I finally got to take Elek to Disney World and Universal Studios. It turns out we picked a great time to go, after holiday crowds and after the cheer leading competition in the winter. We went to Disney World from Jan. 1 – Jan. 4. The crowds were there, but not enormous and the weather was pretty cooperative. On average it was in the mid 60’s each day. It sprinkled a couple of days, but we had rain jackets. I think I was over-prepared. I had a small first aid kit, disposable ponchos, two pairs of tennis shoes each, blister bandages, some stuff to reduce friction, among other things. I barely used these things at all.
We stayed in the All-Star Movies resort in the Mighty Ducks building. It was nice enough since we weren’t there that often. Buses went back and forth to each of the Disney kingdoms about every 20 minutes which made it convenient. We typically would go in the morning, come back after lunch to rest up and then head back out around 5 for dinner and the evening. I highly recommend staying “on campus”, though I would probably opt for the Art of Animation resort next time.
We purchased both a meal plan and the photo package. If your child doesn’t care about the characters (mine doesn’t) then don’t get the photo package. Also while the meal plan saves you some money, it reduces the number of options you can get in each place. If I did it again I probably wouldn’t have gotten the meal plan. We didn’t have either of these at Universal Studios.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom
We got to the Magic Kingdom around 3:30 PM Jan. 1 since Delta changed our flight to get in at 2 something instead of 10:00 AM. Spend most of your time in the Magic Kingdom. The highlights there were Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain, and the people mover in Tomorrowland. We also went on the Jungle Cruise which was full of puns, the Liberty Square Riverboat, Stitch’s Great Escape, the Haunted Mansion (which I remember), Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, Swiss Family Treehouse, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Elek’s favorite there was the Barnstormer, which is a smaller roller coaster. Every night there is a massive fireworks display and we witnessed several parades with all kinds of characters. Once you learn how to use the fast passes they’re a really good idea and a huge time saver. We ate at Tony’s (Lady and the Tramp), which was pretty good.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We came here Jan. 3rd and saw the Indiana Jones stunt show, Muppet*Vision 3D, went on the Great Movie Ride, and went on Star Tours a couple of times which was my favorite there. That night we ate at the Sci-Fi Diner which was really cool and I highly recommend it!
Elek and I went on Mission Space first. We did the low intensity which was nothing so we thought we would try the high intensity. Well Elek almost lost his breakfast as it was really intense! The other rides we rode were Journey Into Imagination With Figment, Spaceship Earth, and Test Track. Unfortunately Soarin’ was closed for refurbishment. Elek absolutely loved the Disney Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure where it was like a mystery/scavenger hunt around the different countries in Epcot. The firework show here was amazing! We ate at Teppan Edo in Japan and it was really good. I got the sake flight which only reaffirmed the fact that I like dry sake.
We then took an Uber to our other resort which was called Cabana Bay. It was retro and very cool! They had a large (heated) pool, water slide, and hot tub.
Universal Islands of Adventure
Elek really enjoyed the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade, the Flight of the Hippogriff, and the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. We of course had to buy a “magic” wand and perform the spells at shop windows throughout Hogsmeade. I think this was Elek’s favorite part. Keep in mind in order to ride the train you will have to get park-to-park with your tickets. Elek played one of those basketball fair games and made two out of three shots so he won a Jurrasic Park basketball! We ate outside of the park at Yard House for dinner which has a massive selection of beers on tap and food. I got the short rib tacos and they were amazing.
This was our last day and the Harry Potter world was incredible! There were many more spells to perform. The dragon above Gringotts breathes fire every so often. We rode on the E.T. Adventure and Elek rode the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster about 20 times. We both tried some butterbeer ice cream which was really good. I think by this time we were both pretty tired and ready to come home. I was disappointed that the back to the future ride wasn’t still there, but I did manage to get a picture of the car.
So I’ve had the travel bug lately which is why I went to Austin, TX. I decided to go to New Orleans Nov. 9 – 11, however, that didn’t work out because of a Saints game. There was NOWHERE to stay. So instead, we (Elek, my mom, and I) went to St. Louis, which turned out to be great! First of all, I managed to book a 4.5 star hotel using Priceline for $65 a night. We left Sat. morning Nov. 9th and since check-in was at 4 PM, we went straight to the St. Louis zoo.
Apparently the St. Louis zoo is one of a few free zoos in the US. Parking was $10, but worth it since it was packed due to the extraordinarily nice weather that weekend. The zoo was pretty cool. It had two trains running around the whole thing while we were there, though we didn’t ride one. We saw the camels, lions, giraffes, reptiles, zebras, and wild pigs among other things. After we were done with the zoo, we checked into the hotel and took a load off for a bit. After getting a few recommendations, we settled on eating at Pi, an awesome pizza place, that night. They had π in their windows, which I got a kick out of. Their deep dish was pretty good, but I don’t think it was what I thought deep dish would be like. I think I’m more of a fan of regular pizza.
