Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our Florida Vacation - Part 4 (The Last One)

We slept in until 8 and got to Epcot by 10. It was looking cloudy and rain was predicted, but we hoped that it wouldn’t actually rain. Or that it would be a quick rainstorm. We also tried to figure out what we were going to do at Epcot. Some of us wanted to focus on rides, and some wanted to concentrate on going to the different country pavilions and do shopping, etc. I thought that maybe we could do some of both and everybody would be happy. This was not exactly what happened.

The kids at the front of Epcot

We went on Spaceship Earth and then we went to the Character Spot. This character greeting was also very organized and I appreciated that you could see 5 characters in one spot. After we met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy, we went shopping and had some pastries in the United Kingdom.

The kids and Mickey

The kids and Pluto

The kids and Minnie

The kids and Donald

The kids being goofy by Goofy

Some cute holiday topiaries

We had a visitor with us at lunch

Super visiting the phonebooth in
the United Kingdom

Flower with Paddington Bear.
When she was a baby, her nursery
was decorated with Paddington Bear things.

By this time, it was our FastPass Time for TestTrack. This was the one ride we got a FastPass for at Epcot, but if I was to do it again, I would have waited in line for this ride (wait times were usually about 30-45 minutes) and got a FastPass for Soarin. Anyway, on Test Track, most of the ride is inside where you “test” certain things in your “car” and then you go outside on a track as your “car” races at 60 mph. The car is open on top. So we are doing all the tests inside and our car turns and races outside – where we are all hit with raindrops! While we were inside waiting to get on, the rain had started.

We were going to go to some of the Pavilions, so we headed over to Mexico, but it was raining pretty hard, so we stopped and got some nachos. When it slowed down some, we started walking again. We decided to see if the rain was shortening the wait time at Soarin, so we walked across the park, only to discover that Soarin was an indoor ride, and the waiting was all done inside, so the rain was actually increasing the time, so we headed back to Norway, and waited in line for the Maelstrom water ride, but after waiting in line for 10 minutes, they shut down the ride (we seemed to have a knack this trip!). But since we weren’t actually on the ride, we didn’t get a FastPass or anything. By this time, two or so hours later, it had stopped raining. We went to China, Germany, and then were actually part of the street show in Italy. It was getting dark by now, so we walked quickly through Morocco, France, United States, and Canada, but we stopped to check out more of the shops in United Kingdom. Then we went to Mouse Gear, one of the biggest Disney stores at Walt Disney World, and bought some souvenirs.

Trying on a sombrero in Mexico

Pretending to be scared of a
dragon in China

Checking out one of their
Viking"relatives" - Their maternal
grandpa is Danish

On the steps in Italy

Doing a jig in the United Kingdom

Jelly Bean trying on knight gear
in the United Kingdom

Everybody was tired and cranky. We had gotten wet in the rain. Nobody really got what they wanted from that day either because we didn’t get to go on that many rides OR see that many of the country pavilions.

And our flight was at 7 AM the next morning. This meant getting up at 3:30 and being at the airport by 5 AM.

We got home and had dinner and spent one last night in the pool before packing to go home.

We got on the plane the next morning and were in Chicago by 10:30 am. We stopped to get some lunch, and then home. I got in bed around 2 pm and I didn’t wake up until the next morning.


All in all, it was a GREAT trip. We had a very, very good time. There were a few things that I would have changed about the things we did at the park, and I would have loved to have had a down day in the middle to just hang out in the pool. I also was kind of “rided” out by the 5th day. It would have been nice to go to Sea World or Cape Canaveral or to the beaches or something completely different on one day.

But it was WONDERFUL to be on vacation for a whole week, and it was so nice to be someplace warm in late November!

Our Florida Vacation - Part 3

It was Thanksgiving and I was up at 6:30, but not to put the turkey in. We were going to be having Thanksgiving Dinner at The Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom, but that wasn’t going to be until 4:30 pm. I got up and got ready and then helped prepare lunches (PBJ sandwiches and chips) to take to the park. We were at the park by 9 am and we knew that we had lots of hours to do things, but Magic Kingdom has lots and lots of things to do, and we hadn’t done hardly any of the Disney “classics” rides last time we were at Magic Kingdom.

A view of Cinderella's Castle as
we walked in

Jelly Bean and Super by the Castle

Jelly Bean after she was
sprinkled with pixie dust at

We did The Speedway, Stitch’s Great Escape, and Space Mountain. Flower and Jelly Bean did the Teacups and we all went on It’s A Small World. We watched the PhilHarMagic show (loved this!) and went to The Haunted Mansion. We watched a short parade. We went to go get Fast Passes for Splash Mountain (more about this later!) for after dinner and by this time, it was 4:30 and time for dinner.

