Those Summer Nights at SeaWorld Orlando

I can’t even think of the words “Summer Nights” without hearing certain “Grease-ers” in my mind, dragging out the second half of that phrase in iconic ’50s warble. I’m singing a NEW tune, now as SeaWorld’s Summer Nights has me Makin’ Waves and wanting to Light up the Night!

The atmosphere at Shamu Stadium is like a night club, but for families. Everyone is moving and grooving to the all-new music, played and pumped up by a live DJ. A pre-show decades dance off, gets you on your feet (and your kids entertained) as the stadium fills (and note: you will need to get there early, as shows fill fast).

Our group took advantage of the show-before- the-show and proceeded to dance unabandoned! Wild giggles and shouts for joy were heard from our row, and that was just the warm up! You’ll also get to read some ocean/animal facts while you wait for the show to start. The kids with me wanted me to read every one out loud.

SeaWorld’s outstanding trainers and the ever-magnificent Killer Whales are the Main Event, though. You’ll be hard-pressed not to join in on the oohs and aahs from the audience as the whales leap from the water, or SPLASH the crowd. (And when they say the splash zone goes up to the second level… they’re NOT kidding. Take your cameras and cell phones at your own risk.)

We usually leave before the night shows since my son wakes up at 6:30 every morning (EVERY morning) and it’s normally a wise decision to match that early rise time with an early “to bed” time. I can’t think of a better time to break that rule, though, than on a summer night with friends and family. We all enjoyed the show so much and will be back a few more times at least before summer’s end (which, sadly, seems RIGHT around the corner!).

 

Food and Wine Conference

Food and Wine ConferenceThis weekend, July 18–20, Family Foodie, Sunday Supper and Rosen Hotels present a Food and Wine Conference at Single Creek Golf Resort. Food and wine bloggers from all over the country will gather to eat, greet, and tweet about all things culinary.

Keynote speakers include Whitney Miller and my Rad friend Emily Ellyn.

Great platinum sponsors include Gallo Family Vinyards, Dixie Crystals, Idaho Potatoes, OXO and Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.

The Cabot Cheese is a supporter. So is Parkesdale Market (a FAVORITE) of mine! But what’s the link with Busch Gardens? Why sponsor? What’s the connection?

Travis Claytor, PR Manager, Busch Gardens Tampa, says “Busch Gardens’ culinary scene is constantly expanding and evolving to meet and exceed guest expectations. We are excited to be a part of the Food and Wine Conference and continue to connect with BuschGardensLogofood bloggers across the country. With an increasing knowledge of food and dining, we know the importance of providing exciting culinary options for all our guests. Additionally, although we can’t talk about it quite yet, we are excited for additional culinary elements at Busch Gardens as we move in to 2015.”

Today is the last day to sign up for the Food and Wine Conference. http://foodandwineconference.com/register/
Happy eating and drinking, blogging and Tweeting!

Follow #FWCon for all the latest!

$50 Gift Card Giveaway for Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores

VF Outlet Back to School 2014Although we homeschool, it just seems “wrong” to pass up on back-to-school shopping, especially during the Florida sales tax holiday August 1-3. Kids grow out of clothes (and SHOES!) faster than imagined and whether your kids go to a brick and mortar building or to co-op, kids need “stuff”. Thankfully there are lots of deals to be had in Orlando, and some of our favorite stores are all together at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. (And for those who buy school uniforms… you really want to check this out!)

I like shopping at  Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores because there is a nice variety of stores (and it’s plus for me to park right in front of the stores). As a deal-seeker, I really enjoy the savings up to 75% off (and sometimes more). (On my last visit I bought an $80 dress for $12. Bam!)

