Happy 5th Birthday Aquatica!

Aquatica headHappy Birthday Aquatica!

In celebration of their 5th birthday, Florida residents and up to five guests*, can buy $5 Aquatica water park tickets valid March 1, 2 or 3. This limited-time offer can be made even BIGGER with an add on of all-day access to Banana Beach Cookout which serves salads, hot dogs, pizza, chicken (my favorite), and other beach-style goodies. Drinks (sodas and coffee) are included, as well (making the total for ticket plus Banana Beach $19.99 for adults and $13.99 for kids 3 to 9).

Aquatica 5th cake

Insider tip: Visit Banana Beach at off-meal times to avoid long lines. We go in the first hour, then again at maybe 3 p.m. We have too much fun on the slides and on the Shamu 500, er, Roa’s Rapids, to spend any more time than necessary in line!

Limited ticket quantities are available. Click here to buy yours.  [NOTE: As of Thursday, February 21, 2013, all tickets at this special price have been sold.]

Aquatica 5th splash

*Guests of yours need not be Florida residents

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Carpe Freezum at Aquatica for Florida Special Olympics

Running into cold water Polar Plunge AquaticaIt’s not quite going to be freezing here in Florida, February 2, but it’ll be as close as we get here in the sunshine state. On that date, hundreds of “plungers” will hit the beach, um, er, POOL, at SeaWorld Aquatica to raise money and awareness for Florida Special Olympics.

Last year, 700 plungers participated in the 3rd Annual Polar Plunge to raise $180,000. This year there will be a record number of participants (over 1,000 and counting!), with donations on track to meet the $200,000 goal!

Miss Polar Plunge, 2012

Miss Polar Plunge, 2012

Your donations make it possible for Florida Special Olympics to provide new sport opportunities for athletes such as flag football or to introduce children ages 2 -7 to Special Olympics Florida through the recent initiative “Young Athletes.”

It was a lot of fun “freezin'” last year! My Twitter and FaceBook followers, family, and friends blew me away with their generosity. This year I’m happy to have a team, The Central Florida Fun Bloggers, i.e. Fun-“e”-Bees. (Hint, hint: I could use some more team members!) We’ll be dressed in goofy bee get-ups while going in the water, although nowhere near as cold as even these kids:

SeaWorld Mommy in the cold waterWith less than a week away, here’s how you can help:

    • Donate to my page (click here)
    • Donate to one of my team-mates’ pages (click here for Iris Lee, click here for Brian of Central Florida Top 5 fame, click here for Rachel Yates)
    • Become a plunger (on my team? *bats eyes*). It is $100 to plunge which gets you and two spectators in for the day (which is much less than the cost for 3 tickets) AND you get to stay and play the rest of the day!
    • Become a team member! (follow the instructions here and then “click Join a Team” to find Central Florida Fun Bloggers).
Central Florida bloggers... Come on Down!

Central Florida bloggers… Come on Down!

The 2013 Polar Plunge AT Aquatica is presented by the Florida Professional Firefighters Saturday, February 2nd. Registration Opens at 9:00 a.m. with opening ceremony and Plunge starting at 11. Early registration will be Friday, February 1st from 12pm – 7pm at the Hilton Orlando, 6001 Destination Parkway.

Crazy outfits are encouraged at Aquatica for the Polar Plunge

Crazy outfits are encouraged!

Costuming IS encouraged, so if you’re like me and just LOOK for a place to get all dressed up, THIS is the fun event to attend. (And if you’re on my team, I already have the BEE outfits ready!) Prizes will be awarded for the best individual and best team costumes. I say we have a chance!

Please help Florida Special Olympics by participating. It’ll be a whole lot of good, clean, COLD, fun!

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Real Kids Shades Stand Up to Real Kids

Shingle Creek Golf, Aquatica by SeaWorld, Real Kids Shades

Style: Flex Royal for ages 3-7

Kid models in magazines always look so polished (as do models of any age, I suppose). They’re smiling, never having a tantrum, and if they are running pell-mell in some sporting or roughhousing activity, they certainly have no accessory malfunction. If they are wearing cool shades, they are NOT falling off. Their glasses are chosen for looks and for style, with doubtful much consideration for practical things like UV rating, durability, or EEEK cost.

