Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nature in Lights at Fort Hood

We took our annual trip to see Nature in Lights at Fort Hood's Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area (BLORA). This facility includes a man-made lake with swimming area which was built and is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Every year, they set up dozens of displays, such as those shown below, and charge $5 per carload to drive through the park and view the lights.

Traffic is usually bad and we expected that. This year, the traffic was horrible. It took us almost three hours to drive throught the displays, including the stop at "Santa's Workshop" for hot chocolate.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas - Head for San Antonio

The Christmas season is upon us. We decided to take a weekend off and check out the decorations at our favorite two theme parks, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Sea World. We planned to visit Fiesta Texas on Saturday and Sea World on Sunday.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas

As in previous years, they only had about two-thirds of the park open. For obvious reasons, all of the water rides are shut down. Hey, who wants to be wet when it is cold? Unfortunately, the train ride was also converted into a static decoration.

We got to the entrance gate and had our first adventure - a metal detector. Since we were wearing steel-toed shoes, the metal detector sounded off. This caused a minor delay which the staff handled both well and quickly.

Once we got past the gates, the difference was obvious. Christmas ornaments and strings of lights hung from the trees and balconies. Something new - bottomless hot chocolate! If you buy their souvenir mug, you get free refils all day! The cost is reasonable and whipped cream is included.

They replaced their standard shows with Christmas themed shows. Thankfully, only one required an extra fee, which we thus did not see. Over is the "Rockville" area, they set up a huge Christmas tree and did a daily "tree lighting" ceremony, just after dark.

It was after dark, that the decorations exploded with color. Each area had a differenc color theme - the "Los Festivales" area was multi-colored lights, the "Spassburg" area had blue and white lights, and so forth. They did a much better job of decorating the park this year than previous years!

Sea World

Sea World also did a much better job of decorating. They did this in spite of being in the midst of a major renovation of the park. They are rebuilding the water park area and are adding an animal interaction area where the log ride used to be. Both of these should be open next summer. Rumor has it that they are going to do away with the two-year season pass - this used to be their best deal and one which we have availed ourselves for many years.

The Christmas version of the Clyde and Seymour Sealion show was much the same as last year. The Christmas show in Shamu Stadium was new, as was the show in Azul theater. Over by the "Rio Loco" whitewater raft ride (which, by the way, was open!), they set up a small Christmas village with a number of booths selling Christmas-themed stuff and food, along with the traditional visit with Santa Claus. They also had a three-piece country band singing Christmas carols, some traditional and some more contemporary.

After dark, the place transformed. They had wound strings of lights around many of the trees, creating a candy-cane forest with red and white stripes. Other areas looked like peppermint sticks with their white and blue stripes. Over by the Penguin Encounter, they festooned the trees with strings of white lights. The effect was gorgeous!


If I had to give out awards for Christmas changes, I would have to give the award for decorations to Sea World this year. It was close, however. The award for food, however, has to go to Fiesta Texas for their bottomless hot chocolate and for their winter-themed funnel cake variations.

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