Our biggest outing of the week was to Busch Gardens, where we spent some time on Wednesday. It was strange going to Busch Gardens without my sister being there performing (and when we passed the Madagascar show theater I half expected Ellie to ask for Aunt Heather), but we had a great time anyway and are so grateful to Heather for the passes, even in her absence!
Taking Ellie to Busch Gardens has gotten more and more fun each time we've gone, as she has gotten older and able to enjoy more of the experience. This time, given her recent excitement over the zoo, I knew she would be really into seeing the animals. Sure enough, we mentioned the animals to her when we left the house and she barely stopped talking about seeing the "amimals" for the entire way there. Her little voice would just pipe up from the backseat of the car, "See lions? See elephant? See zebra?" So cute.
Checking out the park map, and plotting the best course of action for maximum animal observation
And who are we to let down an excited toddler? So, animals were the main item on our agenda. We started with the gorillas and chimpanzees...
This guy looks like a wise old man
And this one is just relaxing, all super casual, enjoy his tasty leaf snack
...then we took the train (which Ellie was psyched about in itself) to see some more animals.
Clockwise from top left: Ellie and me on the train; some critters whose name I can't remember but they were posing really well; giraffes; ostrich eggs
After the train, we went on a search for even more animals.
She's loving it.
Crocodiles and hyenas and lions and hippos, oh my!
By that point, we were just in time for the elephant interaction demonstration, so we spent some time observing some pachyderms. Ellie later informed us that the elephants were her favorite animal of the whole day.
Ellie and Eric enjoying the elephants (alliteration!)
She just stood and watched.
I feel that his eyes are really tiny for such a large animal.
Then, we went over to the tiger exhibit. We made sure to stop at the tiger pop-up feature, which gave quite an unusual and up-close-and-personal view of one of the tigers!
He's laying on top of the pop-up window!
Ellie was a little unsure.
Really, the tigers were feeling quite sociable in general and we got some great face time with a couple of them.
Watching him pace
That concluded the animal portion of the day. We stopped to get some lunch and then went over to the Sesame Street area for some more "right up Ellie's alley" kind of fun. We were just in time to catch sight of a few characters out amongst the crowd, although we were just too late for posed pictures. We did manage to catch one of Ellie and Grover, however, during a very brief encounter. That encounter, brief as it may have been, made such an impression on Ellie that she spent the next couple of days pretending to be Grover.
She's starstruck. I can just hear her thinking, "he's touching me! He's touching me!"
Then, we rode some rides. Ellie really wanted to ride the carousel, so I took her on that, and it was a much bigger hit than last time. Remembering her love of the Dumbo ride at Disney, Eric took her on the flying elephants (she requested to ride the yellow one), and it was also a success.
She chose a lion to ride and kept saying, "I ride lion! I ride lion!" She even gave him a hug and a kiss, because she is the coolest.
Ellie and Eric on the yellow elephant
Then, we went for another character encounter, this time with Abby Cadabby. As usual, Ellie loved it. She ran right up to give Abby a hug, then plopped down with her as if they were just two gal pals about to spend a girls' afternoon together. You know, mani/pedis, gossip mags, coffee, that kind of thing. That kid, man. She's too much.
Ellie + Abby = BFFs
We really wanted to stick around for the next Sesame Street show, but unfortunately, we still just had too much time to kill and we needed to get Ellie down for a nap. (Well, we wanted to offer a nap. She very politely declined and opted to instead sing "Let It Go" from Frozen aloud to herself in her crib instead.) Regardless of actual nap occurrence, we wanted to at least give Ellie the option, so we made our way to the exit. Ellie wanted to finally pull her weight and carry some of our (read: her) stuff. If only she could really carry it, am I right?
Finally, she's transitioning from being just cute to being cute and useful!
We really had a great day and I was glad we were able to make that trip as a family. It was a great "last day" together before we separated for our babymoon!