Thanks to a work conference that brought me to Austin last week, I was able to bring Jake and the kids along for a little mini vacation. Surprisingly, this trip was void of any emergency room visits or hotel mishaps so we actually had a pretty enjoyable time. I will say that road trips are becoming much louder with Bailey turning 2. She is extremely verbal and very demanding. Jackson tends to egg her on quite a bit so that doesn’t help much. By the end of the trip home Jake and I were wondering when we could schedule our own vacation! But despite the scorching Texas heat and crowds pretty much everywhere we went, we had a lot of fun.
This was a work day for me in Austin so Jake was solo with the kids. First stop was the Texas Peace Officer’s Memorial. For those of you who don’t know, this wall lists all the names of Texas Peace Officers that have been killed in the line of duty. In light of all of the recent tragedies, it was very important for Jake to teach Jackson what this memorial was all about. Jackson knows the risks that daddy takes everyday when he puts on his badge and leaves the house and he understands the losses that Texas and Louisiana have just been through. Next, they walked around the outside of the State Capitol looking at all the statues and then spent some time learning and playing at The Thinkery, Austin’s children’s museum. Pretty cool place with water and light activities. The kids had a blast and it was a welcome break from the heat!
That evening, we all decided to brave the Bat Bridge. I had seen this in one of Jackson’s books and had no idea what it was all about so we decided to do some research. According to Bat Conservation International, 1.5 million bats emerge from underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge in search of food. The crevices beneath the bridge make for an ideal bat roost. The Austin bats eat from 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, including agricultural pests. The population under the Congress Avenue Bridge is the largest urban bat colony in North America. With up to 1.5 million bats spiraling into the summer skies, Austin now has one of the most unusual and fascinating tourist attractions anywhere. Around 8:40 that night, the bats emerged! At first it was a little difficult to see them from our location since they are small Mexican free-tailed bats. But soon, they began to fly out in masses. We were told not to panic if they swoop at you. Um, yeah ok. I was skeptical at first but I must admit the sight was quite amazing. Creepy and stinky, but definitely amazing. Not many people can say that they watched millions of bats fly right by you on their way to feed!
Another work day for me so Jake spent the morning swimming with the kids and resting in the hotel waiting on me to get done so we could drive down to San Antonio. We bought a Sea World vacation package which included tickets to the park and 2 nights at a Sea World affiliated hotel. That evening, we decided to visit the Alamo and the River Walk. Explaining Texas History to a 6 yr old is a lot more challenging then you think, especially when you can’t remember half of it yourself! Jake was my salvation there. He’s like a walking history book. Again, the heat was unbearable but we were able to cool off for a bit at the Rain Forest Café on the River Walk. Always a hit with the kids.
We took the Rio Cruise boat ride where we got to hear all about where the movies Selena, Miss Congeniality, and Cloak and Dagger were filmed. This is about the 5th time Jake and have been on this ride so we could pretty much recite the tour guide’s spiel word for word. But the kids had a lot of fun watching the ducks and looking at the tall buildings. Bailey had a small meltdown as it was now 2 hours past her normal bedtime. This resulted in her throwing Cha Cha the frog, a plastic version of the Rain Forest Café mascot across the boat where it landed on the edge of the platform. It was too far for us to reach and we couldn’t stand up to get it per the rules of the boat so needless to say there were some tense moments where Cha Cha was at risk of being Frog Overboard! But alas, the boat ride ended without casualties and Cha Cha was rescued upon our departure.
We set off to conquer Sea World right when the park opened in order to avoid crowds. While this was a valiant effort on our part, it was already crazy packed by the time we got there. My OCD tendencies quickly began to kick in and I wanted to find a map so we could start planning our routes, shows, and meal breaks in order to maximize our experience there. We started off with a visit to the sharks and dolphin viewing area. I was much more impressed by the dolphins then the sharks. They had staff positioned along the wall of the tank providing tips and information as the dolphins swam about. We had to book it to Shamu Stadium by 12:00 for One Ocean®, one of the two Killer Whale shows there. One of the perks of our vacation package was reserved seating for all the shows. An absolute lifesaver for us! I would highly recommend upgrading to this if you plan to visit the park during peak vacation times. Due to the recent concerns about whales in captivity and the tragic deaths of some trainers, they no longer breed killer whales and the trainers are not in the tank swimming with them like they used to. But, it was still fun watching the kids’s faces when the whales would emerge to jump, and wave their tales and fins on demand. No splash zone for us though. I had a horrifying experience when I was in college where I volunteered to be a part of the show and Shamu spit water and fish all over me. Funny to the audience, traumatic and disgusting for me!! I vowed I would never let my kids be splashed with fishy tank water as long as I could control their actions!
Next, we trucked it over to the Beluga Stadium to watch Azul® , a beautiful show which incorporates acrobats, professional divers, parrots, dolphins, and beluga whales. This was a must see since Bailey is currently addicted to Raffi’s Baby Beluga song. This was our favorite show and the artistry and actors make it very entertaining to watch. The show was 30 minutes, as most of the shows are, which is ample time. It is a miracle if my kids sit still for much longer than that. Our last show was Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High™. This was Jackson’s favorite but Jake and I differed in our opinion. And by this time, Bailey was having more fun playing with the souvenir whale cup then anything else. The walrus never made an appearance which may be a result of the recent death of a trainer in one of their shows. We finished up our day with the Penguin Encounter® and the all important visit to the gift shop. Jackson saw a stuffed squid earlier in the day that he absolutely had to have. All in all the park visit went smoothly minus the heat exhaustion and sore feet. We ended the day with swimming at the hotel pool and some much deserved room service.
We spent the remaining time we had there eating at the breakfast buffet, swimming at the pool and trying to make sense of the chaos we created in the room. It was a whirlwind trip but a nice break from the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives. And for me, it’s all about creating memories for my kids. Little things like bats, boats, and Belugas can make all the difference in the world to your children. I still remember all the little adventures my parents took us on and am very fortunate to be able to provide the same for my kiddos.
What fun summer vacations did you take this year? Share your comments with me!