Florida - September 2008

Day 9 - Orlando - Universal Studios

Tuesday 30th September

We broke with tradition slightly this morning in that we didn’t go out to the Waffle House for breakfast. We wanted to get a slightly earlier start to our theme park trail day and fed the kids at home instead. We still took packed lunches in the form of sandwiches, chopped fruits & snacks but we already knew this morning that we’d probably eat in the park today.

Today’s theme park of choice would be Universal Studios so we set off on the half hour trip by half past nine or so. When we got there, there was a long queue of cars in each of the many lanes waiting to pay their $12 parking fee so we decided that we’d succumb to the full $17 for preferred parking - which was essentially little more than by-passing the queue into the car park and parking on the same level as the entrance walkways. Physically, we were no closer to the entrance walkway than we were yesterday with the normal mortals. OK, we didn’t have to get in the lift to go down one level but whether this was worth the addition five bucks is certainly up for debate.

On the drive up to Orlando, Joey and Jennifer were quite entertaining in the car. Joey told Jennifer ‘We’re going to the theme park’, to which she replied ‘No, we’re going to the playground.’ Not content with this, Joey then tells Jennifer ‘No, we’re going to the theme park, do you want to come with me Jennifer?’ We do our best to stifle our laughter at these amusing little exchanges - which happens more and more frequently lately.

As was the case with all the other parks we’ve visited so far this week, both our tickets and our finger-prints were scanned at the turnstiles. There seemed to be a lot of people refused entry and sent around to guest services but we were waved through.

Once in the park, we immediately wandered past the Shrek 3D attraction and decided to take the kids in. It was a lot of fun and Jennifer managed to keep her 3D glasses on for most of the ride. It was a real treat to see her reaction to the scary parts and to see her trying to grab at mid-air for the things her glasses were telling her were right in front of her. Funny enough, she managed to keep her glasses on for more of the ride than did Joey.

When we emerged outside of the attraction, Shrek & Donkey were there with photographers so we took the kids to get their photos take. What I found a bit annoying was the fact that only a dozen or so people got to get their photos taken before it was announced that the characters were to be leaving. Many of the people in the queue would end up queuing up to be sent away again. We were the last people to arrive at Shrek when they told us that we were too late. Luckily, the squeaky wheel gets the oil and my protestations were enough to get us into the frame - just. Worse still, we next went to get the kids photos taken of Donkey and were told we weren’t allowed to do so since we’d had our photos taken with Shrek already. I was having none of that either and we left having had our photo experience after all. I can’t say I fully understand these arbitrary rules. It can’t be doing the park management any good turning people away from these photos opportunities for no good reason. Perhaps I’ll write them a letter.

Anyway, since this was a day for the kids, we headed straight over to Fieval’s playground next, where the kids would become small as mice. On the way, we strolled through what looked like preparations for Universal’s Halloween Nights, with carved pumpkins all over the place (in the grounds, in the trees, etc.). Both kids had a lot of fun exploring all the pumpkins and Jennifer wandered all over the place pointing them out.

In Fieval’s playground, Joey & Jennifer had a blast. I even took Joey on the water slide, and duly got myself soaked in the processes. Right next to the playground is a small roller coaster, which Joey and I did twice. The real fun of the day, however, was to be had at the Curious George playground, which is broadly split into an outdoor water play area and an indoor soft ball play area. As we’d predicted, this is where the kids enjoyed themselves the most and both our cameras went into overdrive (all the while doing our best to dodge the water drops, squirts and showers that seemed to come out of nowhere at random intervals). Every now and then an enormous bucket of water would empty onto one of the building’s roofs, sometimes catching an unsuspecting parent in the processes.

Although both kids spent a lot of time in this part of the park, it did take Jennifer a while to warm up to the idea of wet play. Once she got going, however, there was no stopping her - although she never did really enjoy the sudden plashes of water on her head.

As parent, there’s nothing greater than the love of your child and seeing the happiness in their innocent eyes as they play happily. I had one of those loving moments when I picked Jennifer up to give her cuddles and she threw her arms around me and clutched me tightly. A warm sensation came over me - alas it we her peeing onto my chest through her swimming nappy. Ah, parenthood!

Having run themselves wild for the better part of an hour, the kids eventually wore themselves out and took a nap in the buggies. We took this opportunity to find somewhere to sit and have a quiet lunchtime meal. This eventually turned out to be Finnigan’s Bar & Grill in the New York section of the park. Amazingly, the food was not only very good but not really any more expensive than the snack stands dotted around the place.

The kids were still napping when we passed the new Mummy roller-coaster ride. Although it was displaying a twenty-five minute queue, there was a single-rider entrance that took you near enough directly to the front of the queue so both me & Sandy took turns watching the kids whilst the other tried out the new ride - which was very good. The waiting times throughout the park were generally very good all day and we rarely had to wait for anything for more than five to ten minutes.

We’d completely encircled the park by the time we reached the Nickelodeon section, where we took the kids into the Jimmy Neutron ride (what used to be the Hanna Barbera ride). Several older attractions are still there physically but have become other things. Earthquake has become something else and what was previously the Back To The Future ride has now become the new Simpson’s ride.

Since we still had some time left over, we doubled back towards the ET ride and took the kids in. Again, there was practically no wait and once again, it was a joy to see the wonder on the kids faces as they were sucked in to the hype of it all. We indulged in some photos with ET after the ride.

Another section of the park we’ve not done before was Barney’s playhouse and playground. This was a natural choice now that we’re toting a couple of kids with us and, again, this turned out to be a big success. Both kids really enjoyed jumping about dancing and interacting with the Barney and Friends performance and the indoor play area was a raging success too. So much so that we ended up staying until we heard the notice that the attraction was closing for the day. We were the last to leave.

A quick fifteen minutes back into Fieval’s playground rounded off the day at the park and we somewhat reluctantly made our way back to the car for the trip home. We stopped off at Publix for some fresh provisions before getting the kids home, readied and finally off to bed or the night.

Tomorrow we’re contemplating visiting Sea World on account that the weather is forecast to include scattered showers or thunderstorms (which was also the forecast for today). We had a few light spots of rain a couple of timed today but nothing enough to send us running for cover. Eventually, we’re going to have to build in a day at a water park just to allow us the opportunity to relax a little but for now we’re still tearing up the town.

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