Today is definitely a bit of a cheat. This is not a typical “get out and enjoy a day with Evan” kind of post. But it does carry the same spirit.
Typically, I plan a lot of small trips because we don’t usually do a big summer vacation. We tend to do a big vacation in the late winter or spring (typically to Disney) and then have several other conferences that become family vacations (this fall – TURKS & CAICOS!).
I didn’t feel like I needed a big vacation but I did need a change of scenery so we planned a short week to Florida. If you’re a budget traveler, here’s why we did.
1. BWI-MCO is usually a pretty inexpensive flight anyway but we also had quite a few Southwest travel vouchers to use which cut the cost way down. Also, no baggage fees on Southwest!
2. My husband travels a fair amount for work so we used his Hertz points and rented a car for the week for $28!
3. We are Annual Passholders for Disney so we figured we could head to Disney for a day or two and it wouldn’t cost us anything.
4. My dad lives in Florida! He lives in a retirement community about an hour outside of Orlando so… free lodging! (And Evan gets to visit his grandparents too!)
So now you see why this is like a longer, more expensive Field Trip Friday instead of an all out vacation.
Oh, who am I kidding. THIS HAS BEEN A GREAT VACATION for so many reasons but the biggest one has been showing Evan a side of Florida that isn’t Disney.
Kennedy Space Center
When we got to Florida, I promised Evan that our plan was to either be in the water or in air conditioning. The weather, however, doesn’t always cooperate with our water plans. So at Sean’s suggestion, we planned an afternoon at Kennedy Space Center. I hadn’t been there in about 13 years and WOW has it changed. This is definitely an all day attraction.
Evan did have some complaints on the way. I think he was imagining some really boring space museum. It wasn’t until we got there that he said, “Oh, we’re visiting NASA? You should have told me. I would have been more excited!”
Since we’ve been focusing on photography lately, he was anxious to bring his iPad with him and take photos of everything. Letting him capture everything that he wanted to on his own was a great way to actually keep him engaged the whole day and he was so excited to share his photos at the end of the day.
Since it was later in the day, we wanted to make sure we got on the bus tour that takes you around the complex and shows you the actual launchpads. Back in the day, you could actually get out and walk around some of the launchpad areas but we were fine to view things from the comfort of an air-conditioned bus.
From the bus, we could peek into the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Bay) but we couldn’t actually see anything being assembled. We used our imaginations though and Evan kept snapping away at everything we saw. Like this.
I don’t remember what it’s called but it’s the thing that moves the rocket to the launch pad. Highlights of what I learned: it weighs many millions of pounds, gets 32 feet per gallon, and travels on a gravel pathway because it so heavy, it needs a special substrate on which to travel.
And this was launchpad 39 (39A, I think) which doesn’t seem like that big of a deal until our tour guide announced that every single person that’s ever left the Earth did it on through launchpad. I actually got chills.
Interspersed with the sites we saw from the bus window and the tour guide’s history lessons, the short videos they showed on the bus actually kept Evan interested the whole time! Yes, that’s a feat for an 8 year old.
While I loved the building that housed a full Saturn V rocket, as a child of the 70s and 80s, the Space Shuttle program is what lit my fire. I was giddy looking at Atlantis inside one of the buildings. As in, the REAL LIVE Atlantis space shuttle. As I talked to one of the Space Shuttle experts, I learned more about the shuttles (and Periscoped that too) and the future of NASA. Shuttles are over because we don’t need them anymore.
We’re going back to the future with advanced rockets that will take this generation to Mars and beyond by the 2030s. I told Evan he could go on a mission as long as it was a roundtrip mission. He’s still not sold on the idea of traveling to Mars.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
Okay, we did go to Disney. We do have annual passes after all. But we spent the day at one of the Disney water parks. Last year, we spent a good portion of a day at Typhoon Lagoon and decided to focus a full day at Blizzard Beach.
While it was hot (like AFRICA hot), it was a great day to be in the water with no thunderstorms in sight. We did the wave pool, some slides, the lazy river, had a fabulous lunch at The Warming Hut, ate some mini-donuts in the afternoon, and then headed out for the day.
So where are all the photos? Well, I did take a mid-day break to do a quick Periscope but mostly, my phone stayed in the locker we rented and I did nothing but enjoy the day. Isn’t that what vacation is supposed to be like?
For our last big adventure, we headed to the great outdoors where, again, we made sure water was integral part of the day. We signed up for a kayaking adventure at Rainbow Springs with Discovery Kayak Tours. All I knew is that we were going kayaking on a river and we’d be swimming halfway through the trip. Literally, that’s all I knew when I said Sure – let’s do it!
I had a solo kayak and Sean and Evan went tandem.
And off we went.
Now I show this picture because it looks like an regular ol’ river but Florida springs are different. They are a constantly renewing source of water that are fiercely protected by the state. As a result, the waters are pristine and full of plant and wildlife that rival any nature park.
In fact, the water in Rainbow Springs is clearer than any swimming pool I’ve ever been in. The visibility that day was supposedly 200 feet under the water. While I stayed mostly above the water, as a nature girl, I couldn’t get enough of the wildlife including…
Turtles (I think they were river cooters)
Anhingas (that snake looking head sticking out of the water? that’s the anhinga)
My own little dragonfly Blue shar fish (my spelling is questionable)
It’s a good thing I didn’t see this sign at our swimming spot until after I got out of the water.
If I lived in Florida, I think kayaking in the springs would be my happy place. As for Evan, he did mention about halfway through that he was ready to turn around. But then he would have missed swimming in the freezing 72 degree spring water and eating fresh pineapple before we gently drifted back to our starting point.
At the end of our trip, I asked him what his favorite part of the trip was. He said he really liked the water park. And kayaking. And the space center. And spending time in the pool together.
As it turns out, there is more to Florida than Disney. Don’t worry. We still love the mouse but there’s a lot more to Florida than I thought. More adventures to come!
Love this post! We did something similar in February. We rented a house with my parents and my brother and his family. And I (yes, me) actually planned a full non-Disney week (we did go to Downtown Disney one evening for shopping and dinner). We went to Busch Gardens, Kennedy Space Center, Sea World, Legoland, and Universal. It was nice to experience some new things. I’m still a Disney die-hard, but now I want to move to Florida all the more – there’s just SO much to see and do down there.
As I was researching everything (with input from Facebook), I realized how many things we haven’t done! I’d definitely like to head to the Tampa area and check out some of that stuff. But I think it was kayaking that made me fall in love with Florida. I’ll definitely be back for Disney and more!
That kayaking really looks like fun! I would have never thought to do something like that. 😉
I thought that Disney consulted with NASA on the space center – maybe it was just in Houston? So perhaps you got more Disney than you thought?
I had never heard that so I did some research. I do see that Houston consulted with Disney Imagineering but haven’t found anything about KSC. I could definitely imagine the Disney influences there though.
I am pretty sure, though, that they had NOTHING to do with the springs 😉