Monday, April 13, 2015

Orlando with Tiffany and Co.

Last year Dallas, Daxton, and I spent a few days at Disney World during the beginning of December.  Disney at Christmastime has a whole other element of magic and since the crowd levels are so low at the beginning of December it was the perfect combination for a repeat trip this year.  I booked our hotel (nonrefundable) a couple months out, since the deals were so great.  Sadly, Dallas had a mandatory business trip come up which made him miss the first half of our scheduled trip.  Instead of spending the week alone, I convinced Tiffany and her two youngest children, James and Lucy, to join us.  
We couldn't check into our condo until 4pm, so we took our time heading up to Orlando, went grocery shopping, ate dinner, and got settled into our place.  We of course stayed up way too late chatting while the kids slept.  
The next morning we decided to visit Gatorland.  I've posted about this fun little jewel of Orlando a few times and knew that Tiffany and the kids would LOVE it.  Plus they have great deals for Florida residents, so it's pretty cheap.  We had a fun few hours checking out all the different animal enclosures and watching the different alligator and reptile shows.  

The mandatory picture at the entrance to Gatorland

It was pretty fun to see the different Christmas decorations spread throughout the park.  They even had them hanging in the middle of the alligator ponds.  I just kept thinking to myself, "Who had to climb in there with all those gators to hang up a wreath!?"

One thing I LOVE about Gatorland is a huge portion of the park is built up on wooden boardwalk above different ponds so you can see the gators.  Every single railing has chicken wire throughout the sides so you can't climb, slip, or fall through (for obvious reasons...there are gators below.)  It makes it very kid friendly for active toddlers who just want to run from exhibit to exhibit.
The kids had a blast looking at all the different birds, several of which were resting on the backs of alligators.

Daxton was in serious heaven with Tiffy, James, and Lucy around! He loved the extra attention and opportunities to play with big kids.  Tiffy even taught him how to squish a penny, which was the highlight of his day!

Just look at that smile!
He wouldn't let that penny go for the rest of the day.

There are a few different shows and we were able to see all of them except the reptile show.  The first one we watched was called the "Gator Jumparoo Show" where they dangle whole chicken above the gators at which point gators will jump out of the water for food.  It's pretty crazy to see how high they can jump!  They have to be really motivated obviously, but puts into perspective how simply being in a boat, canoe, or kayak next to gators just isn't smart.

Lucy and James got their faces painted.  Probably the only time it is ok to paint your face in Florida would be November and December otherwise you'd just sweat it right off!

There were also several different birds we could look at and even a bird aviary where Tiffy, James, and Lucy got to feed them.  As you can see from the bottom picture below, Dax was in NO mood to interact with the birds.  He was very happy to watch them from outside the aviary as he munched on goldfish crackers.

Other highlights from our day at Gatorland...

The kids also loved the alligator wrestling show.  There were a couple times where I was nervous Daxton was going to try and jump the fence to join the gators!  After the show, Lucy and James got to sit on one of the bigger gators.

Gatorland also has several different boardwalks to explore.  We had a lot of fun walking through the wetland marsh looking at all the different plant and animal life.  The kids loved running up and down the boardwalks.
Seriously, so pretty and so different from where I was raised.

I'm madly in love with Spanish moss, especially with sunlight shining through!

Goofing off along the boardwalk...

We also loved exploring the alligator breeding marsh.  It was a fun boardwalk trail about a quarter mile long circling the perimeter of the breeding pond.  The gators in that pond were massive!  It was pretty crazy to see how close our toes were to these animals with only a bit of wire between us.  Daxton, of course, loved every minute of it!

Such a beautiful pond

We couldn't leave before catching at least one train ride around the facilities.

It was such a fun day and all because of this girl right here...
Our Tiffy!
Love her so much and the joy and love she shares with all those around her.  She's such a blessing in my life.

After finishing up at Gatorland, we thought it'd be super fun to spend the evening at Downtown Disney.  We had a blast eating at the Rainforest cafe and then exploring all the different stores.  One of the reasons I LOVE Downtown Disney is because the stores allow so much hands on play.  I don't have to buy anything for Dax, he plays with the toys and then puts them back on the shelf.  

Daxton's favorite store was the Lego store, where he spent over 15 minutes just putting together different little Lego men.  It was pretty cute to see his little fingers put pieces together.

We also loved the World of Disney store.  Daxton especially loved pretending to be a pirate and playing with all the Toy Story toys.

One of the main reasons I also love to do Downtown Disney at Christmastime is their Santa Claus.  Look at that Santa!  I swear he even convinced me he was the real thing!  The kids had fun telling Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

I was a little nervous to see how Daxton did with meeting Santa, because the previous year he mostly just cried.  But this time he loved him!  I think it helped that we had just watched a bunch of Mickey mouse shows with Santa in them.  When it was our turn he literally ran into Santa's arms and gave him the biggest hug.  It was so stinking sweet!  When Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas Daxton looked a bit confused and then said, "Presents?"  This age is great!  Doesn't matter what we get him as long as he gets to unwrap it.

This cheesy grin is definitely a Santa success story!
Although we missed daddy and wished he could have been with us, we were so glad that Tiffy, James, and Lucy could join us on some of our adventures.  We loved exploring Gatorland and Downtown Disney.  Sadly, Daxton started to get sick while we were hanging out at Downtown Disney.  It came on pretty quickly and by the time we were back to our condo he had developed a fever and cold.  Instead of spending the next day at Disney's Hollywood Studios on our own, we opted for a day of rest and healing at our condo to help him get feeling better.  That night daddy flew in to join us for the next couple days of our vacation and we couldn't have been more excited to see him!

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