Attractions

Hi we’re Kyle and Stacey!  We’ve been friends for over 13 years and last fall we won a worldwide search to land the best social media job in the world: experiencing every attraction Orlando, Florida has to offer in 67 Days.  We had the time of our lives going to amusement parks, eating amazing food, shopping and SO much more.  Below you will find a blog we made documenting all of our smile filled adventures.  Enjoy!

Orlando is famous for its amusement parks and they’re incredible, but there’s so much more to see and do here!  We were blown away by the variety of attractions during our 67 days in Orlando.  From heart pounding rides and world class shows to relaxing adventures in natural landscapes and up-close animal encounters, there is a world of things to experience in Orlando.

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Aquatica

We spent the last day of our Orlando girls weekend soaking up the sun at Orlando’s newest water park Aquatica. After dropping off our belongings at the private cabana (which is definitely worth the extra rental fee for excellent personal service, rain protection, and free beverages) we headed out to try out all the rides. The Walhalla Wave was fun for the fact that we could experience the twists and turns together in twos and threes. Tassie’s Twisters took us out of reality and dumped us into one of those penny whirls we all loved as children in an museum yet this time we played the role of the penny in a bikini and water raft. The lazy river was not very lazy however you quickly forget about the crowds when you are floating by dolphins and beautiful exotic fish that only SeaWorld can provide. The Roa rapids were probably the group favorite. Strap on a life jacket, toss off the sunglasses, and let the rapids take you away!

Blog Entry written by Chris :)

Blog Entry written by Chris :)

On the whole, the trip to Aquatica was wonderful and definitely worth a stop on your Orlando vacation!

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Arabian Nights

This weekend we have our last guests of the trip with us, Stacey’s family. The whole gang is here, so it should be a riot!

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The first thing we did was Arabian Nights dinner theatre. “Medieval Times” has jousting, “Pirates” has… well Pirates, and “Arabian Nights” has horses and lots of them! This is probably the largest venue of the dinner theatres that we have been to. It also had the most “special effects”, from a flaming hoop that someone jumps through while riding on a horse to the finale when the princess is levitated in the sky! However, even with all of the beautiful horses and fun effects, Arabian Nights didn’t top our list IMG_1652for dinner theatre shows. A lot of times the horses were just running in circles for long stretches of time and the food was our least favorite of all of the dinner theatres we have visited. A lot of people say that Arabian Nights is their favorite dinner show in Orlando, so maybe it was just us, but we just weren’t all that riveted. I will say this: if you have little girls and they want to go to a dinner show this would probably be the best for them as there are no men swashbuckling or knights fighting!IMG_1646

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Bass Fishing

Bet you don’t think of THIS when you think Orlando do you? Turns out fishing is very popular here! Today we went Bass fishing at lake Toho with guides Bass Online. These guys eat sleep and breath fishing, so if you find yourself needing a little time in the great outdoors, head to them. After a hard days work on the lake we headed to the Bass Pro Shop right off I-4. Basically it’s like the Mall of America for hunters/fishers/anyone!

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Blizzard Beach/

Winter Summerland Mini Golf

Today we were walking in a winter wonderland all day at Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park and then Winter Summerland mini golf right next door.

IMG_1304Let’s start with Blizzard Beach. First of all let me say (and I know this may be risky) that I think this is the best themed park in all of Disney. The premise here is that there was a freak snow storm in Florida and a ski resort sprang up. Of course it being Florida, the snow melted and the ski resort was turned into a water park. Everywhere you look there are chalets, pine trees, snow capped rocks and even a chairlift that brings you to the top of some of the slides! Everything just fits perfectly, from the Beach Boys christmas music playing to the smell of cedar in the locker area. Of course the rides are incredible. Summit Plummet is by FAR the most thrilling water ride we’ve been on. It’s 125 feet tall (that’s higher than a lot of roller coasters) and it takes your breath away the entire way down. Tip: the chairlift is a nice scenic way to get to the top of Summit Plummet, but it’s much faster to go just to the right of the lift and walk your way up… a little exercise makes you feel better about the ice cream you probably just ate!

