S: Orlando 2011
BC: This was the year we decided to take Shaughn and Marshall on our first ever family vacation. Within these pages are the chronicles of our adventure. Enter at your own risk!!
FC: The Birch Family Vacation Orlando, Florida | February 18 to 26, 2011
1: We would travel 5,202 miles by air and 758 miles by car. Visit 4 different airports in 2 countries, stay in 2 different hotels, and experience a 125 degree Fahrenheit temperature change. We visited 4 theme parks, saw 36 different characters, rode 8 rides, attended 6 shows and watched 2 parades and ate at one character dinner. | We saw 5 killer whales with 1 calf, 4 bottle nose dolphins, 3 pilot whales and 2 exotic birds. We ate at the worlds largest McDonalds, witnessed the last launch for the Space Shuttle Discovery and saw Bob in a pair of shorts.! If you think you can handle all that then continue reading. | Our Vacation in a Nutshell Warning you may be tired after reading just this page!
2: From February 18 to 26, 2011 we had fun on our First Ever family vacation to Orlando, Florida. It would be a seven day adventure and all the excitement two kids, (and two kids at heart) could want. We got to see Characters from Disney, Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Had 'once in a lifetime' experiences and swam outside in February. We made new friends and spent time as a family. I took over 550 photos and here are a sprinkling of them. It is basically in chronological order although we did do some doubling back (hence a couple of pictures with different clothes on). Enjoy!
3: On February 18, 2011 the Abbotsford Heat played in the Calgary Saddledome. The Heat are the Calgary Flames Farm team and we have a special connection to them. | Gord Baldwin, number 28, is my cousin's son and he was drafted by the Flames in 2005 in the 3 round, 69th overall. They don't get to play in Calgary that often so we knew we had to go.
4: February 19, 2011 Travel Day We got to the airport at 5:00 am along with a lot of other people. By the time we got through check-in, security and had something to eat, we had to rush onto the plane. Finally we got seated and were ready for take off. Marshall looked out the window and asked what they were spraying on the wings. I told him they were de-icing the plane. It was -29C when we left Calgary.
5: This is what greeted us when we landed in Orlando We stopped and watched the sun set into the Gulf of Mexico and so we started our adventure. The temperature was 28C.... a 57 degree difference.
6: February 20, 2011 Shopping and Relaxation
7: We spent the day at the pool and shopping getting ready for our Park hopping of the next few days. Some of us needed a bit more relaxation than the others.
8: Hollywood Studios February 21, 2011 This was a great Park to start our adventure. It is the smallest of the 4 parks and wasn't as busy as the others this Presidents Day. It had most of the characters we wanted to see. | Hollywood Studios
9: There was so much to do at this park for the boys. This was their kind of place and we could have seriously spent the entire week here. There were all the Pixar characters, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Muppets etc without being so big that you couldn't double back if you wanted to. | Hollywood Studios
10: At the beginning of the day at Hollywood Studios we split up and Bob and Shaughn went to register for Jedi Training and I went to get a FastPass for Toy Story Mania, a very popular ride. | Hollywood Studios
11: Shaughn learned how to fight against the call of the Dark Side. | Jedi Master Nor Ras Deevah showed the Padawan trainees how to defeat Darth Vader with their Training Light Saber. | Hollywood Studios
12: While we were waiting for Shaughn's Jedi Training we rode Toy Story Mania. This was a great ride for all of us. It was a 3D ride set up like a midway. You used a pull string gun to shoot the virtual balls, rings and darts to get as many points as possible. We enjoyed it so much that I didn't take a single picture of inside the ride. | Hollywood Studios
13: Pixar Pal Countdown to Fun Parade | It features characters from The Incredibles Monsters Inc. Toy Story Ratatouille A Bugs Life and Up! | Hollywood Studios
14: First came Mickey and Minnie. They signed the boys autograph books and posed for a picture. | That night we had dinner reservations at Chef Mickey's. During the dinner, several characters came out of the kitchen to say 'Hi'.! | Chef Mickey
15: Pluto was funny because he put the book on his nose to sign it. Donald was the one character that Marshall couldn't wait to see. He had a bit of a wait but it was well worth it. | And Goofy was very tall.! | Chef Mickey
16: February 22, 2011 Universal Studios - the Island of Adventure We had fun in Suess Landing, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Marvel Superhero Island. | Island of Adventure
17: Our original goal was to go straight into the Harry Potter park. Unfortunately it was at capacity when we got there, so we stood in line to get our return time ticket. While in line we heard some snoring. Marshall wanted to check it out so off we went. By the time we got to the Mystic Fountain it had awoken and saw Marshall. He spoke directly to Marshall and got him to do some magic. His reward was a display of the fountain on a hot Florida day. In the end Marshall walked away with a great memory all his own. | Island of Adventure | The Mystic Fountain
18: Suess Landing While we were waiting to go into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we spent some time in Suess Landing. Once again the theme of the park was very well done. Not a straight line in the place and such vibrant colours. I think this visit started Marshall's love of Dr. Suess Books.