At the beginning of It's A Small World

Some of the dolls

At the end of It's A Small World

The Princess float during the short parade

The girls in mid-spin on the Teacup ride.
(I did NOT ride this ride LOL)

The girls by The Castle

The dinner was buffet style and it had all the Thanksgiving fixings – turkey, dressing, vegetables, and pumpkin pie as well as tons of other choices. Another benefit to eating at the Crystal Palace is that you get to have some Disney Characters come right to your table. We got to meet and take pictures with Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore.

A view of The Castle from The Crystal Palace.
Don't the clouds look like they were painted
in or something? It looked so magical, I had to
take a picture.

The kids and Piglet

Tigger playing with Flower's cap

The kids and Pooh

The kids and Eeyore

Brain Freeze!

After dinner, it was time for Splash Mountain. Flower wasn’t sure she wanted to do this ride – she had seen the big drop from the outside – but we talked her into it. We got on the ride and we were just floating along and we were almost to the drop off point. There were 3 logs in front of us. The first log stopped and then the next log bumped into them, and then we bumped into them, and so on and so on. Someone came over the intercom and said that there was a little problem, but the ride would start again in just a moment. 15 minutes later, the lights went up, and then some Disney Cast Members came and helped us off the ride. Flower said “Well, I was wishing that I hadn’t gone on this ride. I guess I wished so hard it came true!” We all laughed. Everybody that had been stuck on the ride got a “universal” Fast Pass that you could use on any ride in that park at any time between when we got off Splash Mountain and when the park closed that day. We decided to just go to the ride right next to Splash Mountain, which was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (ok, but not that exciting in terms of a ride). From there, we went to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise (I thought both of these were pretty lame.)

We went to find a spot to watch the Electric Lights Parade. The parade was o.k., but not great. The night ended with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular – an awesome firework show with the castle in the background.

Oh, after we rode Splash Mountain, I noticed that Super seemed really warm. We walked over to First Aid and they were able to give us some Motrin. We went next door to the Child Care Center and watched a Disney cartoon for a half hour and he seemed to feel quite a bit better. After dinner, the fever started creeping back, so we went to the First Aid Station again and they gave him some Tylenol. We also rented a stroller so that he didn’t have to walk. He napped for a little while in the stroller before the evening parade started.

Cinderella's coach in the
Electric Lights Parade

Jelly Bean fell asleep while we were waiting
for the parade to start.

By this time, it was 11 pm and everybody was exhausted. However, it still took awhile for us to get home to bed. There was some miscommunication, and four of us ended up having a bit of delay getting on the monorail back to the parking lot, and so it was over an hour before we left Magic Kingdom, and almost 2 hours before everyone was in bed that night. We decided to sleep in a little bit before we went to the last park, Epcot.

Next in Part 4: Epcot and the end of Vacation :(

Our Florida Vacation - Part 2

It was our third day and we decided to go to Animal Kingdom. We did Walt Disney World in 2004 (also courtesy of FIL/Grandpa S – Thank you so much!) Flower was 5, Jelly Bean was almost 3, and Super was 7 weeks old. So there was much of the experience that they didn’t remember (especially Super LOL) and I was busy much of the trip with feeding him, and changing him, etc., but we did remember that we had a great time at Animal Kingdom. We also remembered that it had rained last time we were there and we didn’t get to do everything that we had wanted to do at that park.

The Tree of Life, as we entered Animal Kingdom

We started the day off with the Kilimanjaro Safari, and then we went on Everest. Well, most of us. Flower wasn’t feeling up to it, and so Grandpa and I stayed with her. From there, we went to Dinoland and some of us did Primeval Whirl (not me) and some of us did TriceraTop Spin (basically, the Dumbo ride with dinosaurs). After that, we went over to Dinosaur! Then we did the Festival of the Lion King show, watched the Parade, and It’s Tough to be a Bug show, We got drenched on the Kali River Rapids, and finished off the day at Finding Nemo: The Musical show (loved this!)

You can see Everest off in the distance.

The next few pictures are from the safari.
This is an Upside Down Tree.

Water buffalo

A rhinoceros

Me, Flower and Super on TriceraTop Spin

A dinosaur skeleton outside

One of the "drivers" from the parade
at Animal Kingdom. We really
enjoyed the parade.

Being silly while we waited for
It's Tough To Be A Bug! show to begin.