So, do YOU like deals? Here’s your chance to win a $50 gift certificate to the mall, where you can select merchandise at over 50 spacious outlet shops and get great deals at the area’s only Old Navy outlet store, newcomer U.S. Polo Assn., newly renovated Nike, OshKosh B’Gosh and Tommy Hilfiger Stores, plus other well-known outlets including G by GUESS, Justice, Carter’s, Crocs, Calvin Klein, Levi’s®, Aeropostale, Converse, Famous Footwear Outlet, Fossil, Gap, Izod, Rack Room Shoes, and many more. Don’t forget to stop by and treat yourself at Lindt Chocolate, too!

Rafflecopter logo linkTo enter: Click on the Rafflecopter image, and post a comment. To gain more entries, Tweet about it, too (see link for more information).

Even if you don’t win, you can get in on the savings by downloading a coupon from the Center’s website, then bringing it to Travelpro at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores to receive a coupon booklet valued up to $400 in savings. Many stores offer additional savings from 20-40% off to “Friends & Family.”  Savvy discount shoppers can learn about these discounts, as well as specific stores and their hours by following the center on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as visiting www.lbvfs.com. Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores is located just one mile from Walt Disney World at 15657 S. Apopka Vineland Road (State Road 535), Orlando, FL 32821-6316, and two miles south of I-4, Exit 68. Stores are open Monday-Saturday, 10am-9pm, and 10am-7pm on Sunday.

Good luck, and happy shopping!

On The Road Family Fun

Road Trip Games artwork smLots of families, like mine, hit the road in the summer. Whether it’s a two-hour hop to the beach or a 20-hour trek across a couple of states, “Are we there yet?!” is bound to be heard from the back seat. If you’ve heard that query before (a hundred times or more!) and don’t want to plug your kids into technology for the duration, consider playing some fun road trip games together instead. Here are a few we’ve come up with or adapted from games we played when my husband and I were kids.

Pick a Point
Everyone in the vehicle gets to pick two things that are “point worthy.” (If you have a large family, you may want to do one apiece.) Some choices we’ve made include: lawn maintenance trucks, signs for fast food, theme park buses (we see a lot of those here in Central Florida), Smart cars, boats on trailers, double trucks, emergency vehicles, a tire piece on the side of the road, etc. Once the “pointable” things are chosen, select a game range time such as “Starting when we get on the major interstate, and ending when we get to exit 150.”

If a person sees something on the list, they point at it and say “Vaccuum truck (or whatever) point!” Someone else (besides the one who sees it) has to confirm each point, and points are deducted when you mis-identify something (like an RV for a Big Rig). Play continues simultaneously among all players, with other car-mates probably having to step in once in a while to referee who correctly pointed and named the point first.

Decide ahead of time what point value goes to a vehicle sales lot! (It’s downright impossible to count ALL motorcycles, RVs, etc., so pre-determine if there’s a bonus for a sales lot, or decide sales lots won’t count at all.)

We usually keep a running total mentally, but a tally sheet works, too.

The Guessing Game
One person thinks of something the other members take turns trying to figure out what “it” is. Questions usually are asked in order of general to specific. (Our first question is usually: Is it man-made, or nature-made?) Guessers take turns asking 3 “yes or no” questions, asked in either a clockwise pattern, or according to age (though in the car, just going round robin is way easier!).

Some helpful questions include:

(For man made)  Is it related to transportation? Can you eat it? Is it found in our neighborhood? Is it larger than this vehicle? (Tip: Don’t ask “Is it large?” Large is a relative term. Is it larger than a ______ or heavier than a _______ works much better.)

(For nature made) Does it live in water? Is it covered in fur? Is it a mammal? Is it weather-related? Can you eat it? (Note: This question works for both nature and man-made since a processed strawberry candy can be eaten as well as a nature-made strawberry.)

How Many Homonyms?
I like to sneak in education games without anyone “catching on.” Thus the “How Many Homonyms” game was born to keep riders from being bored (not board, LOL). Players take turn naming homonyms and using each in a sentence. There are usually no points given, but the person who gets one right is cheered, while a stumped player gets a loud “aww man!”

road trip single carDie Cast Match
Every trip we take (with a duration of 2 hours +) includes the “Box of Cars.” You know the die cast cars I’m talking about! Whether Matchbox or Hot Wheels (or off brands, or WHATEVER), you have a box, too, I’m guessing.

