Monday, October 24, 2011

Travel: Seaworld & Aquatica

While we were in Orlando this past week we fortunately got to visit Seaworld and Aquatica. If you purchase the Orlando Entertainment book, you can buy Seaworld tickets and get Aquatica (Seaworld's water park) for free online at the Entertainment website. The nice thing about purchasing that way is that you print off the tickets from your computer and you then go straight to the turnstile where they scan it and you are in. Be sure and save the paper tickets for Aquatica.

Seaworld is a lot of fun, especially if you like to watch shows. Some of our favorite things were seeing Shamu, petting Stingrays, climbing around on their super jungle gym (good even for the adults), and the Kraken Coaster. What we didn't like was there was only one decent ride (Atlantis) that our two youngest children could ride. There were three other potential okay rides that they probably could ride but they were closed (Shamu Express, Paddle Boats, and Skytower). So if you have kids between the ages of six and nine, I would not recommend taking them to Seaworld. While the shows were great, kids love rides as well and are extremely disappointed when they can't go on them. Our ten year old was big enough to ride the three good rides available which he loved.

While Seaworld was a little disappointing, Aquatica was surprisingly fun. I'm not a big pool person but even I loved it. The day we visited was a bit chilly for Florida (low 70s). Much to my extreme appreciation, the water on the slides/lazy rivers/rides was heated! All three children could also go on all of the slides. Usually water and three young children stresses me out since only one of the three can swim. However, there were lifeguards positioned (it seemed like) every ten feet. Also, even my youngest (6) could stand up easily at the end of a slide or in the lazy rivers. There was also a fantastic water castle-like playground that the kids loved. We purchased the all day meal plan which was worth it and reasonably priced. Basically you could go to this one buffet style restaurant where you could eat all day. The food was typical cafeteria food but did have fruit and an incredible red velvet cake (my super picky skinny eater had three pieces). We also splurged on a cabana (about $59 during the off season). It was nice to have a little more private area to leave our things, and it had a refrigerator and locker. The best part was that the kids felt super special to have their own cabana and now want to build one in the back yard. If you go, be sure and try Roa's Rapid River and make sure you get a life preserver. It is really fun but even great swimmers will benefit from a life jacket. Before I chose Aquatic I googled the accidents that occurred there and one involved a man on this river without a life preserver (morbid, I know but I like to be informed). Finally, I definitely recommend visiting Aquatica, we are already planning to go back some day!

There are other fun things to do in Orlando as well. We took the kids to the Orlando History Center in downtown Orlando. They were having a promotion for a free day which we took advantage of. I asked the employee in the gift shop what his favorite places in the museum were and he said the fourth floor so that is where we started. It contained a lot of early pioneer and Indian artifacts which the kids liked. There was an Indian corn grinder that the kids could actually use (and did). There was also a room about prehistoric times in Florida and a section on the history of Orlando including the rise of Disney. There was also a space capsule that the kids could climb into and play a video game (very popular). The thing that I did not like about this museum is that the kids had to read a lot to get anything out of it. My first and second grader are not strong enough readers to appreciate what they were seeing and certainly could not sit still long enough for me to read it all to them. Also, it seemed that the gift shop was far more enticing than the displays. Still it was worth seeing though I recommend that older kids might like it better.

We also took a trip to Winter Garden, Florida (about 30 minutes from Orlando) to see the Central Florida Railway Museum. It's a great little museum with a lot of train memorabilia and free (donations optional). The older man running the museum was extremely nice and took the time to talk to us. We then wandered around Winter Garden and discovered it is truly a gem and we will probably return to enjoy this adorable little town in the future. For the locals, it is just like Franklin, TN with a Florida twist. For all others, think Mayberry. It is obvious that a lot of money has been spent in creating a lovely small town atmosphere. There are cute antique stores and gift shops. You can see a play in the old theater. There is also a small sister museum to the Railroad museum a few blocks away with history of the area. There was a caboose that the kids could climb on and an antique fire engine that kids could get in to and explore. The lady running the museum told me that there is a fantastic mall nearby as well (though we did not see it). If you have kids that like trains, I recommend that you visit this area!

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