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IMG_1334Right next door to Blizzard Beach is another winter themed attraction: Winter Summerland Mini Golf. This is mini-golf Disney style so it doesn’t mess around with theming! The story here is that one Christmas Eve, Santa was flying over Florida and saw some sn0w (probably left over from that blizzard next door). He decided to make the area a vacation spot for himself and his elves. We loved all of the fun interactive holes here. I just about lost it when I saw one of those loop the loop things that you have to shoot your ball through… I haven’t seen one of those at mini golf since I was 12! The HIGHLIGHT of the day… nay, perhaps the entire 47 days was when I got 2… count them 2 holes in one. Come on, that has to be some sort of mini-golf record. Tip: hole 9 is your best bet for a hole in one, in fact if you time things right it’s almost inevitable. OH, almost forgot… you get a little winter time treat when you leave, whether you get 2 holes in one or not.

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Blue Man Group

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Blue Man Group: I don’t even know how to describe this show. It’s like a combination of a rock concert, an interactive underground party and the three stooges all rolled into one LOUD raucous night! There were times that the music was so loud that it felt like it was actually coming from inside of me! I loved sittingnext to Stacey, and my parents and hearing my dad laugh at the top of his lungs at one moment, and

my mom with a momento from the show (it's very interactive)

my mom with a momento from the show (it's very interactive)

then hear my mom gasp with excitement the next. It was one of those shows that I kept looking at my watch, not because I wanted it to end, but because I was praying that it wouldn’t! Go see Blue Man Group. Take your kids, take your friends, take your parents because I guarantee they will love it (mine sure did).

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Boggy Creek Airboats

Today we got to feel like real Floridians as we took an airboat tour at Boggy Creek Airboats. We really loved it. It was the perfect combination of adventure, thrills and peacefulness. Our guide Jeff was really cool and he knew a lot about all of the local wildlife we got to see. For instance, did you know that Florida has the second highest Bald Eagle population in the US? We actually got to see a few of them, along with a ton of other birds, flowers and even wild gators! Check out the slideshow above to see all of the beautiful pictures.

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Busch Gardens Tampa

IMG_1823Since day one of our 67 days we were hoping to make it to Busch Gardens. I’ve known about Gwazi, Kumba and Montu since they were first built and I was like a kid in a candy store when I finally got to see them in person! Gwazi was rough and fast, with lots of unexpected twists and turns… exactly what a wooden rollercoaster should be. Kumba was just beautiful. The way the ride intertwines with itself is an engineering marvel. Montu was INTENSE! It just never let up! Then came the big daddy of them all, our favorite ride at the park: Shiekra. Shiekra takes you to the top of its hill IMG_1845and then hangs you over the edge staring straight down… 90 degrees… before dropping you. It’s just so smooth and so thrilling at the same time. Go to the park just to ride this ride, you will not be dissapointed. It’s easily one of my favorite rides we’ve been on in our 67 days.

On top of all of the great coasters that Busch Gardens offers, we also got to experience Howl-O-Scream. I have to say we were so impressed with it. They may not have had the massive budget of Universal Studios, but they got really creative with their scares. For instance, in one of the scare zones they had guys dressed up as werewolves that were attached to bungees. As you walked by they would jump out from the trees at you only to get pulled back into the IMG_1833darkness again before you even realized what happened. Our favorite part of Howl-O-Scream were the unexpected scares. Normally for Halloween events, parks have designated “scare zones” with smoke, lights and signs to let you know people are going to scare you. Busch Gardens, however doesn’t always provide you with that convenience. Stacey and I were just casually walking through a dimly lit section of the park, admiring

the ducks in a pond nearby, when a man dressed all in black came charging at us from behind the bushes. I screamed like a baby. It was THE best scare we had in all of the haunted attractions we’ve been to. Way to go Busch Gardens!

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Capone’s Dinner Show

IMG_1798Capone’s Dinner Show was themed from the minute we arrived. Mobster were walking around outside talking to guests and we were given a password to get inside. It was hysterical. When our password was approved a hidden door opened and we were brought into a speak-easy from the 1930’s. Flapper girls were running around taking orders and men in suits with fake guns were yelling at them…we really couldn’t get enough.

The food is served buffet style before the actually show begins, so you have time to enjoy the best dinner show food in Orlando (really, the best food at any dinner show we’ve had). And all your drinks are includedIMG_1807; whatever you are craving!

Following dinner the cast of six danced, acted, and improved their way through two hours of enjoyable mobster humor. We laughed out loud on so many occasions that I’m not even sure what my favorite part of the show was! Overall the show was professionally done, it had good theming, and delicious food!