19: Marvel Superhero Island Following in Shaughn's footsteps Marshall is a Spiderman nut. So we had to go to this area. Inside we ran into Spiderman himself. While signing their autograph books he told the boys that they had to keep up their school work and eat healthy. That way, they too, could join the 'Superheros Academy' and help fight all the villians of the world. Bob and I love Spiderman! We also ran into Wolverine who stopped for a photo and an autograph. | Universal Studios - Island of Adventure
20: Wizarding World of Harry Potter This was the one park that Shaughn and I were waiting for all along. I had heard how well done it was and we weren't disappointed. | The shops of Hogsmead were beautifully done and the whole feel of the park was an authentic experience. It wasn't a ride park, but more of a whole experience immersion. | Universal Studios - Wizzarding World of Harry Potter
21: I had heard about the wands from this park and knew I wanted our family to have our own.I asked the Wizard at the front of the line how long it would be and she said it could be 2 hours. I couldn't believe I was about to do this. Bob took the boys to explore the park while I stood in line. | A few minutes later Bob returned and told me that the wands were also sold at carts throughout the park. So I left the insane line-up and purchased Harry Potter's for Shaughn (top left), Voldemort's for Marshall (top right), Hermione Granger's for Me (bottom left) and Ron Weasley's for Bob (bottom Rrght) from this nice wizard.
22: February 23, 2011 Time for some R&R We started this day heading straight to the Harry Potter park again to go on the rides. Once that was done we went back to the hotel to do a bit of swimming.
23: The Boys and I discovered there was something really cool about swimming outside in February! | To this day if you ask the boys what their favourite part of the trip was they will give the same answer as 80% of the kids who go to Florida on holiday... The Pool!
24: After swimming we went to Seaworld to see Shamu. We had taken Shaughn to see the San Diego show and brought back a DVD that Marshall just fell in love with. This was a must. | We had planned to spend the entire evening here but unfortunately the park closed at 6:00 just enough time to catch the Shamu show - Believe and the dolphin show - Blue Horizon. The best part was Shaughn finally got to sit in the splash zones and get soaked!
25: Blue Horizon is a story of a young girl dreaming of joining the spirits of the Sky and Water. The story was portrayed using beautiful aquatic and aerial stunts with vibrant colours and stunning acrobatics both above and below the water's surface. It showcased not only Dolphins but also Pilot Whales and exotic birds.
26: This was the event that I most looked forward too while in Florida. We were lucky enough to witness the final launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The picture to the left is that of the crew with their special Cargo, Robonaut 2. | The picture of the Bridge above shows the amount of people who witnessed this historic event. It is 4 lanes wide and finally had to be shut down because of the amount of people on it. The picture to the left shows the shuttle taking off just to the left of the black ball cap (our new friend Ron). He is the one that took the pictures to the right. He had a much better camera and being 6'2" didn't hurt either. | We got to Titusville, across the Indian River from Launch Pad 39A at approximately 2:00 pm and there were already thousands and thousands of people waiting. | February 24, 2011 STS-133 Final Mission for the Space Shuttle Discovery
27: The crowd started to get excited around 4:45, 5 minutes before the scheduled launch. Then we heard that there was a delay. We waited anxiously as they could still have scrubbed the launch. Finally at 4:53:24 pm the crowd started cheering and we watched Discovery and her crew of six take off for the final time. I asked Shaughn what he thought about it and after a week of him not showing much interest and he said that it was cool. I reminded him that what he just witnessed, with his own eyes, was something leave the planet. A event I wasn't likely to witness again in my lifetime.
28: Magic Kingdom February 25, 2011 | Magic Kingdom
29: Every girls dream, but not so much for my 3 boys! We met an adorable little girl on the ferry ride to the park and I asked her if she could tell Cinderella that I wasn't going to be able to say hi that day and she agreed to pass along the message. Although the park did have the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, it was still very PINK and we ended up leaving just after lunch. We had got a FastPass for the Winnie the Pooh ride but Marshall just wanted to go back to the hotel for another swim so we decided to leave. I didn't want these valuable tickets to go to waste and just then I heard a couple talking about how long the wait was for the next FastPass for that ride and whether they could wait...I handed them our passes and said that the time was in forty five minutes. | The look on their faces showed me the True Magic of Disney.
30: Magic Kingdom | Miscellaneous Pictures around Magic Kingdom
31: Buzz's Space Ranger Spin We had a lot of fun as a family on this ride. We defeated the Evil Emperor Zurg | Magic Kingdom
32: This live show featured an expose on how the stunts were done in the movies. They included the Booby Trap sequence, working around the airplanes, Fighting Scenes, and the Pyrotechnics. The Actors were also kind enough to pose for a picture. | We ended the day on February 25 catching a few things we had missed at Hollywood Studios. Shaughn wanted to see the Indiana Jones Stunt show and we wanted to get Woody's autograph (Buzz was a bonus). A great way to end our visit to Disney World
33: While standing in line to see Woody, we had an opportunity to take some great pictures.
34: While we were driving around and walking through parking lots (something we did a lot of) we ended up playing a neat game called Spot the License Plate. We would keep track of all the different plates we saw in Google Maps (the furthest being Alaska). We saw 5 different Provinces (including Manitoba and Ontario) and all the states except for DC, Nevada, North Dakota and Idaho. We noticed that there were also a lot of different specialty license plates for Florida.
35: Our holiday was one of bonding, excitement, relaxation and most of all family. We saw things that we will never see again, like the Shuttle launch and have I mentioned Bob wore shorts!?! And some things that we will definitely see again, like the parks of Orlando. But one thing is for sure, we all want to go back and soon.