Alright, I guess it’s about time I get to blogging again. We’ve been back now for around 2 weeks.. or 3? Who the heck knows, I’m still on vacation time so everything has been out of whack. I’ve even tried to prolong the vacation atmosphere at home by neatly lining up on our vanity the single-serving bathroom amenities that mysteriously found their way into my bag. While it briefly gave the feeling of a hotel, it was like putting a bandaid on an open wound so here I am, sucking it up and accepting the real world again.
You can’t really blame me though. We had a fairly good time despite some messed up stuff that happened. I’d list the bad but you’ll probably wonder how we had any fun at all. No, I’ll go ahead and focus on the good times no matter how bad I want to tell you my wife fell down a few slippery steps at the hotel and broke 2 toes. Nope, I’m keeping it aaaaaall to myself.
So if you didn’t know, we went to Florida for the 3864th time with the ambitious plan of going to the theme parks 4 days out of the 5 we were there. The wife and I used to be huge theme park people when we lived there. I can honestly say being able to go to one whenever we want is the one and only thing I miss about living in that God forsaken sauna of a state. We both were talking about moving back just to give our kids the liberty of being able to visit the parks at a whim. But after spending a week under that unforgiving sun we’re both overly appreciative of living in a place where there are 4 seasons and you don’t have the urge to rip off all your clothes and jump in the nearest body of water after 3 minutes of exposure.
Anyway, we lucked out immensely because my parents live on the same street as a few Disney employees. We paid full price for Hollywood Studios, but we got in for free to Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom, and through a friend of one of the Disney employees we managed to get nicely discounted tickets to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure. We even got into SeaWorld because my mom had some extra tickets laying around. So yeah, we saved like $26,392 just in theme park tickets, it was amazing!
Because we were so fortunate, 4 days of theme parks turned into 5 days. As you can imagine a lot of pictures were taken so I hope your eyes are ready for an onslaught. And I didn’t hit you with all the ones I intended to, so be grateful! That’s another reason why I was putting this post off so long. Too many freaking pictures to edit. Anyway, the wife and I were pumped and ready to tackle the week with our 4 feet and 18 toes!
So we hit Animal Kingdom first.
Another good fortune that shined upon us here was how the cloud cover blocked the sun and made it fairly comfortable for a summer day in Florida. Animal Kingdom was a favorite of mine when it first opened, and it kinda still is. If anyone is looking to do a Disney vacation and want to stay on property, I highly recommend the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We stayed there a number of years ago and it was amazing being able to wake up, open the curtains and see zebras and giraffes grazing outside your balcony. Incredibly amazing. Anyway, I digress. Animal Kingdom was a fun and great primer for the rest of the week.
It was Lucas’ first trip here and I’m not sure if it was how early he woke up or the excitement coursing through his veins, but he took a good 3 hour nap while we were there.
Yup. He was just like this for about 3 hours. Everyone was laughing and smiling as they walked by him, and for good reason. What sucked was as the days went on, his nap time decreased. Only an hour and a half on day 2, and by day 3 there was almost no nap at all. So it’s like this 3 hour one was him preparing for the week.
Second day was SeaWorld.
We woke up on this day and our bodies (toes especially) were wondering what the heck were we thinking with this 5 days of parks stuff. It was another lucky day of glorious cloud cover with no rain. Seriously, outside was so unnaturally tolerable, it was almost scary.
We got to check out the Antarctica area they set up there recently and the new penguin ride/exhibit. When we came like a year ago this ride was about 150 minutes long, but today it was just 15. See, lesson learned: If you wait long enough, the lines will go down! The exhibit was nice and insanely cold. It really did feel like the arctic compared to outside. It sucks I have a hard time not being depressed with penguin exhibits after watching Happy Feet.
Disclaimer: Like I said to a friend on Instagram, I know there is a lot of controversy behind SeaWorld and most out there don’t want to support them in any way, but I grew up with fond memories of the place. And while I do not support what they do, it’s hard to not go when given the opportunity. Movies like that documentary which I haven’t seen, and Happy Feet which I have seen and it messed me up big time, shine a light on the issues at hand. But you know what? My kid doesn’t care about any of that mess. And he’s at that age where he just doesn’t give a crap about anything unless he can see it or touch it. So when he gets older and is able to understand what’s wrong, I’ll tell him what’s behind the curtain. But as for now, if he has an opportunity to witness the majesty and absolute beauty of these living creatures, and it’ll be his only opportunity since we’re not going whale watching in North Carolina or Florida anytime soon, then I want him to experience it. And he did.
