Move Over, Griswolds: Our Family "Vacation"

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Sarah Cody

Mommy Minute

12:02 PM EDT, April 26, 2013


Let's hear it for Spring Break!

We put life on hold for a few days last week to partake in a family vacation which culminated in some amazing activities in the Tampa, Florida area.

First, we headed to the Clearwater Marine Aqarium to visit Winter, the gorgeous sea creature from the movie "Dolphin Tale".  We were really moved by this story of a young dolphin who lost her tail after she was found stranded, wrapped in fishing lines and nets.  Dedicated doctors and marine specialists worked together to make her a one-of-a-kind prosthetic which has enabled her to swim, grow and thrive in her new home.  

Seeing Winter (who played herself in the movie!) was a real thrill...our two boys, ages 7 and 9, were very engaged by the 1/2 hour "live show" that we watched, starring the dolphin and her trainer.  Children with disabilities have been inspired by Winter's story of perseverance...and seeing her really provided us all with a wonderful life-lesson.

The aquarium itself is a neat place to see.  Set-up as a rehabilitation center, it looks and feels very different from the aquariums in our area.  It houses otters, sharks, turtles and two amazing African white pelicans (one is Rufus from the movie!).

After the aquarium, we re-fueled and readied ourselves for some more busy fun.  Off to Busch Gardens!  Frankly, I'm not much of an "amusement park lover" but the boys were super-pumped to ride the roller coasters (with Dad, not me!) and I was curious to see the animals.  

First impressions?  The place was very clean, very busy and very expensive! But, our initial activity was the Serengeti Safari which turned out to be an incredibly cool experience.

We stood on the back of an open-air truck which rumbled through acres of fields in this man-made wonderland.  The zebras, rhinos and antelope were really incredible to see up-close...but, we were most inspired by our personal encounter with the giraffes which literally lean over the truck and nibble lettuce out of the visitor's hands.  The boys were smiling from ear-to-ear and laughing...truly wowed by this unique endeavor.

Sam, Ben and Paul screamed their heads off while riding on roller coasters, such as Cheetah Run, while Mom sat on a bench and read a magazine.  They gave the thrill rides a huge "thumbs-up".  Frankly, I enjoyed my quiet reading, as well!

Additionally, we saw hippos, meerkats and lions...and embarked on the Sky Ride, a gondola trip that allows visitors to survery most of the property.

Fun, fun, fun!

We were completely exhausted by our day of crazy activity...but, we are left with a lot of memories of shared excitement and family bonding.

Now, back in Connecticut, we are once again swept-up in our schedule of school, work, Little League and theater class...and will look forward to another adventure in the future!

Have you been to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or Busch Gardens?

How was your experience?