So last I left off we had found our Soren had a double ear infection. After some discussion, J & I decided one of us would stay at the hotel with Soren and Ashe the next day while the other took Xavier to Islands of Adventure. J was kind enough to let me go since this is my ULTIMATE FAVORITE THEME PARK EVER!!! Seriously folks, if you have not been to this theme park, you are missing out big time. Skip Disney, go to IoA. Especially if you like roller coasters (which I do).
Zavi and I headed out with him having no clue where we were off to. I only said with the 2 younger boys staying at the hotel we were going to be able to do more at the next park. It was actually good Soren and Ashe stayed behind because they were too little to really do much there anyways.
Islands of Adventure is set up into a bunch of different theme worlds: Marvel Comics, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Lost Continent, & Seuss Land. Each is literally its own world, and Universal did a phenomenal job is making you feel like you enter a completely different area when you step from one to the other.
While Xavier was still too short to do a lot of the big rides, we had a blast nonetheless. My child is warped because even when it was a mere 60 degrees, he insisted we do all of the water rides and get soaking wet. I argued that if we were going to do that we would do it first so that we could dry off by the time we got home. And the whole time we did the water rides I kept mumbling the mantra "The things I do for love" over and over. Yes people, it was cold!!!!!!
Jurassic Park was Xaviers favorite theme. He insists the Triceratops we saw was real, LOVED the boat ride, and would have stayed for the rest of the day scanning dino eggs if I allowed him to. He was good humored enough to pose for one of my ultimate favorite photos seen below:
|I chuckle every time I see this photo|
One of the employees was kind enough to take our picture together next to the Jurassic Park Discovery Center
I realized as we stood in line for the Pteranodon ride (one I have waited 10 years to go on since you can only go on with kids bammit) that my nose ring was missing. I dont know where or how I lost it but it was gone. I've had that sucker for 6 years!!! And despite a lot of searching back at the hotel I never did find it =(
We also got to see the new Harry Potter area. As soon as we stepped into Hogsmeade we went right for the Butterbeer, and let me tell you it was good. real good. Think a combo of Cream Soda and Root Beer with a vanilla creamy foam on top.
We ate at the 3 Broomsticks, where Xavier snarfed an entire plate of ribs and corn (hey, riding the rides makes a kid hungry). Then did some more rides. The Hogwarts ride was very cool, probably one of my new favorites, although I did almost lose a shoe (note to self: wear sneakers next time).
Even without the younger 2 there, we didn't have enough time to complete the entire park. We had to race through Seuss Land to get back to the hotel in time for another special surprise: Magic Kingdom at night!
J & I bought tickets for Disneys Very Merry Christmas at Magic Kingdom, where they open up the park from 7PM-12AM, offer free hot cocoa and cookies, and have a parade with fireworks.
I actually learned a lot about Ashe this adventure. I realized this kid is not a ride lover. He would rather wander around looking at things, enjoying the scene than actually be a part of it. Despite the fact he was big enough to go on almost any ride at magic Kingdom he had no enthusiasm for any of them. His favorite part of Magic Kingdom? When some employees blew bubbles at him to chase around the park. That was his highlight. And he was perfectly happy the whole time. There was a lot to see and take in and he did... just not on any rides. And thats cool.
Soren was doing better by the evening so we bundled him up nice and snug and the 5 of us had a blast. Soren passed out around 10:30 in the stroller while J& Xavier did the Haunted House and Space Mountain. I amused myself by taking photos of the ever changing Castle:
|This was the coolest shot, with the Castle covered in ice|
Fireworks were tough, as Ashe HATES with a passion fireworks. I had to sit on the ground, help him cover his ears, and try to distract him with silly questions while they went on. And on. And on and on and on..... But he survived and was very proud of himself FOR surviving!
But by 12AM we were all utterly exhausted and ready to call it quits. The next day was our last day and we had one more adventure in store...... Sea World!
Our final day, after going crazy making sure we left nothing behind (besides my missing nose ring) we packed everything up, said goodbye to the hotel, and took off to our final destination before heading home.
Sea World is big, I mean BIG, in our household. Xavier is completely enthralled with anything regarding the ocean and its creatures. And whatever Xavier is into Ashe is into. Fortunately our last day actually warmed up to a balmy 76 degrees so we got to wear *gasp* teeshirts! And not worry about freezing our buns off if we got wet!
I cant even begin to explain to you how big the boys eyes got as we approached our destination. When Xavier realized Sea World was where we were headed he started cheering like mad. And the boys lived it up.
First stop was the famous restaurant "Sharks Underwater Grill" where we got to eat right on front of the aquarium. This proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because the boys were soooo thrilled to sit there eating lunch while a coelacanth and sharks swam by. Curse because it was nigh impossible to get the boys to actually EAT something.
We were not able to get a Shamu show in, but we saw the dolphin show and the Sea Lion show. We fed Sea Lions, petted Sting Rays, and just saw everything we could. The boys were in awe the whole time, soaking it up.
But alas it was time to go. By 4:30 we were back in the car, and headed home. And somehow we decided it was a good idea, after a full day out, to drive the entire 9/10 hours home. We did it. We were crazy, but we did it. Fortunately Sea World had made the boys tired so they passed out around 9PM or so. We arrived home by 2:30AM, gave the boys a quick snack, then we all passed out until late the next morning.
And that, my friends, was our secret Christmas vacation.
In a nutshell this was probably the coolest thing we have been able to do as a family, and I have to say that despite the fact we're broke for the next 5 years, it was well worth every penny spent. The boys have already begged us to consider doing another secret vacation for next Christmas instead of toys. We'll see how they act on Christmas Day when they realize we really werent kidding about very few gifts under the tree. But if they do well and we can start planning now, Id love to look into one of the kids cruises for next year.
My goal as a parent has always been to try and give my kids memories that they can cherish and remember for the rest of their lives. I would rather them look back at their childhood and not think of the toys they got, but the experiences they were given. This vacation, while a gift to the kids, was also a gift to me. Its something I have wanted to do for my kids even before I had kids. And the fact J & I were able to actually keep it a secret the whole time added to my personal pleasure, as I got to watch their faces light up in pure childish excitement when each morning we arrived at our next adventure. I will remember the looks of delight for the rest of my life. And those precious memories are not something you can wrap up in a box with a bow.
Happy Holidays everyone!