Archive | Worth the Drive

Great Age to Start a Tradition at Busch Gardens

My favorite theme park when my children were young was Busch Gardens. We’d get up early and make the drive to Tampa (about an hour), unload the car just as the park was opening. The first few years, we could get in an educational type experience walking through the Myombe Reserve viewing the apes and gorillas, then onto the rhinos and elephants and tropical birds. Then when us parents needed a break, we could hit the children area and let the little ones wear themselves out a little more. A few more tours and another break was in order, so we’d take the skyride or train around the park and view even more beautiful creatures of the Serengeti Plain.

As the kids grew older, we’d pile out of the car (mini-van) and quickly, THEY’D plan their route of rides to experience and off we’d go to Sheikra, Kumba, Scorpion, Gwazi and more. Even when my kids were teens, I loved Busch Gardens. I could find a nice quiet area of the park and read a book while they and their friends took to the roller coasters and water-soaking rides; and I’d sneak off for a free sample of suds!

Busch Gardens is doing a lot of good things. Last week 100 U.S. Navy recruits were sworn in at the park as part  of Navy Week. In February, a mother and daughter pair of western lowland gorillas, native to Africa and critically endangered were brought to the park for breeding. The new arrivals can be viewed at the Myombe Reserve habitat a 3-acre rain forest environment that opened in 1991. The theme park is also involved in sending a gift of about 1,000 tilapia to a nonprofit organization in Dade City dedicated to alleviating world hunger through sustainable fish farming. The fish will help the organization by replacing many they lost during the January freeze. It also helps Busch Gardens as they must clean up a lake used by their koi and have more tilapia than needed to eat the algae off the pond walls.

Reading about all of these “warm fuzzy” happenings at the attraction brought back such great memories. Going to Busch Gardens at least once a year was a tradition for my kids. If you have small children, NOW is a great time to begin this tradition for yourselves. Busch Gardens is offering a free pass for Florida preschoolers for the remainder of 2010! You must register online to get an e-ticket and at the gate prove the child’s date of birth (download the FAQs/rules). While they usually charge children starting at age 3, this special is available to kids who are 5 years old and younger. This promotion is in conjunction with the park’s Sesame Street Safari of Fun area, set to open March 27.

Busch Gardens is worth the drive. It’s a great theme park with activities for all ages. Educational and entertaining, you’ll be happy to open your family up to a possible new tradition. Um, wish my kids were little again…

Spring Training: Let’s Play Ball!

The Braves play in Lake Buena Vista during Spring Training

Spring Training is in full swing in Central Florida

Having such an extremely cold winter, I, for one, am ready for Spring! I’m sick of the cold, but then, I’ve lived in Florida so long anything below 80° is cold. One sign that spring is on its way is the commencement of Spring Training Baseball. Oh yeah! The smell of hot dogs, the pinging sound of a bat making contact, and an umpire yelling, “Let’s play ball!”

If you’re here on vacation, maybe your home team is training nearby. Many major league teams hold spring training camps and exhibition games in Florida. It gives tourists a chance to check out the new lineups while here on vacation. Many locals check on their home team – the Marlins or Devil Rays, as well as their favorite adversary.

Here’s where they play at:
Florida Marlins & St. Louis Cardinals @ Jupiter
Boston Red Sox @ Ft. Myers
Toronto Blue Jays @ Dunedin
Minnesota Twins @ Lee County
Pittsburg Pirates @ Bradenton
Baltimore Orioles @ Sarasota
NY Mets @ Port St. Lucie
Philadelphia Phillies @ Clearwater
Washington Nationals @ Viera, FL
NY Yankees @ Tampa
Tampa Bay Devil Rays @ Port Charlotte

Closer to Central Florida:
At Disney’s Wide World of Sports you have the Atlanta Braves on the roster. The Houston Astros are in the dug-out in Kissimmee at the Osceola County Stadium. And the Tigers make their spring home in Lakeland at the Joker Marchant Stadium. The Disney Sports Complex is a wonderful venue and hosts many other sports which can often be seen once your ticket gets you into the venue. ESPN’s own Wide World of Sports Grill is fun with large screen TV’s and a menu to suit all ages, yet a little pricey. The Osceola County Stadium is newly built and easy to get to via the FL Turnpike. It’s been awhile since attending a game in Lakeland. I remember getting lost getting to the venue, but had a great time once we were there. With GPS and online maps, it’s easier to find. In fact they recently had the second-largest crowd ever attend a game there.

Spring Training tickets are fairly inexpensive ($15 & up) and a day out at the ballpark may just be what your winter-weary spirit is calling for. So root, root, root for the home team, whichever park you may go. Peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks; I don’t care if Winter ever comes back!!

Fat Tuesday – Beach Style?

Fat Tuesday offers celebrations all over Central Florida and can be a fun time to get out with friends on a week night. Many vacationers and locals will flock to the normal venues of Universal, Sea World, Downtown Orlando and Disney, but this Tuesday, I’ll be in the quaint town of New Smyrna Beach (NSB) for their Mardi Gras parade and street celebration.

It’s not the big fanfare you’d expect from the ‘big boys’ in the region, but a small-town parade is what many vacationers would treasure should they happen to stumble upon it. NSB’s parade is all of about 7 blocks long down beach side’s Flagler Avenue. Leading the parade at 7:00 p.m. will be a local motorcycle group followed by a string of residents and school groups on floats, golf carts, antique cars, Segways and on foot; throwing out candy, beads and showing off some crazy outfits. Just to show NSB could keep up with the big boys if they really wanted to, the Budweiser Clydesdales are rumored to be completing this year’s parade.

The fact that many don’t think of this as a place to celebrate Mardi Gras is exactly why you’ll be glad you did. It’s not overly crowded, it’s fun, it’s real, it’s inexpensive; small-town America. People are friendly and downright neighborly. There are many wonderful restaurants to dine at before the parade, plenty of bars to party at afterward, and hotels and B&B’s to spend the night.  Just come early and expect to walk a few blocks due to the lack of parking.

Oh, and did I mention the beach? And the shops? And the art shows? Guess I’ll have to write about those some other time. Spend this Tuesday in NSB and be sure to catch some beads and a piece of small town charm. Wednesday will be here soon enough and you can go back to the crowds, standing in line and fighting the traffic.