It was an eventful journey from Cuba to Miami. Loaded with Cuban cigars we were quickly stopped by US Customs who informed us that it was illegal to bring them into the US. After an escort to the “back room” for the destruction of said Cubans, we entered into a discussion with another customs official who took pity on us “simple foreigners” and kindly allowed us to keep them.
The drive from Miami to Orlando is about four hours. It’s a flat, straight boring drive but the promise of theme parks kept Dominic and Callum (almost) well behaved in the backseat of our rental car.
Our base for the week was an apartment that had all the mod cons including a swimming pool and waterslides and, after Cuba, luxury American cable TV and WiFi.
We had specifically coincided the timing of the theme parks with Callums 5th birthday, with the intention of taking him to the Magic Kingdom for his special day. However, because he wanted to go on the Star Wars ride, he chose to go to Hollywood Studios instead, which is Disneys version of Universal Studios. The pick of the rides was Star Tours, which you hop aboard a flight simulator and travel through the galaxy, which is far, far away. Next to this ride, Dominic signed up to train to become a Jedi, which reached its climax with a light saber battle against Darth Vader – he loved it! Callum did sign up for this also but got cold feet at the last moment. The thought of performing in front of strangers didn’t appeal to his conservative nature. He did however enjoy getting to design and make his own personalised light saber.
Actually, most of rides didn’t appeal to Callum. He has an aversion for thrills (like his Dad). Dominic on the other hand thrived on all the rides but his favourite was the Aerosmith Rock and Roll Rollercoaster. It started by taking off at 60mph and then went through a series of loops and corkscrews. Trina and I took turns in taking him on it and I have to admit it was fun. As well as the rides there was also an Indiana Jones stunt show (which the boys enjoyed) but the part that explained how they make movies and the back-lot studios went totally over their heads. We had some tired boys on the drive home.
Magic Kingdom at Disney was next and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was the pick of the bunch. We did manage to get Callum on this but that was his limit. I think he sort of enjoyed it although he would never admit to it. Dominic and Trina also enjoyed Space Mountain and Splash Mountain while I was left to look after Callum. This suited me fine especially as I was still unwell after Cuba and had visions of losing my lunch on a ride.
When night fell a fantastic lighting and firework display was put on along with a parade of all the Disney characters. The lighting and firework show was excellent with the famous Disney castle as the backdrop.
Magic Kingdom was Dominic’s pick of all the theme parks. He really enjoyed this one. Callum could have taken or left it – it just isn’t in his DNA. The parks really highlighted the difference in personalities between the boys.
A couple of quiet days were called for prior to hitting the waterpark, Blizzard Beach and Universal Studios, mainly as the boys were tired after the first two days and we weren’t still 100% healthy post Cuba. The apartment was an easy place to just hang out, catch up on washing, homework and blog writing.
Refreshed and rearing to go we headed for Blizzard Beach and its waterslides. Dominic and I took on the Slusher Gusher, which was the 2nd most “challenging” ride there. I couldn’t muster up the courage to tackle the big one though, which was basically a straight drop into oblivion. We once again had a measurement requirement for Dominic to ride, but unlike the Bahamas he was allowed to ride. There was much joy.
For a rare night out on the town we headed to Downtown Disney which is a massive arcade filled with all types of video games, including virtual reality type stuff. It also had the old classics like Galaga, Pac Man, Donkey Kong and even the original Space Invaders. It was great to play games from a misspent youth and the boys enjoyed blowing things up and shooting aliens for a few hours. Downtown Disney also has plenty of eating options. We found a great burger bar and had a couple of drinks before heading home happy.
Our last day in Orlando was spent at Universal Studios. There are some great attractions here but the clear winner was Transformers, which was a flight/fight simulation and was fantastic. The smiles on all of our faces upon landing were proof of that. The new Despicable Me ride was also well received. They boys enjoyed meeting their favourite TV and movie characters (much more than the Disney ones). Simpsons were a hit, as were Shaggy and Scooby, Sponge Bob and Gru and the Minions from Despicable Me.
Dinner at the worlds largest Hard Rock Café was on the cards for dinner and although the food (as expected) was ordinary it was a great place to wind down and chat about the fun had in Orlando. Dominic is very into his music so he also enjoyed looking at the guitars and other pieces on display. Unfortunately we were next to the Elvis display and they had no idea who he was.
Orlando provided just what was required after the tough slog of Cuba and prior to Costa Rica. Some western food (which included quite a few donuts), cartoons on the TV and some family fun at the parks. A perfect week and a bit and only a few tantrums! Travel with kids is anything but ordinary.