Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since we returned from Florida, and this is the first I get a chance to post about it?  Yes, life is busy.  We had a blast in Florida, but the weather couldn’t have been more bipolar than it was this trip.  Tired of hearing and talking about the weather, eh?  I’ll try not to harp on it.  Did I mention how much I miss Hawaii?  Oh, but they had 55-65 F temps too this year.  Here are some highlights of our New Year’s trip.

IMG_4129Cocoa Beach & Cape Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center

NASA was fun; expensive, but fun, and unlike the Disney parks, very focused on one theme- Space!  The best part of visiting the Kennedy Space Center was seeing the Atlantis exhibit, and the actual Atlantis shuttle.  What a great new center and so many hands-on activities and modules for the kids and the adult kids too!  The other great part of the Center is the IMAX IMG_89463-D movie.  The one that was playing when we were there was Hubble, and it was very well done, and engaging.  The stars and planets fly out at you, and it is a great experience for all.  You can meet astronauts, and characters, and just have a great time around the Center.  If the weather is nice, bonus!

Cocoa Beach
Cocoa Beach- Writing reads, “I miss Hawaii”




We had cold and windy weather for Cocoa Beach, and wish it were warmer, but it’s beach, so how can we complain at all?  I do believe Cocoa Beach would be a great place to stay overnight, and with better weather, it is a very nice beach with lots of great restaurants and things to do in the area.  I think Melbourne would be another fun place to visit if there is time.  We did a day trip, but if you get more time, I would definitely recommend this entire area, and if you take a cruise, Port Canaveral looked awesome!

IMG_8981“Orange” you glad you picked your own oranges?

If you love Florida oranges, or citrus in general, and are in the Orlando or any other Florida area, look up local commercial groves where you can pick your own fruit.  The one closest to where my folks live is my favorite, albeit the only one I am aware of.  If the giant confederate flag doesn’t turn you off, then give this place a try.  Otherwise, do a Google(c) search with zip code on commercial orange groves, and you may find the right one for you!  IMG_8984The one we go to is called “Showcase of Citrus” off of Highway 27, in Clermont, Florida.  It is a fun place for kids and adults alike.  Wear your walking shoes, and you can bring your own wagon because when this place gets busy, they may run out.  For $12, you can fill (to your heart’s content) a 5 lb. bag they supply.  You can fill a 10 lb. bag too for more.  There are coupons on-line for their famous slushy and swamp tours.  The swamp tour is about 60 minutes, and resembles the Kilimanjaro ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom without all the wildlife.  It is a great place to walk around the groves and pick various citrus; all types of oranges,grapefruit, and tangerine varieties.  Or, for $13, you can fill a bag inside the market area (they have picked the best ones for you), and you can be on your way!  The IMG_8989bag itself is a souvenir too!  The citrus here is so delicious, and we had fresh juice for a week, and citrus for breakfast.  Sickness, be damned!  Oh another place while in Clermont is a local donut shop called “Donut King.”   They serve all sorts of cajun food too, but my God, their donuts– amazingly delicious!  When in Clermont, definitely give Donut King a try.

The CSI ExperienceIMG_9028– we had an amazing date afternoon on International Drive.  It was a unique date.  My husband loves the show CSI.  The CSI Experience is a fun place to act out the forensics doctor or investigator in you without really getting too “dirty” or close to the real body.  There are three separate scenarios and “crimes,” and you go through several different rooms to narrow the suspect pool, and find the truth.  It’s fun, and each scene takes about 30-45 minutes.   If you are military, be sure to bring your IDs and you get a great discount.  There are coupons in all the local magazines and on-line for about $2.00 per person which is good too.  If you’re into solving crimes and the show, CSI, you will have a good time.