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Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Today we went to the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The zoo is very rustic and it feels wild, which we love. There’s over 125 species of animals at the zoo, but favorite part of the day was getting to feed the Asian Elephants. One Elephant, Maude was 63 years old and weighed 6,400 lbs! We’ve never gotten that close up the an elephant before, and it was really cool (you can do this too on weekends at 2pm for only $9.50 extra!). We also really loved how much we could tell the trainers loved the elephants.

New at the zoo this year is ZOOMair, a self guided ropes course that takes you through and above the trees. It’s unique b/c it’s the only ropes course that we have done that you’re actually up there without a guide (they are on the ground) so you’re pretty much in control of everything! It’s a great workout and although it’s challenging, it’s still a lot of fun. When you go, make sure you wear closed toed shoes and drink a lot of water before/during/and after because you will be SWEATING!

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Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba

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This is going to be a hard blog to write because Cirque Du Soleil’s “La Nouba” is beyond words. The theatre, located in Downtown Disney was custom designed just for this show. La Nouba is beyond Broadway, beyond a circus, beyond a concert. It is breathtaking, inspiring and thrilling. It’s like watching a dream lived out in front of your eyes. There was always something breathtaking happening on stage. actually normally there are a LOT of things happening all at once. While one person was flipping around the stage, another was riding a bicycle upside-down on a tightrope, while 20 others were in the background dancing… all while the stage was raising up 10 feet in the air. The performers are like super-heros! We didn’t know it was humanly possible to do most of the things that they did. La Nouba blew us away, and transported us to a place beyond imagination.

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Yes it is expensive, but when you are watching it, you know exactly why. We have never seen such amazing sets, coinciding with incredible lights all choreographed perfectly to beautiful music. You will not regret spending money on this show, and you will never ever forget it.

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Dinosaur World

Dinosaur World is filled with everything…you guessed it…DInoSauR! This small attraction is located off of Interstate 4 and is sure fun for anyone who loves animals from the Jurassic Period. More then 150 dinosaurs line the walking paths of the park. Markers through-out your walk will teach you facts about the dinosaurs you are seeing and more! Children will enjoy taking part in daily activities tailored to them including dinosaur bone hunts.

We had a blast taking a stroll through the Jurassic Period at Dinosaur World!

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Discovery Cove

On our first day, we got to go to Discovery Cove. There’s so much great stuff to do there! Snorkel next to sharks (don’t worry there’s glass between you), float down a beautiful river, feed tropical birds, and of course, swim with dolphins.

The only down side to Discovery Cove is that it’s not cheap. BUT the admission includes EVERYTHING for the day. All you can eat food and drinks, lockers, wet suits… PLUS they only let in 1,000 people a day so it feels more like a resort than an amusement park. I’m a cheap Dutchman, but when I was there I kept thinking “man, in 5 years you wouldn’t really miss the money you spent but you would remember the experience forever”. To me, that makes it worth every penny.

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios

After our lunch at Kouzzina we headed over to Hollywood Studios. Kyle auditioned for their newest attraction: The American Idol Experience. He sang Whitney’s “I wanna dance with somebody”. Watch the video to see how he did, and to see the whole experience from start to finish!

We love Hollywood Studios and although we didn’t have a ton of time (American Idol takes up a bunch of time b/t auditioning and performing) we had a blast.

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Disney Quest

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Imagine an arcade hall. Now imagine that Disney gets its hands on it and blows it up to huge proportions. That’s pretty much what Disney Quest is! It’s 5 floors of interactive, one of a kind games. You can fly a virtual flying carpet, raft down a virtual river… in short, you can do virtually anything. Probably the biggest attraction is “Cyberspace Mountain” where you can design your own crazy rollercoaster and then ride it in a simulator that flips, twirls and spins.

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OK let me just say this. We went to Disney Quest back in high school and LOVED it. We were dying to get back… but apparently things change after high school… After just two virtual rides, we were virtually ready to loose our cookies! We couldn’t believe it! I remember riding those rides over and over and laughing at the people who couldn’t! I guess karma’s a bugger. We still had fun, don’t get me wrong, but we certainly had to pace ourselves more. Is this a sign of worse things to come for us? Let’s hope not! So if you’re a teenager, go to Disney Quest NOW, because your virtual roller coaster tolerance may be all downhill from here! If you’re an adult maybe consider packing some dramamine… just in case so you can keep up with your kids!

