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Always Make Your Past Self Jealous {Birthday Celebrations in Orlando}


Celebrating a birthday as you get older can become challenging, and even, dare I say, just another boring or routine day, but when your personal mission statement is to leave a little sparkle wherever you go, birthdays are one of my favorite days to shine even brighter. 


One of the best ways to guarantee an extra sparkly birthday is to bring in your best friend from London who you don't see every day to celebrate with you, like my best friend, Amy! 
Knowing Amy would be spending the week doing Orlando tourist-y things with us, I signed up for a bunch of mailing lists with birthday freebies to celebrate with (some great examples found here). Some of these lists even got us double perks, getting a birthday reward, and a reward just for signing up.


The second we picked Amy up from the airport, we were almost immediately covered in temporary tattoos and watching Harry Potter, but not before her first trip to an Orlando tex-mex classic, Tijuana Flats (using our mailing list perks to get not only a free appetizer, but also a free dessert-cookie dough flautas, which we are demolishing below).



After studying up on Harry Potter the day before, it was only fitting we visited Universal Studios the next day to put our wizardry to the test (thanks for the tickets, mom!).



Universal Studios was one of my favorite places I celebrated my birthday all week and here is why-

1. Wearing my birthday button from Universal, I was wished happy birthday by team members and guests alike all day, including a special shout out on the Men In Black ride over the intercom. 


2. The most magical moment of my entire week was when I was finally chosen at Ollivander's Wand Shop, and I was literally so excited I couldn't even move


3. An actual magical- birthday surprise was getting a free, regular butterbeer to celebrate with!

Celebrating with Amy in the Wizarding World in both parks in general was just magical (as ever). We even rode Forbidden Journey inside the Hogwarts Castle with her (if that doesn't show love, I don't what would). 
She actually came all this way only to be right back in London





We also enjoyed spending some time outside the Wizarding World in the rest of the park, especially meeting Amy's new pal, Blue, the velociraptor. 


Wanting to be sure Amy got the full experience while she was visiting Orlando, there were talks of taking her to a Disney park, however, with us currently not being cast members and a lack of time, we were unable to do so. We did want her to experience some of the Disney magic, so the following day we took her for some eating, shopping, and sampling at Disney Springs.


one of my favorites, riding the boat around the small lake



another favorite- washing our hands at Basin with the free scrub samples
 
meeting Amy's idol- the Coca Cola Bear
While at Disney Springs, we stopped into another favorite of ours, Earl of Sandwich, to receive my mailing list birthday treat, a peppermint brownie!
Disney Springs is in a constant state of upgrade, and the Lego store is no exception. We loved seeing this new art piece pop up with all the Disney resort locations on it, reminding Amy and me of our beginnings, and Mike and I of our recent adventures to all of them.

Mike and I decided Amy needed to see the Magic Kingdom Castle, and took a trip on the monorail around the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian resorts to peek over the train station at it.

Our train conductor even went above and beyond to create a little Disney birthday pixie dust for us as well.


We hopped off the monorail to spend some time visiting the beautifully decorated resorts before heading back to the Polynesian Resort for our dinner reservation. 
Grand Floridian 


The Contemporary


the Polynesian
Ohana dinner at the Polynesian Resort is one of our favorite, all you can eat, family style meals, serving up delicious goodies like pan fried dumplings, coconut pineapple bread, chicken, shrimp, steak, and tropical bread pudding. I also got a free birthday cupcake with dinner!

We even ran into the evening tiki torch lighting ceremony on our way out, and stopped for the short show.


Needing a small break from the activities the days before, Wednesday was a much slower day, including some shopping at the Mall at Millenia to stock Amy up on all her American goodies, followed by a chick-fil-a lunch break. 


Thursday was my official birthday, and to celebrate, we had made a morning reservation to dine with royalty at Trattoria al Forno for their Boardwalk Adventure Breakfast, complete with visits from some familiar friends and free birthday champagne!


King Triton's Calzone 
Tower of Pancakes with warm apple compote




look familiar? 