The kid or kids in the back must correctly retrieve the die cast vehicle that corresponds to the real life version seen on the road. Front seat passengers might have a tiny bit of trouble reaching back, so this one is for rear passengers only. The first one to get their hands on it, get a point.

Alphabet License Plate
Take turns finding each alphabet letter, in order, on license plates. Youngest goes first. Others in the car must confirm a find. Each person gets 1-5 minutes to find one, or their turn is forfeited. (You determine how long you’re willing to wait between letters, LOL.) If you pass, you get a demerit, and the next person must repeat the un-found letter. Like in golf, in this game you want the lowest score.

Someone needs to watch a timer, and someone needs to tally demerits. Set a specific game time duration, or go through the alphabet “X” numbers of times.

What games do you play in the car to while away the hours? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Great American Milk Drive

milk drive feeding americaA favorite childhood memory is the treat of having a PBJ and a tall glass of milk. When I visited my grandparents that delicious combo was often accompanied by a couple cream-filled chocolate cookies and an orange (we’re Florida natives, so we had oranges with just about everything!). As grocers, my grandparents never lacked in fresh healthy foods when I visited, or eventually came to live with them. That wasn’t the case when I lived in Orlando with my mom.

old grocery store register

1950s, opening day at my grandparents’ grocery store in Florida.

After my father died, my mother had a hard time getting back on her feet. My half brother and I spent many a day riding our bikes on the roads around Colonial Avenue while my mom tried to work things out. We climbed the tree on the empty lot down the street with the neighborhood children, and the “big kids” often ran ahead on the bumpy brick-paved roads while the scrawny toothpick-legged ones like me did our best to catch up! We knew we went hungry sometimes, but like most kids in that situation we weren’t convinced we were poor. It was “just the way it was”, though if a friend offered a snack or a meal while visiting their house… well, you didn’t have to ask us twice!

Today there is a new generation of children in Orlando and throughout Florida who don’t have the “luxury” of fixing up a quick sandwich whenever they please. Perhaps they’re like we were who often settled for a “jam sandwich” (where you take two pieces of bread and “jam them” together) and no milk most days, but water. We were not alone. Today, 1 in 5 Central Floridians are struggling with hunger each day.

Second Harvest Food Bank is one of the stop-gaps for families like mine. Through their distribution of food in to more than 500 nonprofit partner agencies in six Central Florida counties, people who want just a little help to get by are given the food they need for themselves and their children.

This year, FlBlogCon has partnered with the Florida Dairy Farmers to spread word about the Great American Milk Drive, to help raise awareness and funds for the single most requested food staple: milk.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Click on the picture to hear how Jesse Tyler Ferguson is helping spread the word about the Great American Milk Drive and how donations are shared in your community.

Our family has already made a donation so other families and individuals who request milk can receive it. Here’s my challenge: If you have no problem purchasing a gallon of milk or more each week, I hope you’ll consider “virtually” picking up a couple extra for your neighbors. It “does a body good” to drink it, and it does a heart good, too, to share a tall glass with others, if only online. No way to give? No problem. Blog, share, or post to Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest (or wherever!) using the hashtags #FLblogging4good and #floridamilk to spread the word with your friends and family. Who knows… some FaceBook friend might not be posting on their wall that they could use help from Second Harvest and the Great American Milk Drive.

milk drive

 

Heart Your Family Vacation at Orange Lake

OrlangeLakeHeartIt’s no wonder why families flock to Central Florida for vacation. We have no shortage of excursions, activities, and fun all wrapped up in golden sunshine. The trick is figuring out where to stay and when to visit that ensures your family’s holiday goals are met. If that wish list includes a condo-like setting, plenty of on-property activities, free WiFi, and proximity to both the theme parks and major arteries to the rest the area has to offer, then Orange Lake by Holiday Inn Club Vacations may just fit the bill.