The next day, we went to Hollywood Studios. Last time, Hollywood Studios had been our least favorite – and that assessment was probably true this time too. We had looked at Hollywood Studios official website before we left for Florida, and it mentioned that there was a Jedi Training show, and that children were randomly picked from the crowd to learn how to use a light saber and “fight” Darth Vader. We told Super that we would go to the show, but he might not get picked. He said o.k. So Mr. Simple and I went with him to the show while the others went to go on Tower of Terror. We got there just as they were starting one show and we watched it, and then figured that we would wait for the next show to see if he would get picked for that one. We overheard someone else talking to a Cast Member (a DW employee) and they said that they don’t pick from the crowd anymore. She said that you had to come early and get signed up – and the signup was over and all the children had been picked for all the shows that day. Super overheard it and started bawling. We went over to Guest Services and told them that what was on the website, and asked which procedure was the one that they followed. They apologized at Guest Services and said that they had changed to the “sign up method” but had neglected to change it on the website. They gave us 7 VIP seat passes to the Indiana Jones show. By the way, the website still shows the “old” way of doing Jedi Training. In general, it is probably best to check out sites like or to find out the latest about specific rides at Disney. These sites also have some great general tips.
The Indiana Jones Stunt Show

We went to the Indiana Jones show (it was pretty entertaining) and then we went to go get some character signings. We got Mickey and The Incredibles at one area. This character area was organized and the lines were not overly long. Then we went to a different part of the park to get Buzz and Woody signatures – and that was pretty dreadful. It wasn’t organized, the line was long, and it was crowded and hot. To top it off, our picture turned out blurry. Ugh.

The kids and Mickey

The kids and The Incredibles

The kids and Buzz and Woody

Oh, speaking of pictures, it was at the Buzz and Woody photo op that we were first offered a Disney PhotoPass card. We declined it, but I wish, in retrospect, that we had known about it and pre-ordered it. You can pre-order a PhotoPass CD for $99.95 and then you will receive the photos from your trip taken by professional photographers at key places at the park. They also add borders and character signatures to photos. It would have been nice to know that we had professionals taking the photo op pictures as well as being able to get shots of the whole group in places like in front of Cinderella’s castle and the Christmas Tree, etc and not have to worry if the pictures were going to turn out and so we didn’t have to lug around our digital camera.

We had tried to get a FASTPASS first thing that morning for the “can’t miss” ride for Hollywood Studios – Toy Story Mania. FASTPASS is a ticket that basically “saves” you a spot in line at a certain time so that you can do other things in the park until the time listed on the FASTPASS. But they had given out all the Fast Passes already and the wait time had been 2 hours all day. We went over to ride the Rock N Roller coaster and then we were going to leave. Grandpa S was going to stay back, and while we were riding, he somehow managed to get Fast Passes for Toy Story Mania. It was a very fun ride, but honestly, if I’d waited 2 hours to get on it, I probably would have been disappointed.

Fantasmic was cancelled for that night, so we didn’t get to see that, although during Thanksgiving/Christmas Time, they do the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights on the Streets of America. It is a massive seasonal display featuring millions of holiday lights perfectly synchronized to music. We went over and watched these, and it was pretty neat, but we were all just too tired to really appreciate it.

The Osborne Family Spectacle
of Dancing Lights

We went home and tried to get to bed early. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving and we were going to be at Magic Kingdom from 9 AM until 11 PM.

Next post: Thanksgiving at Disney!

Our Florida Vacation - Part 1

OK, so my next few posts will be a long ones. Just warning you.

We had known for months that Mr. Simple’s dad and his wife were going to gift us a trip to Universal Studios and Disney World over Thanksgiving, but we hadn’t told the children. We had only told them that we were going to Arizona (where FIL and his wife live) for Thanksgiving.

So when we were almost to the airport, we told the kids that we weren’t going to Arizona – and Super almost started crying. So we quickly told them that we were going to Florida instead. We expected screams and there was – Nothing. They didn’t believe us! Super had tears welled up in his eyes because he thought we weren't going on vacation at all. I pulled out the boarding passes and showed them to them and pointed out that they said Chicago to ORLANDO. Finally, they believed us and we got excitement. And we would be meeting FIL and his wife in Orlando, so it wasn’t like we wouldn’t see them. Now everybody was all full of smiles.

Our trip down was pretty uneventful. FIL and Grandma J met us when we got off the plane and we all headed to the rental van and then off to the rental house – a nice 5 bedroom villa that they had rented for the week. There was a private pool and hot tub as well as a game room and laundry room. Very nice. We got settled and headed to bed early for our first day at The Parks.

