Monday, April 4, 2016

Photos from Universal Orlando

I included some of the photos I took on my posts about our Florida vacation, but wasn't able to show you some of the best ones until now. These are the pictures that the Universal Orlando photographers took at many of the park's attractions. We ended up buying quite a few of those professional photos. They're not cheap, but for me the best souvenirs are the memories we made and these photos help to preserve some of the best ones.

This first picture was taken just before we rode on Escape from Gringotts, the fantastic Harry Potter attraction that we saw first at Universal Studios.

From that same photo, we also purchased a Gringotts ID for Kai. One of the things I like about these pictures are that they have the date printed right on them.

This next photo was taken during the Men in Black ride, where you ride around and shoot aliens. My wife commented on how serious I look and how competitive I always am. What's funny is that she actually won this one, scoring about double of the points of me and Kai combined. Kai just looks happy.

After buying a couple of photos already that first day, I wasn't planning to spend more money. But after Kai enjoyed the thrilling Revenge of the Mummy ride, I just had to buy this next photo.

Here's a closeup of the same picture. You can see Kai clutching Mom's arm, but with a big smile on his face. Meanwhile I look like I am hanging on for dear life. Ha!

The next day we went to Universal's Islands of Adventure park. The water rides were especially refreshing on a hot day when temperatures hit 90 degrees.

This next photo was taken just as we are dropping on the steep part of the Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls ride. I love Kai's expression - it's a mixture of happiness and terror as he's bracing for the big drop and big splash at the bottom.

The following photo might be my favorite. After we got off the Jurassic Park River Adventure, we went to look at the picture. The man operating the register looked at the photo and said to Kai, 'Oh oh, are you alright?' Take a look at the picture and you can understand why he asked.

By the way, Kai actually loved the ride!

On our last day in Orlando, we went to the Wet 'n Wild waterpark. This park will close after this year so we are among the last ones to experience it.

Kai loved all of the slides. The following photo was taken on our last ride of the day down his favorite one of all, Disco H2O.

Here are the three of us afterward:

Ah yes, great times and great memories!

The Drive Home

We made the long drive home over the past two days.

We had some rain in Florida, but otherwise the weather was nice and sunny the whole way back.

In Georgia, we stopped to get some local foods. We found a big store that had pecans, peach preserves, and vidalia onion dressing and got some of each. Kai spotted colorful bon bons and wanted to try them.

During much of the first day, Kai was happy watching movies in the car and going on Mom's iPhone. But as we kept running into bad traffic - I'm looking at you, Tennessee! - he started to get more and more agitated. We had reservations for the night in Nashville and the estimated time of arrival per our GPS kept getting pushed back. If we got there too late, we would not be able to use the swimming pool.

Between Chattanooga and Nashville, traffic stopped to a crawl. When we weren't stopped completely, I don't think we traveled faster than 5 mph. The lighted status signs indicated that the tie-up could extend for nearly 20 miles.

We decided to exit the road and go get some dinner. We would make productive use of the time and maybe the accident (or whatever was causing the big backup) could be cleared while we ate.

We found a Chinese buffet. It was about what you'd expect of a Chinese buffet in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee, but we all enjoyed it.

Once back in the car, though, we found that the traffic was still crawling.

Kai was extremely upset.

And of course, it was all my fault.

I tried to stay calm, which wasn't easy as I was almost as frustrated by the traffic as Kai was, and I was the one who had to drive through it while he could watch his movies.

I told Kai that we had such a nice vacation and that we shouldn't let one thing like not getting to use this last swimming pool affect us so much.

But once he gets this upset, there is no reasoning with him. He was mad and we would all have to suffer through it.

In my mind, I was calculating how much longer we could be in this mess - 5 mph for 20 miles could mean 4 hours in this nightmare. But about a half hour after we had gotten back on the road, we came to a construction zone. Three lanes merged down into one. Was this what caused the delay? Late on a Saturday night, there was no construction going on, and it didn't even look like the lanes needed to be closed.

But once we cleared that area, traffic started to move again.

We reached our hotel at 9:30PM. Perhaps we could still get in a swim.

