A few years ago I made a shocking confession in one of my blog posts. The gist of the post was that I had little to no desire to take my kids to Disney World. Disney always seemed like a big commercial money suckhole for people who were suckered into thinking it was a MUST to be a good parent. I could think of so many more fun family vacations that I would rather spend my money on than Disney. Basically, I was bucky because I don't like being told I must to anything.
Long story short, Todd's mom rented a 3 bedroom condo in Florida this year (where a bunch of her siblings also stay in winter) and wanted us to come down and visit her during our spring break. Seeing as how that would take care of our lodging Todd and I figured that if we were ever going to take the kids to Disney now would be the time to do it. This way, instead of spending thousands of dollars on a week-long trip we could just buy a day pass and find out if it would be worth another trip back.
We looked into all the nearby attractions (the condo was located a half an hour from pretty much EVERYTHING- it was perfect) and the kids were most excited about Legoland and Universal's Harry Potter World and were just moderately excited about Disney. We ended up purchasing a one day pass for each of those three places figuring this would be the best way to take the kids without having to remortgage our house (although the day passes were fairly insane on their own).
We decided to drive down so that the kids could see and visit a few other states. We took the kids out of school on Friday and left at about 4:00 in the morning. The kids are very good travelers and save for an upset stomach (Tommy had to stop to use the bathroom three separate times for tummy issues, and vomited in the car once as well) there were no issues. The traffic was INSANE around Atlanta and we got to our hotel a bit later than we had planned but we were all in good spirits. The hotel was fantastic (kids eat FREE, people!) and we all got some much needed rest. The next day was more of the same (with less vomit and poo) and we finally got to our destination at 4:55 in the evening. By 5:10 the kids were in the pool finally able to get their energy out.
We got to Disney just after the gates opened and were able to get on a few rides right away. We saw three parades, rode as many rides as we could, and took in the sights. By midafternoon to evening it was so crowded we could barely move. And hot. Very hot. By the end of the day we had rode every ride we could manage (the favorites were Space Mountain, Great Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Speedway, and the Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin) and everyone was exhausted. The kids enjoyed themselves and I would call it a success.
However, I still think it is overrated. I was pretty shocked at how unfriendly all the workers there were. At one point, while we were in line for Space Mountain, I had asked a worker if there was a bathroom Tommy could use. She said no but said he could get out of line and sent him down a hallway. When I stepped out of line to wait for him I was told that she had sent him outside into the park to look for a bathroom by himself. I had assumed she was letting him use an employee bathroom nearby. I ran out to try and catch up with him and was lucky enough to find him wandering around lost. It was INSANE. Of course he had no idea where a bathroom would be and he asked multiple workers who ignored him. Sending a 10 year old out into the park, no idea of where he is going or how to get back to his family still inside in line seems wreckless. Nuts, man. The people serving food weren't friendly, the workers on the rides weren't friendly. It really was a surprise. I thought it was supposed to be "the happiest place on earth". It was bizarre.
I never saw the big deal of Disney when I went as a teenager but everyone told me that going with my kids and watching their faces light up would make it more special. However, their faces didn't really light up. Grace liked seeing the princesses in the parade and the kids liked the rides a lot but this wasn't something that blew their minds. I definitely had more fun this time around, with my family, than I did when I had gone before. And, we were all happy we went, but it isn't something we feel the need to do again. We went into it hopeful and excited but my initial feelings about it were confirmed. Overrated. For our family, anyway. We were all satisfied with just our one day there.
By the time we left Disney World we were all exhausted. Our feet were practically swollen and poor Grace had fresh blisters. It was a long day.
But no rest for the weary!
The next morning (this time we got to sleep in a little) we went to Legoland. I swear the kids were more excited about Legoland than they were about Disney. I didn't think it would be a big deal but the park was pretty amazing. It was MUCH bigger than I had expected and had far more rides and roller coasters than I had anticipated. And the lines were cake! We only had to wait for about 20 minutes, many times less than that.
There was so much to see and do. The roller coasters were pretty impressive. The displays blew our minds. The kids got to ride their own Lego cars on a cool driving course and then got their Lego drivers licenses.
In Lego Miniland there were replicas of famous cities and building from around the US. I have to say, this was one of my favorite parts. I think I spent far more time here than my family wanted me to but I was blown away. It was pretty amazing what was made out of Legos and how much the buildings looked like the real things.
