The third park on our pass was Busch Gardens. Molly in particular was looking forward to this park, since it is very animal focused (as is she).
Sure enough, our first stop was...elephants.
We were able to get very close to these lovely, grey ladies. Molly was over the moon.
There is an immense and impressive emphasis on education at both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. We learned a lot over the course of our days in the parks. Moll soaked up all the info on elephants.
She was able to ask the trainers lots of questions about her favourite animals. Including why this elephant so loves to sniff her trainer's sneakers. Apparently, it's just her thing...
There were animals everywhere.
A lot of great rides, too. Lukey has a love/hate relationship with rides. He is pretty conservative in his interest. He examines each and every ride in detail and generally says no. Occasionally, he surprises us by being really keen on a specific ride we would expect.
One thing he doesn't love is getting wet. He and I stayed behind while the Eric and the girls went on a log flume ride. Even though it was a gentle ride, he wasn't sure he could handle the splashing. So, we watched. Sure enough, the three of them got a little damp.
Two minutes later, we turned the corner and saw another water ride. Eric said it was my turn to go this time...so, the girls and I lined up and got on a larger flume ride. Lukey stayed back with Eric.
Hilariously, there is one spot in the spectator area of the ride that is absolutely drenched by a giant wave every time a log comes down the final hill. Lukey happened to be standing RIGHT THERE when we came down.
His entire back was drenched.
Luckily, he was able to laugh about it.
So, we laughed, too.
The irony was...the girls and I were mostly dry when we got off the ride. Lukey got far, far wetter by standing on the sidelines.
Here is a picture of the type of wave he got nailed by...
I think the water gave him some nerve, because he went on a few rides right after that.
This one was fun for the girls because all I could hear was maniacal giggling. A lot of it. Especially from Moll.
Oh, and we saw this tiger. She is beautiful.
This is Lukey being a tiger, Molly being scared of a tiger bush and Finny...well, I am not too sure. It's less beautiful, but it makes me laugh.
The tiger (and tiger bush) were on our walk towards yet another water ride. This one, Lukey decided to go on, so all five of us climbed into one round raft and headed out.
We explained that it was possible to get a little wet and we wisely put our sweaters and bags in the centre.
But, we were pretty confident it wouldn't be that bad.
We were wrong. At least, some of us were. Eric and Lukey (poor guy) got SOAKED. Like they had taken a shower. Eric got nailed by someone shooting a water cannon from the side of the ride. When he spotted the shooter...he may or may not have shouted a threat that he would "hunt them down". He was laughing, but I felt like adding my own advice that the person should immediately leave the area. For real.
Molly, Finny and I were unable to control our laughter. We all got a bit wet, but man, it was funny when they got soaked.
Here is Eric wringing out his shirt.
Now, this picture needs a little explanation. This is Eric threatening Finny. He was yelling that he was coming for her in the bumper cars. It was playful. Look at the expression on the kid next to Eric. He was concerned. Very concerned. This might be my favourite picture of the day. In fact, I am laughing right now as I am typing.
We took the SkyRide to the other side of the park so we could ride the Cheetah Hunt. This was Lukey's piece de resistance. We talked the ride up all day. He loves cheetahs...they are his favourite animal and we knew he would love the ride. It was super fast and smooth and only goes upside down once. I was confident that if he went on it, he would love it.
Sure enough, he did. He even bought a little cheetah cub to commemorate the event. He named him Ralph.
And Molly tried on sunglasses. Love the tag on the nose. Very 2012.
We took a final walk around the park as the sun started to set.
We visited the lions.
We rode a couple of rides in the dusky light and all acknowledged that our passes to SeaWorld had been fantastic. It isn't the same as Disney, that's for sure. But the differences were also valuable. We enjoyed to animals and the bigger kid rides. We liked that our days at these parks were a little shorter and more relaxed. The Disney passes really urge you to squeeze the most out of each day, whereas this one felt more leisurely. Every extra day you went on our unlimited pass felt like a happy bonus. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun.
I was sad when the sun set on our last theme park day. They are consistently awesome ways to spend time as a family. Who knows what we'll do if we travel to Florida next year.