Monday, June 5, 2017

Orlando Trip with Kids: Part III - Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure Day 2


On our second day at the park we learned that it's fun to do kids' stuff with kids but miserable to attempt doing adult stuff with kids. Our family woke up early again to get to the park while Mike and family decided to avoid the worst of the crowds and wait to come until the afternoon. We left our hotel just after 8am, but thanks to heavy traffic getting off the freeway and being stuck in the garage parking waiting for the employees to wave us through, it was 9:25am before we actually entered the park. The kids really struggled and whined while we sat helpless in a non-moving car. We'd hoped to ride Reign of Kong with Tyler right at opening, but by the time we entered the park it was already a 60 minute wait. It's amazing what a difference that first half hour makes! Oscar and I did end up going on Kong on our final day, the only day when we actually managed to get there right at opening, and we were able to walk right on it with zero line. Ty never got to ride it, but I think it would have been a bit scary for him, so not a big deal.

Since we'd missed out on getting an early arrival line advantage for the popular rides, we decided instead to focus exclusively on the kids and the attractions they could do with us. We started off on Storm Force Accelatron, an Xmen version of teacups. This was one of the very few rides Allison was able to do with us. She even helped us swpin the wheel to twist around.

From there we walked around to the Jurassic Park area so that Tyler and I could ride the Pteranodon Flyers. Allison was too little for it, but she loved getting a chance to wander around and play at Camp Jurassic. The ride lets out right in the middle of the play area, and Tyler had so much fun exploring the tunnels that I actually lost him for about 15 minutes. That play area is HUGE and a quick kid can go down one slide and immediately down another one before you're even halfway down the first. I had to go show his picture to the attendant manning the entrance, but luckily I found him first when he came out of a tunnel crying for me. Fortunately there's only one way in and out of Camp Jurassic, so at least if you lose your kid you know he's got to be in there somewhere.  

While I was away with Tyler, Oscar took some cute videos of "The Baby Hunticus" exploring her new surroundings. Tyler and I never even found this area on the left where you can shoot water on the people doing the Jurassic River Adventure ride. I wanted to help him get to it, but I couldn't keep track of him in that enormous maze.
Allison is always excited to discover stairs and ramps and anything else she can climb
 She was initially wary of the ropes, but she braved them eventually.


From there we decided to take a little break from the heat and enjoy the air conditioning at the Jurassic Discovery Center. Here Tyler got to calm down a bit with some lower stimulating activities, like watching a dinosaur egg hatch. He even got to name the baby "Stripeasaurus." 

Allison wandered around and played with buttons and anything else she could get her hands on. Being here reminded me a lot of taking the kids to the Children's Museum, except this time we had daddy with us so it was a LOT easier to keep track of two kids going in completely different directions.
Allison giggled wildly listening to a teenage boy imitate dinosaur roars. Unfortunately I didn't get my camera out until she'd stopped, but I did get a video of her trying to imitate his roar and being cute while crawling around in the area.

After the hatching Ty got to meet and pet a baby stegosaurus before we decided to head back out in the sun. I loved the view as we came out. The eye candy around the water at Islands of Adventure is just amazing! 


We knew the kids were getting tired and needing naps, but we decided to ride the Hogwarts Express since we were fairly close to it already, and it's one of the few rides that Allison could do with us. I was delighted to discover that it's a fully immersive attraction, not just a train ride.

This video is less than 10 seconds, but it gives you an idea what you're watching out the window as you ride the train. I didn't want to spend the whole time holding my phone up, especially with Allison trying to grab it away from me, so I put it away and enjoyed the experience. If you want to see more, this youtube video will show you the whole train ride, though it's the train coming from King's Cross Station, which is a bit different from the one leaving Hogsmeade.


I'd been wanting to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter since it opened in 2010, but we'd never been able to take a trip here until this year when it all got planned last minute. Turns out that they didn't build the Diagon Alley part or the Hogwarts Express until 2014, and I think it's absolutely "brilliant" to have the train take you from Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure to Diagon Alley at Universal Studios. I'm glad we didn't plan our visit until after those were built.

I'd also been disappointed to have to cancel a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood in May of 2016 just after they built the Wizarding World there. Little did I know though, that they just have the Hogsmeade side there too, and they don't even have the Dueling Dragons ride or a moving train (though I hear their Hogwarts castle has some unique special effects). After seeing how amazing everything is in Florida, I wasn't sad to have missed out on the Hollywood trip and was very happy we visited the Wizarding World when we did and where we did. 

The kids were starting to meltdown after the train ride, so we walked out of the park and drove towards Mike's hotel. Mike and family wanted to come to the park, but I asked them to wait for me so I could catch a ride back with them while Tyler and Allison napped. Plans changed when Tyler and Allison both fell asleep in the car a few minutes away from the hotel, so we turned around and headed back to Universal to meet the family at the Chocolate Emporium for lunch. We wanted to give the kids time to sleep, and since we were out of portable snacks and baby wipes, Oscar dropped me off at a Walgreens while he circled the parking lot for awhile. The kids were still sleeping when we got back to the park, so we waited about 10 minutes until Tyler woke up. We got him out of the car quickly and tried to pick Allison up gently so she'd stay asleep in Oscar's arms, but it only worked for a few minutes.

Mike had arrived before us and gone to the Chocolate Emporium at 1:30pm where he found out the wait for a table for all of us was 40-50 minutes. He put his name down and said they would do a ride while they waited. He asked us to go to the restaurant and add our name to the reservation in case it became available sooner. Oscar and Ty walked over there to do that while I let Allison play on the grounds at CityWalk as we gradually made our way over to the restaurant.

