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Old 02-12-2017, 03:42 PM   #1
DilBrooksmom
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Any experience with Gatorland, Fishing, Kennedy Space Center, Manatees..???

Looking for ideas or experiences and opinions on the following attractions or any other options besides these that I'm not thinking of. We will be spending a week in Orlando over Spring Break and not going to the major theme parks, but want a few things to do that are overly pricey! We're taking 3-4 teens, ages 15, 17, 17 and possibly an 18yr old as well.

Swimming or Kayaking with Manatees at Crystal River?

Air boat Rides? Boggy Creek seems like a close option or Orlando, but appeared to be $30pp for 30 minutes?! Seems crazy for 5-6 people! It's not even the Everglades!

Gatorland?

Kennedy Space Center - Also seems a high per person cost but I've never been so not sure on the value

Fishing on a charter at Cape Canaveral or Clearwater or???

Also considered doing Legoland, but think the kids are too old and we've been there once before..

Also considering doing Discovery Cove (non-dolphin swim, we've done that before), and getting the free admission to Aquatica and Seaworld that comes along with it...

Anything else? other good water parks? There has to be things I'm not thinking of?
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Old 02-12-2017, 06:19 PM   #2
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Years ago we did the Manatee swim at Chrystal. That is my ex and one of the boys did. DD and other son decided that it was unfair to the manatees and would not go. Kids were 12, 15 and 17 or maybe a year younger.

My ex loved it. Thought it was the best experience.

We did an airboat ride many years ago. The kids and my ex really enjoyed it. Kids were real nature lovers so I am not sure if they were "average". I tend to be pretty thrifty and did not feel it was an outrageous price. I think we did it on the St. John River and then headed over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a family favorite and a place we always saw quite a few manatees in the wild.

I think if you look at the per person cost compared with Disney, many of these activities are pretty reasonable priced.
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Old 02-12-2017, 08:55 PM   #3
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I don't know what the cost is or what interest you and your family might have but one of the YouTube Channels I watch went to the Orlando Eye and the wax musuem (Madame Toussad I think it's called). I don't remember what it is (and am too tired to go find it) but there is a third thing there as well and I'm pretty sure you can buy a combo ticket for everything online to bring the cost down.
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Old 02-13-2017, 01:44 AM   #4
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We swam with the manatees many years ago and it's one of my fondest memories. We did it with a small company, which alas has since closed down - a great shame, as you could book private excursions with them and it was literally the two of us. There was another operator with 30 odd people and when they got in the water, the manatees all headed for us!

We've done the Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and you're right, it's quite close to Orlando, although it took longer to get out there than we expected, given how many miles it was. We enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'd rush to do it again, as it was pricey and we didn't see that much wildlife.

We were thinking of doing Gatorland this trip, but I've just had to nix that in favour of other things.

Kennedy Space Center is amazing now they have Space Shuttle Atlantis. I think we spent three hours just there the last time we visited! Honestly, I think it's a real struggle to do it all in one day now, with everything they have there, and it's more like a two day visit. They've invested a lot of money there, and it's well worth a visit.

We're doing the non-dolphin swim at Discovery Cove at the start of March and will then be taking advantage of the admission to Aquatica, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. If I remember right, Busch Gardens (and free parking at the other parks) was something like $25/person, which was a no-brainer for me.
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Old 02-13-2017, 09:25 AM   #5
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Kennedy Space Centre is a great way to spend a few days. We have been four times and each time purchased the tickets with the Astronaut's Hall of Fame as well. The "Up Close and Personal tour" is a must do! Food options are not so great but the exhibits are tops.

I think the new Universal water park - Volcano Bay? is opening in May. It might be worth a day...
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Old 02-13-2017, 02:01 PM   #6
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Discovery Cove is amazing and if you can do that I would definitely schedule that especially since it gives you the bonus of free tickets to Sea world etc. Clearwater is always a nice stay. There are some cool mini golf courses - extreme ones that has partnered of 4 & 5+. It is so much fun as you literally climb a huge man made hill to find the gorilla inhabiting the top.

How far are you willing to drive - I know there is tons of free/cheap things near Sanibel Island/Cape Coral area. One of my favorite things we have done was Ding Darling Nature preserve and the sunset cruise from the local park - I believe if was only a few dollars/person to cover the gas for the pontoon boat. It was a 2 hour cruise and was awesome. Many state parks have similar things if you just look into the ones within the area you wish to remain in. You could probably either Google cheap/free things to do in the area or look into ordering tourist magazines - always ads & free coupons in there as well as at the tourist center as you enter the state.

Like others have said Kennedy Space Center is so worthwhile and could easily spend 2 days there just exploring. How about an interactive meal - Renaissance, Medieval, Mystery Dinner. Things can also be loads if fun especially when you have a small group.

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Old 02-19-2017, 08:59 AM   #7
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We swam with the manatees many years ago and it's one of my fondest memories. We did it with a small company, which alas has since closed down - a great shame, as you could book private excursions with them and it was literally the two of us. There was another operator with 30 odd people and when they got in the water, the manatees all headed for us!

Thanks! I've found some other options that appear to have a smaller occupancy, so I may try one of those. The kids are all swimmers - like competitively, and college recruits so this would be within their element for sure! We've wanted to do this for a while, the only thing that I was unsure of, was whether or not the manatees would be around in April, or if they headed out of Crystal River, etc.

