Saturday morning as we ate breakfast together Brian's oldest son Jake, age 6 (and who had never been to this park before) was already planning out the day. All the kids were sooooo excited, peering out of the huge hotel windows to the gigantic aerial roller coaster tracks across the street. It turns out that, with her shoes on, Erin measures 42" by the ever precise height indicators at the entrance to each ride. 42" is a critical amusement park milestone. Shorter than this and you have to do even the kiddie rides with an adult. 42" and above means freedom, baby. Jake and Erin enthusiastically ditched parents whenever possible to ride the rides together, but very importantly, alone.
We can't wait until K & A reach that milestone so that we can be spared of experiences like this:
As it turns out Kate isn't even 36" tall, so she wasn't tall enough for several of the rides at all. She could understand when Erin could do a ride that she couldn't, but she really threw a fit when Allison (about 2"taller than she is) got a pass onto a ride while the minimum wage-earning measuring stick-wielding ride attendant/physics genius, sizing her up at the gate, turned her away. She's really close to that 36" cutoff, and these were the tamest of tame rides. I'm not quite sure, but I don't think that all of them all even moved. I'm pretty sure the wind and the riders' own breathing was solely responsible for the motion on a couple of them.
So I looked for ride attendants that seemed a bit distracted and busy and while engaging them in inane conversation I sneaked Kate through onto several rides, like these froggies and elephants below. Hopefully Kate will grow that last 1/4" by next year.
Erin and Jake walked hand in hand for most of the first day, leading our group through the crowds to the next decided upon attraction. Jake kept a map to refer to now and again. Erin looked on and he'd point out and discuss certain aspects. Erin can't read on that level. I wonder if Jake ever realized that his co-pilot is functionally illiterate. Jake and Erin could easily ride the usual little kiddie sized rides together but they were also tall enough to ride a real roller coaster. Not a little circular track of about 25 yards in length "roller coaster" which definitely belongs in such quotation marks, but a real coaster. They were sooooo proud of themselves and I think over the weekend they rode it three times.
This park is known for animal shows and attractions, not just rides. The first one we took in was the killer whale show. This park used to have great animal shows--I remember seeing them as a kid. New ownership now and added big attraction roller coasters and such, but still, we all had high expectations for the shows here. What a disappointment. That small, single killer whale was perhaps on tranquilizers. Or was ill. Or was holding a float-in of some kind. What he didn't do was huge leaps in the air, drench the audience, come out of the water onto a huge platform, give his trainers rides, toss them around, basically nothing really worth the trouble of calling it a show. They should have just had him in an aquarium to observe. What a sad current rendition of the kind of shows they used to have there. I guess we gotta make it to Sea World one of these days. The dolphin show was really good though. And the sea lion show started out well but then the sea lions quit cooperating with the script and just lay there on the stage. Seeing the trainers freak out a bit was funny, but not funny enough.
Still, there were plenty of unique things to do. Erin and I rode an elephant with the cousins:
Feeding some giraffes and lorikeets:
Posing with cartoon characters:
Saw some butterflies up close and personal-like:
Funny story there. The butterflies are in a (very hot and humid) greenhouse type shelter. When we entered the attendant told us not to touch any of them and watch where we walk because butterflies land on the pathway and we might step on them. As soon as we walked in Allison saw a bight orange butterfly perched on the hand rail and she ran over, grabbed it by the wings and started squealing happily as she shook the little thing around in the air. Luckily, we escaped PETA's attention.
The butterflies were everywhere, even landing on us briefly, but hard to photograph--they always just blended in with the foliage.
Jeff and his kids drove up for the day on sunday. He quickly got suckered into carrying one small child or another on his shoulders, and he even babysat long enough for me to ride the biggest, baddest, fastest, longest roller coaster in this whole region with his daredevil teenagers. It was fantastic, I made John take a turn at it too.
Everyone had a really great time. Even after two full days there were several animal shows and other attractions we didn't manage to see. We should plan to return next year if we aren't blacklisted by the butterfly house attendants and height-cutoff for rides police. And we'll skip the killer whale show.