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Old 01-22-2012, 08:54 PM   #31
Fun
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What great photos! Thank you so much for sharing you and your family's experience. That dolphin really new how to smile .
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Old 01-22-2012, 08:57 PM   #32
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Welcome to CityWalk! Universal's answer to Downtown Disney. A rather pretty place, nice for a walk with some neat shops and a great selection fo restaurants. Its also where the water taxi drops off and picks up for all three Universal Orlando resort hotels.







This is how it looks at night.....so sparkly pretty:



But tonight, we were headed here:





My basketball-loving boy was in heaven. He never wanted to leave.

He did some three-point shooting outside:



Checked out their hand sizes vs. the NBA superstars:





We did a little shopping in their awesome NBA store:







And then enjoyed a nice meal, complete with an awesome Shirley Temple!:



After dinner, the boys shot some more 3 pointers in the indoor rec center:



I think Jake could have stayed at NBA City for the rest of his vacation and been a happy boy . His passion runs deep!

We headed back to the Royal Pacific via water taxi in the chill of the night (man, what a cold ride in the dark as the temps fell closer and closer to the freezing mark!) to collect the car from the hotel lot and return for the evening to the Hawthorn Suites. We had enough time for a late swim in the pool (hey, we're Canadian remember! we need more than a cool night to stop us from swimming in a heated pool and enjoying an outdoor hot tub! ) before hitting the sack.

Our next day would be a very early start.....its off to Islands of Adventure, and we planned to arrive at the crack of dawn to take advantage of our early entry priviledges to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Next up........Butterbeer, the Car-o-Suess-el, and Spiderman!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-22-2012, 09:02 PM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fun View Post
What great photos! Thank you so much for sharing you and your family's experience. That dolphin really new how to smile .
Thank you so much!

The dolphin's name was Astra. She was a real little sweetie....loved to be the centre of attention. She just basked in the adoration of our small group and really seemed to be "posing" for the camera.

The dolphin that took us for the swim was Rascal. He came by his name honestly . A little more unpredictable and a lot more spunky. But he gave a great ride and was powerful enough to haul my 275 lb hubby without complaint! lol
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899



Last edited by Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina; 01-23-2012 at 06:23 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 01-23-2012, 01:42 AM   #34
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I just want to say that I am loving your trip report - it looks like you and your family had a wonderful time

We have never gone to Universal or Sea World in Florida and your photos make them both look fantastic.

I don't usually read trip reports so this is a nice treat on the Cdn board - well done - I can't wait to read more about your trip
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Old 01-23-2012, 06:35 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by chrisula View Post
I just want to say that I am loving your trip report - it looks like you and your family had a wonderful time

We have never gone to Universal or Sea World in Florida and your photos make them both look fantastic.

I don't usually read trip reports so this is a nice treat on the Cdn board - well done - I can't wait to read more about your trip
Thanks so much for your kind compliments!

The SeaWorld and Universal parks are a totally different experience from Disney. Having done the Disney parks exclusively on our last visit (and having had an AMAZING time), we wondered if this vacation could equal the fun we had at Disney. We actually found we liked this better. We loved not being tied to dinner reservations at a specific time, and we loved the "variety" provided by this selection of parks (while the Disney parks are all different as well, they all have that similar Disney feel.....Universal, Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld and Discovery Cove gave us a whole new experience each day).

We are always seeking new experiences when we travel. Our next trip to Florida in August will hopefully be full of a whole bunch of "firsts" as well....we hope to visit our first Florida waterpark (still undecided on whether it will be Wet N Wild or Aquatica), we plan to visit Gatorland, and also one of the beaches (Clearwater or Cocoa Beach) all of which we've never done before. Who knows, maybe we'll even throw in an airboat tour! So many things still left on the bucket list!!!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-23-2012, 08:12 AM   #36
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Love your trip report. Especially since you included so many photos. Thank you for those!

That's an amazing rate for the car rental. I keep reading posts where it's almost $300 for a week (or maybe that it was two weeks?) and have been scared. Gives me hope for talking my husband into renting a car.

