers that actually light up.

 Jason found his mini-me!
 Our favorite store was the Lego store.

 After leaving Disney Springs, we went back to our condo to explore.  We walked around the big pond and fed the fish, then found a playground and giant chess board.  Then we got dinner to go at a bar/grill on the resort property.  After we ate, we headed to the nearest pool which had a cool pirate ship in the middle of it.  Then we packed our backpacks in prep for our first park adventure!

5/24 - Universal Studios!  They have 2 parks and we planned to do them both in one day, so we came prepared with 2-park unlimited express pass tickets, and a planned route.  When we paid to park, the guy at the booth said "you're the family of the day!".  We had no idea what that meant, but he told us to follow a guy in a golf cart to our specially reserved parking spot, and they took a family picture for us!  That was a fun surprise.

Our first ride ended up being one of our favorites - Transformers.  Such a blast.  After that we did Despicable Me, and then Jason and I took Josiah on the big roller coaster (Rip Ride Rocket) while my parents took Levi for round 2 of Transformers.  We did these 3 rides within an hour of arriving, so when we got off of the roller coaster, Jason was having some major vertigo / nausea issues!  So he sat out for a bit while my parents and I took the kids to the Shrek show.  When we walked back by the Transformers ride, we got to be one of the first to see Bumblebee!  He even played me a song (I can't fight this feeling).  It was so fun.
 Then we ran into Homer and Bart while walking around.  It was great timing and very little waiting.  Levi wasn't very excited about meeting these guys though.
 The kids have been into Scooby Doo lately, so they loved seeing the Mystery Machine.
 We spent some time in "Springfield".  Here Josiah is trying to steal Chief Wiggum's donut while Levi drinks his coffee - hooligans!

  We went to Moe's Tavern for a Flaming Moe (aka orange soda with dry ice to make the smoke - I was still impressed).
 We aren't too into Harry Potter, but the Harry Potter world was really amazing.  They made everything at Universal so immersive - we were very impressed.
 Josiah walking through the train platform wall - he must really be a wizard!

 We took the train to the 2nd Universal Park - Islands of Adventure.
 First stop - Jurassic Park!  We loved all the dinosaur rides and exhibits.
 Then we explored all the Superhero stuff and even got to meet Spider Man!

 Here I am with my boyfriend Thor.
 We spent some time at Seuss Landing and then ate dinner at Three Broomsticks (a Harry Potter-themed pub) where we had yummy butter beer (cream soda with whipped cream - so good).  After dinner we did a few of the Harry Potter rides.  The kids loved checking out the magic wands.
 Then we took the train back to the main Universal park, where we ran into a friend from our church!  So fun to see someone you know in such a huge place.  We rode one more Harry Potter ride and then called it a day.  I took this pic as we left the park.  Such a fun day!  The express passes saved us a lot of time so we got to do a lot of stuff and didn't wait in line too much or feel rushed.  Really can't say enough good things about Universal.
 5/25 - Disney's Hollywood Studios!  Well this is in the parking garage leaving the resort :)  We stayed off property, but were only 10 minutes away from the Disney parks.
 Our first priority was getting into the Jedi Training Academy.  So we rushed over to the sign up place and waited in line for a while.  Then we did the Path of the Jedi movie which was just a recap of all the Star Wars movies - I guess they don't realize what Star Wars nerds we are.  Then we explored the Star Wars Launch Bay for a little bit and got to meet Chewbacca!

 After that, we had a fast pass for the Star Tours ride which we really liked.  Then we had to take pics on the speeder!

 After a snack, it was time to go to Jedi Training!  By that point it was super hot and this was all in the sun so the kids looked a little despondent but they still had fun.  It was like they were in a live action show.  They each took a turn fighting a bad guy - which I only have videos of, sorry - no pics. In their Jedi training class were the kids of a friend I used to work with at Sprint!  It was fun to run into her!

