Monday, August 08, 2016

weekend in review: LEGOLAND Florida Edition!

It had been on our Summer List, and when I noted Josh and I were off call for a record four consecutive weekends, we decided to plan a long weekend trip to LEGOLAND.  Rather than opting for Labor Day or 4th of July, we both took off Friday August 5th to avoid the crowds that I expect probably flock on real holidays.

In a nutshell:  it was awesome.  Seriously!  The kids had so much fun and it was overall such an easy, kid-friendly experience.  Little kid friendly, too -- important because toting a 2+4 year old is very different than hanging with school-aged children.  We went to Disney in April of 2015 (for A's 3rd bday) and while there were spectacular elements, it also felt like a bit much for such young kids.  More options than we needed, long lines (I wanted to cry every time I saw the stroller parking sign!), quite pricey . . just more than necessary across the board. 

Now -- I may also be biased because at nearly 2.5 and 4.25, the kids are at comparatively  easier ages* than Disney when they were just 3 and 14 months.  I will also say that both of our kids are completely sucked in by Disney movies and the associated magic (seriously, they seem to have the formula DOWN) and we will be back, probably for C's 3rd.

But Legoland was easier.  And slightly cheaper and more convenient.  And not any less fun. The summary, if you don't want to read this epic post:  GO!  It's great.

Friday
We drove, and despite my plans to wake everyone up early and leave at 7 . . . we didn't.  In the moment it just seemed like the wrong plan (and it probably was!).  We ended up leaving at around 9, I think.  A&C played with these Crayola drawing toys (cheap & simple) and talked for the first half of the trip, and then we put on Frozen at their request.  My iPad mini wedged perfectly between the front seats of my Prius - relatively low-tech WIN (well, compared to the minivans I have seen with built-in systems!).  The drive took us about 3.5 hrs.


Arrival!

We arrived and checked into the Legoland hotel, which is literally just next to the park entrance (see: convenient!).  The hotel was colorful and charming and there were little LEGO touches everywhere.  On arrival, it wasn't swarming with kids, so A&C played in the little castle while we ordered lunch (we were starving) at the restaurants.  The food was decent (yes, a little overpriced, but actually pretty tasty -- I had an avocado BLT & sweet potato fries).


bed made of LEGOs



swimming in them!


At around 2, we hit the parks.  We went on several rides (carousel, train, etc) and got the lay of the land.  Then it started pouring with thunder & lightning . .  so we ducked into a store, and when it looked like the rain would last a while, ran back to the hotel.  (Note: they shut things down very proactively when it storms, so we figured most rides would be closed for some time).  It probably took 7 minutes from the middle of the park to our hotel's front door.  We hung out in the room for an hour, and then things were clear enough to head back.


Someone volunteered to take a picture of all of us!


Just a LITTLE happy



Climbing on everything


So much smiling


At 5:30, the crowds had thinned a bit (the park is only open until 7, and I think some left for good during the rain) and we hit several more rides, including A's first roller coaster (this one with Josh).  I can't tell if she really liked it, but she was definitely proud of herself :)  Of note, both A&C were too short for a number of things, but tall enough for many.  A made the 40" cutoff (but not the 42") and C was under 36" which did limit him quite a bit - understandably!  We finished the day with a car ride (Jr "Driving School" for A) and bumper boats, where Cameron attempted to jump out only 23 times.


Josh and A on Dragon Coaster


C and me on a boat.  Before he attempted to jump off repeatedly.



Just 13.5 years until he can get a real license . . . scary


At 7, we had to head back for dinner.  We attempted to get into Harry's Old Place (based on Tripadvisor review, it sounded like the best option) but the wait was long, and both kids fell asleep on the way (despite it being a 7 minute drive).  SOOOO - we went to Chipotle, got takeout, and had a hotel-room-floor picnic** with C who was wide awake again.  Neither child slept particularly well -- C woke up crying and I wedged myself into his bed to comfort him, and A ended up waking up scared and relocating to our (thankfully king) bed.


Hotel floor picnic!

