Florida - September 2011

Day 17 - Blizzard Beach

Wednesday 5th October

Sandy had not had a good night last night and is still fighting the sniffles. She’s a fighter, however, and soldiers on anyway. On balance, I think we’ve been very lucky as a family to have come so far through what has been a very energetic holiday with no serious ailments along the way. If Sandy’s sniffles are the worst of what we’ve had to deal with, then I think we can count the holiday a success from that point of view.

Our trip to the Waffle House this morning required a table larger than any they had to offer and so I sat with Shane whist the girls ate with the kids. A topic of pre-occupation this morning was our inability to get any definitive information regarding what my Niece Louise and her boyfriend Chris’ plans and intentions were. Without this information, Shane wouldn’t know which theme park tickets to buy and we were never really sure where and how we were going to meet up. The only thing we did have was the knowledge that they were flying in from Las Vegas overnight, where they had been scoping our wedding locations, and a somewhat tentative exchange on Facebook about meeting up at a Chilis restaurant not far from where their hotel is located on International Drive here in Orlando. With all of us having diverged on this area from all corners of the globe, I’ll be impressed if we all manage to end up in the same spot at the same time.

Following breakfast, Shane and Lisa went off to do their thing and we set off in the direction of Blizzard Beach, Disney’s other main water park in the area. Having opened in 1995, this is the newest of Disney’s water parks. It’s probably a similar size to Typhoon Lagoon and themed to look like a freak snowstorm has swept through the area and left all the snow and ice in place in its wake. As usual, the Disney theme machine has done a fantastic job and the park is designed very well. Upon arrival, we looked for a good spot and had absolutely no difficulty in finding one. There were very few crowds and although the place looked busy, the park really was relatively empty. As it happens, I had on me today a Blizzard Beach T-shirt from when we very first visited this particular theme park not long after it first opened.

There are two main children’s play areas here and Tikes Peak is where the smaller of the children are able to have fun in safe seclusion and supervision. We parked ourselves here and followed the kids around a bit until they were happy and familiar with their surroundings. Indeed, they seemed to enjoy themselves immensely and at one point during the day, I even found a few minutes to simply lay down on one of the loungers and soak up the sun. After nearly 3 weeks of adrenaline-pumping theme park trekking, I thought a few minutes of rest and relaxation was due, although it didn’t last that long.

Although another beautiful sunny day again today, the temperature was slightly lower than the previous few days and the water, although nice and inviting, did seem just a tad on the chilly side - not much, but enough to be just a little wary about fully submerging without a sharp intake of breath. The kids were having a thoroughly good time exploring the various pools, water slides and the one short tube ride in this section of the park. Just across the way from where we were stationed was another kids play area but with slightly deeper water, our kids would also have a lot of fun here but did need to be more closely supervised. I wanted the kids to get to see as much of the park as possible so as to squeeze the maximum enjoyment possible out of the experience, and so we spent a bit of time over there exploring and playing. Both kids had a crack at walking across the ice-bergs (large ice-berg shaped floats tethered to the bottom of the pool so as to move a up to 50cm in each direction as you walk over them) whilst hanging onto nets over their heads. There were also some bigger and longer slides here but the water pool at the bottom of the small flying fox ride was, I thought, too deep for them and Sandy wouldn’t allow them on it anyway. The lifeguards on duty here are really good at their job. At one point, a small child of around 7 years of age seemed to very slightly appear to be in difficulty in the water and I watched the guard blow his whistle and launch himself head-first into the water with his buoyancy aid and at lightening speed. As he launched into the water, he struck with his hand what looked like some kind of emergency button - which I would presume drew attention from onlooking closed circuit TV or some other life-guards elsewhere. The whole thing was over in a fraction of a second and left me with the impression that the kids all around us were in very safe hands.

Much like Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach sports a ‘lazy river’ that navigates around the park and is full of large rubber tubes to sit in and while away the time as the gentle current moves you around the park. There are a few mechanism for dowsing you along the way. One of which is the Ice Gator (say it fast and think of the park’s theme) who lives inside a little hut and sings to himself. The Ice Gator has a cold and every time he sneezes, a blast of water emanates from the chimney and lands on whomever happens to be floating past at that time. We got in and did a near full circumnavigation before getting out back at where we started for some more play in Tikes Peak. Jennifer got a real thrill from being ‘sneezed’ on

As the theme of this water park is snow and ice, we got in line for the ski-lift to take us up to the top of the main ‘mountain peak’, atop which sits what ‘appears’ to be a ski jump but is in actual fact one of the worlds tallest and faster water slides. Near by this attraction is the entrance to what would be our destination on this trip to the top and that was the family raft ride. A huge, circular raft, which can probably accommodate up to 8 people at a push, navigates around turns and drops. It descends several stories along its total trajectory. It’s really quite exhilarating but not so much so as to present any difficulties to the children. Joey did have some trepidations as we were getting in but enjoyed it enough to volunteer doing it again later on in the day. We’re finding with many things that giving him that little bit of a push is usually enough to get him over his fear of whatever it is. It has been a matter of some trial and error, however, and we haven’t always got the balance right but we are getting better at predicting what he will enjoy after having been given a little nudge.

At the bottom again, Sandy took the kids back to Tikes Peak again and I went off to have some fun at some of the more thrill-seeking slides and rides. This burnt up nearly an hour all told and I think Sandy was glad for a bit of a rest from watching the kids by the time I returned. With the number of people in line waiting at the bottom of the ski-lift having picked up a bit, we took the walkways up to the top again for another ride in the family raft. Whenever we’re doing something together as a family, Dad is usually pretty engaged and animated with the kids and they got a thrill out of seeing me squeal & squirm at getting wet we we careered down the course.

We were by now starting to think of our exit from the park but Jennifer insisted on another go around the lazy river and so I indulged her. After this, we got the kids dried off and dressed and we started towards the exit of the park - not long before it was scheduled to close. We picked up an ice-ream each and squashed some more pennies before finally heading out, but not before the last few obligatory photo opportunities were squeezed for what they’re worth.

It was by now too late to go home before having to turn around and come back again to make our 17:30 appointment at a nearby Chilis to meet with Louise & Chris. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to take with me the address of the particular Chilis that we had agreed on meeting at and our inability to know where we were going was starting to cause some stress in the car. We ended up driving around looking for places that we thought might have unprotected Wi-Fi access so that we could connect to the Internet with the iPad to find the address. Fortunately, we ended up doing exactly this and made our appointment with only minutes to spare. I can scarcely believe how we used to manage without Internet and SatNav in years past.

Ironically, although Shane has been banging on about how he hasn’t been able to reach Louise & Chris even though he’s travelled so far specifically to meet up with them, he had his phone switched off all afternoon and despite our very best efforts, we simply couldn’t reach him to let him know that we’d now found them. We enjoyed some chit-chat with Louise & Chris and after nearly an hour past the agreed time, we decided that we were all hungry enough to want to order from the menu already. We were half way through the starters when we finally managed to get hold of Shane and he met us at the restaurant shortly after our mains had come out.

We had a thoroughly good time at the restaurant and enjoyed some wonderful company. Over dinner, we had all decided to go to EPCOT tomorrow and we’ll probably all meet up in the park. Shane has lent Louise & Chris a spare mobile phone so we’re now all connected.

We were back at the house slightly earlier than we otherwise would have been and it’s just as well as I’ve 2 days of blogs to catch up on - which I’ve only now just finished shortly before midnight.