Our favorite park in Orlando.
One of the biggest decisions we had to make during the pandemic was to table our Disney Dream Plan until the world opened back up again.
With a family of eight, paying thousands upon thousands for a dream trip I had been crafting for years could not be spent on wearing face masks and seeing social distancing regulations.
We needed a Plan B.
We needed a break and needed to travel. Since Thanksgiving with out-of-state family was not an option, we decided to shake things up altogether.
We were going to spend a week at a condo, and NOT go to Disney.
If you want to read my post on Vacation Village at Parkway in the Orlando/Kissimmee area and how it’s operating during the pandemic, click here.
I started researching other out-of-the-box entertainment options. I read blogs and saved links and looked for exciting things and rainy day things and back-up-plan things.
There were so many outdoor park options, I really started leaning toward that type of vacation.
It had been a long time since I channeled my outdoor Girl Scout skills, but I knew it was time to try again. The kids were growing, life was stabilizing, and I only had a certain window of time to show them the world and all the things that go with it.
So we meal planned and event planned, leaving lots of room for sun and pool time and Wii tournaments.
We used Grocery Pickup for the day we arrived at a nearby Walmart, and only packed snacks and sandwiches for the trip down.
If you want to read a post about the Trim Healthy Mama snacks I ordered and packed, all from Grocery Pickup at home, click here.
Anyways, our favorite place to try was Blue Spring State Park.
I mean, manatees swimming in their natural habitat has got NOTHING on Sea World. Not.
I was definitely afraid that we were too early in season or too off season or too wrong time of day.
I was so afraid it was gonna be a dud.
The kids are already asking when we can come back again.
Even at the park entrance, we paid a $6 parking fee for our entire family, and the ranger was so kind. He directed us to the back of the park, and away we went. A sign right on the station window told us that 32 manatees had already been spotted that day.
We were stoked.
The roads were well maintained and the park really well laid out. There were clean bathrooms and picnic areas and playgrounds within fifty yards of our parking spot.
There was a menu of food available with good prices.
The picnic area had pavilions and tables all around. There were charcoal grills available and a volleyball net nearby.
The decking to walk along the water lines was so well done, with new platforms added to sight see every few hundred feet.
There were signs and directions and learning posters. There were turtles and birds of all kinds, and history in the brochure.
The staff was power washing the decks and also teaching us about the wildlife.
It was so impressive.
Our favorite part?
We got to see the manatees.
Like, a lot. For a long time. Swimming nearby, spouting, grazing…
A baby manatee stole the kids’ hearts, and they thanked us a thousand times for bringing them here.
We ate a picnic lunch from coolers and played with birds checking us out as we ate. The kids played football as we googled the nearest coffee shop, and chased each other on the swing set until we decided it was time to move along.
The history of this place and the magnitude of it is incredible.
The memories we made here are priceless.
This has definitely become a day for the books, and a park to come back to any time we come back.
And I hope that will be soon.????