Third day was my wife’s favorite, the Magic Kingdom.
The sun must have gotten wind of the comfortable days we were experiencing so he made sure to fix it. It was unbearably hot. Ridiculously. I honestly have no idea how those people in the character costumes do it. I was out there for a whole 4 minutes before my fat started rendering, it was terrible. And we had no time to get accustomed to it so that made it worse. I’m so glad I turned down the temperature of the room to 62° because that was the light at the end of the tunnel. The heat was so bad it made Seb stand still long enough to do this:
We tricked Seb into riding the new Seven Dwarves ride, saying it was just a train. Oh come on, don’t look at me like that! Like you never did it before. It doesn’t matter because he figured it out before we got to the front but surprisingly kept his cool. By the end of the ride he wanted to go again! He freaking loved it. So piggy backing on his excitement we took him on Thunder Mountain and he liked that one better! Kid is insane. At his age I would’ve been crying and holding on to the height checking post for dear life. So glad there wasn’t anymore to take him on though because I probably would have been hospitalized. We mellowed out on The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean – two of my favorites. While riding Pirates I was testing out my camera’s low light capabilities and it turns out they’re pretty freaking good once I figure out what the heck I’m doing.
So all in all, another great time in the Magic Kingdom. Despite the 10 mile journey over like 9 means of transportation to the parking lot from the main gate, we always feel sad leaving that place.
The 4th day was two of my favorite parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
I’m all about Disney but there’s something about these parks that I always loved and this visit was no different. I mean, yeah, they could be more kid friendly, there’s a lot of stuff the kids can’t ride yet compared to Disney, but it’s still good fun.
While in the hotel we stayed at, I always had the tv on those vacation channels that talked about what there is to do around the area. Seriously, how can you watch anything else during a vacation? Well on this channel they talked about the Men in Black ride and shooting aliens. So all week, Seb can do nothing but talk about two things: going to Disney and fighting Darth Vader, and shooting aliens at Universal.
Well we get there and go to get on the line, but have to check his height first. We thought whatever because we measured him at home and he was 41 with no shoes. And he’s been getting on 42 inch rides all week and this ride was 42 as well. He gets under aaaaaaand he’s too short. Literally by a hair because his hair was touching the bar. We were upset because we swear he went on it last time he was here and he was way shorter. As we sadly told him he couldn’t get on it, knowing the bar was not accurate, I asked the guy at the front and he wasn’t budging. Almost looked too happy to say no. As I was walking away I thought “wait a minute.. my kid wanted to shoot aliens today, so dammit, he’s going to shoot some freaking aliens.” I went back and asked for a supervisor. Out came Emily. I explained the situation, how we remember him going on it before, how the bar wasn’t accurate, and how all he wanted to do was shoot aliens. And she was totally understanding and was wanting to help.
She said as long as he meets the height, he can ride, and that there was a more accurate height checker inside that wasn’t on a slant. So we went in and Seb was talking to her the whole way. Explaining how he came to shoot aliens and how much fun he was having. She was going along telling him how she wanted to show him her gun collection so we went to a wall where all the alien guns were displayed and Seb was like “I want that one!”, pointing at the biggest one. Then we went to check the height… He stood there and from where I was I could tell it was the same as outside, just baaaaaarely under it with his hair touching the line. She looked at it from different angles, made him stand straighter, trying to get him to fix his feet to get just a little taller. Then when she said “yeah, he’s good” I wanted to high five her. I know she wouldn’t have let us ride if he didn’t meet the height, so I’m incredibly grateful she took the time to fix him to stand right and everything. She then said to Seb, “ok, before you go shooting aliens I want to introduce you to some friends of mine.” My wife and I were both like huh?! We went down a flight of stairs that were behind a curtain and as she went to open the door that said something along the lines of MIB Personnel Only, she reminded Seb it was a special area only few get to see. She opened the door and we were in the control room! The area you see a floor beneath you when you’re standing in the line. And there, she introduced Seb to her friends, the twin aliens, Bweryang and Bob!
