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.

Life beyond boxes

April 15, 2013 at 9:42 am

Warning: I’m catching up on the last week+, so tons and tons of pictures of many events follow.

I feel like I have been housebound in a cave of cardboard boxes for three weeks.

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We actually don’t have many places in the house to put more boxes. I have 2 1/2 weeks left until the movers come and I hope I’m more than half way packed. I haven’t packed the kitchen or our master bedroom at all. The worst part is the pile of empty boxes in our foyer.

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I can’t leave the empty boxes outside because they become damp in our humidity.

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So now, when you enter our front door, you have to decide whether to go left or right at the mountain of boxes that greets you.

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I spent most all of last week just packing up our third bedroom which we were using as an office. Every wall was covered with bookshelves FULL of stuff, so it has taken forever to pack all that away.

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Plus, everything was so dusty and had to be cleaned before being packed. Also, I removed all but one of the bracketed shelves and filled the holes in the wall. Chad has to clear those last bracketed shelves because it’s all his stuff and I don’t know what is trash and what is keep.

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The boys have still been working in their room.

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It is not finished and in this picture still looks like a mess, but it’s probably 75% sorted and packed at this point.

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I am so tired of packing! But there is no rest for the weary. The movers are coming on May 3rd whether I’m done packing or not, and I really want them to be able to move most everything for us. Unpacking is going to be a whole other huge job, but at least we’ll be in the new house then!

Even though I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but packing, that hasn’t really been the case. Last weekend (or weekend before last actually), besides going to a fabulous tour and tasting at Keel & Curley Winery and all four of us going to see The Princess Bride at The Tampa Theatre, we also all participated in the Shore Acres Eagle Dash 5K. I volunteered and helped with set up and packet pick-up.

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Chad and the boys ran the 5K and Chewie was very happy to also be included!

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Mack toed the starting line and was off as soon as they did the countdown and said, “Go!”

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I sort of missed Cal starting in the crowd, but got a picture of Chad and Chewie at the start with all the strollers.

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The boys were allowed to run at their own pace and Mack was the first one in our family to cross the finish line.

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He and his buddies were so proud of their strong finishes!

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All of the kids doing the 5K and the shorter kids dashes were so proud of themselves, beaming from ear to ear. Kids races are awesome.

A few minutes later Cal crossed the finish line…

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soon to be followed by Chad and Chewie and then they all crossed together.

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It was such a beautiful morning and a great family and community event. Thanks to Christie Bruner for being an amazing organizer and giving so much of her time as the Health and Wellness chairperson of our PTA. Christie wears so many hats as an entrepreneur, mom, and volunteer. She is amazing.

That same weekend (weekend before last) on Sunday morning the boys and I drove to Parkesdale Farm Market for a special food truck rally they were hosting.

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We just love Parkesdale and it is always worth a drive to Plant City. It’s a true slice of old Florida and the Parke/Meeks family that owns and runs the farm are the nicest people you will ever meet.

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When we arrived they were still getting the food trucks set up…

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so we decided to have dessert first!

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I really meant to blog about this last week and give everyone another heads up (if you follow me on Facebook then hopefully you got my PSAs about the date approaching), but yesterday was the last day to get strawberry shortcake at Parkesdale this year. It’s a seasonal item. But fear not…you can still get their amazing strawberry milkshakes year round. But you should be sad that you missed the shortcake…very sad.

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OMG. Just amazing.

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Strawberry heaven.

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Mack decided that his love for Parkesdale was so deep that he wanted to spend his own money on this hat.

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By the way, that nice embroidered hat was only $7! Mack loves it.

After dessert it was time for lunch. We met up with my friend Xiomara (of the Meeks family…her mother-in-law was a Parke)…

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and also got to meet Grandma Parke!

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She was just the nicest, most gracious lady. She must have a great sense of humor, having been married to the Strawberry King:

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We enjoyed some soba noodles, dumplings, and spring rolls from the Oki Doki food truck.

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It was a busy, but awesome weekend. My favorite kind.

What else has been going on the past week besides packing?

Mack had a neighborhood friend over to play one day after school. Since we will not be in this neighborhood much longer, I want him to get some playdates in with his neighborhood pals before we move. I put them to work, but they just thought it was fun.

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We are giving our old (but still perfectly working) Power Wheels Jeep to one of Chad’s co-workers who has two little children. The Jeep is still actually like new since it spent most of the last few years in a shed, but recently had been just sitting under our house and had gotten dirty. The boys were happy to give it a scrub.

On Thursday afternoon before karate, Mack and I went to packet pick-up for the Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon and 5K at Sports Authority in Tampa.

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Then Thursday night, after Mack’s karate class, we drove back to Tampa to volunteer at the Tampa Corporate 5K. My friend Beth (of Discom-BOB-ulated Runner) was one of the race directors and my friend Jessica (of Cuban Running Crisis) was the volunteer coordinator so I really wanted to help them out.

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The course followed the Hillsborough River from Curtis Hixon Park, and the water station where we were volunteering was in a really neat location by the old Tampa Armature Works and the river.

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The boys were fascinated by the cool-looking, semi-abandoned, somewhat-condemned building.

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They found many treasures on the river banks.

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They got to play, but also put in some work.

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Once we got all the water cups set up they went to play by the river and watch the bridge in the distance for the first runners.

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As soon as they saw runners on the bridge they ran back to the water tables to be ready to hand out water…

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which they did like pros.

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They are quite the race volunteer professionals at this point. They had fun and it was great to be able to participate in my friends’ race in some way. Good job on a great race, Beth!

This past weekend I spent ALL day on Saturday packing (and cleaning, constantly…everything is so dirty!). Sunday morning (yesterday) was the Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon and 5K (I did the 5K) and I plan to write a separate post about the race, hopefully soon.

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Then yesterday afternoon the boys and I went on a furniture quest. Our first destination was Ikea in south Tampa.

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The plan was to get the boys’ beds ordered. We had found the ones we wanted on our last trip to Ikea a couple of weeks ago.

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However, despite the fact that there were TWO of the beds that we wanted on display in the show room, we found out that the bed is actually discontinued and can’t be ordered. Huge Ikea FAIL.

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I was pretty annoyed, so we left Ikea empty-handed. Next we drove to Clearwater to look at some items at H.H. Gregg where we now plan to get our new media console. We are also just going to buy mattress/box spring sets and basic metal bed frames for the boys from H.H. Gregg and continue to look for beds for them.

We are selling their bunk beds so if you know anybody who might be interested in them let me know. They are a double bed over a double bed. The bottom bed is a futon mattress and can be a sofa. It basically looks just like this bed, but the top bunk is also a double bed and there is a ladder like the one shown on both ends:

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I guess Rooms to Go doesn’t make the double/double version anymore because I couldn’t find it online. Also, it doesn’t have all the sports stuff all over it…it’s just the brushed silver metal.

We also hit up a couple of other stores. We have a big spreadsheet of things we need for the new house. Moving from 1450 square feet to almost 3000 means that we are going to have several pretty empty rooms. That’s a concept that I can barely envision given our current situation. Our spreadsheet is color coded. The red items are things we need immediately in order to live in our house…the boys beds and a media console were on the red list. Our current entertainment center is too large for the space where our television will be going in the new house (we are still going to use it in another room, though). The yellow items on our list are “to buy once we sell our current home”…hopefully in the next couple of months. Then the green items are “to buy eventually” once we are able to save some more money.

So I guess I’m caught up with my photo dump now, other than blogging about the Iron Girl. Have a great week…I’m off to pack some more boxes. It feels like I could just pack boxes for infinity and never be done. Sigh.

Cya.