Obamas visit aquatic park, eat shave ice on outing

WAIMANALO, Hawaii – A day after spending a quiet Christmas evening at their vacation retreat, President-elect Barack Obama and his children watched a dolphin show at an aquatic park and then picked up some shave ice, a local treat.

Obama and his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, visited Sea Life Park on Friday. Reporters were not allowed to join Obama inside the park, and aides to the president-elect did not immediately have a roster of who joined Obama for the 90-minute visit. Obama's wife, Michelle, was not in reporters' view during the outing.

Visitors to the park said the Obamas attended a dolphin show. Some visitors showed reporters snapshots they took with Obama, who assumes the office of president in less than a month.

Malia and Sasha later ate shave ice at Kokonuts Shave Ice and Snacks while their dad downed a tuna melt.

Obama joked with reporters traveling with him that he would eat his lunch first, to set an example for his daughters. The president-elect then ordered a mound of shave ice, colored orange and green.

He laughed as the children and family friends ordered their snacks, which included flavors such as pina colada, vanilla and cherry.

"I'm not arguing anymore," Obama said in faux exasperation when one of the group's young members asked for a complicated blend of flavors poured on her midday dessert. "I gave up."

He also offered to buy journalists a plastic bowl of the slush — a second offer this week, coming after he offered beer to reporters waiting while he played golf last Sunday.

"Guys, here's your chance," he said. "No? I'm telling you, this is really good."

No one took him up on the offer.

Obama and his family are on a 12-day trip to Obama's native Hawaii, a family vacation the president-elect is trying to keep as private as possible.

Obama has largely stayed out of public view while at a rented vacation home near Honolulu. No speeches, no fundraisers, no forced political meetings. Just family and close friends, holed up behind stone and lava walls at the $9 million beachfront home for his last trip before he takes office on Jan. 20.

So far, it has worked.

Obama has ventured into public only a few times since arriving here from his home in Chicago last Saturday. He brought with him only four aides and his Secret Service detail. His comments to journalists have included little more than jokes about bar tabs or self-deprecating humor about his golf game.

On Friday, Obama made his daily trip to the Semper Fit Center at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and made small talk with onlookers who waited for him to leave the gym.

"You guys have a wonderful new year," Obama said, moving down the makeshift ropeline as visitors snapped pictures with their cell phones.

On Christmas Day, Obama ventured from his home to thank Marines and sailors at the base. He spent more than an hour at the dining hall, posing for pictures between the ham, roast beef and turkey on the buffet. The trip came well after the network evening news programs had aired, a move that allowed him to visit without the suggestion of exploiting the military to get on TV.

"Hey," Obama said as he walked into the mess hall wearing a short-sleeved shirt and slacks, passing by a life-sized Santa Claus. "Just wanted to say 'hi.'"

Obama lingered a few minutes at each table as the Marines and sailors and their families stood to greet their next commander in chief. At other tables, the visitors ate candied sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, mashed potatoes and simmered corn and broccoli.

It was one of only a handful of trips Obama and his motorcade have taken. He and his wife, Michelle, have visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii for daily morning workouts. Twice, he and friends have played a round of golf. He attended a private memorial service for his grandmother on Tuesday and scattered her ashes into the Pacific Ocean.

And that's been it — something his aides say will keep pace until he returns to Chicago in the new year.


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