Recently our family had the pleasure of being hosted for a 3-day visit to Orange Lake in Kissimmee (and we’re already planning a trip back!). We got to see first-hand the amenities and activities that keep families coming back year after year.

Never one to shy away from introducing myself to strangers to find out how they really feel about a property, restaurant or attraction, I made a point to talk with fellow guests about their likes, suggestions, and thoughts and found the common thread was “loyalty.” Of the dozen families I spoke with, all but one had visited before, some had been “more than a few times”, and one family had been coming back since their now adult daughter with kids of her own was a child herself. That kind of devotion means a lot in the travel industry!

Orange Lake is a time share, but can also be booked like a “regular” hotel if you’re not ready to commit to pre-booking your vacations for years to come. Upon returning home I went through their website to check out the process and, as expected, it’s easy to book your stay in a unit that’s the right size for your group. (We’re thinking of getting some other friends and family involved for a joint trip, so all the kiddos can hang out together while the adults take turns having a little golf time or other time “alone,” and so we can have some great “all together” times with everyone participating.)

Speaking of golf, they have 4 distinct courses including the only Arnold Palmer Signature course in Central Florida open to the public (click here for more information or to book your tee time or call 407-239-1050). We didn’t get a chance to do the courses, but did enjoy shooting our bucket of balls on the driving range. Our son hits surprisingly far, for the record! He’s also pretty good at mini-golf, and Orange Lake has two courses, each with two sets of 18 holes. We putted on each and every one of them, a couple more than once! Guests can buy rounds on the mini courses “as you go” or through a multi-day Play Pass that can also include the Giant Hippo Slide. If you’re not doing the theme parks every day, I highly recommend getting a two-or three-day activity pass. We wore ours out on the mini golf and of course the Slide! (I kid you not: My son went down it no less than 30 times in one day alone!) Side note: The resort is a cashless environment. Everything from food to activities is charged through your room which really makes it easy!

Other activities include water sport rentals (we did the paddle boat), and others such as powered boats and jet skis.

OrangeLakeVideoStill

Click to open a video that shows the unit’s amenities. (The quote you hear is an excited little boy shouting, “This is the biggest bathroom I’ve EVER seen.”)

The unit we stayed in featured two bedrooms, two baths, and a full kitchen. Plates, dishes and all the basics are provided. On our next visit I’ll remember to bring prep helps like cooking spray, spices, etc., but when you’re used to hotel rooms with only a mini-fridge and microwave at most, a kitchen is great selling point for budget-minded families or those like friends of mine who have a laundry list of food allergies and home prep is a must. And on the subject of laundry, there’s a washer/dryer set in the unit, too, so it’s easy to stay on top of things while you’re there so mama (or dad, as the case may be) doesn’t have tons to do the moment you get back home. And if you don’t feel like cooking, there are 9 dining options on property.

The pools were, by far, the biggest “lets-go-back” factor for us. There are 6 to choose from with choices ranging from mild and relaxing to slip-sliding fun! (One guess on which ones my little man voted on!) There’s a winding “lazy river” one (with inner tubes available for rent) where we spent an inordinate amount of time, and ones with big slides, and twin kiddo slides. There was no shortage of group activities, and water volleyball games seemed to pop up all day long.

IMGP0462bIt was at the pool area where we said goodbye to Orange Lake. After checkout, we decided on one last swim that ended with one member of our party with a wet face not from the pool, but from tears shed for having to leave.

Click on “Book a Stay” at http://orangelake.com/ and plan your next fun-packed vacation in Central Florida.

Disclosure: My trip was sponsored by Holiday Inn Club Vacations, who provided a two-night stay in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Ka-Chow! Richard Petty Ride-Along Now Features CARS Cars

Tomorrow Disney Pixar Piston Cup Cars will be unveiled at the Walt Disney World Speedway. Petty Holdings, LLC, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney World have brought to “life” two characters from the Academy Award-nominated 2006 animated feature film “Cars” — Aiken Axler and Sage VanDerSpin — and we’re SO excited to meet them!