The next morning we woke up and drove to the St. Louis Arch. It had a unique free museum under the arch which laid everything out in sort of a timeline fashion. They had an actual tipi as well as animatronic characters who were unfortunately out of service at the time. Elek and I braved the 5 seat pod to the top of the arch and the view was amazing and crystal clear! One of my favorite pictures is of the ground with the shadow of the arch. We could even feel the arch sway a bit at the top. Creepy..
After that we were off to the St. Louis City Museum. It was a little expensive, but a really creative place with lots of places to climb and slide. We also went to the roof where there was a school bus HANGING OFF THE EDGE! It was a lot of fun and one of my pictures is a panoramic of the city from the top of the museum. Around 1 PM we grabbed a bite to eat from a pub and then headed to check out the Soulard Neighborhood. It is a cool, smaller version of Cooper Young kind of with a weekly if not almost daily farmer’s market. Nothing was really going on at the time, but I believe it would be a really cool place to live.
Later that evening we headed to the restaurant Tortillaria and had their fish tacos. They were so very tasty that I would go back if I went back to St. Louis! The owner (I’m assuming) and his wife who is from Memphis seemed very interesting. We left the next morning to get back to Memphis in time to rest up for work and school Tuesday.
As a side note, my friend Zach was in St. Louis at a board game conference.
Enjoy the pics below!
My son, Elek, and I flew to Austin last week to see my Aunt, Uncle, cousins and a couple of friends. Below is what happened so I can remember details! Hopefully I’ll post pictures soon.
We arrived in Austin the afternoon of Wed. Oct. 9th. We drove to Barton Springs and rode the train that goes around that area. Elek played on the playground. Afterward we met Chris Jolley at the original Maudie’s tex mex. Chris came over to Elizabeth’s house for a bit afterward and we talked.
Thursday we went to the Austin Zoo and animal sanctuary in the
morning. We rode the train there as well. It was an interesting zoo
where most of the animals were recovering from something or rescues.
That night we saw the bats swarm under the bridge. For dinner we ate
Texas barbecue. It was very good, but obviously different than Memphis
barbecue. Chris and I went out and drove through “dirty 6th” street
(kind of like Beale street) where all the college aged kids go to get
drunk. We stopped on a very cool block called Rainey Street which was
full of bars made from converted houses. There was also a trailer park
of food trucks. Stephen and Ethyl got in late.
Friday morning Elek was going to help walk the dogs when Jamie bit him
on the face so we spent the morning at the doctor’s. Elizabeth bought
Elek a birthday present from a bookstore called Book People. We saw
the huge Whole Foods store in all its glory. That night we had a
family dinner with steak, potatoes, and salad. It was awesome! We hung
out in the hot tub a little after dinner.
Saturday Elek and I played 10 holes of disc golf at Mary Moore disc
golf. Afterward we went to South Congress street and ate pizza at Home
Slice. It was pretty cool because they let Elek have some dough to
play with while we waited at the bar. That area was very CROWDED. It
was similar to Cooper Young, but more crowded as there were lines
everywhere pretty much. We also got to see where Annabeth works. We
went with her to the Bullock Texas State History Museum and looked
around. We watched a 3D shark movie while we were there as well.
Last Saturday, we drove down to Nesbit, MS to Nesbit Blueberry Plantation. Diana and I had been wanting to do this for a while and it’s a good thing we did last weekend. Nesbit Blueberry Plantation is only going to stay open for the season another couple of weeks. None of us have ever picked fruit like that before. They had us tie buckets around our waists so we could pick using both hands. They also encourage you to eat the blueberries right off the bush. Elek had a wonderful time doing just that. They only cost about $11 per bucket full. The blueberries were just delicious!
This morning I was reminded of what Diana and I will eventually have to do as Elek grows up. We’ll need to take steps slowly and cautiously to let Elek experience the world for himself. This is hard for many parents and understandably so. So back to this morning.
I was driving home, down our street from dropping Elek off at daycare and I saw four boys that were clearly walking to Peabody school which was about 2 blocks away. One of them was crying with his jacket pulled part way down. One was next to him comforting him by putting his arm around him. Another was close and then there was the ever-present straggler bring up the rear. I thought to myself “What in the world are they doing? Why is he crying?” Then a few seconds later I saw a woman hiding behind a car and tree watching these boys walk to school. I imagine that’s his mother making sure he got there safe.
Sometimes as children we’re not ready to be independent, but the time has come. That must be really hard for that mother to watch her son walking off slowly, crying. But she knows as do I that once her son has done it a couple times it will be like second nature to him. I suppose sometimes we all need a push out of the nest of comfort.
The other night was Elek’s first actual sleepover. We hosted Jesse from across the street. Elek happened to be in a phase where he really wanted to misbehave. Other than that, the sleepover went great.
That Friday night, the boys are edamame among other things and drank their milk. They loved playing in the ball pit that Elek got for his birthday from Nana. Elek and Jesse watched a show or two and Elek climbed the couch. Lastly, they took turns pushing each other down a small slide. They were so funny together! Jesse stayed the next day (Sat.) until around 2PM and the McRaes came and got him to keep him for the rest of the weekend.