We've done the Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and you're right, it's quite close to Orlando, although it took longer to get out there than we expected, given how many miles it was. We enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'd rush to do it again, as it was pricey and we didn't see that much wildlife.

We were thinking of doing Gatorland this trip, but I've just had to nix that in favour of other things.

I'll let you know if we do it, whether or not it's worth it!

Kennedy Space Center is amazing now they have Space Shuttle Atlantis. I think we spent three hours just there the last time we visited! Honestly, I think it's a real struggle to do it all in one day now, with everything they have there, and it's more like a two day visit. They've invested a lot of money there, and it's well worth a visit.

I'm glad to hear many say Kennedy is worth it; I've just never been sure it would be for us. But it makes me consider it more now!

We're doing the non-dolphin swim at Discovery Cove at the start of March and will then be taking advantage of the admission to Aquatica, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. If I remember right, Busch Gardens (and free parking at the other parks) was something like $25/person, which was a no-brainer for me.
This is pretty much exactly what we planned to do. We've swam with dolphins twice. The two other kids that are also going with us may not have, so I figure if they wanted to do the dolphin swim they can. I'm most interested due to the other free admissions. We did Busch Gardens last spring break though, so we may pass on that option. Thanks again!
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Old 02-19-2017, 09:02 AM   #8
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I did not think about Sanibel, I'll have to see how far of a drive that is. I've heard it's beautiful! Thanks!


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Originally Posted by cattailmarsh View Post
Discovery Cove is amazing and if you can do that I would definitely schedule that especially since it gives you the bonus of free tickets to Sea world etc. Clearwater is always a nice stay. There are some cool mini golf courses - extreme ones that has partnered of 4 & 5+. It is so much fun as you literally climb a huge man made hill to find the gorilla inhabiting the top.

How far are you willing to drive - I know there is tons of free/cheap things near Sanibel Island/Cape Coral area. One of my favorite things we have done was Ding Darling Nature preserve and the sunset cruise from the local park - I believe if was only a few dollars/person to cover the gas for the pontoon boat. It was a 2 hour cruise and was awesome. Many state parks have similar things if you just look into the ones within the area you wish to remain in. You could probably either Google cheap/free things to do in the area or look into ordering tourist magazines - always ads & free coupons in there as well as at the tourist center as you enter the state.

Like others have said Kennedy Space Center is so worthwhile and could easily spend 2 days there just exploring. How about an interactive meal - Renaissance, Medieval, Mystery Dinner. Things can also be loads if fun especially when you have a small group.

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Old 02-19-2017, 09:36 AM   #9
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I did not think about Sanibel, I'll have to see how far of a drive that is. I've heard it's beautiful! Thanks!
I have driven it several times...it is literally all beautiful highway so it is a pleasant drive.

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Old 02-19-2017, 11:58 AM   #10
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We enjoyed Ding Darling and Sanibel but I remember it as along. If you are looking for less expensive options checkout the National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks in Florida. Most have a minimal charge and IIRC the last time we did a tour it was under $1.00 per person. Merritt Island is right by the Space Center. We also did our airboat ride out that way and it wasn't particularly pricey. I suspect they get fewer people than something a stone's throw from Disney.

We have also done Florida state parks, again they have a pretty inexpensive fee.

Take a minute to explore the Florida tourism website, there's a lot to Florida outside of Orlando.
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Old 02-21-2017, 07:38 PM   #11
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These are some great ideas, thanks!


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We enjoyed Ding Darling and Sanibel but I remember it as along. If you are looking for less expensive options checkout the National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks in Florida. Most have a minimal charge and IIRC the last time we did a tour it was under $1.00 per person. Merritt Island is right by the Space Center. We also did our airboat ride out that way and it wasn't particularly pricey. I suspect they get fewer people than something a stone's throw from Disney.

We have also done Florida state parks, again they have a pretty inexpensive fee.

Take a minute to explore the Florida tourism website, there's a lot to Florida outside of Orlando.
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Old 02-23-2017, 08:44 PM   #12
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I checked with my Aunt who lived in Cape Coral for 20+ years - it is approximately 3 1/2 hours to Sanibel. It would be a long drive but definitely worth it & doable.

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Old 02-24-2017, 02:58 PM   #13
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We really enjoyed Kennedy Space Center. There are different kinds of tickets you can buy. We did the one that gave us the bus tour and we spent the entire day there.

Crystal River's going to be quite a drive from Orlando, about 2 hrs. if I remember correctly. If it's still fairly chilly when you go, you could head to the power plant in Tampa and see 100s of them. They come up there in the cold of winter to be warm.

And the teens are really too old for Lego Land. Ours had pretty much outgrown it by the age of 10. But, he did enjoy the class in Mindstorm, which is robotics.

Deep sea fishing is a great idea, but can be pricey. I'd suggest you take the first boat out in the morning. The afternoon runs can get really HOT!! Depending where you charter from, you can usually find a local restaurant that will clean and cook your fish for you.
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Old 02-24-2017, 08:43 PM   #14
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We always do Discovery Cove non dolphin swim. The dolphin swim takes up so much of the time for relaxing. We do always splurge on a cabana though. If you do get the Busch gardens ticket, there is a free shuttle service from seaworld parking lot to Busch gardens and back. You just need to sign up on line and have a valid admission tickets. If you have a platinum pass to Busch gardens or seaworld, then you get a special admission price for non dolphin swim. Right now, if you have a Busch gardens Williamsburg annual pass, you can get a special price to discovery cove.

I was also wondering about the manatees at crystal river.
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