Number 28 car

Aiken Axler, Car 28, likes exercising and Tai Rod meditation when he’s not racing.

Starting Saturday, June 14, Kids ages 6 to 13 (and at least 48 inches tall) will be able to ride in the front passenger seat of a 600HP race car, driven by a racing pro at the Walt Disney World Speedway. Piston Cup Cars Jr. Ride-Alongs will be first-come, first-serve basis. Guests simply show up to the track to queue and then wait their turn to take a spin in what will seem like the “real” Piston Cup! The cost is $59 + tax.

speedway-pixar-piston-cup-2-500x359

Sage VanDerSpin, Car #80, is the youngest winner of the Junior Piston Cup Pro Series and has mad dodgeball skills when he’s off the track.

Now, you need to know my son has not seen a lot of movies. (He’s more into cooking shows, DIY, and programs that highlight engineering marvels, LOL.) He does, though, LOVE “Cars” and all the personalities (and “Planes,” for the record!). His favorites are Mater, Mr. The King (voiced by Richard Petty, you’ll recall), Lizzie, and the Sheriff. (My favorite is Sally Carrera because I think Bonnie Hunt is just awesome, if you were wondering.)

Getting to touch a movie hero in life will, no doubt, be one of those childhood memories my son will re-live over and over, kind of like the lap after lap action in his (and his dad’s favorite) NASCAR action. I, for one, am excited to see the ear-to-ear grin on his face as that little gentleman “starts [his] engine!”

Real Kids Shades are Necessary Gear for Kids

140526_Pentax (33small)I’m a huge supporter of eye protection for kids. That’s why I teamed up with Real Kids Shades again this summer to get the word out that sunglasses for kids are not just cool accessories, but necessary GEAR.

Since my son was very little I’ve kept him in sunglasses. We live in Florida and are out in the sun a ton, going on homeschool adventures, visiting the theme parks, gardening, orienteering, riding bikes, hiking, doing volunteer projects… you name it. You’ll find him doing these things with us… wearing sunglasses. I’m kind of a freak about it, actually!RKG pool shot Daniel Bolt

When I was a kid I rarely wore shades. It was such a problem for me that the whites of my eyes actually got sun burned. If I opened my eyes real wide, you could see the horizontal red streak. It’s called photokeratitis, or radiation keratitis and happens when the cornea is scorched by ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. People who live/work/play in sunny climes or winter wonderlands are also susceptible (they can become “snow-blind”).

Because of my personal experience with what may end up being an issue for my now-adult eyes, I vowed to ensure my son had the healthiest eyes possible. I sought out Real Kids Shades and asked them if I could review their product (see post here). Since then I’ve not only been an avid supporter, but have been a customer regardless of whether or not I was doing a giveaway or receiving samples.

Real Kids Shades has been so kind as to provide me with three of their newest designs to review for this post AND (drum roll please) every weekend in June are giving away one pair every weekend to my readers!

Rafflecopter logo linkHere’s how you enter:
Click on the RaffleCopter image. You’ll need to leave a comment below with your best tips for summer safety (manditory) AND you need to verify you’ve done that at the RaffleCopter link. For extra entries, Tweet as indicated and/or follow on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter….

So which pair should you choose should you win? Here’s the rundown of the styles we tried out:

Bolt in Black/Lime for kids 7+
(Pictured above on the right) These two-toned glasses have super flexible frames! My son them to be “very comfortable” and said he “liked that they have rubber on them” (meaning the green soft Flex-FitTM part of the wrap-around frames). He loves how they look, too. (But comfort comes first he’ll tell you!)

RKS swag black limeSwag Black/Green for kids 10+
These Wayfarer-style glasses have BRIGHTLY colored soft, impact-resistant polycarbonate frames (there are other kid-approved color combinations, but we’re partial to green in our house!). They’re perfect for chilling in the sun and getting noticed!