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Our guest blogger for today is our friend Andy Senor:

I remember being a kid and visiting Epcot for the first time. Before I owned a passport, visiting the different lands at Epcot might have been one of my first introductions to foreign cultures. I was bit by the travel bug and have not stopped since. Fortunately, as a cast member of the Broadway musical RENT, I have traveled all over the world and eaten countless, delicious meals. On my recent tour, I have taken up writing a food blog called “La Vie Boh…mmm” that journals my culinary adventures. See, for me, what connects me to another culture or city, is its food.

I had the pleasure of joining Kyle and Stacey on a delicious expedition through the many countries of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. The festival now in it’s 14th year features food and wine from around the world in booths set up in each country. Every “tasting size” dish is paired with a different wine at a very low price. Although none of the foods were new to me, it was very entertaining to run around using a prepaid card that made the tastings run smoothly. It was great to see people trying different kinds of foods from around the world that had a surprising authenticity to them. My favorite of the day was the “Paprika Beef Stew with Bacon Dumpling” from Austria and the “Snapper Escabeche” from Barcelona, Spain. The only drawback to the event was the heat. It made it hard to develop an appetite for some of the dishes. Fortunately, the very refreshing Bacardi Frozen Dragon Berry Colada from Puerto Rico cooled us off and set us in the right spirit to continue our hunt.

On a more extravagant note, Epcot’s “Party For The Senses” later that evening provided a gorgeous showcase of recipes for those foodies with a more refined palate. Hosted by Vanity Fair, this particular event celebrated comfort foods with a twist. For an additional $140.00 you can taste your way through beautiful arrays of food, wine, cheeses and desserts while listening to live music in an elegant, upscale atmosphere. This event truly expanded the way I thought about food and had me reflect upon my own approach to cooking. With their unique take on comfort foods, chefs were available at each station presenting their glorious dishes. One chef from my favorite station of the evening, Steve Chiappetti from Viand, Chicago, even offered to send me the recipe to his Stuffed Baked Spaghetti Bites. Absolutely Delicious! Our favorite wine of the evening was the “Chateau Frank Brut” from Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars. It seemed to compliment anything it was paired with. And it all came to an end with a grand exit as we walked into the Epcot fireworks display! Perfect!

One thing I love about writing a food blog is that people get to experience culinary adventures from around the world without having to go through customs. Similarly, I believe the magic of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival is that it makes the world and its culinary treasures available to anyone. It bridges our world together in such close proximity at a very affordable price, for people of all ages, all in one days journey. Thank you Kyle, Stacey and Orlando for the invitation. My stomach has not stopped smiling!

-Andy Senor Jr.

I cant wait to come back for more Orlando food finds! Until then, I invite you to visit my blog at www.lavbm.com and see what’s cooking!

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Fantasy of Flight

Fantasy of FlightI want to take this blog to say: Good Job Fantasy of Flight! Before we arrived this morning I had no idea how fun and interactive Fantasy of Flight was going to be. When we walked into the building I immediately felt like I was going back in time…like I was on the set of Back to the Future mixed with Fly Boys. Right at the entrance there was a classic 50’s dinner and people walking around in classic flight outfits (it was more cool than it was cheesy…this coming from a person who thinks Amelia Earhart is very interesting).IMG_1208

First thing guests do is walk through a really well themed exhibit where you get a chance to learn about the early stages of flight as well as walk through planes that flew in WWII. This exhibit made all my senses pop. From the smell of classic planes to the sounds of fighter jets…we all couldn’t help but become consumed by the experience.

IMG_1233At the end of the exhibit we ended up in a huge airplane hangar where we could see classic planes that can still fly. Some of the planes have even flown in movies! On the side of the hanger was an interactive game room where we played with air balloon and hang glider simulators (which was sweet…i mean who doesn’t like simulators?).

Overall Fantasy of Flight surprised me. It was a unique and educational experience (in a good way). This really is a place for people of all ages.

p.s. today was raining but on sunny days you can watch classic planes take to the sky!

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Forever Florida
All our equipment on for Zip LiningTake a right on Holopaw rd. go just past rattlesnack ln. and you will be at Forever Florida. Yes it’s quite a ways out of town, but that’s the whole point. Forever Florida's Home Grown Vehicle

They call it a moonlight safari, and they weren’t exaggerating! To get out to the course our group (6 of us…never more than 10) took a short hike in complete darkness as our guides told us about the wildlife in the area. Then came the main event…zip lining!