The reservation did become available early after only about 20 minutes. Unfortunately Mike and family had just put their phones in a locker before getting in line for Hulk, and The Chocolate Emporium wouldn't seat us until our entire party had arrived. One of us had to wait at the restaurant in order to hold the reservation, and we ended up waiting something like 40 minutes before they finally got through the ride and back to the restaurant.


It was a miserable wait with the kids. Oscar stayed there with Tyler, who was partially entertained by playing on his phone but still hungry and a bit tired and eager to see his cousins. Allison, though, was crazy restless, hungry, and fussy. I grabbed the stroller and walked her around while we waited without any idea when they would be back. This was worse than a ride line since we had no idea when the wait would be over. By the time they got there Oscar and I were feeling so stressed that we completely stuffed ourselves with huge shakes and tons of food. Allison must have been a bit stressed too sinc she snarffed down the cupcake on my red velvet shake.

This place is known for their desserts. They can take up to 30 minutes to make. We didn't even bother with any since we'd had so much to eat and had ordered shakes, but Mike and family came back the next day just for dessert and ordered these huge ones on the left.
The robot Jacques chastised us for not ordering any dessert while Allison was thoroughly entertained by Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome.


After that massive indulgence we went back into the park and made the huge mistake of staying with the family. We headed over to Dragon Challenge again and Hogsmeade was crazy crowded. While Mike put everyone's phones in lockers, including mine, I desperately searched for a place to park the stroller in a crowd I could barely move in. After going in the wrong direction twice I finally found it and caught up with everyone in line.

Somehow in the shuffle we lost Oscar and Tyler. Oscar didn't know why Mike was going into the big crowd where the lockers are, and since it was so busy, he couldn't find him to ask. He and Tyler ended up sitting out in the shade while we rode the ride. Oscar tried to text, but of course, all our phones were locked up so we couldn't get the text until afterwards. I had no idea if they were in the line further ahead or behind or what. I REALLY missed my phone. All of us wrangled Allison in the line, though she did enjoy playing with the lit up EXIT signs along the way. In the parent swap area they had a caged window as riders came through, and she was happy to sit up there and watch them. After we got off we finally got Oscar's texts and bought some butterbeer. I have to say I wasn't that impressed (I've never cared much for butterscotch), but Allison was slurping it up.

The kids and I attempted some wand tricks in the nearby shops with the wand Mike had bought for me during his first visit here a couple years back. Unfortunaely it's a bit tricky and my attempts were all unsuccessful. It was just me, though, because the kids were able to use my same wand and perform the tricks properly. I meant to try the tricks again another time but forgot to bring my wand with me on the final day when I actually had a chance to do it. :(

After that we took the train over to Universal Studios again to use our Jimmy Kimmel virtual pass. Tyler was super cute hugging and cuddling with Hashtag the panda. Tyler absolutely loved meeting characters. He'd run up and give them huge hugs. It was adorable!
For some reason the wait in line was much longer than the first time we rode it the day before (nearly an hour which is ridiculous for a virtual pass), and Allison was tired and horrible. Mike tried taking her to the family area, but it was just a tiny room with an open door, so he had to take her back to the stroller and missed going on the ride with us. At least we were able to do this ride with Tyler.

I would have liked to stay longer, of course (it wasn't even 8pm yet), but Allison was clearly done for the day (and had been for quite some time already), so our family drove back to the hotel. Both kids fells asleep in the car then transitioned badly on the way to bed (we made the mistake of bringing them both in at the same time). I barely slept that night with Allison's cries sending me into fight or flight right as I was starting to doze off. I didn't fall asleep for several hours after we went to bed and ended up asking Oscar for a 5 minute back massage before I could relax enough to fall asleep some time around 1am.

I nearly broke down in tears that night. It was all I could do to hold it together so I didn't make the situation worse for my already exhausted, overstimulated children. It didn't look like we'd be able to get any time alone in the parks or much help with the kids. Mom and dad were willing to help, but I didn't want to deny them their own chance to go on the rides, particularly mom who'd only gone on two rides the previous day and had spent the entire second half of the day watching Allison at the hotel. Tyler is also incredibly fast and impulsive these days, and Allison is always on the go too, so I didn't feel comfortable leaving them with my aging parents in a super crowded themepark. This trip wasn't nearly as convenient as our Disneyland trip where mom could just walk a 9 month old Tyler back to the hotel in his stroller and put him right to bed. Disneyland had also been much easier because we could take advantage of the parent swap and didn't have to take Tyler through all the long thrill ride lines. I could handle having the kids in the park but having to take them through tremendously long lines for rides they couldn't even go on was completely ruining this vacation for me. We'd just spent all that time waiting for family at the restaurant followed by three more enormous waits with kids for rides I'd already been on. It's annoying enough to be in crowds and long lines. It's MISERABLE to have to entertain and wrangle fussy children while in those crowds and lines. I couldn't even enjoy the rides after the stress of all that waiting and wrangling. I was beginning to think this trip was a huge mistake...To be continued...

Spoiler alert: On day 3 I figure out how to relax, have fun, and make this vacation work for us and the kids.

1 comment:

  1. Wow the realization of how hard it is to have little ones while trying to enjoy the Park was a lot for both of you. I agree Disnyland was a lot easier because the Hotel was so close. That says a lot when it comes to young children and how long they can tolerate large crowds and so much stimulation. Thanks for all the pictures and work putting your blog together sweet daughter Stacy.

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