Saturday
We probably would have slept in, but I had an alarm set for 7:15 am since we had a breakfast slot at 7:30 - 8 am (they had people sign up to arrive in waves, I guess to prevent overcrowding of the tables).  Breakfast was included at the hotel, and it was also quite decent: they had essentially a whole cafeteria-style buffet with eggs / waffles / cereal / oatmeal / fruit / yogurt / smoothies / etc.  Lots of options.  This made it easy to head to the park at opening -- hotel guests are allowed to enter at 9:30 am (usual entrance time is 10).

We started with a ride that looked intriguing (Quest for Chi) but that ended up basically being a slow moving boat ride that included being soaked with water.  Ahh well :)  We figured after that we might as well head to the water park.  There were lockers, so we changed and headed right in.  Sadly no pix here b/c neither of us have waterproof phone cases!  Too bad, because the kids had a lot of fun.  There was a toddler-friendly pool with 2 slides just inside the waterpark that occupied C for a good hour, a lazy river that I would have been happy to ride for an indefinite period, and a water-jungle-gym-type deal with slides that A loved (and C would have loved too, had he been tall enough).

By noon, we were pretty hot and Josh wanted to see the waterski show in the main park, so we headed out.  But first: ice cream.



(Vanilla for C, Strawberry for A, and cookies 'n' cream waffle cones for Josh and me - AWESOMENESS)


Waterskiing LEGO characters

We watched the show from the lawn while eating ice cream - way better than trying to keep the kids seated in the amphitheater, in my opinion, so it worked out very well.  We followed that up with A's second roller coaster ride (Coastersaurus), and my first in a long time.  Apparently this is a tame ride.  I don't think I am equipped to handle a 'real' one . . .

 At that point, the kids were tiring and Josh and I were starting to feel LEGO'd out***.  We walked through Miniland (LEGO replicas of all kinds of famous places) and the old botanical gardens, and then called it a day.  Annabel had a mild meltdown in the store (she spent her allotted Toy Money the day prior, and was not happy to realize this meant Cameron was going to get something  and she woudn't).  She rebounded though and we headed out to relax in our hotel.


Mini Miami Beach!




Face painting, safari ride & final exploration

It rained again, and we attempted to get C to nap -- and failed.  It was just too exciting, and he was out of his routine.  It was too crowded in the lobby, so despite good play options there we headed upstairs and just watched movies/Olympics for a while.  Oh, and baths/showers were had by all!  At 4:45 PM, determined to get into the restaurant where we failed yesterday, we headed out.

AGAIN, C fell asleep despite the 7 minute drive (kid still really needs to nap) and there was a wait at the restaurant.  This time, though, we braved it.  C slept on Josh while A and I watched family videos on my phone.  We probably waited 30-40 minutes, and I am glad we did, because we had a great meal.  The kids were amazingly really well behaved (C was a little cranky upon awakening but rallied) and it was just a relaxed family meal.  Annabel ate snow crab, C ate a ton of shrimp, and Josh and I drank wine and all kinds of deliciousness (sweet and spicy gator bites = yep).



We headed back to the hotel and attempted to get everyone to bed (seriously I think ALL of us were so tired!) but it took some time.  Cameron ended up in our bed where he proceeded to turn 180 degrees and soak through his diaper, although thankfully it was limited to his area and all of us slept through it.


GO TO BED Cameron

Sunday
That was pretty much it!  On Sunday, we hit the breakfast buffet again and headed for the drive back.  I was ready to leave by that point and glad we had not planned anything else.****.  We arrived home in time for A to attend a friend's bday party (which she was apparently in no mood for, having been overstimulated all weekend).  Josh & A watched movies while C napped and I unpacked/cleaned/etc.

And NOW it is Monday, and I am back, feeling refreshed and happy and filled with warm fuzzy family memories.  Seriously.  Definitely a highlight of the summer.

* In my opinion.  12-20 months = my least favorite zone!
** Not our first, and I'm sure not our last!  So cozy in an adventuresome sort of way.
*** My theme park endurance is not that high.
**** I am also a lazy vacationer and 2 action-packed days were more than enough for me!