Vacation Report

Well now that we are through the holidays and getting caught up on most of the stuff around the house (except for cleaning up all of these Christmas presents), I have a moment to write about our trip to Florida.

Not sure I will remember everything, hopefully I will, but there is one thing that I remember for sure.  It was cold, not some sissy Florida cold, I mean it was freezing cold.  Highs during the day were in the low to mid 50's and when the sun went down it dropped into the 30's.  When you are outside all Florida, that is absolutely freezing.  In the six years that we lived there, there was never a cold spell like the one that happened when we were there this year, and I believe is still going on.  It would get cold like that occassionally, maybe two nights tops, a week and a half was unheard of.  We had to buy jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, the whole kit.  We had two days in the 60's, so we took advantage of one of them to go swimming.  Luckily the pool was heated, but when you got out of the water it was really cold.  At least it was sunny the whole time....

We had a whirlwind 9 days on our vacation, between both sets of parents being there while we were there and trying to fit in all of our Florida friends, we were not left with much family time.  But we had a lot of fun, so there is no complaining there.

We stayed at our new timeshare, we are members of Disney's Vacation Club now, and this was our first trip using it.  We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we had stayed before.  We love looking out from your balcony and seeing giraffes and zebras and other animals native to Africa.  Our savannah view this time around was not quite as good, the cool animals mostly seemed to stay on the other side of the building, or it was so freaking cold they just didn't venture around very much, I'm not sure.

One thing that is really cool at Disney around the Holidays is that they deck the whole place out, the parks, the stores, the hotels, everything.  The lobby to our hotel was pretty cool, the glass is already pretty festive, and then they put up a giant Christmas tree that you see when you walk in.

Check out these videos from the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Lights at Hollywood Studios.  This was taken from some guys house in Arkansas that just went crazy at Christmas time and now they set it up every year at Hollywood studios, filling this entire block of a fake city at the park.  It is really impressive.

We of course visited all of the Disney parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.  It was a lot of fun this time because Max was finally tall enough to ride most of the rides that he never could before.  We rode a ton of rides, some firsts for Max were Splash Mountain ("dumb" according to  Max, but I bet he rides again), Tower of Terror ("awesome", it terrified Ella who swore to never ride it again the last time she rode it when we lived there, I give her credit for giving it another go), Dinosaur ("awesome" again), Test Track ("so fast, it was awesome"), Soarin' (sorry don't remember his commentary here, we rode this one really late, we were kind of tired).

Max enjoying the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom
We booked to go on a "Pirate Cruise" to watch the fireworks but unfortunately the boat broke down and we could not do it.

Max and Sarah getting ready to enjoy the Muppets 3D
And of course we continued the tradition of riding Max's favorite ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, 5 times in a row on his 5th birthday.  We have done this since his 2nd birthday, so it was pretty exciting for him.  One disappointment is that the Star Wars ride was closed because they are redoing it.  It definately needed an update, so that is good I guess, but Max really loves that ride so he was a little bummed.

Ride numero uno
Number 2
Number 3, we are mixing in everyone that was with us
The big number 4
Five, ah, ah, ah...
Ella nailed a notable first ride on the legendary Space Mountain.  She got a little nervous when she had to get into the seat by herself, but at the end of the ride she really loved it.  Sarah and I tried to talk her into riding Expedition Everest with us, but she couldn't quite get up the courage for that one (she was scared of the Yeti), but I think next time she will jump on it.  My prediction is that she will love that once, good speed plus some twists, just Ella's style.

Ella about to ride Space Mountain for the first time
Ella also enjoying the Barnstormer, you can see Sarah in the background there
Doing her best impersonation of whatever it is that animal is
Ella, Sarah, and Chris enjoying Bug's Life 3D, we got yelled at for taking this photo
Looking cheeky in a sombrero in Mexico at Epcot
We took good advantage of Disney's Extra Magic Hours to get some extra time with short lines to get some rides, which was great because we could take the days a bit slower, just the way the Wynns like to roll.  Extra Magic Hours are when a select park either opens early or stays open a few hours later for any guest staying at a Disney resort.  Each day a different park offers it, and they are great because the lines are way shorter.  If you know us at all, then you know we didn't attempt any early mornings, so we threw those out and concentrated on the evening hours.  There were a few nights where we are at the parks until 1am, getting back to our hotel and into bed around 2am.  The kids were troopers and never really got too whiny or tired to go on, they really soldiered up.  I really recommend the Extra Magic Hours if you go, you can really zip around and get a lot of rides in.  If you make good use of Fast Passes and Extra Magic Hours you can traverse every ride at Disney without hardly having to wait in any lines, giving you time to enjoy some cotton candy, ice cream, funnel cakes, and other awesome things to do.

We took advantage of the lack of crowds so that Sarah could sneak in and take this photo
Ella and Max in good enough spirits to fool around even after staying up late
Did I mention that it was cold?  Around midnight it was downright freezing.
We checked out Turtle Talk late at night when not a lot of people were there, which meant less kids to get chosen.  Both Max and Ella talked to Crush, Max discussed Macaroni and Cheese, and Ella asked him how he gets his shell.  I wasn't quick enough with the camera to get a video of Max, but I did get Ella.

