Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 3: Universal Studios and the resort

This morning, we didn't all quite sleep as late as we did the previous morning, but it was late enough for The Boy and me. Upon rising, I went for a morning jog around the resort. It's nice to do some roadwork outside of the normal Pittsburgh crap weather. Granted, I've jogged outside about five times in the last year, so it's not like I'm trying to train like Rocky in Rocky IV. While I was jogging, The Wife took the boys to go for a pony ride next door to our villa. That didn't go over particularly well, as The Boy was terrified of the horses and managed to convince Little Bear that he was scared as well. So, we went to breakfast instead. Quick carousel ride after breakfast: After breakfast, The Boy, Grandpa, and I went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. What I liked about it: from the car to the park was a quick, efficient ten minutes; the Seuss Landing Island was pretty amazing for The Boy; and it's always awesome to see a place dedicated to Marvel Comics Super Heroes, which I've been following since I was a small child; very, very helpful and friendly staff on the popular rides, helping us through the Make a Wish handicapped lines. What I didn't like: the 20 minute delay at the gate before anybody realized that the groups of tickets that we received were divided into Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure groups and exchanged our tickets; the general loudness of the piped-in music; the crassness of the over-commercialization; the lack of detail in crafting a perfect guest stay. We went to the super hero island first, and we wandered a bit. We went on the Spider Man ride, which was lots of fun. They took us right through the gate and up to be immediately seated. Only problem? They forgot to give us the 3D glasses, which meant a blurry visual experience all the way through. It was a neat ride still, with lots of fun Spider Man action. It was a little too much for The Boy, who was subdued for a bit while working through being scared after the ride. We poked around for a little bit, then we had lunch in the Fantastic Four Cafe. Since The Boy was wearing his new Buzz Lightyear shirt, I took his shirt off and he ate lunch without: After lunch, we went through the arcade and played for a little while. That's always fun for him and worth spending $2 on tokens. We took one of those computer pictures that put his head on Spider Man's body, and he enjoyed that. Super hero island was a bit old for him, so we went over to Dr. Seuss, which was a great idea. Dr. Seuss is perfect for his age. They had a Cat in the Hat ride, which we did twice. You sit in a rotating cart, and it takes you through the story of the book with animatronic figures and animation and funny sound effects and the like. Really, really neat! We did a carousel that had critters from multiple stories, and he didn't want to ride an up-and-down creature, so he sat on one of the carriages with Grandpa. We did a people mover ride around Seuss Landing, which culminated in passing through a candy store with cool chocolate marshmallows. They had a fun take on the round and round flying elephants: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, which had little water jets that hit you from whatever altitude at various times. The highlight of the day was the "If I Ran The Zoo" exhibit, which was a playground with places to climb, Seussian machines to operate,some slides, bouncy things, and a spray park. We didn't do the spray park, except right at the end, when I dipped his lower half in the water for fun. Playgrounds like this are crack for my children, who will gleefully run around and climb and crawl and slide for hours if allowed. It was beautiful to see and exhausting to follow, because he expects me to do everything with him, except for the relatively rare occasions when he finds a new friend and runs around with them. I'm glad I'm in shape - a 37-year old man has no business crawling through tunnels meant for five year olds, much less going down those slides. I'm glad I'm immature. The Boy was also excited to meet the real, live Cat in the Hat: Down parts? Very little. The biggest differences between this place and Disney are the little things. For instance, nothing at Disney looked broken or run down. Three items in the Zoo exhibit didn't work. Not a big deal - particularly when you consider the thousands of people that have been through there - but still noteworthy. Also, I wasn't thrilled with the vast number of chain restaurants that you have to walk around to get to the park. I have nothing against chains - it is sometimes comforting to know exactly what you're eating when you travel - but it was excessive, and each restaurant was blaring music at a high volume as we were passing. Just annoying. It's not that Disney is quiet - far from it - but it never felt like the advertisements we interfering with your conversations. Minor quibbles, to be sure. We hit a couple of crap stores on our way out and bought some toys, cups, mugs, and t shirts. I never would buy that stuff normally, but I felt like we could get away with it on this trip! The biggest splurge of the day was on a new coffee mug for me, a Seuss cup and some little toys for The Boy, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 socks to go along with a "Mommy of All Things" t shirt for The Wife. We got home uneventfully (besides a quick trip back inside to ride the Cat in the Hat one more time) and napped for a couple of hours. After nap, we went to the gorgeous playground here in the resort, and we played for an hour before dinner. We had ice cream for an appetizer, chicken and Mac and cheese and corn for dinner, and cake for dessert. Nutritious, for sure! After dinner was the weekly surprise birthday party for Mayor Clayton. The kids ate the cake, decorated a My Little Piny with some markers (they are clean white ponies with no decoration specifically for coloring), ate some cotton candy, then began to throw fits. We came back to the villa and settled in for the night. Baths, tickle time, crazy baby time, and bed for one child after another. I'm next; I want to get to bed before 1am at some point! Tomorrow, we are going to spend Christmas Day at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

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