The hotel looks nice. How long did it take to drive to Discovery Cove from there?

I knew wetsuits were required to wear for the dolphin encounter. But your pics show everyone wearing them elsewhere in DC. Is that the rule then?

Also, what are those red trees in your SeaWorld photos?? ARe they real??

If you end up going to Aquatica in August, please post a picture full trip report again!!
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Old 01-23-2012, 08:46 AM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Disney Addicted View Post
Love your trip report. Especially since you included so many photos. Thank you for those!

That's an amazing rate for the car rental. I keep reading posts where it's almost $300 for a week (or maybe that it was two weeks?) and have been scared. Gives me hope for talking my husband into renting a car.

The hotel looks nice. How long did it take to drive to Discovery Cove from there?

I knew wetsuits were required to wear for the dolphin encounter. But your pics show everyone wearing them elsewhere in DC. Is that the rule then?

Also, what are those red trees in your SeaWorld photos?? ARe they real??

If you end up going to Aquatica in August, please post a picture full trip report again!!
Aw, thanks so much for your kind words!

Our car rental started out as $282 USD when we made our first reservation back in August. We kept cancelling and rebooking as we found lower rates (via promos, coupons, Expedia.ca, etc.) until finally we got the fab rate about 10 days out. Keep checking and rebooking and it is definitely worth the extra efforts. We LOVED having a vehicle and not having to depend on the hotel shuttles (allowing us to come and go as we pleased).

From our hotel to Discovery Cove was about 5 minutes unless traffic was heavy. We were literally right between the SeaWorld/Discovery Cove parks and the Universal parks. And everything else you could ever want to do (eat, shop, mini golf, etc.) was all along I-Drive. We were absolutely central to EVERYTHING!

Wetsuits or a vest were required for the dolphin encounter (whichever you prefer), but since the initial early morning was a little cool, most people opted for the wetsuit. By 11 a.m., we could easily have done without it, but they were actually quite comfy (once you got in them) and they helped hide some of my....uh....imperfections?..........so I kept it on. DS actually liked the feel of his and considered picking one up to take home.

The red trees in the SeaWorld pics were Christmas trees. They were some of the amazing holiday decorations at the park. They were placed in among the regular gardens (which were gorgeous on their own), but in such a way as they acutally looked like they were real. By the time we visited for the second time on January 5th, most of the decorations had been taken down, so we were glad that we were there earlier in the week and got to see the park in its holiday finery!

I will be sure to do a TR on whichever waterpark we end up at. Hopefully it will help someone else when deciding which one to visit on their trip!!!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-23-2012, 07:31 PM   #38
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Gina, I'm really enjoying your TR. Thanks so much for bringing us along on your vacation!
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Old 01-23-2012, 09:36 PM   #39
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Gina, I'm really enjoying your TR. Thanks so much for bringing us along on your vacation!
You are most welcome!!! Thank YOU for reading, and allowing me to indulge in sharing some of my favourite memories!!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-23-2012, 10:07 PM   #40
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Wednesday, January 4th:

The report on this particular day will have to be broken up into several pieces, because I have quite a bit I`d like to share. Our morning started off early, as we arrived at the Royal Pacific dock at 8 a.m. to board the water taxi to Islands of Adventure. Today we were taking advantage of early entry to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, one hour before the gates opened to the masses.



Even though the park wasn`t officially open yet, there were still lots of people milling about. And we were all headed to the same ride....Forbidden Journey!

It was pretty frosty out that morning, enough so that I actually spent a few moments in the ladies washroom just to warm up. It was see-your-breath kind of cold. So this guy looked like he really belonged there:



Being the ride chicken that I am, I sent the boys happily dashing off to the castle while I scooted around Hogsmeade taking some pics of the amazing details in the village:













I cannot imagine trying to get any of these photos later in the day when the park was opened to the general public. It went from nearly deserted around 8:20 a.m. (when these photos were taken) to a mad mob by 9:10. Forbidden Journey was a 30 minute wait when we arrived, and was 120 minutes by 9:30 a.m. With no Express Pass access on Forbidden Journey, you are doomed to stand in line for however long it takes if you want to experience the ride (and for what its worth, my boys LOVED it ....DH said it was the best ride of the week, for DS it was second only to Manta at SeaWorld, and both said it was like no other ride they had ever been on).

