Silly me to think that escaping to Florida in January would involve balmy temperatures, warm breezes and tropical living. After we spent our first night watching fireworks at SeaWorld, huddled in our windbreakers with hundreds of whining Floridians, I realized this was not going to be the vacation I had packed for.
Silly me to think that escaping to Florida in January would involve balmy temperatures, warm breezes and tropical living.
After we spent our first night watching fireworks at SeaWorld, huddled in our windbreakers with hundreds of whining Floridians, I realized this was not going to be the vacation I had packed for.
While more northern cities were locked in teeth-chattering temperatures earlier this month, we were in Orlando listening to forecasters hyperventilate about the record cold spell sweeping across Florida.
It was cold in palm tree country — highs of 48 or 50 with 20 mph winds tearing through our layers.
The chilly weather proved a huge boon for our kids, who didn’t have to spend their souvenir money on overpriced Tinkerbell and Goofy sweatshirts. Instead, Mom and Dad doled out the bucks for warm clothes, hats and gloves while trying not to remember our cold-weather gear stowed away in a snow-packed minivan stuck in long-term parking at Lambert Field.
I’m not sure I have ever felt as chilled as I did that week. We spent days walking from attraction to attraction with kids who were so mesmerized by the sights and sounds that they barely registered the unseasonable temperatures.
There were aquatic shows at SeaWorld with staff in full wetsuits diving, swimming and smiling while they rode on and cavorted with dolphins and whales.
We shivered through the Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center and peeked in on a replica of the space shuttle. Best part? The heated museum dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon missions. I could have stayed all day studying the history of rocket engineers, astronaut regimens and how NASA launched men to the moon with less technology than most of us carry in our cell phones.
Then there was Disney. Despite the cold, crowds milled around everywhere. We heard a dozen different languages as people from all over the world took in Walt’s version of America with manicured grounds, quaint buildings, line-defying rides, exuberant parades and always something to buy.
Our kids loved it. Even my husband and I admired the spectacle. We soared over California’s “scenery” in one ride, admired the temples of China at Epcot, shot up the arcade gallery in Toy Story Mania, screamed our way through Big Thunder Mountain’s roller coaster and applauded Hollywood’s genius during the stunt shows for Indiana Jones and Lights! Motors! Action!
We took a jungle safari at Animal Kingdom and witnessed an enormous hippo surfacing with his jaws open. He looked for breakfast while we all gasped. Our family dined with princesses and met movie characters. My husband and son shot through Space Mountain, and we all thrilled to the nightly fireworks displays despite the freezing windchills.
I must admit the “Celebrate Today” theme throughout the parks is infectious. Even when you are budget-minded, it is hard to resist the call of Disney’s sirens. The music swells, the lights twinkle, and your kids long for it all. “Why not?” you think as you survey the kingdom’s riches with a temporary but heady insanity.
Which might explain why, at dinner one night, the mom who usually makes her kids drink water at restaurants ordered the $6.49 kids cups of lemonade, complete with a glowing Tinkerbell figurine for the girl and a light-up car for the boy.
“Hey, see if Tink’s butt will light up my breadstick,” our 8-year-old asked his sister while poking a hole in his roll.
I glanced across the table at my husband.
State Journal-Register contributor Julie Kaiser is a freelance writer and columnist living in Chatham, Ill. Her column runs every other week. She can be reached through the features editor at 217-788-1515. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.