We woke up on New Year's Eve morning in our hotel room, grabbed breakfast from the little cafe' downstairs and headed straight across the street to Mall of America. Since we arrived right when the doors opened, we got prime parking in the big ramp - right next to the entrance - and we were the first ones in Nickelodeon Universe. We were so early that they were still doing their morning test-runs of all the rides, and the boys thought it was pretty fun to watch all the roller coasters zipping around without anyone in them.
The place also was still decorated for Christmas and we loved the trees that spanned four stories tall!
We decided to do rides before the aquarium, and I'm really glad we did, because we didn't have to wait in any lines the first part of the day.
And we had a great day. We each had our own favorite things, but we all got a chance to do those things on our list. Once again we were reminded how different our boys are - and how much Jaden is like Cody, while Brandon is so much like me!
Cody has never been a big fan of rides, and Jaden really isn't either. My dad and I used to spend our summers bouncing from one amusement park to another so I've always been a big fan, and Brandon told me going into the day that he was going to be super brave for me, and he sure meant it! While Jaden was thrilled with the rides geared for younger kids, by the end of the day Brandon had me going on rides I'd never even attempted myself before. It was pretty funny, too, because he just BARELY made the height requirement for some of them. :)
We all rode one of the roller coasters together, and that one ride about did Jaden in. Brandon and Cody sat in one car, while Jaden and I sat in the car in front of them, and after the first sharp and fast turn, Jaden was already screaming, "I don't like this!!" However, Brandon made me ride it with him four times. ;)
One of Daddy and Jaden's favorites... the Ghost Blaster. A haunted house ride that allowed you to shoot ghosts and goblins and rack up a high score in an effort to beat your partner. As the day wore on, and Brandon wanted to ride more thrillers, Jaden and Cody found themselves navigating back to this one for a repeat performance. ;)
Brandon of course fell in love with the swings - and ended up going on this one multiple times. Jaden had enough after the first time, and I learned that my 31-year old stomach doesn't handle going high up in a circular motion over and over again quite like it used to. A trait I have inherited from my dad who used to sit out the circular rides when I was little, too. I actually had to sit for a bit after getting off this one - I was a bit dizzy!
This was the moment of surprise. Brandon took one look at the Splatosphere and told me he wanted to try it. I had always stayed away from this one myself, not a big fan of dramatic drops from high up, but I was so proud of how brave he was trying to be for me all day long and couldn't say no. He could barely see over the shoulder harness, and he made the cutest little picture with his tiny legs dangling over the side of the seat. And his screams and laughter as we'd repeatedly drop straight down over and over again were just the best. We went on this one over and over and over again. It was his favorite part of the day.
One of Jaden's favorites - the bus. While Brandon and I repeated the Splatosphere over and over again, Jaden repeated this one. They were conveniently located close to each other!
And Daddy's favorite, the ferris wheel. (Just kidding. Cody hates these things). But the boys loved it, and it's just Jaden's speed. Slow. ;)
A Bubble Guppies ride. We had to - Jaden did have a Bubble Guppies themed birthday party four years ago. :)
After a few hours of rides and no lines, we stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Café right inside Nickelodeon Universe. This also was a highlight of Jaden's trip - he has told several people since then that he got to eat at a really famous restaurant. ;)
After lunch we were more than ready to head to the aquarium. This was the part of the trip that Jaden was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint.
After visiting with some star fish and other sea life, we set out right away to pet the sting rays, and it was just the cutest. We were told to simply place our hands on the surface of the water and that they would swim underneath our hands so that we could get a feel of their backs as they swam on.
However, there was one particular sting ray that wasn't following the rest of his group and kept swimming back to Brandon, popping his whole face out of the water as though he was trying to cuddle him!
There's our buddy. :)
Though there was lots of cool things to see throughout the exhibits, but the "tube" as we called it made our whole entire trip. We got there just in time for the one shark feeding of the day, and it was just incredible. To be surrounded on all sides and above us with these very large, intimidating and fascinating creatures was something I don't think any of us will ever forget. Watching them eat their meal face to face with us on the other side of the glass was really powerful.
Jaden and Brandon could have spent the whole day in here.
And then Brandon made friends with a saw fish.
This guy had been swimming all over the place - back and forth above our heads - until he spotted Brandon beneath him. And he then stopped swimming for a good 10 minutes and just positioned himself right over Brandon's head. His weird looking mouth was constantly moving, and Brandon was convinced he was trying to talk to him. He even asked me to take their picture together! :)
We stopped at the gift shop before leaving because Brandon had Christmas money burning a hole in his pocket, and he really wanted a souvenir to help him remember his new friends. :)
He picked out this glow-in-the-dark starfish because he got to pet a real starfish and because it matches the star and space theme in his room.
It was so cute watching him march to the counter with his money, and the lady behind the counter couldn't have been sweeter with him.
When we left the aquarium, Jaden still had his own souvenir he wanted to pick out...
I told him he has enough basketballs but of course, I lost that battle. :)
We rode a few more rides before heading home late afternoon. We never did do any shopping inside the mall. I think they were all okay with that. ;)
Within 15 minutes of leaving Minneapolis, they were both completely out, and Cody and I enjoyed a quiet drive home with plenty of time for uninterrupted adult conversation. It's amazing how seldom that actually happens!
We got home New Year's Eve night, put these two to bed and rang in the new year in our sweats in our living room with James, Cassi, some cheese and some bubbly. Yes - we actually made it past midnight!
Here it is... our little party animals... and the last picture of 2015. It's. A. Wrap.!