After riding Forbidden Journey, we spend a good amount of time checking out the sweet treats in Honeydukes (and hey, it was nice and toasty warm in there too .... double bonus!):











The attention to detail in this entire area was second to none. Breathtaking, really, even for our family of non-Potter-lovers (the boys have watched the movies, but none of us have read the books).



And of course, we couldn`t pass up the opportunity to try some of the infamous butterbeer:







Oh lordy, it was good. I mean, really REALLY good. Tis no wonder the lines for this stuff were the longest lines we waited in all day long (Forbidden Journey excepted!! ). Worth every penny and every minute we waited to be served!!!





We opted out of waiting in the hour-plus line for Olivanders, as none of us were particularly interested in the whole wand thing (Potter fans, please dont shoot! ) but the guys did ride Dueling Dragons and declared it awesome. And they walked on with the Express Passes.....exactly zero wait .

By 9:45 a.m., we were on our way out of Harry Potter and off to my favourite part of Islands of Adventure....the bright and adorable Suess Landing. Temps were starting to warm up and we had virtually a whole day ahead of us still. Stay tuned, there`s tons more on Islands of Adventure still to come!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-24-2012, 08:11 AM   #41
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I am so loving your report. Your trip is making me so excited for our family trip which is in 3 weeks from today. We(myself, DH, DD10 and DS9) are heading out to Universal Resort for 3 days,(staying onsite for those days at HRH), Discovery cove (I am just praying that we are as lucky as you guys and get gorgeous weather- i am a bit stressed by the thought of having spent all that money and then getting hit with a a chilly day!!), Busch gardens in Tampa, 1 or 2 days at Seaworld, possibly a day at Aquatica if the weather cooperates and 2 days at Disney. Seeing your pictures has made me even more psyched- i have been counting down since August!! I cannot wait. Thank you so much for spending the time detailing your trip and posting the pictures. As i sit here staring out the window at another Canadian wintry day, i can almost feel Florida from your pictures. Keep it coming!
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Old 01-24-2012, 12:16 PM   #42
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I am so loving your report. Your trip is making me so excited for our family trip which is in 3 weeks from today. We(myself, DH, DD10 and DS9) are heading out to Universal Resort for 3 days,(staying onsite for those days at HRH), Discovery cove (I am just praying that we are as lucky as you guys and get gorgeous weather- i am a bit stressed by the thought of having spent all that money and then getting hit with a a chilly day!!), Busch gardens in Tampa, 1 or 2 days at Seaworld, possibly a day at Aquatica if the weather cooperates and 2 days at Disney. Seeing your pictures has made me even more psyched- i have been counting down since August!! I cannot wait. Thank you so much for spending the time detailing your trip and posting the pictures. As i sit here staring out the window at another Canadian wintry day, i can almost feel Florida from your pictures. Keep it coming!
Thank you so much!

You must be getting so pumped about your upcoming getaway!!! 3 weeks will fly by so fast. I can totally relate about the Discovery Cove weather concerns....but it it helps at all, the pools are heated (I think they told us the lazy river is 89 degrees ) so you will be fine . Add in the warmth provided by the wetsuits and the heaters around the park and you're all set, chilly or not. And who knows, maybe you will get the fab temps that we did too! I have my fingers crossed for ya!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-24-2012, 12:24 PM   #43
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Another fan of your trip report here! We are heading to Universal in May and are wondering about our first night as a stay at Royal Pacific in order to take advantage of the features a stay brings. You had a good rate with CAA - I'm going to inquire with them to see what the cost for a weeknight in May would be. Here's hoping!

Quick question for you (hopefully you know the answer!): When you stay onsite can you go to CityWalk even if you aren't using a day's ticket to the park? We are only planning on one day and would arrive late afternoon to the hotel and would likely only want to check out CityWalk for dinner and a bit of shopping.
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Old 01-24-2012, 12:49 PM   #44
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And our day at Islands of Adventure continues......... .

