Fathers’ Day and Wat Mongkolratanaram

June 16, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Wat what?

First of all, I was really really missing my dad all day yesterday, of course.

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I think I was brought to tears about 50 times yesterday reading everyone’s outpouring of love for their dads on Facebook. My dad was the best. I’m still not used to the world without him in it.

Our thing for Mothers’ Day and for Fathers’ Day is that the honoree gets to do pretty much nothing all day, unless they want to do something. Chad never gets any time at home alone, so the boys and I got out of the house for a few hours to give him some serenity (so he could play video games that the boys are not allowed to play).

We took a short drive over to Tampa to visit the Buddhist temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram.

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The temple and surrounding grounds are so pretty.

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The sign said to please not enter the temple in shorts, cargo pants, or low-cut shirts…out of respect. We were all wearing shorts, so I just took a photo of the inside from the door.

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Every week Wat Tampa (as they are known) has a Sunday Market featuring all kinds of beautiful and delicious Thai specialties.

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We love Thai food in our family, so the boys and I were psyched.

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The big open-air market made me feel like I was on the streets of Bangkok…except they were happy to take our U.S. dollars.

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Cal and I both got the Basil Chicken.

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Mack got fried chicken wings.

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We also got some red curry chicken and beef skewers to take home to Chad. Everything was amazingly delicious. There were many things that I want to try on our next visit, like the pumpkin curry chicken and the green curry. We lucked into a nice shady table right by the Palm River.

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There were hundreds of people there, but the huge shady area with a gazillion picnic table seemed to accommodate everyone, and we hardly had to wait in a line at all.

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While the boys finished eating I checked out all the plants and vegetables for sale. They had a little of everything.

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Tons of orchids:

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Asian vegetables:

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Asian fruit trees:

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The boys and I can’t wait to go back. I don’t know why it took me so long to check out Wat Tampa!

Later in the day Chad opened his Fathers’ Day gifts.

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He got a pressure washer and a hand-hammered wok. Is getting a pressure washer for Fathers’ Day the equivalent of getting a vacuum cleaner for Mothers’ Day? He liked it.

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For Fathers’ Day dinner we got Ciccio’s (our favorite) and watched Cosmos (our other favorite).

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I hope Chad enjoyed his day.

Cya.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa 2013

December 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm

(Disclosure: My friend Caroline and I were able to attend Christmas Town free of charge thanks to Yelp Tampa Bay and our kids were able attend free of charge thanks to Busch Gardens and my association with the Tampa Bay Bloggers. All opinions are my own.)

Yesterday afternoon we picked up our friends, the other Caroline and her daughters Erin and Kelly, and headed to Busch Gardens Tampa for their annual Christmas Town event. We hit terrible traffic before we even got onto the Howard Frankland Bridge in St. Pete, and it took us over an hour and a half to make the usually 45 minute drive. But finally we arrived and boarded the tram from the parking lot.

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Once we arrived at the front entrance we found the Yelp table and the media relations table and got VIP passes, which the kids thought were pretty cool.

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The light displays at Busch Gardens during Christmas Town are just amazing. None of my pictures do any of them justice.

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I refrained from using flash for most of the night to try to capture the magic of the light display. Which do you want to see…the kids or the lights?

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Beautifully staged photo ops abound all throughout the park. They are hard to resist.

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Mack has been overly excited all week at the chance to ride his favorite coaster in the world, Cheetah Hunt, again. That was our first destination.

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We did make a slight detour into Penguin Point because Erin loves penguins!

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Our “older” kids enjoyed playing dress up with the penguin stands.

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We meant to come back to Penguin Point later to actually see the penguins, but we got sidetracked and didn’t make it back. Sorry Erin! Next year!

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We have been to Busch Gardens many times and it is really fun to see it transformed into a different park during Christmas Town.

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Finally we made it to Cheetah Hunt!

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However, we made Mack wait just a little longer because everyone was starving. We made a pit stop at the Crown Colony Café for food first.

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I knew there wouldn’t be many options at the park for me to eat, so I ate something beforehand. I took the opportunity while everyone else was eating to take selfies in the bathroom.

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I chose my outfit for maximum offspring embarrassment. I would have worn jeans but it was HOT last night. Even the long sleeves were pushing it.

Finally, after everyone ate, Mack and I headed to Cheetah Hunt.

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We had front-of-the-line passes for Cheetah Hunt, Gwazi, and Shiekra but didn’t need them. There was no line on any of the three open coasters.

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It is such a great coaster. The best part is that you accelerate on the ascensions, which is crazy. It also seems like a really long roller coaster to me.

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After that I hung out with the other kids…

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while Mack and the other Caroline rode Cheetah Hunt.

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We watched the Carol of the Bells at the Crown Colony House while we waited.

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My favorite part is the lights!

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After Mack got his Cheetah Hunt hit we walked back around towards Snow World a/k/a Coca-Cola world.

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Snow World was packed with people.

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We stood in line to get a pager to enter the “Snow Play” area (versus the “Snow Throwing” area or the “Snow Sliding” area…they each had different queues). Once we got our pager they told us it would be 30-40 minutes, and since Snow World is right next to Gwazi…

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Mack and I ran over there to get one ride in. No line!

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I have to say that Gwazi is not my favorite. It is so rattley and loud. It scares me to death. Mack loved it, of course. We didn’t stay to look at our picture (I’m sure my eyes were closed) because the other Caroline texted me that the pager had just buzzed. So we went back to Snow World, stood in another queue for a few minutes, then we were in the Snow Play area!

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They should call it, “The Florida Kid with Snow Photo Op Area.”

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It was a little crazy in there, but the kids were having fun.

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Mostly they liked sliding around everywhere.

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After our allotted snow play time was up we walked over to Christmas Town Village.

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It was so pretty.

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They have little shopping kiosks lining the walkways and a train ride for little kids at Jingle Bell Junction.

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Next we went through Poinsettia Parkway…

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where I failed to get a photo of the beautiful poinsettia Christmas trees. We meant to come back that way later, but never got the chance. Too much to see!

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We were hurrying on our way to Stanleyville to see a show, so we didn’t have time to linger. But we passed through one of my favorite areas of Christmas Town, Sesame Street’s A Very Furry Christmas.

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I love it because the trees are lit up in such amazing colors.

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We finally made it to the Stanleyville Theater to see Madagascar Live, Operation: Christmas Vacation.

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It was nice to sit down and enjoy some air conditioning.

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They even made it snow in there!

Next we decided to get on the Skyride so that we could see all of the park decorations, including the areas we had not gotten to like Timbuktu and the Holiday Hills. We had to wait in line for a short while, but the kids seemed entertained.

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On the Skyride:

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We only got to see half of the park from the sky since the Skyride has two sections and you can only do half at one time. We were dropped back off right next to Cheetah Hunt, so of course Mack had to go again. I was still rattled from Gwazi, so the other Caroline went with him.

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We ended our night with hot cocoa for the boys, and cotton candy for the girls.

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Thanks for a fun night Busch Gardens and Yelp Tampa Bay!

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Christmas Town will be at Busch Gardens for 18 select nights from November 29th through December 23rd. Advance tickets for children ages 3 to 9 are available for $10, and the event is a separate-ticketed night event. We didn’t get to do everything that Christmas Town has to offer, so click here for more information about all things Christmas Town Busch Gardens Tampa 2013.

We loved Christmas Town 2012, and now that we’ve gone twice it is a tradition!

Cya.