Seb thinking they were real because Bob’s eye kept following him around, didn’t want to get too close. We signed the guest book on a desk nearby and noticed a little room just off to the side where there were 2 MIB agents (i.e. ride attendants) on break, chatting it up on some futuristic chairs. Seeing that topped off the experience because it was hilarious and caught me off guard. We headed back upstairs and said bye to Emily, thanking her a hundred times, and then Seb finally got to shoot some aliens.
Also in Universal was the rather impressive Simpsons area. Last time we were there it was only the ride – which I’m still pretty bummed they took out Back to the Future for – but now it has everything you could imagine from the Simpson universe including Moe’s Tavern!
We all had a round of Flaming Moes which had to be the most refreshing citrus juice/punch concoction I’ve ever had. And the presentation was spot on! To chase the Flaming Moes down we had a giant world famous pink glazed Lard Lad donut! Yup, you can basically call me Homer from now on.
Islands of Adventure was full of even more win for Seb when he met Spider-Man and got on the Spider-Man ride.
It has always been, and still is, one of my favorite rides anywhere. And it’s upgraded! Everything is HD and it looks awesome! Seb got on it twice and looked a little scared the second time but looking back he said that was his favorite ride. When we were leaving the park I was walking around the store by the entrance and casually walked into Spider-Man! I was by myself and he just looked at me and said what’s up as he shook my hand. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome and I may or may not have taken a selfie with Spidey.
Another great ride we experienced for the first time was Transformers. It was crazy intense and I felt like I was in the middle of a Michael Bay movie. Sadly, we only briefly walked through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because it’s always so freaking packed.
I could spend all day there but when there’s so many people it kills it. We also missed the new Diagon Alley expansion by a few weeks so that sucked. At least I got to walk through the Jurassic Park gates again, that’s always fun. I even decided Jurassic park was my favorite area there. And over Harry Potter, that’s sayin somethin!
With plenty of other good times I know these parks will be some of Lucas and Seb’s favorites when they get a little older.
The final day of our insane journey was the reason for coming to Florida in the first place – Star Wars Weekend in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
If you’re not aware, Seb has turned into a Star Wars nerd. I honestly have no idea where he gets it from. I remember the last time we went to Star Wars Weekend they had Stormtroopers patrolling the roof of the main gate. That would’ve been awesome to see when walking in but we settled for some posters. Despite the Force telling me I shouldn’t, the first thing I wanted to do was sign up Seb for Jedi Training Academy, but more on that later.
Walking around Seb noticed Boba Fett patrolling the main stage and I think that’s where it hit him how cool this place was. We went to the Star Wars area to take in as much as we could, and we got on the Star Wars ride for the first of our five times we rode it. Sadly we caught the end of the big Star Wars themed parade. I know Seb would’ve bugged out seeing all the characters marching around and the Disney characters dressed as Star Wars people.
By the time we we got there everyone was on the main stage and the host of the weekend, James Arnold Taylor – who did the voices for a bunch of different characters I know, including Obi-Wan on The Clone Wars – was talking.
I even got one of Mark Hamill pointing at me! …ok, fine, maybe he wasn’t exactly pointing at me, but look! It totally looks like he is so in my mind that’s what happened. While walking around, Seb got to live another dream he had – meet a Storm Trooper.
They were really cool whenever we saw them because they always looked like they were in a rush or being bothered. They even talked through their helmets which sounded awesome and realistic. ….As realistic as I would’ve thought Stormtroopers sounded.. in real life..
So when Seb asked one if he could borrow his gun (like I told him not to ask) and he said “not while I’m on duty and patrolling”, it was super cool.
The rest of the day was full of fun from meeting and running into more characters..
To Seb chasing down and walking alongside R2-D2, which was pretty funny…
He did the same thing to Darth Vader when we were kinda stalking the spot he was taking pictures at…
We also rode the Star Wars ride a bunch more times. Don’t judge us, it’s a fun ride and every time is different! We were so focused on all the Star Wars stuff that we didn’t even go to one whole side of the park. So sadly, we couldn’t trick Seb into going on the Tower of Terror. But he probably would’ve taken it head on after his accomplishment. Because after waiting all day he finally got his chance at Lord Vader!
