Last year, I went into great detail about all the things we saw at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Japanese Festival. This year, I’m just going to share pictures…lots of pictures! This continues to be my second-favorite event at the Garden…the Garden Glow will always be my very favorite!
When we were in Kentucky in June, I knew that I wanted to do something fun with the Fab Five on my birthday. The children were interested in touring a cave, and I liked the idea of playing the live-action version of Colossal Cave Adventure (the only “video” game I played as a child), so I looked at the options available at Mammoth Cave.
I didn’t have a lot of money budgeted for our trip, so I decided on the Mammoth Passageway Tour, which got us into the cave, and let us see one of the biggest rooms, the Rotunda. We also got to learn a lot about the history of the area, which was a great bonus!
After our cave tour, we took a hike down to see a spring at the cave’s entrance, and the Green River. On the way back up, we even got to see some deer!
This was a fun trip, but since we didn’t get to see any stalactites or stalagmites, I think we’re going to have to go back and take a different tour eventually!
Markel Family Summer Vacation–Wrap-Up
Sometimes, when I look back on our vacation, even though it was only just over a month ago, I can hardly believe it happened. For everything that went wrong on the first true summer vacation we took three years ago, something went right on this one. It was a dream come true…as close to a perfect vacation as I can imagine. Here’s one last look at all the fun we had:
- Day One–The first day of our trip was mostly spent in the car. We drove through part of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia (for what seemed like an eternity!), and Florida to reach our destination of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort in Orlando. We did have time for a swim in one of the hotel’s amazing pools after we got checked into our amazing room!
- Day Two–On the second day of our trip, we made some dreams come true with a visit to Legoland! After a fun day at the park, we enjoyed more pool time when we got back to the hotel.
- Day Three–The third day of our vacation was busy, busy, busy! We were up super early to view SpaceX launch from the roof of the hotel parking garage. We then spent the day at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure. We especially enjoyed visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter…both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. From start to finish, it was the most amazing day ever!
- Day Four–After our busy day at Universal, we needed the fourth day of our trip to recover, so Ryan rented a cabana at the hotel, and we spent the day by the pool, playing games, building sandcastles, and swimming.
- Day Five–The final day of our vacation meant more time in the car, but we also got to stop and talk a walk on the beach and visit Castillo de San Marcos before another seemingly never-ending drive back through Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
I am so thankful we had this opportunity as a family. I know that we don’t have too many chances like this left before the children venture forth and begin their adult lives, and I hope that we will all remember this trip together as one of the most fun times we’ve ever had!
The Missouri Botanical Garden has a special summer exhibition again this year, and we had the chance to visit Flora Borealis on Monday night.
I always love having an opportunity to visit the garden in the evening, because it’s a completely different experience. And the way they lit up favorite garden landmarks is totally different from any of the other nighttime events we’ve been to!
Flora Borealis is open for another few weeks, so you still have time to stop by and check it out!
You may have thought I had run out of things to say about our summer vacation, but I have one last big thing to share before I wrap the whole trip up…our visit to Legoland Florida!
Going to Legoland has been a dream of the children’s, especially Turkey, ever since they first heard about it years ago. I thought going to the Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago was going to be as close as we were going to get, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be able to save up and get tickets for us to go last month! (Hint…if you’re planning such a trip, there are coupons out there, particularly in Lego catalogs, the children’s Lego magazine, and occasionally with purchases directly from Lego…they can save you quite a bit of money!)
Legoland is a theme park, but everything is done on a smaller scale than places like Universal or Disney. What does that mean exactly? The park itself is smaller, so it’s easier to get from one end to the other, and the rides themselves are on a smaller scale. There are roller coasters, but they’re not as intimidating as most, and many of them have height requirements that allow even a little gal like Chickadee to ride (she went on her very first roller coaster at Legoland!). And, of course, the whole places is done in Lego, from the Lego-themed stores (Turkey was able to get a Lego brick keychain engraved with his name at one!), to the characters on the rides to the commitment to sustainability (which I thought was really cool!).
There are giant builds everywhere! Some are part of rides, others just fit the decor of the park:
They have an ingenious queuing system that allows children to play in a separate area while their parents wait in line. When it’s your turn, your child can simply join you from there!
We loved the Egyptian area…especially the pyramid builders using a Lego instruction manual to complete their task!
Legoland sits on the property of the former Cypress Gardens. They still have a few homages to that theme park, and the famous banyan tree is still there…it’s unbelievable in person! Also, watch out for alligators!
One of the highlights of our visit was the water ski show. Not only was it clever, it was also a new experience for us, and a lot of fun to watch! We had a great time cheering on Miss Miranda Valentine and her guards as they took on Captain Brickbeard and his pirates. If you sit in front, you will get wet, but on a hot June day, I can’t say our drenching was unwelcome!