The zip line course is LONG…I’ve never seen anything like it before. There are 7 zips and two bridges in the course that is right at the tree line. My favorite part was zipping over ponds where I could see my reflection (it looked like I was Peter Pan). The zips themselves arOur Zip Guidese up to 55ft high and you can catch speeds up to 35 mph.

The only downfall to zipping at night is that you can’t see how high you are, which takes away some of the excitement. To fix this try to get your reservation for the first group to go out on Saturday nights, then you will be zipping as the sun goes down (so you can see how high up you are).

Moonlight zips at Forever Florida are a great place to bring a date for a fun evening!

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Fun Spot
My family is in town this week…my WHOLE family!!! This includes mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, sister, and her boyfriend. I couldn’t be more excited to show them Orlando!

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My dad said he would love to talk about our experience together at Fun Spot Action Park, so here he is…my one and only great dad:

For family fun, few things could beat Fun Spot. With four separate go-kart tracks, two of which are configured in a multilevel corkscrew layout, there was plenty of opportunity for good humored family competition. I discovered that my children are more competitive than I had thought (in other words, I lost). Besides the go-karts there are some great “butterflies in your stomach” rides that gave us lots of good laughs. The ultimate thrill, however, is the Sky Coaster which reaches three hundred feet and is the world’s tallest swing style ride. I watched from the ground (wisdom comes with age) while Kyle and Stacey fearlessly were taken to dizzying heights. I would recommend taking your family to this delightful mini-amusement park for good laughs and good times.

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Gatorland

Ok, not gonna lie, we didn’t know what to expect from Gatorland (thoughts of Alligators in cages and road side attractions came to mind)… but we were BLOWN AWAY! It’s actually a really beautiful, well kept park with a huge nature preserve in the back. The staff is so cool and feels like family (maybe a dysfunctional gator wrastlin’ family… but still). We had so much fun! GO TO GATORLAND!

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Halloween Horror Nights

This was a night I had been waiting for since 8th grade when I first heard about Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios. Universal pulls out all the stops for this event. The haunted houses all look like movie sets they’re so detailed, and the costumes/makeup are at the same level. Universal takes what you’ve ever known about haunted attractions and magnifies it to incredible levels. If you get the chance to do this… DO IT!

We got to be a part of the fun as we were able to be made into “scareactors” and prowl the streets of Universal scaring the pants off of guests. Our favorite houses were Frankenstein, Wolfman and Chucky (animate dolls have always creeped both of us out). One thing we loved was that while waiting in line you can text a certain number and play a “choose your own adventure” game about that house you’re waiting in line for! That being said… get express passes if you can. Lines can be quite long.

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Hard Knocks Orlando

Before we went to Hard Knocks Orlando we really didn’t know exactly what it was. That’s probably because we have never seen anything quite like it! Basically it’s like laser tag for grown ups. The weapons are all pretty realistic, and you get a choice from 8 guns ranging from an M16 to a huge sniper gun! There are 20 different games/objectives to play in two huge 12,000 square foot arenas. It was a really fun way to blow off some steam, and we thought it would be a lot of fun to bring a big group of friends here for a party. When you get exhausted from shooting your friends, no worries. There’s a ton of video games, computer games and a pool table. Gotta say, it was really nice to play some Rockband on a big stage (although I think our skills are a little rusty after 49 days out of practice!)

Here’s a little video showing our gaming skills:

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The Holy Land Experience

On day eight, we went to The Holy Land Experience where they have live shows, exhibits and artifacts to create a living museum of biblical times. One thing we didn’t know before visiting is that they actually have the world’s largest private collection of biblical artifacts!

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Horse World Riding Stables

IMG_2702After fulfilling our need for speed in the air, it was time to slow things down a bit on land with a calmer form of horse power. Horse World Riding Stables offers horse rides ranging from from a leisurely beginners trail to trails for old pros. We took the beginners trail. It was indeed quite leisurely, and if you have never been on a horse before this is a great easy way to get acquainted. I would suggest if you have ridden a horseIMG_2712 before to go for the intermediate trail as the beginners was maybe a bit too relaxing for me. The other riders in our group ranged from an 8 year old to an elderly couple, and it was great to see smiles on such a wide range of faces all while getting to enjoy some peace and quiet outdoors.