The kids by the pool/hot tub

Our first day was spent at Universal Islands of Adventure. Or for Flower – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. She was so excited to go to, although her enthusiasm was dampened a bit by the fact that she is uh, nervous, around most roller coasters. But there is PLENTY to see and do in WWOHP even if you don’t go on rides. Most of the adults started the day off riding the Incredible Hulk Coaster, and then we went on HP and the Forbidden Journey (everyone but Grandpa and Super, although they still went through the “line” to see the tour of the castle – It was VERY cool.). Then we went on Flight of the Hippogriff and the adults were planning on going on Dragon Challenge, but most of us had a bit of an upset stomach at the time, and we decided not to go.

The entrance to WWOHP

A Hippogriff, I think. While you waited in line for Forbidden Journey, you got to tour the castle. It was very cool.

My little wizards
So from there, it was off to Seuss Landing, which was loads of fun and a nice break from the big rides. Then we got wet on Jurassic Park River Adventure and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls. We went on The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman twice for Super, and Grandma J and Jelly Bean finished off the day with Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall.

Getting wet on River Adventure
(Oh, at Universal Studios, you can buy an add-on Express Pass – which is sort of like Disney World’s Fast Pass, except that a) it costs money and b) you can use it on many, although not every, ride. We thought it was well worth it though.)

That night, I got to see my older brother! That was so fun! He lives in Florida and I live in Illinois, so we don’t get to see each other in person very often. He came and spent a couple hours hanging out and talking. An extra special bonus to a Florida Trip for me!

Me and my older brother

The second day was the other park at Universal Studios. It is called Universal Studios (I know, it was kind of confusing.) There are a BUNCH of simulator rides at Universal Studios. We went on Shrek 4-D, Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast (we all laughed at the Chicken Dance Part!) and then most of us went to Twister while Grandma J and Jelly Bean went on Rip Ride Rockit! I took one look at this ride and decided “Uh, NO WAY!” but the two of them had fun. We went to the Disaster! Show and Mr. Simple was picked out of the crowd to be a scientist in the “movie” trailer. From here we did E.T, Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster, and Fievel’s Playground in Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone. Then we did The Simpson Ride (this was one of my favorites) and then Men In Black (this was the one ride that aggravated my Meniere’s and made me VERY dizzy for an hour afterward.) There was an hour-long downpour when we came out of Men In Black, but we just waited it out. Then we went to Jaws and finished the day with two rides on The Mummy. Super was too short for this one, so Grandpa S stayed with him.

Going up on Rip Ride Rockit

Grandma S, Super, and Granpa S walking around by Jaws

This is where we waited out the rain

Overall, Super could go on MOST rides on this trip, but he is only 46”, so there were a few that he couldn’t. If you are going to go to Florida Theme Parks, ideally, you would wait until your child/children are over 48 inches (or 54 inches, if you want them to be able to ride on EVERYTHING.) Jelly Bean was too short for The Hulk and Dueling Dragons. Flower could ride on everything, but chose not to ride on some – like The Hulk and Dueling Dragons. And a couple at the Disney Parks too.

Oh, just another FYI about Universal. You can buy an a Photo Connect Card that for a little over $20.00 and they will put all of your ride photos on it and send it to your e-mail address. We purchased it after we had been on the Harry Potter ride, so we don’t have pictures of us on that ride, but we have some great shots of some other rides. We felt that this was worth it. The people at Universal don’t really explain it very well though unless you say “yes” when they say “Do you want the 8 x 10 picture with a Photo Connect Card?” Once you get the card, you don’t have to continue paying the fee. You can put continue to put pictures on the card for, I think, a year afterwards too. So I would recommend getting the 8 x 10 of the picture of the first ride you go on at Universal and buy the Photo Connect card so you can have all of your ride pictures. They might be entertaining shots - like these next few. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

That's me in the white. We call this picture "Scary Eyes" for obvious reasons.

This one is probably my favorite ride picture of me. I swear, I wasn't that scared on the ride, but you can't tell from this picture.

Shooting aliens. I didn't think this ride would make me sick because there weren't that many spins, but I was sick for an hour afterwards. But thankfully, I was mostly o.k. on this trip.

Picture #1 from The Mummy. Again, I wasn't really scared, I don't think, but it sure appears that way.

Picture #2 from The Mummy
We went home that night and relaxed in the pool and decided which Disney Park we would go to the next day.

Next Post: The Simples Do Disney!