Thankfully Real Kids Shades has a line of children’s eyewear that takes a mom’s wish list into consideration and is not short on either form OR function.

Our family put the line of Real Kids Shades through a battery of tests. Some we liked more than others, and a couple we plain loved. Here is the breakdown:

Five Stars  
★★★★★ Flex Duo—The Flex Duo has 100% UVA/UVB sun protection as well as a wrap-around design that keeps peripheral sunlight to a minimum. Their extremely flexible frames in cool two-toned colors hold up to the abuse kids throw at them.

Dinosaur World

Style: Flex Duo, Black/red

We took our Flex Duos on our summer staycation in and around Central Florida. Our Flex Duos went to Busch Gardens in Tampa and Dinosaur World in Plant City, near Lakeland. Whether climbing on play equipment or scampering up dinosaur bones, they stayed put, which is key in our bright Florida sun. A neoprene strap is included which we found to be a vital accessory. How many kids sunglasses are lost because they are dropped or left behind? Despite having an issue with the strap being too snug to fit over the ends (the first one), we still give this style 5 stars, as the company quickly sent out a replacement.

Flex Duo Real Kids Shades

Style: Flex Duo, Black/red

Daniel, age 5, said they were comfortable to wear, and “didn’t hurt at all.” He thought the colors were “cool,” and even when he wasn’t wearing the band they stayed put through lots of play. He gives the Flex Duo two thumbs up.

★★★★★ Xtreme Sports—With shatterproof, impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, the Xtreme Sports model is ready for action! Our kiddo took them through their paces on his bike. The wraparound design with mesh back is perfect for wear with helmets. There are even anti-fog vents for sweaty kids (like mine) who don’t want to get all fogged up while pretending to be Evel Knievel (with, ahem, training wheels). “I don’t like it when my eyeballs are sweaty,” he said.

Shingle Creek Golf

Style: Xtreme Sport, Black/silver

“The pad on top is good,” said Daniel, referring to the foam-backed polycarbonate lenses. Not only does it cushion little active faces, but it keeps out more light and prevents sweat from dripping down into his eyes from his forehead.

He also wore them out on the golf course running after balls and into more than our fair share of sand traps at beautiful Shingle Creek. Out on the 14th hole he had the best of both worlds. He was protected. And he looked CUTE!

Four and a Half Stars
★★★★ ½  Xtreme Elements—Off to the beach, splash park, or waterpark? Then your kids need Xtreme Elements. These glasses protect kids eyes from the sun and the elements (i.e. water and sand). Note, however, that they are not goggles and therefore are not designed to be submerged in chlorinated water. Yes, they’re perfect for splash pads, waves, and sprays, but they’re not to be worn as your little guppy tries to see how long he can hold his breath in the pool! The foam protects eyes from water and other elements from rolling down into their eyes, but it doesn’t seal out water and is not meant to be used under water as extensive subjection to chlorine could break down the foam gasket. That said, Daniel thought they were “way cool” (we have the blue flame style) and he loved that the neoprene headband made them float (just like him!).  If the foam gasket were designed to withstand the summer pool and SeaWorld, Aquatica schedule a little longer, it would have received 5 stars. They are by far Daniel’s favorite to wear, despite the slight gasket issue.

Four Stars
★★★★ Flex—The bendable rubberized frames make the Flex glasses super comfortable to wear. The boy and girl versions have distinct lens styles. The boy frames are more sleek, while the girls have that big lens “movie stahhhh” vibe. Shatterproof polycarbonate lenses ensure safety along with that style. When worn with the included neoprene strap, they stay firmly in place. Our one caveat to these was that when not worn with the strap they were quite loose. Bendy is good, and my son wears these in the car, and on the beach. I do insist the strap is on, as I can see these coming off in hard play (and that’s the only kind we seem to have around here!).