 Blade Black/Lime for kids 10+

The wrap-around frame maximizes protection from peripheral light and looks super cool in the process. My young reviewer thought they were fun to wear. (Let’s face it: If they LIKE the glasses, they’re more likely to wear them!)

140526_Pentax (17c)All Real Kids Shades are third-party verified for 100% UV-A/UV-B protection and have shatterproof/impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses. With a wide variety of styles and sizes, Real Kids Shades will have a pair that’s just right for any and all of your little ones.

And, budget-friendly moms: orders over $25 are shipped free (US). I’ve priced “play glasses” and they’re comparable in price. And. No. Protection.

Even if you don’t buy Real Kids Shades, please purchase ones that block 100% of both types of ultraviolet sun rays: UV-A and UV-B. a UV 400 rating is ideal. Ensure they’ve been third-party tested, too and contain no phthalates, lead or bisphenol A.

You wouldn’t let your kids go out without a bike helmet. This is important, too. Protective eyewear is not just a fashion accessory. It’s Necessary Gear. Let’s get ‘em geared up!

Disclosure: I received three pair of Real Kids Shades to try out, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Dining in the Dark Orlando 2014

I’m not going to lie. It was a strange sensation, to say the least. “Dining in the Dark,” while sounding mysterious and exciting from a culinary point of view, sounded DiningDarkNightVisionSmintimidating and, OK I’ll say it, scary from an emotional standpoint. Second Harvest invited the community to join them May 8, 2014 for a unique evening of fine dining to support not only their efforts feeding the hungry in Central Florida, but Lighthouse, an organization that assists the blind and visually impaired in our area.

The event began with a cocktail reception in the Second Harvest warehouse. In the middle of racks piled sky-high and refrigeration cases bloated with healthy goodness to be shared, we were serenaded by Asli Goncer, a local performer, while we enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres. During this time we got a chance to meet our servers, the Orlando Police Department SWAT Team who let the “civilians” check out their night vision headsets. Some of us tried on the apparatus, while others just checked it out from afar. As the meet and greet hour grew to a close, so too grew my apprehension.

While I’ve never been arm-in-arm escorted by an officer of the law before, in this instance it was the only way to find my way to the dining room, not to mention my chair. The officer in charge of our table asked a couple of times if I was OK. (While I could see nothing, he could see the panic on my face.) Happily, though, my friend Emily Ellyn had done “this sort of thing” before and was a comforting presence, not to mention our table’s go-to gal on determining what we were eating. dining in the dark SWAT

When the first course was set before us, I felt the bowl-like shape and laughed at the very real possibility that soup was on the menu. They were not as mischievous as I had envisioned, and instead presented us with a seared seafood boudin blanc (a seafood mix that is cut to resemble a scallop in shape, size, and texture). First course guess: wrong, but pretty darn close as I thought it was a scallop.

The salad was an easy guess, but I wouldn’t have picked out the pickled shaved radish (that I learned later looked so vibrant on the plate). Guessing which pitcher held water and which had iced tea was accomplished with the “whiff” test, while the wine was being passed with running commentary as to being white or red. There were, thankfully, no comments from the SWAT officers on the horribly inaccurate pour job I, nee we, did getting beverages in our glasses!

dining dark scallopOver great conversation with my table-mates, we were then presented with the main course, a grilled lamb chop with a spring garlic and potato whip. I’m sure I wasn’t the only diner who, when presented with a big ol’ delicious bone sticking out, picked up my chop to munch happily. I learned that while there’s freedom when most everyone around you is in the same blind boat, it must be exhausting to live in that state at all times, constantly gauging your movements.

While I have intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be a hungry child in Central Florida, my experience with blindness is confined to migraines where, in my case, I go temporarily blind in one eye for as little as a few minutes, to an hour or more. My minor association with vision loss is enough to make me shudder at the reality faced by the visually impaired. More than any part of the event, that hard-hitting message touched a nerve.

