June 25, 2010

Summertime fun brings families together

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Relationships at 3:47 pm by dinaheng

School is out, and many of us are planning that annual summertime rite — the family vacation.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Jane, her husband John, their two kids and his parents came to Los Angeles for a taste of Legoland, Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood Wax Museum and Newport Beach. Toward the end of their visit, I got to join them for a day at Universal  Studios Hollywood.

Most of us forego tourist attractions in the places where we live, until friends or relatives come to town, and we have to play host. Having family in town gave me a great excuse to step away from work and step into the fantasy world of Universal. Being an auntie is great fun because I get to enjoy time with my nieces and nephews, even if the kids aren’t mine.

The complex includes restaurants, shopping, and a movie theater at Universal CityWalk, a movie studio tour, and theme park shows and rides. You know you’ve left the real world behind when you see visitors posing for family snapshots on the Red Carpet outside the theme park, becoming their own celebrities of the moment.

While Disneyland seems to feature fuzzy, kid-friendly attractions, Universal seems to thrive on thrill rides and let’s scare the kids (or parents) attractions. The kids’ first request of the day was to go through the House of Horrors, so John took them while the grandparents, Jane and I sat outside and listened to some blues music being performed on the stage next door.

Max, 7 and Bentley,11, soon came out, mildly impressed with the horror movie walk-through and ready for the next show. So we all headed for the “Shrek 4-D” attraction, which spritzed us with the first of many — shall we say — wet experiences, through the day. On a hot summer day, those experiences might have felt refreshing, but after a while, I just found the feature annoying. Hmm… probably a sign I need to get more in touch with my inner child.

(One more adult complaint — it took 45 minutes to get through the line at Mel’s Diner, so either go early, or skip the fries and eat something healthier at another venue.)

The best part of the day was watching the kids enjoy themselves. Seeing them laugh and smile at the littlest things was a reminder of what family vacations are really about — the opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. These are the memories that get us through tough economic times, angry arguments, and sad events.

The chance to sit with grandparents, and listen to them talk about their travel memories, is a reminder to live in the present and appreciate life today, for time passes in a heartbeat, and we will not always be with the ones we love.

After taking the tram tour of the movie studio, we split up to take in as much of the park as we could in the last hour it was open.  John took the kids for some rides, and the rest of us went to the “Water World” show, which was spectacular.

All too soon, our day at Universal was over. I was sad to see the family leave, but glad to hear that they wanted to come back and visit again.

Even aunties love family vacations.

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