Monday, December 27, 2010

Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure

Early Monday morning (December 27th), the Sparkman 4 plus Papi drove to Orlando for a visit to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.

The day was COLD (30F and very breezy) but it was filled with warm memories.

We arrived just as the park opened and after the long walk from the parking garage to the entrance, we had finally made it inside.

The first stop was The Hulk (pictured later) roller coaster. It took longer to walk up to the loading area then actually waiting for other people to take their turn.
Papi, Rob and Madison enjoyed this thrilling roller coaster while Lillian and I waited in the warm kid swap zone just outside the exit.

(Like EuroDisney, Universal Studios has implemented the kid swap idea. One parent waits in line with the child or children that wishes to ride and the other parent heads to the exit and the special waiting area. After the first parent has ridden, they swap places with the parent that has not ridden and with a minimal wait time, the second parent and child if he or she wishes get to ride. It is perfect. The waiting areas had small heaters since it was a cold day, benches to sit on, a baby changing table and in a few cases a movie to watch. Parents can even do this if their child simply does not wish to ride but the adults don't want to miss out.)

Our main desire for going to Islands of Adventures (besides the fact that Rob did not want to do the Magic Kingdom, again) was to visit the Harry Potter Exhibit.

It was a lot of fun and brought to life the books and movies.
(We walked directly from the Hulk to the Harry Potter section at the back of the park. While the streets of Hogsmeade were crowded, we had no trouble navigating to the different rides and exhibits. As we were leaving that section, park officials reminded us that it would be an hour and a half wait to just get back into the Harry Potter section so to be sure to see and do everything while we were there then. I can't imagine having to wait an hour and half or being given an allotted time just to visit a section of the park, this wait time does not include the additional time waiting in lines for actual rides.)

Hogwarts was by far the coolest (and longest line) of the day. We waited over an hour and a half to ride this 3D adventure. The line wound around the outside of the castle, through the green house and finally into the corridors and classrooms of Hogwarts.

 Waiting outside of Hogwarts. It was a very long line.

 The streets of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley where replicas of the shops were open for business.
 In the green house, about to enter the school
 House scores... Gryffindors are in the lead

 Entrance to Dumbledores office
 The Marauders Map
 Talking portraits... just like I imagined. (We even saw the portrait of the Fat Lady)
 Dumbledore speaking to the crowd of the dangers that lie ahead.
 The Pensive
 One of the many classrooms of Hogwarts
 After the ride, looking for the Harry Potter potty (as Lillian called it)
 The shop fronts were great.

 The owlery and Olivanders Wand Shop had long lines to even enter the shop (we did not choose to wait to go inside)
 More streets of Hogsmeade
 You could choose to dine at the Three Broomsticks or sample a mug of Butter Beer (looked like cream soda)

Honey Dukes was the sweet shop and was connected to Zonkos Joke shop. We (Rob Lillian and I) did choose to wait to go inside (a very short line and it was warm). They have every flavored jelly beans and chocolate frogs for sale (quite pricey). Still it was worth a quick peek and a chance to thaw out.

 Lillian's choo choo face. She really wanted to ride that train.

 Ready to ride the Hogwarts Express.

 Finally ready to enter Seuss Landing and Lillian would be able to ride her first ride of the day.
(She did a great job of waiting in the child swap areas with me and seemed to understand that she was not big enough to ride without being upset. She really liked to see Daddy and Madi get on and off the ride and even took a nap in my arms.)
 Waiting in line for the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride

(As you can probably notice from the picture, Lillian is sporting a lovely fat lip and scraped nose. This occurred while waiting in line to ride the train. In the shuffle of all the big feet, Lillian tripped on the ramp and smashed face first into the concrete. With the help of friendly Dad with baby wipes, lots of kisses and cuddles and the promise that we really would ride that train, we survived. Lillian was beginning to look like a world war survivor but she hardly complained).
 Lillian was thrilled to be on her own train and in her very own seat. She was BIG enough.

 The train went all around Seuss Landing passing over and by all of the rides and depicting the various Seuss stories (while waiting in line they had large blow ups of various Seuss stories to read aloud... we read Sneetches while we waiting for the train)

 We took a brief break that afternoon to watch the musical presentation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas before returning to Seuss landing for a few more rides.
 One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish (a Seuss rendition of Dumbo) was the next stop on our list.
 They had double fish for families to ride together. Lillian loved driving her fish up and down.
 Back to the Caro-Seuss-El for another spin.
 Rob and Madison rode the Hulk one more time on our way back to the car. The wait was supposed to be 75 minutes.
 Lillian, Papi and I waited outside (until we got too cold) watching the coaster go by. Every time Lillian would ask.... It that one Daddy?
Then we headed up to child swap to wait for Daddy. Lillian caught a quick nap in my arms while we waited.

Stopping to try out the bike on the way out of the park.
We managed to ride all of the rides of interest and to see each of the areas of adventure before leaving the park and heading to a recommended pizza place for dinner.
We were home by 9 and in bed by 10pm. It was a long but wonderful day.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Morning with Papi and Gran

Christmas morning the girls enjoyed opening presents with Papi and Gran before enjoying a yummy breakfast of waffles and bacon.
 A Lily Bear for Lillian

 And a matching Madison bunny
 A necklace and matching bracelet from the Grand Canyon

 A sister present to share from Papi and Gran
 Its a recordable book. Now the girls can have their bedtime story read by Papi and Gran.
 Lillian liked helping Gran open her presents.
After a big Christmas dinner (more ham), the girls and I cuddled on the couch to watch Christmas movies.

 Always room for one more on the love seat.

 Sleeping in Mommy's arms.
Another wonderful Christmas.