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I-Drive Attractions

International Drive is the heartbeat of tourism in Orlando and where we hung-out on Day 43. We hit up three of the main tourist attractions on I-Drive: Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Titanic the Experience, and WonderWorks.

If you are trying to choose from the three…here’s a breakdown:

Ripley’s: If you are looking for an exhibit with lots of wacky facts and enjoy reading this is the place for you!

Titantic: History buffs would love this place! A knowledgable tour guide leads you through the experience where you learn about the Titanic all while standing exhibits that make you feel like you are on her deck.

WonderWorks: This is a great place for kids of all ages to learn about science through highly interactive games!

If you have any questions or would like to purchase discount tickets check out Orlando’s Visitor Center on International Drive!

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Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure is one of our favorite parks in the country. It is beautifully themed, it’s incredibly imaginative and has amazing rides. If you’re not too into Disney, or if you want big thrills this is the place for you. When you go you must ride Spiderman, Dueling Dragons and The Incredible Hulk. All three are knockout thrill rides. The only way you could make this park better is to add a worldwide phenomenon. One with wizards and magic wands. Harry Potter. It’s coming this Spring to Islands of Adventure and it is going to be out of this world. Based on the amazing attention to detail that’s already present at this park it is very clear that the new Harry Potter themed land is NOT going to disappoint!

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Kennedy Space Center

Whoa! Did you know there are an insane amount of things to do at the Kennedy Space Center? I’ll be honest I didn’t know…until yesterday. From close-up bus tours of the launch pads to lunch with an astronaut you will be amazed at everything there is to do.

Through-out our time there I felt like we were watching history in the making. We were able to see where NASA is working on the international space station and see artifacts from past flights. And the best part about it? Everyone who goes to the Kennedy Space Center will have the opportunity to meet an astronaut! And who doesn’t love astronauts? Saying that this is a place or all ages!

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Lakeridge Winery

Today we visited the largest winery in Florida, Lakeridge Winery. Personally I’ve never been to a winery IMG_2947or a wine tasting…it’s fun! The tour showed us the grape fields and how they create their wines. Following the tour we sampled a collection of their wines (everyone who goes on the tour recieves a free tasting). Most of their wines were sweet and light which I personally really enjoy; just add some chocolate dipped strawberries and I’ll be happy for a while.

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The women who lead our tour gave us a 5 step process for tasting wines. Here they are in order:

1. See: Check out the wine’s coloring and texture

2. Swirl: Put the glass on a table and swirl the wine for the flavors to mixIMG_2974

3. Smell: It will get your tastebuds excited for what’s coming

4. Sip: Take at least two small sips to throughly enjoy the full flavor

5. Savor: Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

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Magic Kingdom

On day 27 we got to do the only thing better than going to the Magic Kingdom… going to the Magic Kingdom with kids. Kyle’s siblings and nieces all got to experience the fun, and what’s more we all got to OPEN the Magic Kingdom with Mickey on his train. Yeah… that’s like MORE than a dream come true, and anyone can win the chance to do it! I couldn’t imagine a happier place on earth than sitting next to my 3 1/2 year old niece on all of the rides and seeing her smile from ear to ear. It was… for the lack of a better term… magical.

P.S. when you go to Disney, take advantage of their PhotoPass system. There are hundreds of employees scattered throughout the park with cameras ready to happily take your picture. When you get home you can see them all online and choose the ones you love the most. (It’s how we got some of today’s great shots, and shots from American Idol Experience and Surf School)

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Magic Kingdom II

These past 67 Days have been a whirlwind :) From skydiving to airboat rides we have had a blast seeing everything Orlando has to offer! But when it came to our last day it was nice to head back to the place our love for Orlando started way back when we were kids: Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

We had a great time taking a trip to Neverland, riding Dumbo, and being the Grand Marshalls in ‘A Dream Comes True’ parade. We had the biggest grins on our faces all day long!

At night we headed to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party where children of all ages were able to Trick or Treat, charactors came out in special halloween costumes, and a unique fireworks show took to the sky. It was a blast!

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In the end the Magic Kingdom was the perfect way to end our 67 Days of Smiles!

