NPS Adventures: Canaveral National Seashore

The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Canaveral National Seashore!

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NPS Adventures: Big Cypress National Preserve

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The Roarbots’ series of NPS Adventures takes a big-picture view of one location within the National Park Service and highlights some of the best activities that site has to offer. This is usually done through a kid-friendly lens and almost always includes activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience. And pictures. There are lots and lots of pictures. Glad to have you aboard!

Welcome to Big Cypress National Preserve!

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NPS Adventures: Everglades National Park

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I’ve been in love with the National Park Service for a long time. I was a kid on family roadtrips when I first discovered the Passport to Your National Parks and all of the cancellation stamps available at NPS sites. As a completist who was also in love with travel and new places, I was immediately hooked. I wanted all of the stamps. I wanted to visit every NPS site.

I’ve since passed on that love to my kids, who (at 4 and 7) just discovered the passport for themselves and have started their own collections. It also helps that we make it a point to visit NPS site wherever we might be (and that we live near Washington, DC – a city spilling over with national monuments and NPS locations).

Therefore, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the upcoming National Park Week (April 16-24, 2016), we’re starting a brand-new series called NPS Adventures. These posts will take a big-picture view of one location and highlight some of the best activities that site has to offer. This will usually be done through a kid-friendly lens and will almost always include activities and suggestions we can recommend from personal experience.

And pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

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Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba

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(Check out some of our previous adventures with Cirque du Soleil: Dralion, Varekai, and our tour of International Headquarters in Montreal.)

La Nouba was the first Cirque du Soleil show I ever saw. Since I’ve now seen more than 10 different Cirque shows, I guess you could say this is the one that made me a fan. I recently had the chance to see the show again, and it didn’t disappoint.

La Nouba premiered in Orlando in 1998 and was the third resident show created (Mystère and O in Las Vegas were the first two). The theater it calls home (on Downtown Disney’s West Side at the Walt Disney World Resort) was the first freestanding, permanent structure built for Cirque du Soleil, and Walt Disney Imagineering was involved in its design and construction.

Despite what many think, though, La Nouba is not owned or operated by Disney. Downtown Disney is its home, and it’s certainly a major draw to the area, but it’s not part of the larger Walt Disney World Resort. In other words, don’t expect Mickey and Goofy to be part of the highwire act.

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Boggy Creek Airboat Rides

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An airboat ride through a swamp or marshland is one of those quintessential Florida experiences. Most people equate this experience with the Everglades in southern Florida, but would you believe me if I said you could set out on an airboat and be almost guaranteed to see wildlife (including gators) in central Florida, almost absurdly close to all of the tourist spots?

You can.

We recently visited Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and, despite the disclaimer you see above, we did indeed see some Florida gators. Alligators, in fact, are so common in Florida that many residents of the Sunshine State have become immune to them. They’re almost like squirrels. (Well, not quite…but almost.) For those of us who don’t live in Florida, though, it’s still an exciting sight.

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5 Questions with a SeaWorld Dolphin Trainer

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Jeannie Carder, a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld Orlando.

Let’s not beat around the bush. SeaWorld (and places like it) arouse a lot of passion in people…to both extremes.

Personally, I’m conflicted about how I feel. I recognize the criticism against keeping animals in captivity, particularly the dolphins and killer whales, but SeaWorld also does a lot of great work. They champion a host of conservation issues and do an incredible amount of education well beyond the confines of their parks.

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5 Questions with Astronaut Marcos Pontes

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Marcos Pontes, the first Brazilian astronaut in space.

It’s not every day you get to meet someone who’s actually left the planet. Over the past year, Zoey’s had some incredible opportunities to meet and chat with truly remarkable people. However, astronauts—just from the nature of their work and what they’re able to do—are in a league of their own.

She therefore jumped at the chance to meet a real, live astronaut. I have to admit, it was quite a thrill for me, too.

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Showcase of Citrus

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The Showcase of Citrus is slice of “real” Florida that’s mere minutes from all the theme parks. Located in Clermont, FL, it’s a 2500-acre working citrus farm where guests can pick their own fruit and take a swamp safari on the “world’s largest” 4x4s.

Let me just cut right to the chase. If you’ve got kids, this place is fantastic. If you like picking your own fruit, there aren’t many places where you can pick your own oranges (dozens of varieties), tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, and pomelos. Again, this place is fantastic.

If you’re visiting central Florida on a family vacation, you’re likely planning to spend most of your time inside the various theme parks. But what’s worth your non-park time? Because of the parks (and the visitors), there’s a booming industry of tourist traps vying for your money.

You need to be discerning, right?

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Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

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A trip to Walt Disney World is fairly expensive if you do nothing but visit the parks. But then there’s meals, special events, tours, and merch, merch, merch! If you’re not careful, your trip can easily break the bank and spill over into excess. Even if you ignore the rest of Central Florida, there’s just a ton to do on Disney property.

We don’t visit all that often, but when we do, we like to try new things. And I usually budget for one splurge event. On our most recent trip, that splurge was the luau at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

Officially, it’s called Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, but that’s a mouthful. I’m just going to call it the luau.

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5 Questions with a Legoland Master Builder

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Jason Miller, Master Model Builder at LEGOLAND Florida.

Having previously chatted with master builder Chris Steininger, Zoey went into this interview with a bit of existing knowledge about LEGO master builders. Still, I don’t think she was prepared for what waited inside the LEGO Factory.

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runDisney Kids’ Races

Since today is the day that registration opens up to the general public for the 2015 Walt Disney World marathon in January, I thought I’d take this opportunity to report on one of the best aspects of any runDisney event: the kids’ races.

Disney bills the 5k as a “family-friendly fun run,” but 3.1 miles is still a heckuva distance for the littlest ones among us. In response, they’ve set up the kids’ runs, which have a “race” for every member of the family–right down to babies crawling in the diaper dash.

We happened to be in Orlando and at Walt Disney World last October during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Timed to coincide with that event is the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. We couldn’t resist signing the kids up for a race and checking out what runDisney has to offer our youngest athletes.

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Epcot DiveQuest

Walt Disney World offers a lot of tours. Most of them are very expensive, and very few are good for kids (i.e., there’s a lot of walking).

When we were last there, I took the opportunity to sign up for DiveQuest at Epcot. Basically, it’s a chance to scuba dive in the huge aquarium at Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion. It may not be the Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s certainly a unique place to dive.

I’ve been diving in Hawaii, the Philippines, and Thailand. Obviously, this was the clearest water with the most…well-curated fish.

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Disney: Frozen Meet & Greet

A few months ago, we made the pilgrimage to Walt Disney World in Florida and just did So. Much. Stuff. We were there for 2 weeks (not in a park every day, thank goodness), and the kids (then age 2 and 4) had a blast. I know a lot of people have taken kids this age and been horribly disappointed or upset that their kids “just weren’t ready” or were too young. We didn’t find this at all.

Zoey had already been to Disneyland in California and Tokyo Disneysea, so she knew the score. It was a first for Sam, but, at 2, I don’t think it could’ve been any better. So much of what he saw and did just thrilled him to the core.

Since the point of this blog isn’t to be the first out of the gate, I don’t feel bad about going back and revisiting some of the highlight and lowlights of our experiences.

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