Visiting Orlando (No, not Tony or Bloom)

Scott & I were invited to a family wedding. It's the first wedding we've been invited to in a loooong time, as most of our friends are either having babies or in the 'raising kids' mode. So a wedding is novel to us again.

Well, the wedding was in Orlando, Florida. In January. The kids were (understandably) not invited. Most of Scott's extended family agreed to come down from all over the country. We did too. When we arrived, the news reported that Florida was the only state in all of America without any snow cover. Even Hawaii had snow on the mountains. 
There was much rejoicing.
We left the frozen tundra of Chicago for our 3 bedroom condo in Kissimmee along with my Mom and her husband Ed who graciously agreed to watch Sam and Zoe during the wedding (and take a trip to Florida in January). It was the perfect arrangement. (Need I mention how amazing the heated pool was- and next to it, a reservoir that supposedly had a 12 foot alligator in it. I looked everyday and saw amazing birds, but- no gator).
The wedding was beautiful. Outdoor ceremony in the sun. Orchids. Dancing. I called it the UN wedding, as 1/4 were Norwegians, 1/4 Italians, 1/2 Latino, plus Scott in his kilt and a few Asians in the house. A true American melting pot wedding. 
We also had 2 1/2 free days to go and play. What's a family of 4 do in Orlando? That town is the most overwhelming place I have ever visited, and I've been to Vegas.
I got a guide book from the library and asked several Orlando pros, and they all agreed: we HAVE to take the kids to The Magic Kingdom. We did. They ran all over and loved every ride and we were exhausted at the end. It cracked us up that Zoe said her favorite ride was "It's a Small World". Like everyone else, we sang that song all day...
On the one rainy day, we visited Downtown Disney, which is a vast shopping area along a lake with amazing stores and a T-Rex restaurant by the Rainforest Cafe people. Huge dinos everywhere. Expensive, ok food. An ice cave with t-rex bones in the wall. Cool. The kicker- there was a Build-A-Dino inside. Both kids freaked out, as this was way better than building a bear. So now Fang the Saber-Toothed tiger is our new friend, and Sam even got to make his OWN Mickey Mouse ears.
Universal Studios was the other park we visited (we had rented a car and were not staying on Disney property, so had more freedom to roam). Seriously though, at first, this place is so confusing. Not Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, which is huge and to the left, nor Universal Studios Harry Potter (which, to my great sadness, was not going to work with younger kids and only 1 day there). 
Universal Studios is huge and to the right. The highlight for us- The Simpson's ride. You felt like you were IN a Simpson's episode through the whole line and ride. By far, the coolest adventure. Men in Black- a close second as you get to shoot all these aliens in their training facility. Sam loved that. The Woody Woodpecker roller coaster had no line so we went on it over and over again. The park closes at 6, which worked out well, as we all collapsed by 8.
I never thought I wanted to visit Orlando, but I was surprised. It was a lovely winter vacation, and best of all was seeing how excited the kids were. They were able to swim and run and play outdoors in shorts and t-shirts- in January. On the plane home, both asked me why we live in a place that has winter. I had no answer, other than saying it's where our family is. 
Sam said he's moving to Florida when he grows up and that I could visit him. At least I've got that going for me. Ay, Mama!
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