Posted in Florida 2016

19th December 2016 (Day 2)-Kennedy Space Center (with Video)

Off to the Kennedy Space Center today.  We got up at a decent time, although we were a bit tired from all the travelling, and had breakfast in the hotel.  Decent selection and quiet because it was relatively early.

Mickey Waffles
Mickey Waffles

Rosemary dressed up for NASA in her pink t-shirt we bought for her our last trip (at the shop at the airport as we didn’t visit KSC last time).

Dressed for NASA
Dressed for NASA

We had an uneventful and relatively boring drive down to the coast.  And managed to make payment at all the toll booths.

We got our tickets on arrival (only thing we hadn’t pre-booked) and headed in. Pre-booking everything worked well for us, because it was done at an exchange rate of about $1.45 to the £, but by the time we went it was around $1.20.  So saved ourselves a fair bit of cash this way.

Kennedy Space Centre
Kennedy Space Centre

We headed straight for the coach to go out to the Apollo exhibition.  On the way we got a great tour of the facilities and all the changes that are happening around the launch pads to allow commercial companies like Space X to be involved.

Vehicle Assembly Building
Vehicle Assembly Building
Launch Pad 39A
Launch Pad 39A
Space X Facility
Space X Falcon Facility

When you arrive you first have a recreation of the Apollo 8 launch from the firing room which was used at the time.  Great little show, with the windows rattling as the launch “happens” outside.

Apollo 8 Launch
Apollo 8 Launch

Once we were in the main hall we were getting hungry, and although it was early it was at least mid-afternoon as far as we were concerned.  So we grabbed some food at the Moon Rock Cafe and ate it literally right underneath the Lunar Lander.

Lunch at the Moon Rock Cafe
Lunch at the Moon Rock Cafe
Lunar Lander
Lunar Lander

After some much needed food we looked around at the Saturn V.  Always shocked by how big it is, even though we’ve seen it a few times now.

Saturn V
Saturn V

And how small the command module is for those 3 astronauts.  Don’t think I’d be able to cope with the claustrophobia.

Command Module
Command Module

We had a good look around the exhibits and the spacesuits.  Some of them look like the could have come from a 1950’s sci-fi movie.

Spacesuits
Spacesuits

And we had to go and touch the moon rock.

Moon Rock
Moon Rock

We couldn’t leave without trying on the space helmets though.

Trying on stuff
Trying on stuff

We headed back to the main complex after that on the bus.  It was certainly hot, and can’t say we were quite used to it yet.  That warm in December just doesn’t seem quite right somehow.  So we got Rosemary a bowl of Space Dots.  Look pretty to start with, but by the time the colours melt into each other you have a bowl of brown goop.

Dipping Dots
Space Dots

And after that we went into see the Space Shuttle.  Rosemary was getting tired by this point so we were taking it relatively easy.  Think we were all feeling a bit of jet lag.  After sitting through the pre-show we went through to the main exhibition hall.  The very nice guy who was guiding people in offered to take a photo of us all.

Atlantis
Atlantis

We had a nice slow look around and Rosemary played on the simulator.  It’s a great thing for kids as there are hundreds of switches and levers to play with.

Shuttle Simulator
Shuttle Simulator

Rosemary was very brave (braver than me) and crawled through the ISS exhibit which has a clear tube which is about 3 stories from the ground.

Vertigo!
Vertigo!

She also had a number of goes down the slide they have there, which is super steep and meant to give you a moment of zero-g.

Super Slide
Super Slide

After this we went to the Mars exhibit, although didn’t stay too long there as there were some presentations going on and they were well underway.

Mars Rover
Mars Rover

At the end of the exhibit were some computers where you could send a postcard home from space.  The one of Rosemary came out great and you get a free souvenir of your visit as well.

Postcard from Space
Postcard from Space

We then went through the Rocket Garden to the Heroes and Legends exhibit.  This is new since our last visit and is about the Mercury astronauts.  It started off with a 3D show where you stand in a large room and the projections are all round you.  Unfortunately the show broke down during the performance and we were ushered out into the exhibit itself.  We would have gone round and watched it again but it was getting late and there was only 1 more show I think that day in any case.

There was a mock up of the Mercury capsule mounted ontop of a Redstone booster. Sorry about the slight distortion, it was shot as a panorama to get it all in shot.

Mercury Redstone
Mercury Redstone

They also have the control room set up with recording playing of conversations.

