Leading up to the final days of kindergarten, we revealed to Claire our plans for a fun trip to celebrate Claire finishing her first year of elemenrtary school (and Kit’s week off). We would go to Sea World in San Antonio. The timing for this trip could not be better, since Claire has shown great interest in dolphins and other sea life lately. “I am so going to feed the dolphins!”, she said, when we told her about the trip. We showed her a pamphlet of Sea World, and she kept looking at it and saying, “Awesome!” Claire was excited enough that she created a picture at school about the upcoming trip. Claire was also pretty excited about going to San Antonio in general, remembering a fun trip to the zoo there last year.
Not only was the timing perfect for Claire, but it was also perfect for Molly. There is a “Bay of Play” at Sea World which, we all agreed, Molly would be super excited about, because it was themed on Elmo, and very favorite character, and Sesame Street in general. But we did not tell her about Elmo and his Bay of Play until we were at Sea World and she could see it. If we told her earlier, Molly would likely expect to see it right then and there and end up confused or disappointed after repeating “I want Elmo!” a number of times.
Anyways, the trip was indeed “awesome”, as Claire would say many more times. At this point, I am going to drop into bullet points in an attempt to avoid an overly verbose and time-consuming travel log, or at least to help you skip over bits as appropriate.
- The Hotel
Perhaps the biggest hit of the trip for Claire and Molly was the hotel, an Embassy Suites about a 20 minute drive from Sea World.
- Molly spent as much time as possible in the lobby gaping upwards at the eight stories of hotel balconies magically hovering above her. The hotel even had a “swimming pool” right in the lobby. Actually, this “swimming pool” was a decorative fountain, but to Molly that is all semantics. She was thrilled to discover later that there was a real swimming pool in the hotel that we were willing to take her for a swim in. This was a nice chance for Molly to finally get into a swimming pool herself after watching Claire do swim lessons all spring. Molly loved it, but she did not want to splash around too much. She just liked to be held, grinning widely, in the water.
- Claire also liked the fountain and swimming pool. She tossed a quarter in the fountain and also got to swim twice. Claire said it was the fanciest hotel ever, and it made it seem like we were rock stars.
- Claire and Molly were also amazed by the free drinks in the lobby for happy hour. Claire asked, unbelievably, “Are the drinks really free?” Yes, that includes pink lemonade and popcorn! And we all enjoyed a hearty breakfast before heading out to Sea World the next morning, except for Molly, who had a little milk and dragged some cheerios through her ketchup.
- Kit and I took pains to explain that we don’t always stay in a place as nice as Embassy Suites, but in this case it really made sense to have a separate living room due to the sleeping situation (with the girls turning in around 8 pm and Kit and I not wanting to sit around in the dark from then until our bed time).
- Sea World
We started out at Dolphin Cove. We explained to Claire that we weren’t sure if we would be able to feed or touch the dolphins, and she said, “Then what are we supposed to do? Just stare at them?” This pessimism gave way to joy when we saw the pool, full of dozens of dolphins, swimming gracefully around, coming up to the sides, and playfully jumping out of the water. We ended up feeding the dolphins too. We bought about a dozen sardines (or something similar) to feed them. Claire ended up skipping the actual dolphin feeding, though, partly because the sardines were gross and slimy, and partly because, I assume, she did not want to get bitten by a dolphin. Molly did manage to feed a dolphin, though, dropping a sardine right into its eager, wide open mouth. Molly sat on the side of the pool waving and saying, cheerfully, “Hey buddies! I’m Molly! I’m a little lamb!”, identifying her class at school. The dolphins seemed to appreciate this introduction, or at least the sardines that came with it.
- We briefly checked out the sharks, which of course, were really cool, although we had to run to catch the Shamu show.
- The Shamu show was really cool, and wet. Claire wanted to sit in the “splash zone”. Kit stayed with Molly out of splash range. Molly is brave about dolphins but somewhat skittish about getting splashed. The whales started doing jumps and flips and hopping out of the water to say hi. It was pretty amazing. And from our angle, you could see the whales way down under water after a big jump. Claire worked her way up to the very front row of the splash zone, although I convinced her to pull back to about the fourth row with the warning, “We could get really soaked up here.” Through most of the show, we did not get wet at all. Then the show’s announcer said, “These whales sure can make a big splash!”, and right when he said “splash”, the whales went to town on our section. This was no accidental spill-over from the show. This was three whales, heads down in the water, fins above, intentionally and repeatedly throwing as much water our way as possible. Everyone in our section screamed, myself included. Claire got pretty soaked. Somehow I escaped the worst of it, apparently fleeing pretty quickly once I noticed the giant wall of water coming my way. Claire and I were laughing like crazy. Pretty soon the whales had moved on to other sections, and Claire was yelling loudly down towards the trainers, “Make them do it again!”
We also enjoyed a dramatic performance entitled Cannery Row Caper, performed mostly by sea lions. Claire got to ask questions to one of the human actors after the show. Then we grabbed some sardines and fed and admired the playful sea lions for some time. I would personally have named them “sea dogs” since their faces look like a dog, but that is just me, I guess. Seriously, though, they don’t look anything like lions.
- At last came the Bay of Play, where Molly got to meet Sesame Street’s Zoe in person. Zoe was no Elmo, but she was still pretty cool. I guess Elmo was on lunch break.
- Claire had her own fun at Bay of Play, where she rode her very first roller coaster, a small kiddy coaster, but still a coaster. We thought Claire would be terrified to ride on it, but she was eager to try it. She ended up really enjoying the quick ride and said it was “not scary, not even a little bit.”
- A very tired and bedraggled dinner out at TGI Friday’s and a quick swim at the hotel finished us for the day. The girls fell right asleep after their bath, unlike the night before. Kit and I were not far behind.
- The Riverwalk
Saturday morning gave me, Molly, and Claire a chance for another quick swim while Kit kindly packed up in the room. We managed to save about 45 minutes to visit the Riverwalk on the way back to Austin. We strolled about a half mile on the less crowded part near Municipal Auditorium. This was Molly’s first visit to the Riverwalk, and Claire’s second (the first time, she was about Molly’s age). We took lots of pictures, sat on lots of cool benches and stone overhangs, admired ducks and turtles, waved at passing boats, ran, walked, and finally made it back to the car. I told Claire that the Riverwalk was one of my very favorite places, and Claire said that it was her favorite place.
- Somehow we managed to stay on schedule for a lunch at the “real” EZ’s on New Braunfels Ave and get Molly home to Austin in time for her nap.
Well, this blog entry ended out pretty verbose after all. And this was only a 2-night trip!