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Recently my hands have been a bit tied.. Because of the Mrs.’ work schedule I get to hang out with the boys every other weekend while their mom gets some well deserved sleep during the day. While I have been comfortable taking one toddler out on my own, a toddler and an infant is a bit of a different story. There are a whole different set of things I must do while taking them out together. Not to mention, at only 3 months old, we’re still pretty limited to the places we can go. We can’t yet put sunscreen on him, and lets face it, August in Florida might as well be the surface of the sun! The environment is not really conducive to adventures outside with a baby. For my very first solo adventure I needed a place that was indoors, fairly close, family friendly, and inexpensive. I remembered a friend told me about a spot at Port Canaveral where his family got to watch some amazing fireworks. At the time I didn’t really think too much about it, but after a bit or research I found the spot that met all of my criteria for our very first adventure together without mom: the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower!
So I knew at least one person who had been to the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, but I really didn’t have many details. Their website looked pretty cool, but had very basic information. I knew there were going to be at least 7 floors of things to do and see at the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower, but that was about it. Heading to Port Canaveral on a Saturday was about an hour drive from where we live, so I packed up the boys and all the essential gear and started our drive. We all made it there in one piece, no crying, to smelly diapers, so far so good.
When we turned into the parking lot however, it was a bit of a different story. We were greeted by a parking attendant, and she politely asked me if she could help. I was a bit puzzled but told her we were there to see the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower. She very quickly told me where to park and I started to unload the boys. I strapped my smallest into what I have call my “baby holster”, and unloaded my oldest. As we walked to the entrance, it turned out there was a big concert that was going to take place later that afternoon. There was also a sign that they would be closing early, but I wasn’t really concerned since it was still morning. It did however explain the parking attendant. Walking up to the Port Canaveral Exploration Tower was actually pretty awesome. It just looks like fun from the outside! The building architecture is unique, and it looks like it may be the cornerstone for future shopping and entertainment at the port.
A few weeks ago, the family and I packed up and decided to head to Gainesville to see some friends. We were fortunate enough to check out Mill Creek, but when the weather took a turn for the worst, we were in search of an indoor family friendly entertainment option. Thankfully we were with a group of local folks and they knew of just the place: The Florida Museum of Natural History! Located right on the university of Florida campus, this museum was indoors, offered free parking on the weekends, and the best of all: It was FREE!
We didn’t just go to the Florida Museum of Natural History on a free entry day or anything, it’s FREE al the time. With no out of pocket expenses this seemed like a great way to spend a wet afternoon. Never having been there before we didn’t quite know what to expect. I was a bit confused as we went inside, as there was a ticket counter and you could purchase tickets. The Florida Museum of Natural History is a rather large location and features traveling exhibits as well as a Butterfly Rainforest. These exhibits do charge for admission but they are optional.
The first area we checked out was a small kids area called the Discovery Center. Remember, this isn’t a kid’s museum so to speak, but there were some great hands on things for the little ones in our group to check out. In fact, it seemed each exhibit area had something that the little ones could get into. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I tend to think it was very well thought out by the Florida Museum of Natural History. My little guy loves to open drawers and he was in heaven checking out lots of stuff in the bone drawers. Don’t worry, it’s all on lockdown! In addition he was able to check out how parachutes work and even got hands on with a fake alligator.. Fitting since it’s UF!
For those that don’t know me personally, most of my adult life has been spent in telecommunications. I have done everything from sales, field service, dial-up internet support, and even DSL and cable installation. Communications runs through my veins, and I’m what you might affectionately refer to as a “Tel-Co” nerd! I have known for years that there was some sort of telephone company museum located in Central Florida, and even went out to find it one day. Granted, I didn’t try very hard, but wound up instead at the Morse Museum (which is also awesome by the way!) As my career took a drastic change after retiring from AT&T, the desire to find the Winer Park Telephone Company Museum sort of fell off my radar. One Sunday afternoon, that all changed and the family and I went to check it out. This time we knew exactly where it was thanks to their website and got to see a few other pretty cool things along the way.
In a rare turn of events, we were left with a family Sunday afternoon with no plans. The weather was supposed to take a turn for the worst so we were looking for something to do somewhat locally indoors and we were on our way to the Orlando Science Center. After a brief shopping detour and a quick train ride at the Central Florida Zoo, we decided to do something different. I pulled out my idea list (I keep one on my phone in the rare case I need an adventure on the fly), and the Winter Park Telephone Company Museum caught my eye. We were off!
A little bit of an explanation here.. The Winter Park Telephone Company Museum is actually part of a group of museums referred to as the Maitland Art and History Association. This group includes an art museum, local Maitland history museum, a carpentry shop museum as well as a Victorian style house museum. They are all located in fairly close proximity and I would reasonably say they are all within walking distance. Unfortunately the Art Museum was closed while they bring in a new exhibit, but we were able to checkout the Maitland history museum which is also included in the admission cost. The Maitland historical museum has some great information on the local history and a very small children’s area. Our oldest loved the chalkboard wall and got a kick out of the children’s books, so it was worth browsing through. The little ones can also make their very own cup and string telephone sets! Continue reading →
It seems like almost every where we go, there is always a local history museum around to tell us the story of how a town, or area was formed. Orange County is no different in that regard. Where they do differ is that the Orange County Regional History Center is great family entertainment for locals and tourists alike. We found this local museum in the heart of downtown Orlando to be a great asset to local history buffs and visitors that want to know about the area. Located in the old Orange County courthouse, I can’t believe I worked a few blocks away for almost half a decade and had no clue it was even there!
We have been wanting to visit the Orange County Regional History Center for quite a while now, but had found that many weekends we have needed to stay fairly close to home with a new baby either on the way or actually with us, so it’s been nice traveling abroad the past few weekends. We decided to checkout this downtown museum on a Sunday which offered some mixed emotions. As I said, I worked just a few blocks away for many years and never really had any issues with the neighborhood. Granted I was always around a ton of other people and the streets were always bustling. The Sunday we happened to visits though, really the only folks around were homeless. While I’m not one to be overly concerned, I don’t think my wife would have been comfortable if it was just her and the two boys by themselves. If this is a concern, you may want to visits during the week when there is much more activity in the local neighborhood. An added bonus of going on Sunday however, is that there is no charge for street parking in downtown. The parking garages are still operating and charge a fee, so you could save up to $10 by just parking on a side street if you wanted to.
Because we were a bit early since the Orang County Regional History Center opens at noon on Sundays, we walked about a block or so away and grabbed some lunch at the local Subway. I swear, it’s really hard to beat a $5 footlong for lunch! I shared mine with my oldest, and relaxed a bit with the Mrs. fed Micro-Me (That’s our newest addition). On our way back to the Orange County Regional History Center, we noticed a crowd gathering, as there were Wold Cup festivities planned for that afternoon. We noticed the streets started to fill up with people and the area didn’t seem so bad.
Even though we only walked a few blocks, we were glad to be back in the air conditioning. It was a really hot day out, and somehow metro areas don’t ever seem to get a breeze. We gladly paid the slight admission charge for the wife and I, and we embarked on our adventure! Right off the bat, I knew we were in for something special as the very first exhibit we encountered was interactive and fun for my little guy. It was a mockup of a command console for a rocket launch, as well as a mock space capsule. He enjoyed flipping switches, turning dials, and even climbing into the capsule to play Space Invaders. Apparently they also have a sense of humor at the Orange County Regional History Center!