Crazy Random Happenstance

Billy: So good... Hey, this is weird. I ordered one frozen yogurt and they gave me two. You don't happen to like frozen yogurt, do you?
Penny: I love it!
Billy: You're kidding? What a crazy random happenstance!
-Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Off to Neverland!

Last year, when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Florida, Jeff promised me that we could go. I was ecstatic. So, come January, I started doing some hardcore research on hotels, condos, parks and prices and we decided to do both Disney and Islands of Adventure. We invited my Mom to come along (because she loves Disney), couldn't convince my Dad to go (because he hates Disney) and asked my Sister, Natalie (it would be her first "real" vacation) to join us. First things first, we decided we were going to drive down and make a road trip out of it (Mom and Nat flew down). We also made the decision not to tell Charley about it. At first, I was going to tell him on his Birthday in May, but then we figured why not just wait and completely surprise him? I figured it would cut down on the "are we at Disney World yet?!?!" every 5 seconds in the car. He knew we were going on a road trip and that we would be staying in hotels, so he was very excited just to be away from our normal routine for the day. He was also incredibly fantastic in the car and only got whiny on the final day, right before we arrived home.

A few Scott Family Road Trip Extras:
- The nicest hotel we stayed in was Richmond, Kentucky (Jeff's homeland, of course).
-We were all sick of Georgia. So much so, that Charley was yelling "I just want to get out of Georgia!"
-Gas prices are way cheaper down south.
-Rest stops should all have ice machines.
-Each state should have a billboard of radio stations as you enter it. Yeah, we had our ipod but it was fun listening to the local stations as we went through each state. Country stations, to be more specific (as per Jeff's request and he was the driver so he had control.)

We were able to keep our destination a secret, right up until we saw the "Welcome to Walt Disney World" sign, welcoming us into the resort. C got real quiet as he figured out where we were and then got a huge smile on his face. When we pulled into the resort (the All Star Movies Hotel), we told him that someone would be meeting us to show us around the hotel (meaning my mom and sister). His whole face lit up when he saw them but he was still trying to process everything. As we walked through the giant statues from Toy Story and he was taking everything in, he started to get very excited. I'm really happy we planned it as a surprise. It was so much fun and so worth it just to see his face when I was explaining to him all the things we would be seeing/doing in the week to come (the picture on the side there, is me telling him about the parks and all the Star Wars stuff we'd be seeing). Anyway, a great time was had by all. It was an exhausting, fun time and it went by in a total blur but we have lots of fun stories to tell from it and Charley said I "made his dreams come true" and asked why we couldn't go to Disney World all the time.

Here is just a quick list of the things I really love and really dislike about Disney World.

The good:

- The bus transportation. If you stay onsite (at one of the Disney hotels), they provide you with free transportation to and from every single park (including Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), as well as Downtown Disney. There are designated lines in front of each hotel, for each destination and then people line up accordingly. This was so convenient, especially on the days we were dead tired. I loved not having to worry about parking and all that nonsense.

- They know how to decorate/design. At least our hotel did. Paying tribute to five different Disney movies (Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, The Love Bug and The Mighty Ducks), we were all in awe of the statues and attention to detail that they put into each section, right down to the Mighty Ducks pool looking like a hockey rink. The Magic Kingdom was decorated for fall and Halloween with Mickey Mouse pumpkins on all the lamp posts. It was just magical and fun.

- Speaking of magical, it really is "the most magical place on earth". If you love even the tiniest thing about Disney, they find a way to pay tribute to it. They can turn your kids into pirates for the day or transform them into a princess and even train them to become a Jedi at Hollywood Studios. Their tagline is "Making dreams come true" and I totally believe them. They also have something called a Photo Pass. In every park, there are designated "photo spots" and they have photographers there who will take your picture for free (say, in front of Cinderella's Castle) and then you can go online and purchase them. It's a fun way of having everyone in the picture... the downside is it's not so cheap to buy them off the website. The photographers will also use your camera to take the picture and I thought that was really cool (see side photo).

- The people who perform in the shows or operate the rides truly appear to love their jobs. Some of those people have to dance in the same parade every single day, in the blistering heat and they do it with a smile on their face. A ton of work is put into entertaining the huge masses of people who visit the parks every day and that blows my mind. I love that so much thought, energy and creativity is put into showing people a good time.

-There is no shortage of souvenir's. This is both a good and a bad thing. The good for now... They have so much stuff that you can't get anywhere else... From all the Disney characters dressed as Star Wars guys, to Indiana Jones, to every kind of Mr. Potato Head part you could think of, they have it. They have the widest variety of cups and coffee mugs (you know I heart my cups/mugs) that I have ever seen. Even if you can't afford to spend the $20 on the R2-D2 Mickey Mouse ears, it's fun just to try it on and see that it exists.

-It takes you away from reality for a few hours, a few days at a time and really, we could all use that every once in awhile.

The bad:

- If you stay onsite, they pretty much make it impossible for you to get food, medicine, milk etc. anywhere other than the hotel store/cafeteria. My mom needed Benadryl and they didn't have any in the store. When we asked where the closest drugstore was, it was miles away. Our only option was to have it delivered to the hotel from the store, for a delivery fee, plus the cost of the medicine. Annoying. Also annoying that a half gallon of milk is $3.50.