 Then we went to the Great Movie ride which we had to wait a long time for (and was very disappointing) but on the way we met Stitch!
 Then we spent more time exploring the launch bay.  Good thing there's no bartender to card these guys.
 Kylo Ren was so fun to meet - he walked around threatening us before the picture.
 We went to the Indiana Jones Stunt Show (which was cool) and then had an early dinner at 50's Prime Time Cafe which was really fun.  We also got to enjoy the Toy Story ride (fast pass to the rescue), Muppets show, and a couple of us did the Star Tours ride 2 more times!  By the time we got to the Rock & Roller Coaster, the wait was an hour, so we were disappointed we didn't get to ride that one.  Then we used our last fast pass for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which we loved!  Except Levi - he wasn't a fan of the falling but he was very brave!  Overall we liked several things at Hollywood Studios but did have to wait a lot and were disappointed with some things there.  Still happy we went, but after such a great Universal experience the previous day, this park didn't quite measure up.

5/26 - Disney's Magic Kingdom!  Obligatory castle pics :)

 We got there as the park was opening, and it took us an hour to park the car and then wait in line and ride the monorail into the park.  For our first ride we did the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - a very popular ride which we hoped to avoid wait times for by going early, but we still waited an hour to ride it.  It was a cool ride, but we were 2 hours into our day and had only ridden one thing. What a drag.  The kids were hungry so we stopped for some ice cream.
 Jason was not enjoying the crowds and waiting so he was happy to inflict some pain upon Mickey.
 We made the kids pretend to throw fits in front of the castle because I had joked with some friends that I couldn't wait to get a pic of them throwing a fit in front of the castle so I could caption it "Most Magical Place on Earth!!".  Truly, these guys were troopers.  They didn't complain about the heat or the walking or the crowds.  They were amazing.
 Then we happened upon a dance party with Phineas!
 Then we went to the Monsters Inc laugh floor which was a really fun show.  After that we waited in line for the Lilo & Stitch ride, but it ended up being broken, so we didn't get to see it, but were given an extra fast pass to use, which was cool.  After that it was time to meet up with my brother & his family (who were at Animal Kingdom that morning).  We all met up and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, took a ride to Tom Sawyer's Island (where the kids played for a bit), rode the Jungle Cruise (which we really enjoyed), and rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Josiah had a terrible random nosebleed in line for Pirates, but thankfully we were carrying lots of napkins with us and it stopped bleeding before we got on the ride.  The boys used their remaining spending money to get pirate swords!
We had an early dinner at the Crystal Palace.  It was a nice buffet, which sounds like an oxymoron but it really was good food.  We got to meet all the characters from Winnie the Pooh.

Jason with his cheesiest smile, and our nephew Kason with his "I hate this" smile.  This picture makes me laugh for several reasons.

One more castle pic!
We walked through the castle and there were these cool tiled pictures.  I should probably have stopped Josiah from murdering princesses at the Disney castle, but instead found it rather amusing.
 While wrestling with his cousin, Josiah's nose started bleeding again.  That kid lost a lot of blood.  Then we rode Peter Pan, go karts at the Tomorrowland Speedway, and Jason and my brother used our bonus fast passes from Stitch to take the kids on Space Mountain.  We ended up being able to do Stitch too - it was disappointing and gross (chili cheese breath being blown on you).  Then Jessica and I danced at the Disney Dance Party!  Which was really fun until an older lady took a spill on the dance floor.  Glad she is okay but it was scary for a few minutes.  Later, when the threat of real injury had passed, Jessica said "It just goes to show that the rhythm really is going to get you".  :)
 We debated on staying for the fireworks show, but ended up just going back to the condo.  After 3 days of parks we were done.  Magic Kingdom was our least favorite park and we didn't want to fight the crowds again trying to leave.  Overall, we're glad we took the kids but probably won't ever make it back to Disney.  Maybe Universal though!

5/27 - we checked out of the condo and headed north.  We decided to try and bypass Atlanta (where we had gotten stuck in traffic on the way down), but still managed to hit some traffic delays.  Jason says he's never going to Atlanta again. :)  We stayed the night in Tupelo, MS and even had time for some swimming at the hotel that evening.

5/28 - We continued our drive and stopped in Memphis, TN to see the Bass Pro Pyramid and ride to the top.  It was fun and a great vantage point to view the city.

 Then we went to a fantastic Memphis style (dry rub) ribs restaurant called Rendezvous.  So so yummy!!
We made it home safely!  Thank you mom & dad for getting the condos for us and helping with the kids!  Sorry you had van troubles but glad you were able to buy a new one (the dealership in TN wasn't able to figure out what was wrong with theirs)!  Very thankful for a fun and eventful trip!