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Mount Dora

Driving into Mount Dora we were transported back home into the vacation town in Michigan where we grew up. With the smell of a fresh water lake, the quaint downtown, and the smiles on everyone walking by, it felt like we were on a vacation from our vacation. While in town we checked out the following places…and would definitely recommend them:

Segway Tour:

This is the way to see Mount Dora! We had a blast cruising around town on these motorized vehicles… and boy we saw a lot of town in a little bit of time. We even went off roading through trails and to the only working lighthouse on a fresh water lake in Florida. The tour is two hours long, scenic, and full of speed! We were really surprised at how easy it was to learn how to drive the Segways. It takes about five minutes of playing around on them, but after that you hardly even have to think about what you’re doing. Definitely a great way to tour the area.IMG_3425

Lake County Waterways Tour:

The waterways tour took us deep into the Mount Dora Canal for a couple of beautiful hours. The canal is lined with decorated motor homes and mammoth Cypress trees which was wonderful entertainment. On the return trip you get a beautiful view of Mount Dora and you can actually see why they named it MOUNT Dora… it’s a pretty hilly area! It was so nice to get to see the area from a new perspective. Overall it was very relaxing and a great way to spend an afternoon with friends for a low cost.

IMG_3448Mount Dora Craft Fair:

Ok, so you will have to wait another year to check out the craft fair, but if you are into crafts, it is worth the wait. The city closed down the whole downtown for hundreds of merchants to take to the streets. The booths were full of unique and interesting buys! I’ve never seen a craft fair this HUGE. It just keeps going and going! From handmade rocking chairs to beautiful wind-chimes, I pretty much guarantee you will find what you’re looking for and more at the Mount Dora Craft Fair.

IMG_3469Mt. Dora Sushi and Steak:

The restaurant is owned by a Japanese family who is so welcoming they are known to hug their guests :) They are adorable and it was clear they put a lot of love into their sushi. It was delicious! This place receives all the thumbs up we can give them. The sushi was fresh, and they had lots of different kinds of rolls that we had never had before. It was fun to take a departure from the usual spicy tuna roll and try something completely new! If you’re in the area, this is the place to stop by and grab some delicious sushi.

IMG_3482Mount Dora is a beautiful place for a day trip or a weekend visit!

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Orlando Harley Davidson/

Indy Racing Experience

Where else but Orlando can you learn how to ride a Harley-Davidson, and then drive a few miles across town to then learn to drive an Indy car? We started our day at the Orlando Harley Davidson. Pretty much anything you could ever want or need involving a Harley can be found here, including riding lessons. You can sign up for rider education, a multi-day class or if you have a large group, you can do what we did today and learn the basics.

Before we could even soak up the fact that we just drove our own motorcycles, we were already on our way to the Indy Racing Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway to drive an Indy car! These things go 125 mph and we loved how close to the ground you are and the fact that there’s no windshield… it’s just you and the road. It only takes about 15 minutes of training until you’re suited up and ready to drive! You follow an instructor’s car and you can go as fast or slow as you want, so that made us feel a little less nervous!

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Orlando Science Center

Today we spent some time at the Orlando Science Center. This museum is all about being hands on. It is definitely tailored for elementary aged kids, but the adults joining them can have fun too. Our favorite thing of the day was the IMAX movie. It’s not just a regular IMAX screen, it’s 8 stories high and it’s actually curved so it almost feels like a ride! Here’s a clip of some favorite exhibits from kids… and kids at heart.

The Science Center, along with both museums we visited yesterday are all included in the Loch Haven Cultural Pass. This pass includes tickets to all three attractions. Plus American Coach bus lines are offering discounted round trip bus tickets to/from I-Drive to pass holders. So even if you’re Orlando and want to check out some museums with your family, this pass makes doing that more affordable and accessible.

ps if you go, be sure to wear shorts and t-shirts b/c with all of the windows in there it gets pretty warm.

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Putting Edge and Van’s Skate Park

at Festival Bay Mall

Festival Bay Mall at International Drive is an extremely active mall. Yes, active! You can play indoor mini-golf at Putting Edge, chill at an indoor skate park: Van’s Skate Park, try out simulators and more! The building is very open with natural light illuminating the whole space. As shopping goes most of the stores focus on skaters, teenage girls, or sporting goods (there’s a huge Ron Jon). Overall this is a place to just hang-out: skateboard ’till you get tired then go and check out a movie!

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Van's Skatepark

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Revolution the Off Road Experience

as you can see from our faces, it really is off road!