- Food prices in the food courts and restaurants are insane. The main thing I worried about the entire time we were there was "how much is THIS meal going to cost?" On average, we probably spent $40-$50 each meal (except for breakfast. Breakfast was cereal in the hotel room). Most of the time the food wasn't even worth the price (although Planet Hollywood makes a damn good cheeseburger). The hotel offers a $15 cup (it's a smaller type travel mug) that you can purchase and then get unlimited refills on all beverages (not alcohol) for the duration of your stay. Needless to say, we got drinks even when we weren't thirsty just because it was available. While we were at Islands of Adventure, I told C that I would buy him ice cream if he went on the Dr. Seuss Trolley with me (I would have bought him some anyway but a little bribery never hurt anyone). He did and when we got back to the hotel, I bought him a Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream on a stick. Here, it would have cost $1... In Disney, it cost $4. That made me so angry. I can't tell if the meal plan would have saved us money or not. The only difference I see with it, is that at least our food would have been prepaid. Really though, if you plan on going to Disney, don't just save money for souvenir's, save money for food too. (Also, the workers in the food court at the hotel were total holes and that was a real downer).

- Again, there is no shortage of souvenir's and this is awesome if you have buckets of money to drop on every single $40 Mickey Mouse t-shirt or $10 keychain but these prices are definitely not convenient for the family on a budget (which we happen to be). They sold balloons for $15 that we saw tons of people purchase. Sure, they were cool balloons but paying almost $20 for a balloon that will most likely be on the floor, deflated 24 hours later is crazy to me. I can't justify that. Call me a Grinch if you will. I am OK with it.

With all that being said, if you ever think our economy is doing poorly, just go to Disney World. The amount of people that visit these parks on any given day astounds me. They come from all over the world too. ALLLL over and that is a pretty cool thing to see.

As far as Islands of Adventure goes, I loved everything about it (other than it raining on the day we went, but that isn't their fault, haha). My only minor complaint is that we had no luck meeting any of the Super Heroes and that could have just been bad timing on our part. When we took Charley to meet Spider-Man (who was inside a room, inside of a store), they took him away because it was raining outside. On us. In the words of the cute British girl in line behind me, "but he's inside, isn't he??" So Spider-Man was a bust. When C saw Captain America, he was so excited to meet him and they said he couldn't take anymore pictures. Captain America ran away, even though Charley was the next person in line. That made me so upset that I had to walk away and fight off crying. Aunt Natalie saved the day though and took him to buy a Captain America toy in the souvenir shop. Again, bad timing on our part, I guess.

And finally, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We saved it for last. 1.) In hopes that it would be less busy in the afternoon and 2.) You always save the best for last, don't you? I needed to prepare myself for it. Not that I thought that it would disappoint me but just the fact that this is years in the making. Getting to see the shops and school that once only existed on paper was a huge deal to me. When we walked up to it, I stood outside the entrance for a few minutes collecting myself. I had tears in my eyes and chills from seeing everything so awesomely decorated. The train took my breath away, as well as the castle. Everything looked just as it did in the movies and in my imagination. The structures and buildings were done so magnificently, I was in complete awe. The shops themselves are pretty tiny, so it's difficult to browse casually but they are amazing. The displays in the windows of chocolate frogs and quidditch supplies brought a huge smile to my face. Everything is so well done. At one point, they had a choir dressed in Hogwarts robes, perform songs (from the movies) while holding singing frogs. The Butterbeer is delicious and is a cross between cream soda and a shortbread cookie (Nat and I had it frozen, which was awesome). Moaning Myrtle talks over the speakers when you go into the bathrooms and the rides were awesome. Buckbeak's flight is fast and takes you through part of Hagrid's pumpkin patch. The Forbidden Journey is the ride that goes through the castle. It is out of this world amazing and easily the coolest thing I have ever seen. It makes you feel like you are playing in a quidditch game, flying on a broom with Ron and Harry, flying away from Dementors and being spit on by Aragog. I had tears in my eyes when it was over because it was so fantastic. We didn't go into Ollivander's because quite frankly, it was 47 billion degrees outside and it had the longest line (we only waited 20 minutes for the other rides) and I completely forgot about the third roller coaster (The Dragon Challenge) because I was so consumed by everything else. All in all, I loved it. Everything about it... except the bajillion people who were there. Even so, I can't wait to go back.

So, that was our trip. It was a lot of fun and I loved seeing Charley get so excited over certain things and then run to tell Jeff, "Daddy, it was so awesome!". It was really tiring at times and my head got insanely sunburned but it was all totally worth it. 

Miscellaneous TidBits and Thank You's:

- I absolutely, positively loved the True Blood finale.  So, SO much better than last years. I have no idea where they are going to take the story next season and I think that's awesome. (That's all I will say about it at this point because I know there are a few people who haven't watched it yet).

- I watched Ringer last night. I don't know how I feel about it. It was strange. It was nice seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar again though.

- Thanks to Carrie for giving me trivia and keeping me entertained via texting on the drive down to Florida when Jeff and I would slip into one of our sleepy modes.

- Thanks to Dawn for visiting and playing with our pups and cheering them up while we were gone.

- Thanks to Nuncle Dennis and Aunt Rhonda for letting Charley borrow the DVD player. It helped SO much during the drive!!

- Finally... A HUGE, HUGE thank you to everyone who voted for me over the past month. I appreciate you guys and the fact that you take the time to read my ramblings more than you could ever know. As long as you keep reading, I will keep finding silly things to post about.

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

It goes without saying that I have some pretty unbelievably awesome people in my life and I love them a whole lot!


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