Hollywood Studios

I’ve said it once, I have said it a few dozen times, Disney stresses me out.  Disneyworld stresses me out way more than LAND.  I found LAND laid back, and since it doesn’t attract a lot of foreign tourists, I found it less crowded and more manageable.  Of course, Disney is Disney- high prices, crazy lines for absolutely nothing all that exciting at the end, and a lot of walking.  Yes, parents can sit in strollers and it’s socially acceptable at Disney.  For a Type-A parent like myself, Disney is very stressful.  For me, Magic Kingdom is the most stressful.  If waiting in line to see Tinkerbell for an hour wasn’t bad enough, I can’t get a fast pass to the Enchanted Belle ride (new in Fantasyland) because I didn’t stay in a Disneyworld resort.  Really?  How has Disney ever survived an FTC investigation or an anti-trust/price-rigging suit? I do not get it all.  I have to stay at your bloody resort so I can save 120 minutes?  #Sigh Ah well, all that aside, this time we visited Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom-Asia; not sure why I look preggers in this one
Animal Kingdom-Asia; not sure why I look preggers in this one

The weather really did not cooperate at all with us this time in Florida, and it rained for most of our time at Animal Kingdom.  But, we enjoyed a few things at the Park.  Animal Kingdom is beta-testing the Fast Pass PLUS program for all people (not just those at Disney resorts) and we were able to get tickets for The Lion King and Finding Nemo and the kids enjoyed these shows.  Our favorite ride was Killamanjaro and the girls loved the animals.

Lion King Show
Lion King Show

They are all right there.  I had no idea how long this ride was, but it was very cool.  I felt transported to Africa.  I love the Asia area, and while we did not ride the fast-paced rides, the girls enjoyed getting their books stamped at each different region.  The rain dampened us physically, but not our spirits.

Nemo Show at Animal Kingdom
Honey I shrunk the Kids play area

Hollywood Studios was fun to visit, but it was a cool day.  We enjoyed our time watching the shows, Disney Junior, and the movies.  Hollywood Studios reminded me of California Adventure Park – same look and feel.  The Hollywood ride was a lot of fun, and walking aIMG_4203round the different sets was a good time as well.  The kids’ favorite part was hanging out in the play area of “Honey I shrunk the kids.”  They could have taken or left the rest of the day.  Fantasmic here is the same as the beautiful Fantasmic show at Disneyland.  So, feel free to skip it on a cold or rainy night, and catch it in a more relaxed setting at Disneyland.  The Beauty and the Beast show is nice, but in an outdoor theater.  I think The Lion King is the best we saw among both parks.  The rest is okay after that.  The show Bug’s Life in 3D is awesome but it is scary for kids under 8.  My girls were screaming and we had to run out at California Adventure Park, so we did not attempt it here, but I thought it was fun.  Character meetings are fun for the kids and make sure you get a photo pass too so you can see all your pics later.  Disney charges an arm and a leg to buy them later, but you can have the photo pass photographer take a picture of you and your family with your own camera too!  They take great photos by the way.

Magic Kingdom was our last stop to see the princesses.  As I said, this is the least favorite park for me – too big, and too much to do, and the one that won’t readily give you a fast pass plus unless you stay on site.  Might be worth getting a single room for one night at Cinderella2the cheapest resort you can find just for the speed, but totally your call.  If you get one night, remember, you can use that for 2 days at the parks.  We saw a lot of princesses at the Magic Kingdom, and the girls had a great time on their usual rides: Aladdin’s magic carpet, Little Mermaid (so not worth the line- this is the same ride that had a 2 min wait at California Adventure park).  I recommend getting there and standing in line for Belle’s Enchanted Ride, and leaving Fantasyland.  The kiddos loved the show in front of the Castle.  Best view in January was the 520pm show, when the castle IMG_9210literally went from daylight to night, with spectacular lighting and all.  The characters sing, dance, and my daughters loved seeing their favorites all in one place.  The parades are good for this too!

All in all, it was a good trip to Florida, but I think I definitely could have used more R&R time and if you want more R&R, skip Disney, and just do local fun things.

Holmes Beach- Bradenton

IMG_9151 IMG_9166


Beaches South of Tampa, on the Gulf Coast- We visited both coasts for beach, but the weather never seemed to cooperate with us.

I think when we return to Florida, we should try to get a beach house, and soak up sun, and play in the sand.  The beaches South of Tampa, near Bradenton, north of Sarasota look beautiful.  We were at Holmes Beach and these pictures were taken there.  The sand was whiter, and sea shells for all to find and adore.  I think I liked this beach even more than Cocoa Beach, but surprisingly the Gulf Water was not as warmer than the Atlantic on the Cocoa Beach side.

Ah, Floridahh, what a great family vacation – seeing family, doing fun things, and escaping the cold- well, a little.


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