Orlando, without theme parks
Our same friends (who we travelled with last time) had a last-minute spot open up in their suite, so we took the opportunity to fly down again to spend 6 days there. What did we do this time?
Unfortunately, it rained every single day. Turned out that we had hit the first week of wet season. And when it rains, the frog-toads come out at night and they just sit there staring at you as you walk by or through their paths…
Swimming and resort activities
Because the resort had a really kid-friendly pools / water play area and some decent free activities to do in the mornings (like kinetic sand play), the kids spent non-rainy times in the pool; I even found the water-slide quite safe for non-swimmers like myself!
And when they were out of the pool, we attempted to play mini-golf but didn’t actually get through a game because of the poor weather. The resort also had a nice little gated play structure for kids to play on as well, which was under utilized and therefore great when Bean went on to play while her brother was napping back in the room.
One unexpected activity that everyone took part in at around 830 AM in the morning was the false fire alarm, so everyone evacuated with bed head and sleepy eyes. Thankfully, it happened at 830 and not 3AM in the morning, and it wasn’t raining.
Museums and science centers
Before we left, our friend told us about a family membership at a science centre in BC with reciprocal memberships in Canada and around the world that you could buy online – and for 3 years, it didn’t even cost as much as 1 year at our local museum (which isn’t as great as the ones we’ve explored so far). The caveat is that you can’t use it within 90 mile radius of your address and within 90 miles around the centre you bought it from, which means we can still visit Science World but not the Toronto Science Centre or London Children’s Museum with this membership. Seeing that we will likely make a visit to BC and Washington State in the next 3 years, we will definitely try to make sure to use this membership to visit Science World and the flight museum and the children’s museum in Everett!
Anyway, we used this newly bought membership at Orlando Science Center and drove a little ways out (to sunnier and warmer weather) to Tampa Children’s Museum and spent two afternoons indoors, in air conditioning and sheltered by the rain. The kids seemed to have a great time, and I enjoyed going through the two places as well – my favourites were seeing the glee at the silk vacuüm tube in the Science Center and the sand sensory table (made possible by a kinect and a projector!) and the mesh climber at the Children’s Museum.
We also spent some time at the Florida Mall play spaces and walking around and taking the short ferry taxi around Disney Springs (and digging in the dino pit at T-Rex Cafe). For date night, j.w and I went back to Disney Springs to try a VR experience where you walk from room to room immersed in a Star Wars shooting adventure with Oculus packs. It was $30 for about 30 minutes, which I feel is a little steep but I think it was worth the experience. This time, I stopped in at Basin because I read online that you could get soap ends at a discount, and while they aren’t completely natural (though they do have a natural line), the soap bars look too cool and smell edible – they remind of Fimo tubes encased in glycerin; the Mickey ear silhouettes looked the most fitting!
We went back to the Southern BBQ place at Disney Springs, as well as Q’nenans. To my surprise, the FoH manager recognized us and welcomed us back! And then they threw in some chicken avocado mix when we just ordered the bread on the side; talk about excellent customer service! We also returned to Sweet Tomatoes twice, as the kids seemed to eat well there and the prices are very reasonable, especially with the buy $50 get $10 promo combined with a 25% off coupon – we found out that the prices actually vary depending on location, and the one in Tampa seems quieter and even cheaper than the one in Orlando (~$12 for soup-salad bar dinner).
This time, at Disney Springs, I found a allergen-friendly bakery, but I forgot that I usually find the texture of gluten-free baked goods to be a bit off. Sadly, I also found their loaf cake / tea cake to be overly sweet and not moist enough.
We also tried sushi on a belt at Florida Mall – this brought me back to high school or early university days when we went to eat at … Continue reading, which the kids loved, and the pricing wasn’t too bad for the quality; you just had to know what to order so you wouldn’t be paying too much in the end. On the last day, we also went to a really good poke bowl place, with huge portions for a really reasonable price; it outshines any poke bowl places I’ve had outside of Hawaii so far.
j.w’s coworker recommended an Asian fusion burritos place, which she said was “life-changing” but I found it super slow (he explained as I was paying that a cook had walked out mid-shift) and it was quite salty, so it’s not on my list of returns. However, j.w’s cousin’s recommendation of Tasty Wok on Imperial / Asian street was quite authentic, despite the “steam table concept” name. Speaking of “steamed table” / hot foods table, in Buffalo, we stopped at Wegmans for dinner, and their battered fish was really crispy and just really good, except when I went back to get more, they were closing their food offering and had taken any left away :( What was really nice was that this Wegmans had a jazz trio playing and a relatively large kids’ play area / corner so you could enjoy your food with live music and watch your kids playing, all for free  plus they also stocked free diapers for emergencies including pampers pull-ups in their washrooms!