Thursday, February 5, 2009

Homeward bound

We spent the night in some northern suburb of Atlanta. MapQuest says we have a ten hour and nine minute drive ahead of us. Ugh. I'm ready to get home! We have no planned activities today- just drive, drive, drive. We're all so exhausted that not having any fun stops is just fine with everyone :)

Our last few days at Disney were great. I finally got to check out Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's cool and beautiful, but I can honestly say that with kids I'd rather stay at Pop Century. I was actually shushing my kids outside because we were surrounded by so many older, childless people! I'm very glad we went to check it out because I no longer feel like I'm missing out on ANYTHING by not "getting" to stay there. It's way too high class for us!!! Whooo, value resorts!

Our Epcot World Showcase day was a blast! It was my favorite day of the trip. We spent nearly seven hours wandering the countries, trying different candy (the Flake bar from UK was to die for...) and window shopping. We finally went to the Canada, France and China movies. Now the only movie/ride we haven't done is the America one. Next time! The kids got to meet some fun charaters (Beast and Genie) and I got a final helping of my beloved rice cream from the Norway bakery. Gene and Kaylin stayed for fireworks, Logan and I went back to pack. (There was NO WAY we could stay up until TEN O'CLOCK!)

Monday, our final Disney day, was spent at Magic Kingdom. We somehow managed to get the car packed up, eat breakfast and check out of our room, wait and wait for a MK bus and then wait some more for a scooter to be loaded and we still made it "just" in time for the opening ceremony show I love so much! My favorite Main Street personality, Scoop Sanderson, was the emcee! It was another slightly rainy day and the Magic Kingdom was a ghost town. We walked onto ride after ride and found enough characters to finish Kaylin's autograph book. We waited in the fairy line one last time (this time for less than 15 minutes) to find the same three fairies we already saw. Kaylin was pretty disappointed she didn't get to see Fawn, but a really nice character attendant person took her name and address and promised to send her an autographed picture of Fawn! That cheered Kaylin considerably :)

We left Magic Kingdom about 3pm, took the bus back to Pop Century to our car and one last Mickey ice cream bar. We then drove five minutes to the Nickelodeon Hotel. The kids were in LOVE with that place! We had a kid suite with separate bedrooms. The kids' bedroom had bunkbeds and a Jimmy Neutron theme. It was "maybe" 60 degrees outside, but the pool with several water slides was heated like bath water. They swam forever! They also got slimed. There was a mushroom-shaped thing all the kids sat around while slime poured all over them. They then just jumped back into the pool to wash off. They LOVED getting slimed! The hotel gift shop was full of SpongeBob stuff. I love SpongeBob about a thousand times more than Mickey Mouse, so that was pretty cool. Even Gene bought himself a toy SpongeBob :)

The best thing about the Nick Hotel was their character breakfast! The breakfast buffet itself was really good, with tons and tons of options. The characters were amazing! It was WAY better than any Disney charater meal! Our characters were SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and Cosmo and Wanda, the fairy godparents from Fairly Oddparents. We got a family picture with SpongeBob (he didn't walk from table to table, but had his own area with a Bikini Bottom backdrop) and I forced the kids to pose with Dora, but Cosmo and Wanda ruled the morning! They were HILARIOUS! Cosmo stole a kid's little box of cereal, stuffed it into his mouth and then took off running around the restaurant. Wanda laid on a table to get a baby to notice her. We laughed the whole time they were out and even stayed long after we finished eating to watch some more.

We checked out of the Nick Hotel about 11am and drove to Crystal Springs where we found a public beach in a bay right next to a nuclear power plant. It was about 40F and very windy, so we definitely didn't swim or even play in the sand, but the kids had a great time watching the waves and the thousands of gulls. We walked out onto a fishing pier while Logan looked down into the choppy water, hoping to spot a shark. He was convinced that if he put so much as a toe in the ocean water a shark would immediately chomp it off. We then found a dive hotel right next to the state park we planned to visit the next day. It even had a bridge connecting the hotel to the park!

Homosassa Springs State Park was everything I had hoped and more! It was a beautiful, well-maintained wild animal sanctuary as well as a rehabilitation facility. They had wonderful exhibits of native Florida animals, all of whom were unable to survive in the wild. The most amazing feature of the park was a huge manatee area with underwater viewing. What was amazing about the manatee area was that there was a bridge with slats wide enough that the captive, rehabbing manatees couldn't escape, and the wild manatees couldn't enter. However, the fish and birds could come and go as they pleased. I could stand on the bridge and see dozens of wild manatees on one side and many captive manatees on the other side. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done! This park was fantastic! Oh, I forgot to mention they take you on a 20 minute boat ride from the visitor center to the park and we got to see a pair of osprey and their nest both trips! We also saw tons of other birds and fish. I was thrilled with the entire experience and even bought a tee-shirt.

Well, I better shower and pack so we can head home!

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