Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If I Had to Do the Same Again, I Would, My Friend, Orlando

So, it’s been a while. I’ve still been watching a lot of movies, but I think I’m done writing reviews for most of what I watch. I’m over that for a while. I’ll probably post the occasional review, but with school starting in a week, I’ll have even less time and motivation to do so. So that’s that.

As some of you know, Melanie and I took the kids on a little vacation last week. We wanted to go to the temple again before school starts and before Creegan comes along, so Orlando was the destination of no-choice. The really cool thing is that a rocket was scheduled to launch on Thursday morning from nearby Cape Canaveral, so we tried to synch our trip with that. Eddie and Peter are both very into rockets, and we thought it would be awesome for them to see a real live launch. We made a hotel reservation very near Cape Canaveral for Wednesday night, and we planned on watching the launch the next morning and then driving to Orlando, about an hour west, where we planned to stay for two more nights. Well, NASA decided quite late to change the launch date to Saturday morning, the day we were planning to leave. Big fat bummer. Theoretically, we could have left Orlando painfully early on Saturday morning and driven to Cape Canaveral and tried to see the launch and then driven home, but that really seemed like pushing it. This was confirmed after our first full vacation day, when we realized (for the 6,539,845th time since Eddie was born) that kids can only handle so much and that you’re generally better off scheduling less than more. We happily scratched the notion of trying to see the launch and decided a visit to Kennedy Space Center would have to suffice.

We visited Kennedy Space Center on Thursday morning. It wasn’t that crowded, which was nice. We started off intending to see a few more things than we actually did see, simply because we got too hot and tired as the day went on. We didn’t take a bus over to see the launch sites, for example, which would have been pretty awesome. We saved that for last, and then felt too exhausted to do it. Everything else was right there when you enter the main gates, so we did those things first and wore ourselves out. Oh well. We saw the Rocket Garden, which is a collection of genuine rockets that are now retired and on display. We visited the exhibit on early space exploration. We let Eddie and Peter play at the kids’ dome, which is not much more than what you’d find in a McDonald’s playland. We visited a life size replica shuttle that you could walk into (for a few feet, anyway), but which was actually rather boring and disappointing as it was mostly just an oversized hollow tube. We took the kids to their first 3-D movie experience by watching the IMAX movie Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3-D. For me, the IMAX movie was the highlight of our visit, not only because it was inside a cool building, but because I learned some things and almost effortlessly enjoyed the 3-D imagery (which has previously taken some conscious effort on my part—for several years now, my brain doesn’t automatically focus correctly on 3-D images, so they usually appear blurred to me by default, even if I’m wearing the proper 3-D eyewear). Peter had no interest in wearing the 3-D glasses, and Eddie only wore them about half the time. Eddie kept tipping his glasses down and verifying that the images on the screen were indeed staying on the screen and not flying into his face. At one point, he said of an astronaut on the screen, “He looked like he was going to give us a hug!” Once the movie was over, we felt we had been sufficiently entertained and decided to head back to the car. On the way out, we visited a robot exhibit that wasn’t very exciting or as robot-laden as you’d think. And that was it. We headed to Orlando, grateful to spend an hour in an air-conditioned car, sitting on our butts.

For our only full day in Orlando, Melanie and I traded off going to the temple while the other one of us took care of the kids. I had the kids first, but Melanie left early, so by the time the kids and I were up and going, we didn’t have to do much more to pass time than go downstairs and eat the complimentary breakfast. After that, we spent a little bit of time in the room watching TV and playing games on the laptop, and then Melanie showed up and drove me to the temple. Melanie did much more entertaining and brave things with the kids than I did. She took them to Chuck E. Cheese’s, which was right in front of our hotel, and also took them swimming. By then, it was time to come pick me up. We headed back to the hotel, where Melanie and the kids still needed to change out of their swimming suits, and then we drove to the Orlando Science Center, a kid-friendly museum that we could get into for free because we have a membership to a partnered museum here in Tallahassee. I tell you, big cities have much cooler museums than small cities do. This one had lots of fun things for the kids to do, including but not limited to: crawling around in tunnels that went under the floor; picking plastic oranges from fake trees, packing them into a crate, and then rolling them down a conveyor belt (that ultimately spills the oranges out and transports them out of view, only to have them reappear on the fake trees a moment later); a pretty cool playhouse area; and an awesome area dedicated to various modes of transportation. The latter area was where we spent a good deal of our time. It was cool. There were all sorts of things for kids to play in and on—small airplanes, (the nose of) a space shuttle, trains, etc. The trains were cool because they were modeled after the toy trains that have magnetic bumps on the front and back to hold the train cars together. I thought that was charming.

And that’s our trip. Aside from that, we had some nice dinners and otherwise didn’t have to pay for food because our hotels had complimentary breakfasts and we didn’t get very hungry before late afternoon. We ate free breakfasts, early dinners, and were otherwise good to go. Snacking kept the kids going. It kept things simple and low-key, which was great. Really, I know I’m repeating myself here, but keeping things simple is always the way to go. Honestly, our kids were thrilled by the simplest things more than anything else. We thought Kennedy Space Center was the grand event of the trip, but Eddie and Peter were much more thrilled by the partial space shuttle at the Orlando Science Center—something they could actually interact with. I’ve learned that’s what kids need at this stage—something they can play with. They may love rockets, but seeing a real one isn’t that exciting because what can you do with it? Nothing! You live and learn, I suppose.

And now, some pictures:

The first thing that I noticed upon getting out of the car and going to check into our first hotel was this. FREAKY! I tell you, Florida has such huge bugs, but even this was quite a shocker. And there were several of them in front of the hotel, which made me very unhappy about staying there. Fortunately, there were none in our room (that I ever saw).

Just to give you some perspective. Did I say FREAKY!?

The swimming pool at the first hotel was pretty cool. It had this miniature rock mountain next to it with water cascading down and into the pool. Eddie liked to play on the rocks, pretending he was a boy stuck on an island, or a pirate looking out for a boat to attack.

Behind the mountain was a “cave” you could walk through. Cool stuff.

Eddie and Peter eagerly await entry to Kennedy Space Center. Peter is shocked at just how exciting the brochure alone is.

The Rocket Garden.

Eddie looking studly in his 3-D glasses.

The bridge from the parking garage to the entrance of the Orlando Science Center. Cool.

Eddie and Peter enjoyed making Melanie and me food in the “house” area of OSC.

The least real, least complete, but most exciting space shuttle the kids saw during our trip.

The end!

1 comment:

  1. This is WONDERFUL! (except for the bugs). And it's a good reminder to keep things simple. I always felt kinda bad that even as a teenager, Dad would take us to cool places and what I seemed to remember best about the cities was the hotel swimming pool! Do you remember going to the Airport Hilton as a kid? It was probably one of my favorite vacations/memories! All we needed was the swimming pool and to think we were staying at a hotel!
    Glad you had a good trip. I think you guys are awesome parents! How'd Creegan like it? :)