Mercury Control Room
Mercury Control Room

Was definitely getting late by this point but I wanted to take a walk around the Rocket Garden.

Rocket Garden
Rocket Garden

And it was a good opportunity for Rosemary to have a nice play.  There were some fountains that children could play in that came on and went off.  She got soaked through, but we popped her into a t-shirt we’d just bought in the shop and she was more than happy to sit in the car and dry off.

Fountains
Fountains
Rocket Garden
Rocket Garden

We had a great day at the Space Center and headed back to Orlando for dinner.

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Posted in Florida 2016

18th December 2016 (Day 1)-Travelling to Orlando (with Video)

Just 24 hours after Rosemary found out she was heading to Disney World for Christmas we were packing the car and ready to head to Gatwick.  Long queues at check-in because the day before there had been a lot of flights cancelled because of fog.  It was still really foggy and we weren’t sure of what would happen to out flight at this time.  Finally, after about an hour, we were checked in, bags dropped and heading to security.

We got some breakfast at Garfunkels (which was OK) and while we were there the gate came up and looked like our flight was one of the few leaving on time.  So after a little bit of shopping we headed to the gate.

Gatwick
Gatwick

We were relatively late in arriving there and went straight through and onto the plane.  Always worry that all the overhead bins will be taken when it’s like this but in luck and plenty of space.

Ready for Take Off
Ready for Take Off

Our experienced trans-Atlantic traveler quickly settled down in her seat with headphones on and the movies playing before take-off.

Take-Off
Take-Off

Smooth flight and arrived pretty much on time.

Clouds over Florida
Clouds over Florida

Immigration was SOOOO slow and finally got through and collected our bags. Then  had to join another REALLY long queue just to hand in the slip that says we don’t have any vegetables. So very slow!  But finally, after getting the monorail and going down 2 flights of stairs we were finally able to pick up our hire car.  And no queue at Hertz!

Car was a Kia Soul which had a really small boot and we could only get one suitcase in.  Also a lurid green, which was the same as our last hire car.

Hire Car
Hire Car
A very green car
Our previous very green car

We drove the Hampton Inn we were staying at (the South Lake Buena Vista one and not the same one we stayed at last time, you can read my TripAdviser review by clicking here). Checked in fine and quickly in our room.  We’d booked a suite which didn’t have separate rooms but did have a lot more floor space.

Big Room
Big Room
Big Room
Big Room

We popped out to Perkin’s on SR535 (at the Crossroads area) for something to eat as we thought it would be quick and decent.  Unfortunately the service was massively slow and food took forever to arrive, and when it did one of the dishes was stone cold. We were so tired by this point we didn’t make a fuss but eat and left.

Back at the hotel it was time to collapse.

Time to sleep
Time to sleep
Posted in Florida 2015

7th August 2015 (Day 15)-Magic Kingdom and Going Home

Our last day in Orlando!

hampton_inn_logoOur time at the Hampton Inn had been great.  The staff there were absolutely fantastic and so very friendly.

I’ve copied below my TripAdvisor review:

We booked the Hampton Inn because it appeared to be highly rated on a number of different review sites although we were a little worried that due to it’s low price it might be a bit tatty. I’m glad to say that we had a great stay and will definitely highly consider staying there again.

The staff were extremely friendly which made it feel especially welcoming. And a big thank you to Patrick who checked us in and was always extremely welcoming when we returned from a long day at the parks.

-The room was very clean and well maintained, with daily cleaning to a very high standard.
-Breakfast could be busy but there was a good selection, although our daughter wanted the Mickey waffles every day anyway.
-The pool isn’t huge but was always quiet in the evenings and most times we had it virtually to ourselves.
-Location is very close to Downtown Disney and not far from any of the parks (Magic Kingdom is furthest away and is about 20 minutes drive time).
-There are restaurants close by (mainly in the Crossroads complex) as well as being relatively close to those on International Drive.

We had a room on the 5th floor at the end of the corridor so was extremely quiet and we didn’t get disturbed once, but I would imagine that the ground floor (especially in the rooms between reception and the lifts) could be noisy.

Highly recommend this Hampton Inn and thank you to all the staff there for making our stay so enjoyable.

Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn

So we were really quite sad to leave.  Just took a few shots of the hotel on the way out.

Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn

magic-kingdom-logoWe had decided to spend a little time at the Magic Kingdom this morning and after packing everything into the teeny tiny car we had, which was quite a task as we now had an extra suitcase to get in, we headed down to the parks for the last time this trip.