The Star Wars Miniland was amazing:
But not as amazing as the replicas of famous locations from around Florida (including Kennedy Space Center, Daytona, Orlando, and Miami), and the US (New York City, Washington D.C. and Las Vegas were featured), in the main Miniland!
Legoland is known for their apple fries. We didn’t have a chance to try them, but I wish we had, because we saw lots of people with them, and they looked delicious!
We ended our day when the afternoon rain storm began. We didn’t hit all the rides we wanted to (although we did go on a fair number of the roller coasters), but we saw almost everything we had planned on seeing. I’m so glad this was a dream I was able to make come true!
Bunny Day (Observed)
Since Bunny was at choir camp last week on her actual birthday, we celebrated with her at home today! We started the day by watching one of her favorite movies (The Sandlot) and we also watched a new-to-us movie (Black Panther).
Her presents all ended up. being rather Harry Potter themed…not entirely on purpose, but it was appropriate after our trip to Universal!
We went to Red Robin for dinner…or as Bunny calls it, “Red Pigeon!”
This year’s bunny cake (I’ve been making her a bunny cake every year since at least 2011) was based on a stuffed Bunny she made herself. Her creation is far superior to mine, but I think she was happy with the cake:
Happy 14th birthday (observed) Bunny!
A Promise Kept
While Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug were at choir camp last week, Moose, Chickadee, and I looked for some fun things to do to help pass the time. One of our excursions was the result of a promise years in the making…we rode the red line of the St. Louis MetroLink from one end (Shiloh-Scott) to the other (Lambert Airport Terminal 1) and back again!
We’ve talked about doing this for years, and it was something Moose especially was interested in, so I figured the timing was perfect, especially since he and Chickadee are both currently still eligible for the 1/2 price child fare! We’ve never been to the Shiloh-Scott station before, so that was interesting in and of itself, as it has two separate stations, one for public access, and one for Scott Air Force Base personnel.
We were pretty much the only passengers on the train when we started out, and we saw many people come and go as we rode.
When we got to the airport, we went inside (as far as you’re allowed without a ticket, anyway), and were pleased to find the Cakeway to the West cake from the STL250 year still on display:
And then we got back on the train in the other direction. We weren’t alone at the beginning of the trip this time, but by the time we got back to Shiloh-Scott, we had the whole train to ourselves again!
So that’s it for our MetroLink adventure. The round-trip took us about three hours altogether, and I think we traveled close to 80 total miles back and forth. It was a nice was to spend a hot day (we were so thankful for the air conditioning on the train!), and we had a fun time seeing different parts of St. Louis as we sped by. I’m glad this was a promise that was finally kept!
RSCM Camp 2018
For the last two summers, Turkey has attended the RSCM St. Louis summer camp…this year, Bunny and Ladybug joined him!
After a week of singing, singing, and more singing (plus some other fun activities!), they sang for the Choral Evensong service at 1st Presbyterian in Kirkwood last night.
They accompanied the congregation in singing one of my favorite hymns, “Christ, Mighty Savior.”
They sang another favorite of mine, the Magnificat:
This morning, they sang at the 10:00 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis. After the service, the Archbishop even commented that while they were singing, it sounded like the gates of Heaven had opened up, and I agree!
One of the pre-service pieces they sang was “Praise the Lord, O My Soul.”
Anglophile that I am, I couldn’t help but love hearing them sing “I Was Glad!”
We really missed having them at home all week, but it was very exciting to hear them sing, and hear all of their stories once they returned home!
Islands of Adventure
My favorite part of Universal Islands of Adventure was, again, the Harry Potter area…this time The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade. But there’s a lot of other things to see and do there…let’s take a look.
Because we entered the Universal parks through the Universal Studios entrance, we didn’t get see the landmark at Islands of Adventure (a giant lighthouse) up close, but we did see it, appropriately enough, from across the water:
This park is split up into different “islands.” We missed the Port of Entry, but there aren’t any rides there, just places to eat. Adjacent to the first area is Seuss Landing, one of our favorite parts of the park. Yes, the rides are tame, and yes, it’s designed for the younger set, but it’s bright and colorful and just plain FUN!
On the other side of the entrance is Marvel Super Hero Island, where Turkey and Ladybug rode the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which was terrifying to me on several levels.
We mostly just walked around the rest of the areas, including Toon Lagoon, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Jurassic Park, and the Lost Continent. I think the only other ride we went on that wasn’t in Hogsmeade or Seuss Landing was the Storm Force Accelatron, a teacup-style ride in the Marvel area. We did enjoy seeing how each part of the park was different, though, and were impressed by all of the details!
That’s it for our time at Universal. I’ve never considered myself to be a big theme park person, but I will say that this was the most awesome vacation experience I’ve ever had, and if I had the opportunity to go back, I’d jump at the chance!