Light Up UCF: 6 Tips for First Timers

Reindeer Butt

Words by JJ West

It is officially “the holidays” in Central Florida, and Light Up UCF is celebrating its 10th year of seasonal family entertainment. I was invited to attend for their Media Event Night. My husband and three children (ages 3, 5 and 6) went with me, and we had a blast. Here are a few of my tips for first-timers:

  1. Check the calendar for specific daily hours. Yes, the attractions and lights are set up from now until early January, but they aren’t always available to the public. I did not pay attention to details and accidentally hauled everyone to campus 45 minutes early. It was a lovely night, and the Light Up UCF light display was gorgeous, so we decided to wait it out. “Waiting it out” with three young children ended up looking like the following: ask the CFE arena security guard if he has “big guns,” visit the bathroom repeatedly, make 4,563,423 attempts to breach the ice skating rink perimeter and have full-blown fan-girl and fan-boy episodes when Santa arrived to take his seat. (“Wook! It’s Santa! I see Santa! Santa! Santa! It’s me! Mommy! Santa is here! He is weally here!)

    “Momma, that tastes kind of yuck!”

  2. Talk to your kids about the difference between actual snow and the soapy “snow” used around central Florida. Yes, it looks like snow to you, but I promise, dear 5-year-old, it does not taste how you think it will. My children tried to eat it EVERY time.
  3. If the staff offers to take a photo for you, let them. We had several staff members offer to take photos. I really wish I had agreed when the train attendant asked. I envisioned a cute, artsy photo of them enjoying the lights and the train. I ended up with a photo of reindeer hindquarters.
  4. Ride the snow slide. It’s totally worth it. I forgot how fun sledding is. And seriously, even if you have to wait in line, you get to do it in pleasant weather without having to walk up an actual hill. Also, you may want to have an extra adult on-hand who is only in charge of gathering your children from the bottom of the hill. My 3-year-old slid down ahead of me. My husband was waiting for us at the bottom. My 3-year-old exited the slide and walked over to my husband; my husband then returned to his job of taking photos and video of me sliding. In my fit of giggles and spinning on the ice, he and I missed that our little cherub had loved his ride so much that he had run back up the stairs to the top of the slide (cutting in front of about 15 others). I was in a full panic looking for him when I noticed a woman in line trying to get my attention and pointing to the front of the line. I looked over just in time to see him plop down on the disk as he yelled, “Momma, watch dis!”
  5. Wear pants. Y’all, the ice slide and ice skating take place ON ICE. There is a good chance that your thigh with come in contact with ice at some point during your adventure. I saw a few shorts-clad college kids regret their apparel decisions. #ouch #bruise #cold
  6. And while we’re discussing hashtags, just be ready to be someone’s #photobomb. My children and I photobombed no less than 17 selfies and photos on the ice skating rink. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just that ITS TOUGH TO STOP ON SKATES. (Side note: the outer edge where all the novice skaters hang on to the wall for dear life probably isn’t the best place to try out all of the IG filters to see which one makes your rental ice skates look the cutest.) The good news is that everyone whose photo we ruined was so kind. I don’t know if it was the lights or the awesome music or just general holiday cheer. Every time my oldest zoomed right through the frame or my middle ran into some one as they posed, we were met with smiles and exclamations of how fun it was to see all the children on skates.

All in all, I can see why Light Up UCF is a staple in the Central Florida holiday traditions. My children have already asked repeatedly to go again, and they have added ice skates to their wish lists. We’ll definitely be back before the season ends.

The West Family: A photo of a photo … that’s how we roll.

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