The weather was a bit suspect so we had fingers crossed that it would be OK.

We had FastPasses for Dumbo as our first thing and headed through the park to get there. It was straight through the line and onto the ride, which in some ways was a pity as there is lots of play stuff inside the big top.  But we didn’t have lots of time in park today as we’d have to leave for the airport, so it meant we could spend time doing something else.

Dumbo
Dumbo

After the ride (I rode separately and ended up two behind as someone charged in front of me and grabbed the closest elephant). We had a look in the big top area and at the amazing cakes and candy apples.

Hmmm...cake
Hmmm…cake

Julia and Rosemary decided they wanted to ride Goofy’s Barnstormer, so I left them to it and took some pictures from the sidelines.

Goofy's Barnstormer
Goofy’s Barnstormer
Goofy's Barnstormer
Goofy’s Barnstormer

Our second FastPass was for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.  And Rosemary drank lots of blue Powerade.

 

Powerade
Powerade

To be honest I had no idea what we were meant to be doing, but we had lots of fun on the ride and tried to shoot pretty much everything we could.  Rosemary ended up in Zerg prison.

Zerg!
Zerg!

We got some lunch at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and as we sat down the rain started.  And it came down heavier than probably any other point during our stay.  It kept going for quite some time as well and everyone was coming in to shelter.  We had a third FastPass for the Enchanted Tales with Belle and were beginning to think we wouldn’t make it there without being soaked, but it did stop and we managed to get to our slot.

Rosemary played Belle’s father and had to pretend to be in prison.

Enchanted Tales
Enchanted Tales
Enchanted Tales
Enchanted Tales

And that was the end of what we could squeeze in for the day and for our stay.  Just time to take a few last minute photos of a very wet Magic Kingdom on the way out.

Enchanted Tales
Enchanted Tales
Rapunzel's Tower
Rapunzel’s Tower
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom

We headed from the park to the airport and dropped off our car and headed into the airport.  The security line and customs was all very painless and we flew out on time.

On our way home
On our way home

A great trip as ever!

Posted in Florida 2015

6th August 2015 (Day 14)-Animal Kingdom

 

220px-Animal_Kingdom_TPark_ColorOff to Animal Kingdom today and our last full day in Orlando, so looking forward to it.  Our last trip to Animal Kingdom changed our mind on it a bit (previously we’d found it hot and crowded, with limited interest) and I’ll state now that the events of the day have turned this around completely as we had such a fab day and such a nice way of ending our trip.

On arriving we saw that Daisy Duck was out for a meet-and-greet, and as she is someone that Rosemary hadn’t met (we got close at Hollywood Studios but no prize) we joined the queue. Which was remarkably short.

Daisy Duck
Daisy Duck

After this we headed towards the Kilimanjaro Safari, which we had a FastPass for.  It was a great ride and we saw loads of animals.  There is a full video of the ride on YouTube:

Kilimanjaro Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari

We even saw a baby rhino with it’s mum.

Kilimanjaro Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari

After the ride we took a walk around the Harambe Wildlife Reserve and saw some of the animals there.  It’s a nice walk and the animals were relatively visible because it was early in the day.

Harambe Wildlife Reserve
Harambe Wildlife Reserve
Harambe Wildlife Reserve
Harambe Wildlife Reserve
Harambe Wildlife Reserve
Harambe Wildlife Reserve

As we came out of this we sat down for a bit in the Harambe Market area and got our timing just right as they were about to open and looking for someone to help open the market.  They asked Rosemary if she would ring the bell and she got a great little experience and a certificate.

Harambe Market
Harambe Market
Harambe Market
Harambe Market

While sitting in the market we all had a snack and Rosemary had a stripey, Mickey rice cake.

Snack Time
Snack Time

After this we headed over to the Festival of the Lion King show.  We were a little late getting there and I was parking up the buggy when we were approached by a cast member who offered to help seat us.  She took us straight past the entry queue and in through a side door (this is a bit weird we’re thinking, we must be super late), and down to the bench at the very front of one of the blocks.  So we’re sitting on the floor level at the very front… Well it turns out they had picked Rosemary out to take part in the show (I guess they must have spotters out).  We think it was her bright elephant print dress that caught their eye.

So during the show Rosemary got to go up and walk around with the dancers and at the end of that she was the only child who got to go up and meet Timon at the stage.  An absolutely amazing experience for her and she was very brave to do it.

