Grand Vacations in Central Florida
Central Florida is home to many world-famous destinations that you and the grandchildren can experience together, including sites like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Orlando, and Busch Gardens Tampa. But as a companion to our Guide to Spring Training 2016, we’re highlighting some other grand vacation destinations in central Florida near Spring Training ballparks that are nature-themed and reasonably priced to be thoroughly enjoyed in a single day by kids of all ages.
Many children go through a dinosaur phase when they discover the awesome world of these long-extinct behemoths. And what better place to indulge that fascination than at an entire 20-acre park dedicated to those “terrible lizards?” Dinosaur World is located in Plant City, about midway between Lakeland and Tampa, and features more than 200 life-size models painted in their living colors. Animatronic displays bring T. Rex, Triceratops, and other favorites to life. There are playgrounds, interactive shows, and simulated digs where the grandkids can learn about excavations then get their hands dirty in the Boneyard or pan for gems and arrowheads. A new exhibit is dedicated to wooly mammoths. Parking is free and admission prices are $15 for seniors (60+) and $12 for kids three to 12 years in age with the grands under three admitted free. Soft drinks and bottled water are sold on-site, but there aren’t any food concessions, so you’re encouraged to bring a picnic lunch, or you can have a Dinos! Pizza delivered. Pets on leashes are also welcomed.
The Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa is ranked among the nation’s top five “Kid-Friendly Aquariums” and is home to more than 20,000 living fish, mammals, and other exotic creatures that will amaze and delight you and the grandkids. Sharks, penguins, and alligators are just a few of the living exhibits. Interactive experiences include the Swim with the Fishes guest-dive program for kids six and older and the Wild Dolphin Catamaran Cruise in adjacent Tampa Bay, plus a Wetlands Trail, Coral Reef exhibit, Ocean Commotion display, and the new Madagascar Adventure. There are also educational programs focused on environmental conservation and ongoing special events. And be sure to bring the grandkids’ swimsuits so that they can enjoy the two-acre water fun park while you relax at the Cantina Grill. Admission prices start at $20 for seniors (60+) and $18 for kids ages three to 11, with those two and under admitted free.
The Green Meadows Petting Farm in Kissimmee is a hands-on learning experience with more than 300 kid-friendly animals. Join in the fun as the grands are encouraged to pet and feed the sheep, chickens, pigs, rabbits, goats, and other residents. They can also ride a pony, learn to milk a cow, hop on the farm train, and even enjoy an old-fashioned hayride. A two-hour tour of Green Meadows by one of the informative farm hands is included in the admission price of $19 for seniors (62+), $23 for ages 13 to adult, $20 for kids ages three to 12, and $5 for the little ones age two and under.
Located in Melbourne, about 60 miles east of Orlando, the Brevard Zoo is a non-profit wildlife education and conservation center with more than 650 animals from around the world on display. But what distinguishes the Brevard Zoo are the interactive adventures that are available: The popular Treetop Trek transports visitors around on ziplines, but the Chutes & Ladders course may be more suited to the younger grandkids. Also available are kayak tours and train rides, plus animal feedings that include a tower perch to get at eye level with the giraffes. Special educational programs are designed to engage youngsters in age-appropriate groups and underscore the zoo’s conservation mission. Admission prices are $17 for adults (with a $1 discount for seniors) and $13 for children ages two to 12, with kids under two admitted free. Additional charges for special activities may apply.