The hotel was huge and we had trouble finding a parking spot. Then it was a long walk in to the front desk. We found out that the pool closed at 10:00PM.

We rushed up to our room, changed into our swimsuits, and went as quickly as we could to the pool. We had 3 minutes left before it closed. We jumped in, swam a lap or two, and that was it. But Kai was happy. I was relieved that we had made it in time. Now we could rest in peace.

"Hey Dad, the pool opens at 6:00 AM. We should come back in the morning so we can have more time to swim."

I really did not want to do that. If we were going to get up early, I wanted it so we could get on the road sooner, not to go to the pool again.

But it was our last day of vacation. And Kai would be really happy to go to the pool again.

So the next morning we got up before 6:00 and went to the pool for one last swim. Funny, no one else was there on an early Sunday morning.

It was actually refreshing to start the day that way, and the hot tub felt good.

It set us up for another day in the car.

The second day wasn't as bad as the first. The highway was congested near Indianapolis and through Chicago, but nothing like we saw in Tennessee.

We made it home around 5PM, exhausted but happy to be back home.

It was a good vacation. Certainly it wasn't always easy, but we did a lot of fun things and Kai really enjoyed it for the most part. Let's put this one in the win column.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Fun Day at Wet 'n Wild Waterpark

After waking up early the past two days so that we could get to the theme parks before it got too crowded, we slept in on our third morning in Orlando. This was our day to go to the Wet 'n Wild waterpark, and we didn't want to get there before the day heated up. So we enjoyed a great buffet breakfast at our hotel.

Our time at the waterpark was great. Although Kai enjoyed the two Universal theme parks, he thought of the waterpark as saving the best for last.

We went on every tube slide and enjoyed them all.

Later, we went out for our last dinner in Orlando before beginning our journey home the next morning. We toasted to a great vacation.

And enjoyed a good meal at a Mexican restaurant. My meal of sautéed shrimp scallops, and skirt steak, marinated in roasted chipotle tomato sauce, lime juice, and queso fresco was my favorite meal in Orlando.

Despite a few rocky moments, we had a great vacation. Universal Orlando exceeded expectations and we are very happy we made this trip.

Next, we begin the long drive back home.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Mostly Good Day at Universal Islands of Adventure

After our great first day at Universal, we were all looking forward to Day 2.

Universal Orlando has two theme parks, plus a water park. Day 1 was spent at Universal Studios. On Day 2 we walked back over to Studios, then took the Hogwarts Express over to the other theme park, Islands of Adventure. (For those of you who are not Harry Potter fans, Hogwarts Express is the train that takes young wizards to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry). Of course, to catch the train, we had to go to the secret platform 9 3/4.

The train ride was a cool experience... rather than seeing scenery of the park, they made it look like you were riding the train in Harry's world.

When we arrived at Islands of Adventure, we were in the Harry Potter area of that park. (Universal was smart to put Harry in both parks). There, we first went over to the Harry ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

While waiting for that ride, Kai got agitated with something in his eye. With most kids, something like this would not be a big deal but with Kai the little things become big deals. He got angry and loud. I took him over to the restroom to have him wash his face/eyes, but once agitated, he doesn't listen well and didn't follow my instructions to make a cup of water with his hands and dip his face in it. Eventually, whatever was irritating him did come out just from all the blinking, and we were able to go on the ride.

The ride itself was very thrilling, and scary for Kai. My wife and I liked all the effects, but were both a little nauseous afterward.

We were happy to sit down and have breakfast, go to a few shops, and then go to the Suess area where the rides are a lot gentler.

This theme park has three water rides and we saved them for later in the day when it would be hotter. And it did get hot. It was in the upper 80s by early afternoon.

First we rode Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges and got completely soaked.

After lunch we went down Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls and got completely soaked.

And we wrapped up by going on the Jurassic River Challenge and got completely soaked.

So we had a good day. But there were some difficult moments later in the day. With Kai, one thing tends to lead to other things. I don't remember all the particulars but he was angry about the limits of his iPad time, he was angry about school for some reason, he used inappropriate language, and then he was angry when we spoke to him about all that.

One more day in Orlando. Hoping that happy Kai will be more present than angry Kai.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...