Festival of the Lion King
Festival of the Lion King
Festival of the Lion King
Festival of the Lion King

I was videoing the show (it was daft not to as we were sat so close) and got Rosemary’s bit on the camera as well.  A GoPro isn’t the best for low light, so it’s not an amazing recording but a very nice record of such a special occasion. The video is on YouTube:

Rosemary was treated to a cuddly Simba (she’d been eyeing him up the entire holiday each time we saw him) for being a brave girl.

Simba
Simba

Our next FastPass was coming up, which was for the Dinosaur ride. It is on the opposite side of the park so we headed over.  We were the last ones in our group to be let through so snapped a quick picture inside the loading area with no else about.

Dinosaur
Dinosaur

It certainly was Fast, a Blast and in the Past.  Really rough ride!

Dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaur

We stopped for ice creams and got Dirty Ice Creams. Basically ice cream with crushed Oreos and gummy worms.

Dirt Ice Cream
Dirt Ice Cream

This was just by the dinosaur ride so we spent a little time there and in the shop by the Din-O-Rama, which always has good stuff.  After that it was the last FastPass at the Finding Nemo the Musical show.  No need really for a FastPass here, but might as well use up the allocation.

Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo

And after that just a quick visit to It’s a Bug’s Life (as there was no queue and it was straight in).

It's a Bugs Life
It’s a Bugs Life

And that was us, worn out.

Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
Posted in Florida 2015

5th August 2015 (Day 13)-Blizzard Beach

blizzard-beach-logoOff to Blizzard Beach today, which we’ve never been to before so not sure quite what to expect.  Time to unpack the GoPro and get it into the waterproof housing!

On arrival we found out where you get changed and headed into the main pool, which is called Melt-Away Bay.  There are rubber rings in this area which you can grab and then ride the waves.  These are way more gentle than the tidal waves you get at Typhoon Lagoon but very fun when you’re in the rings.

Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach

Rosemary used the gentle waves for a good bit of swimming practice and had loads of fun swimming around.  She had a life jacket on the whole time so was enjoying the freedom to swim but in complete safety.

Swimming
Swimming

After spending quite a while in the pool we had a little go round the lazy river, which is called Cross Country Creek.

Cross Country Creek
Cross Country Creek

But we didn’t stay in long as we headed out to get something to eat as we came round to the main area.  We had something in Lottawatta Lodge.  One thing we did was to reactivate the mug we got at Typhoon Lagoon so we could use the filling stations around the park.  Once again though there was very little in the way of still drinks (Rosemary doesn’t like fizzy drinks) and the only option was Powerade.

After lunch and a bit of a play in the kids area we went back into Cross Country Creek for a few more trips around the park.

Tikes Peak
Tikes Peak
Tikes Peak
Tikes Peak
Ice Gator
Ice Gator

We didn’t go on any of the rides, the queues were just too long and we didn’t want to waste time waiting around when we could be in the water.

And finally for the day we had a little extra time back in the wave pool.

Melt Away Bay
Melt Away Bay

After this we got changed and took some photos around the park.

Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach

Finally, Rosemary had an ice lolly, which melted so fast because of the heat that she couldn’t keep up.

Lolly Time
Lolly Time

Wasn’t surprising as the car was roasting when we got back to it.

100oF
100oF

There is a video I put together from the day which is on YouTube:

Great day out at a park we’d not been to before, which was great as well.  Not sure which I prefer between Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, as each have their own merits.  For us the wave pool at Blizzard Beach was probably better for Rosemary but I think the lazy river and the rides available at Typhoon Lagoon had the edge.  So, easy really….just do both!

Posted in Florida 2015

4th August 2015 (Day 12)-SeaWorld

SeaWorldOff to SeaWorld today!  Unusually this will be our only visit this trip as we were using our Disney tickets to the maximum usage we could.  We normally come at least twice because you can usually get the second day for free if you visit the Guest Relations booth on your way out.  But in any case we had been to Discovery Cove on the last 2 trips and that gives you access to SeaWorld in any case.

Rosemary wore a highly appropriate dress for the occasion.

Fish Dress
Fish Dress

Our first event for the day was the Blue Horizon show.  We wanted to make sure we squeezed in all the shows we wanted to catch in the one day so were a bit careful about our times.  Blue Horizon is a dolphin show, but there is a lot of acrobatics as well and the dolphin element is actually relatively small.