So by 9:30 a.m., we had completed our must-do's at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and my boys agreed to indulge my inner child and head to Suess Landing. God love them, they are good sports!!

This early in morning, most everything in Suess Landing was virtually a walk-on (even without the Express Passes) as the crowds were still flowing to Forbidden Journey. It almost felt like we had that section of the park just to ourselves.





I loved the fact that the park was STILL all decked out for the holidays. I have always wanted to see the Christmas decorations in the theme parks, and thought we'd be just a tad too late with our arrival on New Years Eve.

First stop was the High In The Sky Trolley Train Ride for some great views of the entire area:









A great view of the Hulk coaster from the train ride......it wasn't running that early in the morning (again, due to "inclement weather"), however it would be fully operational by later in the day, my to my boys' delight! (more on that a little later on)



Of course, we had to take a turn on the Car-o-Suess-el!



Poor Jake......this is his "you're NOT posting this on Facebook when you go home!" expression!



The whole fam spun round and round on The Cat In The Hat:



And who could pass by One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish?



We chose a blue fish. And it was fun . Even for my too-cool teenager!



After leaving Suess Landing (just for a while....we'd be back there for lunch a little later on ) we happened to stroll by the strong-man game. DS says "Bet you can't ring the bell, Dad!". Dad says "Bet I can ring it on the first try!". I tell Dad to settle down and keep walking. Dad whips out his $5 . It's two against one, what can I say? (Okay, what I did say is SAVE YOUR FIVE DOLLARS! NO ONE EVER WINS THESE THINGS, THEY MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE!!). He laughs at me. Sheesh.

So the young fellow grins at him as he takes his money. Says "you get three tries" in that knowing tone ("this guy doesn't have a chance"). DH says "thanks, but I won't need them" . Grabs the mallet, takes a swing, and DING!



Rings the dang bell the first try. What a show off.

And he wins me my prize of choice. It seemed like a good idea at the time to get the big winged dragon with the long tail and bulgie eyes. He was kinda cute . Of course, I obviously didn't think about how I was going to get the monstrosity home.



Let's just say packing the suitcases on our departure day required some creativity and a little patience. But our little friend eventually made the 1200 mile journey without incident and now resides in a special place in my rec room.
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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Old 01-24-2012, 12:50 PM   #45
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Now.....back to the attractions......

Chill in the air or not, the boys enjoyed a wet, wet ride on Popeye's Bilge Rat Barges:





Two young fellows from the UK had extremely good aim with the water cannons, and were very adept at nailing DH. Let's just say the poncho wasn't exactly effective!!!!

We also took in the sights and attractions in the Lost Continent:



Jurassic Park was a huge hit with my dinosaur-lovin' boys. They have watched every movie 100 times (maybe more) so this one was a must do.



Jake's brand new hat (which was a Christmas gift just before we left home) went flying off as the boat made its huge splash and the poor child almost panicked. Lucky for him, it landed smack dab beside him right in the boat. Only one small moment of heart failure before the ol' ticker was beating again.



All in all, they gave this area a huge two thumbs up!



And we marvelled, for the millionth time, how much fun it was to have the Express Passes and be able to move from place to place, doing what we wanted to do with no schedule, no waits, and no pressure. Awesome. Just awesome.



Next up......lunch at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, and an afternoon hob-nobbing with villains and superheroes!
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Gina and her two guys ...conquering awesome Orlando, one offsite attraction at a time!

Jan. 2009....onsite at POR: all 4 Disney Parks
Jan. 2012....offsite on I-Drive: Universal Studios, IOA, SeaWorld, & Discovery Cove
Aug. 2012...Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, and more
Dec. 2012...onsite at SW! Christmas week at SeaWorld, Aquatica, Gatorland, airboats, & holiday fun
**Christmas 2012 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3041415
Aug. 2013....Sheraton Vistana Resort: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, Cocoa Beach & more! **August 2013 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3167818

Aug. 2014.....SVR, SW, DC, AQ, TL, Daytona & MORE! **August 2014 Trip Report: http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=51863899


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