After brunch we went on a very (cold! it was 50 degrees here!) boat ride before Amy sent me on a scavenger hunt to find a victoria spongecake (thanks Mary Berry!) to have our tea party with.




Even the neighborhood alligators came...

When Mike got home from work, he and Amy worked tirelessly to surprise me with my favorite foods, potato and liquid cheese buffet!


Complete with butterbeer just like the ones from Harry Potter-
These two majestic unicorns even made me a sprinkle-surprise funfetti cake.


After cake and presents, we watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from our neighborhood, singing along to the "Happily Ever After" soundtrack, just as we had almost three years ago when we opened Mickey and the Wondrous Book together. It was such a magical birthday and enjoyed every minute of it, especially thanks to these two amazing souls.

Friday we had some errands to run, but needing to make the week memorable, we stopped at 4 Rivers Smokehouse (to get Amy some traditional Southern BBQ) and Petland to cuddle some puppies, because that is what you do when you're an adult. 






Something on mine and Mike's Orlando to do list still was visiting the Sugar Factory, and with Amy coming and her deep love for sugar, we had the perfect excuse to finally do it. The Sugar Factory is known for their smoking goblets topped off with candy. Sharing one of these giant fish bowls was more than enough, but a huge shoutout to our incredible waiter who even brought us an extra container of candy for my birthday.  



Attempting to walk off some of the sugar, for fear that we would never sleep again, we stopped by the iconic Orlando Eye, located right next door.


Our final day with Amy had somehow come incredibly fast, and it was time for what she had been looking forward to all week, SeaWorld!

Sadly, SeaWorld does not have any birthday buttons to wear, however, they were doing a special on tours this particular weekend for buy one, get one free, so we signed up for the dolphin and penguin up close encounters at park open. mm

Another magical moment in this park is around 10am when the flamingos go on their morning walk through the park.

Another favorite of mine at SeaWorld is petting the stingrays. For a small fee, you can also feed them, which I highly recommend. I was too afraid to hold the actual fish head feed in my hand, but with assistance from Amy and Mike, the feeling of the stingray actually eating out of your hand is so exhilaratingly strange. 






After visiting some of the other rides and animals, including the sharks, we were off for our first tour of the day.


Every time we are at SeaWorld, I could spend hours watching the dolphins in the nursery swim and play, so the up close experience with them was really neat. Our dolphin, Sasha, performed some tricks, splashed us, and even let us pet her.






Almost immediately following was our penguin up close encounter, and I think this was my favorite moment of the day. After a small pit stop to visit the new chicks in the nursery, we got to get up close and spend time with some of the arctic penguins.
nursery chicks



Colby, the King Penguin, was one of our favorites. He was hand raised since birth by our tour guide, and the second he heard her voice was waddling over to the fence to be let in.



Pigpen, the Rockhopper penguin, was a little less interested in the people around her, and a little more interested in eating someones keychain on their bag. The only photo I have of her is in the picture above hanging out in the background.

Skyla, the Gentoo penguin, was also friendly, but also very interested in what her friends on the other side were doing as well. She enjoyed being stroked on the back, but also being able to see what all her friends were up to.



My favorite buddy of the day, however, was Rex, another King penguin, who does not always see eye to eye with Colby. Although Rex stayed on the other side of the fence, he made his presence known by trumpeting rather frequently and loved taking selfies. 



(look at him trumpeting in the back as I pet Colby)




Our whole day at SeaWorld was really magical, and Amy had a blast. This video at the end of the day when Boomer, the massive leopard ray who is rarely seen, came for a visit sums up how amazing the whole day was.


My sister Hilary and her husband, Bridge, were also in town, and before Amy headed off to the airport, we had a massive Thanksgiving meal with my family. 

Being with family helped make the "see ya later" to Amy a little easier, and we had a great time playing games, eating lots of food, and just hanging out.
 Speaking of family, we are so excited to announce our biggest congratulations to Mike's brother, Justin, and his new FIANCE, Jen as they celebrate their engagement. We are so excited to celebrate with you guys at the wedding at the end of the year!



2019- You are shaping up to be quite the year!

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