Blue Horizons
Blue Horizons
Blue Horizons
Blue Horizons
Blue Horizons
Blue Horizons

There is a video of the whole show which I shot on YouTube:

We briefly went to the Pacific Point Reserve to see the Sealions.  They were remarkably quiet that day.

Pacific Point Preserve
Pacific Point Preserve

Next on our list of “must do” things was the One Ocean show, the killer whale show.  This is going to be discontinued now, which is probably a good thing.

One Ocean
One Ocean
One Ocean
One Ocean

We stopped to get an ice cream and bite to eat and Rosemary had a weird thing which was little frozen balls called Dippin’ Dots.  Kind of OK, tasted a bit weird though.

Weird Ice Cream
Weird Ice Cream

We then wanted to get in the last of the 3 shows so we could have the rest of the day free to see a few of the other things around the park. This was the new Seamore and Clyde show, Sealion High.  We’d not seen this before so looking forward to it.  The premise is quite fun but the animals were not really behaving that well on the day, with one of the sealions being sent for a time out during the show…

Sealion High
Sealion High
Sealion High
Sealion High
Sealion High
Sealion High

There is a video of the whole show which I shot on YouTube:

After this we could take our time a little more.  And went to have a look around some of the shops and then to see the manatees.  It’s always a bit quieter around them, not sure if it’s their relaxed movements which calm everyone down, but certainly less activity there.

Managed to get this amazing shot of Rosemary interacting with one of the manatees.  We hung back when everyone went through into the Turtle Trek show and were the only people in the exhibit at the time. They had their nose pressed right up against the glass.  Maybe it was the bright dress which was attractive.

Manatee!
Manatee!

In the next tank are some rescued turtles and with no one about managed to get some better shots of one of them.

Turtle Trek
Turtle Trek

We had hot dogs for tea from Captain Pete’s Hot Dogs. Rosemary had a plain dog and I had a chilli dog, and Julia had a veggie one.

Hot Dog!
Hot Dog!

Still plenty to do as it was right by the hot dog place we went to the stingray pool.  I think this was the first time Rosemary had plucked up the courage to touch the stingrays and was surprised at how soft they are.

Stingrays
Stingrays

We also went to the aquarium which is slightly hidden away underneath the Manta ride.  It’s an amazing one and well worth spending time in, with a large tank with rays and fish, as well as smaller display tanks.

Manta Aquarium
Manta Aquarium

We carried on with our (second) journey around the park, going through Antartica.  The queues were crazy for the ride there and although we would have liked to have seen the penguins it wasn’t worth the +45 minute wait time.

Antarctica
Antarctica

We then went into the Shark Encounter and the great aquarium there.  We once again repeated a picture we’ve done each time we’ve been.  Here is the latest version:

SHARK!
SHARK!

And from December 2013:

Scary Shark
Scary Shark

And March 2012:

Shark
Shark

Quite fun to do the same one each time to see the changes.

We stopped by to say “Hi” to Shamu as we went past the Shamu Stadium (didn’t get to do this last time as it was all closed off).

Shamu
Shamu

And then obviously had to have a Shamu ice cream.

Shamu Ice Cream
Shamu Ice Cream

And finally for the day got to ride on Shamu himself.

Shamu
Shamu

That was pretty much us exhausted for the day by then.  Just took this one on the way out of the park as it was the 50th anniversary of SeaWorld.

50th Anniversary
50th Anniversary

Finally I put together a video of our day at Seaworld which you can see on YouTube:

Posted in Florida 2015

3rd August 2015 (Day 11)-M&M World and Downtown Disney

7891_logoWe had plans to go to a water park today but we were a bit uncertain because of the weather and decided to give it a miss and instead do a few quiet things and have a relaxing day.  So we started off by heading to the Florida Mall. The route our sat-nav took us was quite convoluted and we saw some of the grottier bits of Orlando on the way.

When we finally arrived we headed to the M&M Store.

M&M Store
M&M Store

It’s easy to find from the car park with a giant M&M outside.  Got a few bits and pieces, including some things for future Christmas presents at prices which were much lower than the UK.

They also do a meet-and-greet in the store.

M&M's
M&M’s

We had a mooch around the shops and then went from the Mall to Downtown Disney.  We managed to park in the actual car park this time rather than across the road and get the mini-bus.  Again it was a mooch around the shops and built light sabres in one of the stores.  Did get some candy apples though from the Candy Cauldron.

Candy Apples
Candy Apples
Candy Apples
Candy Apples
Candy Apples
Candy Apples
Candy Apples
Candy Apples