Note about the video: I’m truly sorry for the way the video was shot. As it turns out, my wife suffers from VVS (Vertical Video Syndrome). I never knew of her condition until now and I hope you do not worry because I am trying to find her help. If you or anyone you love suffers from VVS, please watch this video and try to guide them as their struggle is hard.
Seb is a very energetic kid. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong but when he’s in the moment, his excitement gets the best of him and all logic and care for how he should behave goes out the window, down the street, and gets hit by a semi. So while he was sitting waiting for his Jedi robes for the Training Academy, I tried explaining what to do and not to do – “listen to the Jedi Master”, “follow the other kids”, “DO NOT ATTACK DARTH VADER UNLESS YOU’RE TOLD”.
I know I might as well have been talking to a wall since fighting Darth Vader is all he’s been wanting to do, but it was worth a shot. Look on the bright side, I got a good shot of Billy Dee giving some dude his autograph!
I totally regret not getting his autograph, but it wasn’t about me, it was about our little Jedi. They got their robes, got in line, and headed toward the stage. At this point I’m still kinda worried about him getting us thrown out of the park because he assaulted Darth Vader, but I decided to just go with it. And you know what? I’m glad I did because as soon as he got up there he was as excited as a Toydarian betting on a podrace he couldn’t lose.
He had to get a little more attention than the other students, asking random questions and following the Jedi Master around everywhere, but for the most part he was controllable. About 3 minutes in they already knew Seb’s name and I’m trying to figure out if that’s bad or not. Either way, you gotta hand it to the Jedi, they know how to handle their younglings. Of course, this is all before a disturbance was felt and Vader with his Stormtroopers interrupted the lesson.
I couldn’t help but laugh at Seb who saw his chance and went for it before getting saved by the Jedi.
It was a long wait watching all the other younglings have their turn, but he finally had his chance at Vader and he did awesomely!
If you watch the video, at the end you see him take a few extra swings at him and by that point it was expected. Vader, not being one to just walk away, took one last charge at all the students!
But when the instructor told everyone to get safely behind him and use the force to repel them, Seb took it upon himself to take charge too! He came running out of formation and started force pushing Stormtroopers in an attempt to get one last shot at Vader!
The younglings and Seb’s force pushing was too much and Vader finally decided he had no power here.
The funny part was when they closed the doors on the Stormtroopers and they were left looking confused as heck at a closed door. When it opened they went in and waved goodbye (it’s all on the video up top). The instructor even commented to Seb asking if he was the one who closed the doors on them!
But when it was all said and done, and they gave him his training certificate stating he is now a Padawan, and he came running to us all proud of his accomplishment, I felt damn proud myself.
And not because he was a “Padawan” now. Not because it was Star Wars or that my kid is a dork like me and I’m living vicariously through him. But because he was beyond happy about what he did. Again, all he was wanting and all he could talk about for weeks was going to Disney to fight Darth Vader. The pride in his eyes when he came running down the steps to us was enough to make my
day week month year.
About 7 years ago when we first went to Star Wars Weekend and we saw the kids at the Jedi Training Academy, my wife and I both said maybe one day we’ll have a kid and we could let them do that. Well, here we are, it happened, and thinking back on it now is an amazingly great feeling.
Well I’ve gone on long enough. There was our vacation from start to end. The phrase “I need a vacation from this vacation” is probably one of the most honest sayings anyone has ever said. We did an insane amount of stuff and came back home with tons of memories that we’ll be talking about for years to come. And people wonder why I, a grown ass man, love Disney so much. This is why. Those memories, those moments that we experience in those parks are so special and so unique, nothing can compare. I mean, do you comprehend what happened? My kid wanted to fight Darth Vader. And what did he do? He freaking fought Darth Vader. Do you understand how crazy that is?! It’s a dream come true. It’s what Disney does and for that, I thank them.
Thanks for reading if you still are. I know this was insanely long because it took me about 5 days to put it together. But it was a lot to cover and I’m glad I did. A lot of great times were had and being able to come back and relive them will be great. Again, thanks for reading and stay tuned for regular posts coming again in the near future!