I would be remiss in writing about California if I didn’t write a post about La Niña’s “absolute favourite bestest place ever” (outside Disneyland).

The above photo was taken after La Niña sat for a make-up artist. It was amazing to watch the lady build out the design from broad swipes of colour. She started large, focused in, and the last things added were the black lines and a dusting of fairy dust.

After having her face done, La Niña wanted to walk down the red carpet in her pink “star” Universal Studios t-shirt and Uttam Yumi Girls skirt.

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When the glamour wore off (pretty much immediately) we hit the true star of Universal Studios: The Adventures of Curious George play area. This is a three section activity area that has something for kids of all ages.

Firstly, inside a giant grass hut / tree house there is an activity centre filled with thousands of little soft balls. Kids can grab a bucket, collect balls, and then shoot them at each other from air powered guns. There’s vacuum tubes to help you fill your bucket faster.

La Niña, being a gentle soul, avoided the all out air gun assault and quietly collected balls over time and unloaded these into large receptacles on the second tier. When the receptacles were full and the “mean boys” walked under she released a torrent wave of balls onto their heads. It was her revenge for all the pot shots they took at her while she was collecting balls.

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Outside is an absolutely fantastic spaceship / water park that periodically dumps giant buckets of water on anyone foolish enough to stand underneath the rocket.

Before the giant buckets tilt and soak unsuspecting visitors, an alarm goes off. Kids learn very quickly where the “safe” spots are and scatter to these spots when they hear the 10 second countdown. It’s the uber slow parents who end up getting caught in the flood of water.

I must say, on super hot days, this waterpark was a blessing. And, when you’re done, you can either sun dry or head over to one of the full body blowdryers at the waterpark entrance.

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For the little kids, away from the screaming and fuss of the previous areas, is a quiet, shaded and padded playground. We went here for a snack and afternoon nap.

The best part of this particular area is a little train that moves back and forth from one side of the park to the other. It’s a kid powered train so one kid sits at the lever and turns it really fast to make the train move, while the other travels on the train.

La Niña discovered very quickly that she loved being on the train but didn’t like turning the lever. So… she used her persuasion skills to convince the other kids to do all the work:

HOLAmynameisNiñaandI'vegota REALLYREALLY greatgamethatyouwilllovetoplay. Justsithereandmove THIS leverbackandforth *gasp for breath* whileIsitoverthere andwatchyouwork. DON'T STOP becauseitwillmess EVERYTHINGup. KEEPWORKING!DON'TSTOP! YOU'REDOINGAGREATJOB!

At some point I had to pull La Niña aside and explain to her the difference between being evil and being collaborative.

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We eventually left The Adventures of Curious George to sample The Simpson’s Ride, which wasn’t my choice (La Niña turned her persuasive skills on me — and she’s very good).

We must have waited in line for an hour, passed through dozens of metal corrals, and watched hundreds of Simpsons TV clips before making it to the actual ride (which is about 15 minutes in length).

Once in your VR car (the new rides at Universal are Virtual Reality) you watch the ride video and experience gads of pitching and jerking and twisting and shaking and screaming and dropping.

Just when I thought my poor stomach couldn’t handle anymore (I spent the last 5-minutes with my eyes closed), the ride lurched to a sudden stop and everything went dark and deadly quiet.

"Ummmm. Are you guys ok?" A tentative voice came over a speaker. No one knew what to say because we didn't know what was happening.

"You're going to be in the dark for a while. Is everyone ok with the dark?" He sounded a little bit like Krusty the Clown. The car seized while we were in the up position and wouldn't budge (supposedly the first time in the ride's history).

"We're sending a crew to come and get you. Don't worry. You're safe. I'm supposed to keep talking to you until we can get you out."

I kept expecting a Bart Simpson laugh. It never came.

We ended up being stuck in complete hot stifling darkness for about an hour. They had to bring in an emergency crew and a special platform to get us out.

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To appease us, we were given a VIP pass and an extra run on the Simpson ride.

Wow! Fantastic! Another run on the ride that almost made me puke before pitching us into absolute darkness for an hour of my life that I will never get back. No thanks.

Instead we took the pass and used it repeatedly on the safer trek through a jungle in a boat amongst dinosaurs who chased us down a huge bone soaking waterfall. That was way more fun.