One fellow guest who works at Lighthouse shared how their work helps families of young children either born blind or through trauma. Can you imagine teaching a toddler how to play pat-a-cake, or stack blocks? I, a grown woman, had a hard time finding my mouth for one evening (and it’s been in the same place for forty-some-odd years). Things we so often take for granted are absent daily to members of our community. Thankfully Lighthouse of Central Florida provides many critical services for the blind of all ages, as well as helping with job placement and training.

Second Harvest’s decision to partner with Lighthouse on Dining in the Dark was a great one, as people do tend to turn a “blind eye” to hunger. I doubt people around me even knew I was a hungry kid at the time. Adults rarely talk about it, and kids are embarrassed to share. (I remember I was!) Fortunately Second Harvest gets food in the hands of those who need it, so there are fewer kids like I was… wondering where my next meal would come from, and not even knowing who to ask for help.

I look forward to attending more Dining in the Dark Orlando events in the future. Not only was I impressed with the stellar job done by the chefs who donated their time (thanks Disney Chef team!) and the culinary students in the Darden Community Kitchen, but it was a great way to experience food in a more sense-ual way. Dining with heightened awareness to sounds, smells, temperature variations, brushes against your arm, etc., made for a memorable time.

Please keep an “ear out” for future Dining in the Dark events. Foodies and adventure-seekers alike will be happy to hear about this unusual outing that tickles your taste buds, awakens your senses, and warms your heart knowing that each ticket purchased helps bring a little more light to some dark corners right here in Central Florida.

 

Thanks Second Harvest for letting me originally share this as a guest post (here).

See “Sea Lion Splash” Before It Slips Away

Time is running out! Now through May 31 visit some of the slipperiest Sea Lions you’ll ever want to meet at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. This limited-time exhibition features coastal sea lions in all their splish-splash-iest glory educating audiences not only about themselves and their habitats along the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America, but also on conservation efforts through offering tips on keeping our earth beautiful by recycling.

Lowryzoo2014Just beyond the splash zone, you’ll find a huge inflatable slide (that, ahem, grownups can slide down as well!), a bounce house for smaller guests, a giant sandbox, specialty gift shop, and food kiosk with pool party-inspired food and beverages.

Admission to Sea Lion Splash is $2 per person in addition to Zoo general admission.

We were invited to visit to check out the exhibit and went with another homeschooling family, though we weren’t able to see everything at the zoo in the one day. Tampa and surrounding area residents: This is a great place to get an  annual pass. Not only is Lowry Park Zoo ranked one by Parents Magazine (read more about it here), and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (which is very important in my book) but there are lots of activities, rides, animals and more that are sure to keep you busy all year long.

We enjoyed using the KidQuest Science Adventures “Wild At the Zoo” workbook on our trip. We did a little research with it on the way, worked on it more at lunch, then reinforced what we learned on the way home. There were lots of cool activities. The kids in our group ranging in age from 1st to 4th grade especially liked working on Animal Profiles. We ran into a Docent in the Lorikeet Landing Aviary by the Asian Gardens and the kids were proud to have already learned what “docent” meant so they could share their knowledge with her, and ask questions in return!

Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is a kid-friendly zoo that has lots of activities for visitors young and old alike. We look forward to our next visit to see our favorite animals and meet a few more we missed the first time.

Visit Lowry Park Zoo before the month is out to see Sea Lion Splash!

PS Here’s a special link from Twinkl.com for teachers and homeschool moms of preschool to early-elementary students to help in
combining beginning word blends with Sea Lions!
http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-w2-20627-initial-letter-blends-on-sealions/alt338943 It’s free to join. Check them out.

Disclosure: I received tickets to visit Sea Lion Splash with no expectation for review or promotion. I did, however, enjoy it so much that I wanted to share my experience. All opinions are my own.