Why Have Your Children Wear Sunglasses?
I started Daniel in sunglasses when he was a baby. My nephew had retinoblastoma and he lost one of his eyes. While glasses would not prevent this type of blindness, it made me start reading about how important it is to protect children’s eyes, if not for now, but for their future.

Eye damage from the sun is cumulative and can occur even on cloudy days. Kids who don’t wear protective eyewear are at greater risk for:

• Cataracts
• Age-related macular degeneration
• Pterygia – abnormal tissue grown on the whites of the eyes
• Skin cancer around the eyes
• Photokeratitis – sunburn of the cornea

Riding on water ride at Aquatica by SeaWorld.

Style: Xtreme Elements, Blue flame

At Aquatica
I interviewed a few lifeguards at Aquatica about kids and sunglasses. Adrian, from Jamaica, said he estimates only 6% of kids he sees each day wear sunglasses. “There are way more adults wearing sunglasses than kids,” he noted. In an unscientific tally I found a similar percentage of child usage, while about 40% of adults were protecting their eyes (although many were, no doubt, concentrating only on the style).

Parents I spoke with were either passionate about glasses (and their kids were wearing them) or didn’t really seem to be aware the sun could damage their kids’ eyes. Sam, a tourist with his family, said they forgot the kids’ glasses at home so they bought some on site. (Real Kids Shades cost around $14.99 and are available at their website.)

What to Look For
When selecting protective eyewear for your kids, be sure to look for a few key features:

  • Third-party verification of 100% UV-A/UV-B protection
  • No phthalates, lead or bisphenol A
  • Impact-resistant frames and lenses (acrylic lenses can shatter)

Set a good example for your kids and YOU wear sunglasses each and every day. While it doesn’t hurt to look stylish, focus on safety. Choose a brand that blocks block 100% of both types of ultraviolet rays, UV-A and UV-B. A UV 400 rating is best. Make it a habit to put them on your child, even if he (or she) doesn’t like it at first. It’s a habit to grow into. And if you get some of the great offerings sold at Real Kids Shades, they’ll not only be as safe as possible, they’ll look great on their closeup!

Note: I contacted Real Kids Shades about reviewing their product as it was “right up our alley” as a travel-loving family insistent on sun protection. I was provided samples which we evaluated during heavy use over the summer. This review was written after field testing and is my opinion. The 5-year-old reviewer was paid $1 to sit still long enough to tell me what he thought.

Discovery Cove Florida Resident Deal

Diving to the bottom Discovery Cove

My 5-year-old is bravely swimming to the bottom of the Lazy River that’s 1/4 mile around. How many times did we go around?! Three? Five? I lost count!

SeaWorld’s boutique sister park, Discovery Cove, is offering an amazing deal for Florida residents. Through December 31, 2012, Floridians can purchase either a “Dolphin Swim Day Resort” admission for $199 plus tax, or a “Day Resort” ticket (that does not include the dolphin swim) for $129 plus tax. Not only will you get the day at Discovery Cove, but unlimited (yes, I said unlimited) admission to both SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica through January 21, 2013 (valid from the day after your Discovery Cove visit).

Otter in the Water at Discovery Cove swimming

SeaWorld Mommy Will Be Freezin’ for a Reason at SeaWorld’s Aquatica

Saturday, January 21 Aquatica Florida is hosting the “Polar Plunge.” Participants will be Freezin’ for a Reason to raise money for Florida Special Olympics.
I, for one, can’t wait to enter that frigid water… my feet and legs numb from the chill…. No, wait! I AM a little hesitant. But, hey, it’s for an awesome cause!

If you’d like to support my “plunge,” either join my team and plunge, too, (we need a few more plungers) or donate here on my FirstGiving page.

Or help out my teammate, Them Park Mom,  here.

It’s going to be fun! And, yes, FRIGID!

Join Us to Support Florida Special Olympics