Because we just were not cold enough while we were there, we also took some time out to go visit ICE at Gaylord Palms.  The Gaylord Palms is a nice resort in Orlando just outside of Disney.  Each December they put up a big gigantic tent in the parking lot, make it freezing cold, and then put in a giant display of carved ice. Sarah's parents had a room there while they were visiting, so we went over to check it out.  And it was cold, 8 degrees to be exact, it made outside feel down right tropical.  The ice is pretty impressive, some of it is colored, some is all lit up from the inside.  It is pretty cool to see, I can't imagine being an ice carver though and spending all of your time in such frigid conditions.

Here is a secret from us to you from our years of experience at Disney.  Epcot has the best Santa that you will ever find.  As a bonus you get Mrs. Clause as well.  So we copped out and had the kids visit Santa while we were at Epcot to avoid having to wait in line at the mall.  Ella asked for a puppy, which was quickly over-ruled by her parents (I think Santa talked her into it to be honest), and Max asked for an AT-AT from Star Wars.

Now that the Harry Potter area has opened at Universal Studios, our trip would not have been complete without visiting the park to check it out.  Universal's Islands of Adventure is pretty cool because they have a lot of thrill rides that are a little more adventurous than the offerings at any of the Disney parks.  The only drawback is that the kids are not big enough to ride most of them.  Luckily they have a child swap option where one adult can wait with the kids in a room while the others ride the ride, and then you switch adults.  Since we had 4 adults, I was able to ride some of the rides twice in a row while someone else waited with the kids.

The Harry Potter section is pretty cool, the built a whole section of Hogsmeade, which is the little wizard town in Harry Potter.  There is a lot of stores selling stuff of course, along with some rides and a restaurant.  One of the stores is the candy and toy/prank shop from the films.  Ella bought some kind of purple fuzzy stuffed thing (a pygmy I think), and they announce the purchase and whatever she chose to name it to the whole store which was pretty exciting for Ella.  They also sell Every Flavor Beans, which if you remember from the films, come in some strange flavors like puke and boogers.  We bought some but have not had the courage to eat them yet.  They also have Butterbeer from the movies and books that you can only get at the park.  It was really good, almost like a butterscotchy root beer or something like that.  I think I drank three of them.

Hogsmeade at Univeral Studios in Orlando
There are two main rides that they added as well.  One is a small roller coaster, the Flight of the Hippogrif, that all kids can enjoy.  Max really loved this one, he was putting his hands up and screaming the whole time, this might have been his favorite ride.  The other is a kind of a hard to describe motion experience that is in the castle that is built from the movie.  The ride's line is the coolest ever as you walk through the castle, complete with talking paintings (that are incredibly convincing, not just a TV in a frame), and Harry Potter and friends projected onto a platform talking to you (also fairly convincing).  It was a pretty cool ride, Sarah chose not to ride it because she gets motion sickness pretty easily and did not want to get sick.  When we went to ride it one last time at the end of the day, Sarah and Max headed to the Flight of the Hippogrif.  While we were in line, the ride broke down, so Sarah and Max kept riding the ride over and over again until we came out.  Then we all rode Flight of the Hippogrif a few more times before heading home.  Max ended up riding it 10 times in a row, it was pretty exhilarating.

Ella and I on the Flight of the Hippogrif
Max enjoying the Flight of the Hippogrif
Max rode this 10 times in a row and could not have been more excited
The last thing to do there is to get a wand of course.  Everyone knows there is only one place to get a wand, and that is at Ollivander's.  That is the store that Harry visited when he bought his wand.  It is also the most popular store there, we had to wait in line to get in for about 20 to 30 minutes.  However, once you get inside you are treated to a whole experience.  A wizard comes down a set of stairs and tells you the history of the shop, he then selected a young boy in the front to see if a wand would chose him.  The wizard goes through a whole thing about what the wand is made of and had the boy try it, but the boy choked and wouldn't do the spell.  So the wizard sent him back to his parents and then selected Ella to come try it out.  He had her try to levitate some books, but instead Ella sent the books all shaking and falling.  So he gave her a different wand and she tried to water some flowers, but killed them instead which was funny.  He then tried another wand and when he handed it to Ella, wind started blowing through her hair and a spotlight from above her turned on.  It was all really dramatic and fun for her.  That wand picked her which was great, but you feel a bit obligated to buy it at that point.  We had planned on doing that anyway which was a good thing.

It was a good trip, we saw a lot of people, rode a ton of rides, and had a lot of fun.  Let's just hope that next time it is a bit warmer and we get to enjoy getting out of rainy, not hot, Seattle.


Andrea said...

Wow it looks like you guys really packed it in! So about this Vacation Property thing you have...are you allowed to lend out time to friends? We were thinking about a Disney trip with both kids next year (took just Eli this year).

Chris said...

The way it works is that we get so many points per year, and then each resort cost a different amount of points depending on the season. But yes, we can loan and rent points to whoever we want as long as we have them. Let us know.

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