Universal proved to be worth the wait. And it turns out, we didn't even get to 90% of the park. But, Todd and I did manage to get on one of the biggest roller coasters in the park, The Hulk. We had just entered the park and saw that the line was only 10 minutes. We couldn't pass it up. We took the "single riders" line which got us through even faster. Our kids chickened out on this one but Tommy did spot us and snapped a picture of Todd and I on the roller coaster with my camera that I left in his care. Nicely done, Tommy! I am in the third row far right. And Todd is in the sixth row far right. I can tell by the clothes we wore.
It was probably a wise decision for the kids not to go on this one. It was pretty wicked. But it was awesome.
Next up, Harry Potter World.
It. Was. Amazing.
I could not believe the scale of Hogwarts. It was incredible. And the ride inside was fan-freaking-tastic. Unfortunately, Grace wasn't tall enough to ride but she had a lot of fun waiting in line inside the castle. They had so many cool things to see and watch while in line. Dumbledore, at the balcony in his room, spoke to us. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in one of the classrooms talking to us. There were the talking paintings, the Sorting Hat. All kinds of cool stuff. It definitely made waiting more fun.
Every single person at Universal was so amazingly friendly. The workers were fantastic. They had us laughing and smiling the whole time. They bent over backwards to make sure we had a great time. When Joey had left his sunglasses on the Hogwarts train they went out of their way to find them and return them to us. They were terrific! And they were all so into playing their roles. I had set my video camera on a tray that a worker was going to take for us and he handed it to me saying, "Is this one of your muggle devices?" Cracked me up.
We had a wonderful time. It was the best. We all agreed that Universal was definitely our favorite place we had visited and that we would love to go back again and spend more time there. We bought plenty of souvenirs to remind us of our time at Universal and Harry Potter World. This is one of my favs:
After I got home I realized it was even a more relevant mug for me because of my current role as Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz. Ha!
Anyway, we were sad to leave Universal but there was more fun to be had.
The next day we drove to Cocoa Beach. We wanted to have a nice relaxing day for our last day in Florida but we just couldn't leave without letting the kids see and play in the ocean, so off we went. It was a little further away than we would have liked (about an hour) but it was worth it.
I, of course, do have a fear of sharks, and was constantly scanning the horizon. At one point I saw a fin. I froze for a second, wondering if that was indeed what I saw, and then saw a swarm of fins. It was a POD OF DOLPHINS. I couldn't believe it. And they weren't far from us. It was so bizarre. Especially since the whole car ride to Florida Grace talked about how she wanted to see dolphins when we went to the ocean. I kept telling her that you don't really see them from the beach but she just kept saying, "Well, maybe we'll see them jumping out of the water!" And we did! Awesome.
It was a long day but we had decided to leave that night instead of very early the next morning to head for home. We figured it might be better to drive all night when the kids could sleep (and we could avoid Atlanta traffic) and then just drive all 20 hours in a row to get home Friday evening. It was difficult. Todd and I were exhausted. And I ended up getting a pinched nerve by my shoulder blade (that for about an hour I thought was actually me having a heart attack- the pain was so bad and I couldn't catch my breath) which made it impossible to sit for the last 5 hours, but we made it. And leaving at night and driving straight through turned out to be the best decision. The kids slept through the whole night while we drove and we were home by 3:30 on Friday afternoon.That gave us a lot more time to rest up and relax before Easter. I immediately unpacked everyone when we got home (I need order, people), made a run to the grocery store, fed the kids dinner, got our animals back from Todd's sister who was watching them, and then proceeded to crash. I couldn't even get through some of my shows I was so eager to watch.
Friday night I went to bed at 8:30 and got up the next morning around 9. Trying to make up for lost sleep, I'm sure. Saturday the kids played outside while I did not much of anything at all. I tried to move as little as possible, both from my sore shoulder and the remaining exhaustion. In the afternoon the whole family sat down to watch Harry Potter and remarked how we felt like we were really part of the movie now that we had "been there".
Saturday night we managed to dye some eggs. That was a major feat for me. I was thinking of skipping it this year. I had so little energy to be excited about eggs, but we did it nonetheless. After the eggs we watched the Badgers' victory over Kentucky and the night was satisfyingly complete.
The next morning the kids were up bright and early searching for Easter baskets. Candy was gorged on, even Molly got a treat, and then it was off to church. It was a beautiful mass. After church we went to brunch with my side of the family.
Tomorrow it is back to the real world. School, and musical practices, and boy scouts, and homework, and ballet classes, and First Communion, and recitals, and meetings. But, thankfully, we will have enough warm memories (and pictures and videos, of course) to remind us of our magical week.
It was a great spring break.