Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Florida highlights:
  • First, major kudos to JetBlue for getting us to and from Orlando with a minimum of fuss during one of the busiest travel periods of the year. We were actually a half-hour early getting into Orlando; we were getting in our rental car at the time we were scheduled to land in Florida. JetBlue has actually supplanted Southwest as our family's preferred airline, at least until Southwest gets TVs.
  • We spent Christmas day at my brother's house and had a great time having the family all together. The weather was warm enough (mid-70s) that the kids had a big water gun fight and went in the pool.
  • We visited Downtown Disney and rented a boat, one of my favorite things to do at Disney. We also visited the amazing Ghirardelli ice cream shop, where they make one of the great frappes/milk shakes/cabinets on the planet.
  • All of us gathered to see the Outta Control Dinner Show at WonderWorks, an upside-down building on International drive. The food was pretty basic - all you could eat pizza, popcorn and salad, with all you could drink beer and wine (don't get too excited - the choices were Bud and Bud Light, which for me is hardly like drinking beer at all). The show, however, was outstanding. A magician, Tony Brent, put on an alternately funny and amazing show. I'm still trying to figure out how he got a $100 bill (borrowed from an audience member) into an apparently uncut lemon. Plus, me and my neice were called up on stage to participate in the show!
  • After visiting my parents in Clermont for nine years, we finally got to see the downtown area, which is charming and is near a large, beautiful lake. We ended up taking a walk along the lake on our last full day there. There was also a very cool guitar shop in the downtown, and J. bought a few picks. If we lived there, I could see us visiting often, especially since it's about 3 doors down from the comic book shop.
  • Great to see Admiral Dave and Leslie again! We had dinner together at an Irish pub.
  • Our day at the Magic Kingdom could occupy an entry all by itself. A few highlights:
    • We were in the park from 8AM (when the park opened to non-Disney resort guests) until the Wishes fireworks display ended at about 10:20 PM.
    • The major advantage of getting there so early was that we were able to walk on some of the major rides first thing in the morning. There was a train waiting at the end of Main Street when we walked into the park, so we rode it to Frontierland, saving us a lot of walking. Once there, we walked onto Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion and it's a small world. The first significant line we hit was Peter Pan, where we waited about 30 minutes to ride.
    • Space Mountain underwent a major refurb this year and, well, I was a bit underwhelmed, to be honest. Don't get me wrong, it's still one of my top 5 rides at Disney. The upgrades were not as evident as I would have thought. The main difference in the ride itself seemed to be that it was darker, which reduced the effect that made you feel like you were going to bounce your head off the rails as you sped by. Maybe I was just expecting too much.
    • We got to see the Flag Retreat on Main St. for the first time ever. It's a very nice ceremony with patriotic music, the lowering of the flag, and honoring a veteran or soldier, who participates in the event. In a lot of ways, I think these small things make the Disney theme parks what they are as much as the big headliner attractions.
    • Around mid-afternoon we escaped from the theme park madness and took the raft over to Tom Sawyer Island. We let the kids run around and explore the fort and the caves while A. and I shared a soda and relaxed at Aunt Polly's. This is a really overlooked attraction - it wasn't that crowded on one of the busiest days of the year. If you have kids and need a break from the stand in line, ride, stand in line routine, Tom Sawyer is a must-do.
    • We had dinner at Tony's Town Square, a Lady & the Tramp themed Italian restaurant on Main St. The food was good, if expensive (about standard for Disney), and it was nice to have someone serve us instead of waiting in another line.
    • The Spectromagic parade and the Wished fireworks show were both spectacular.
  • Our annual family dinner at Chef Mickey's was a lot of fun, as usual. The highlight was that my brother had made a bet with us on the Christmas Day Celtics-Magic game. The loser (which turned out to be him and the Magic) had to eat an ice cream sundae, which the kids took great glee in concocting. The sundaes included such things as cheese, tomatoes and potato salad. Thanks for getting the win, C's!
It was a fun trip, but I have to say that the thing that always amazes me is how well the kids get along when we go down there. They really only see each other once a year and it's like no time has passed at all.


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