I bet you didn’t know you could do THIS in Orlando… Revolution the Off Road Experience has four wheeling, 4×4, dune buggying and more. It’s like the crazy cousin’s house that your parents wouldn’t let you go to until you were 16 (you have to be 16 to drive the 4 wheelers). I grew up with a four wheeler so it was really fun to get back on one and head back into the woods. You actually go on a guided trail with twists, turns, mud puddles and sand hills. Stacey on the other hand was more of a novice to four wheeling and she ran into a little mishap on the trail. Watch the video to find out more…

Some tips for off roading:

  1. Wear long pants and close toed shoes… ones that you don’t mind getting dirty. Very dirty.
  2. Get there early to avoid the heat (you are in jeans, a helmet and gloves… it gets warm)
  3. Don’t be afraid when you see a gate and a dusty trail on your way in… that means you’re almost there!

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Richard Petty Driving Experience

Ever gone 145 mph in a car… without getting pulled over? The Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway gives you that opportunity! There two ways to experience this attraction; as a driver or as a rider. Today we got to take 3 laps around the track as riders. There are advantages to just being a rider. First of all you don’t have to go through the lengthy training. You just show up, suit up and go! You also don’t have to worry about crashing your car! You get to really enjoy the experience without stress (other than the stress of being in a car going 145 mph… with someone else driving!) The ride along experience is also quite a bit cheaper than the driving experience.

We had so much fun at Richard Petty’s. When you’re in the car you just get a jolt of adrenaline that starts in your seat and goes all the way through your body! If you’re a Nascar fan, it’s a great way to see it from a whole new perspective. A perspective you can only get here. Well, legally at least!

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Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre

Whew. Today was a full day! We started early parasailing at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre just outside of the Magic Kingdom. What an amazing way to see Disney World. It’s technically the highest “ride” at Disney at just over 300 feet. That’s taller than the Statue of Liberty ‘yall! Even if you have been parasailing before, I guarantee you didn’t get this view!

After that we got to ride Sea-D0os on a guided tour of Bay Lake and the 7 Seas Lagoon (the big lake in front of the Magic Kingdom). It was really incredible. We got to see Disney from a side that few people do (unless you take the tour too). We rode our Sea-Doos under the monorail, next to the abandoned “River Country” water park, and even got some inside Disney scoop. For instance did you know that the 7 Seas Lagoon actually used to have a wave maker that created waves big enough for surfing competitions? We also found the best place to see the fireworks show outside of the Magic Kingdom. But we can’t give away all of our secrets, to find that one out you will have to take the tour yourself!

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Sea World Orlando

Today we got to go to Sea World and we loved it. Above is our top 5 reasons why we love it so much!

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Shuttle Launch at Kennedy Space Center

Last night we got the honor the be able to see the Discovery Shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center. Night turns to day, the ground shakes and your sense of wonder swells when that shuttle leaves Earth.

above is the audio feed from before the launch.

If you ever get the chance to see a launch… GO. (but be prepared for some traffic on the way home!)

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Sky Venture Orlando

IMG_1726Walking up the stairs of what looks like a funky water tower from a science fiction movie, it is hard to imagine what an indoor sky-diving experience is going to be like. A door opens on the tower and we were greeted by a friendly staff member who informs us that we will want to rid our persons of anything that could be lost in 120 mph winds. A brief lesson in proper sky-diving form is given, followed by gearing up in flight suits, helmets, ear-plugs, and goggles. We are led to the flight deck where we watch as the instructor takes us one by one into the wind tunnel. Watching family members attempt the proper form for maximum flight potential made the experience even better. Although not the best at flight, I had a few moments of hovering that was unlike anything I have done before. This is a genuinely fun and unique experience. The staff is very professional and well-trained (wait until you see what they can do in the tunnel!). Indoor sky-diving at SkyVenture Orlando is a great time especially with a group.

Book your flight now at Sky Venture!

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Skydive Space Center

Kyle’s reaction:

I have been wanting to go skydiving for years now. It’s been like my holy grail of thrill seeking. I’ve imagined what it might be like over and over but nothing could really prepare me for today at Skydive Space Center. I tend to live by the mentality “go big or go home” so when they asked us if we wanted to do the regular skydive at 15,000 feet or the world’s highest skydive at 18,000 feet it didn’t take much thought. Let’s just ponder that for a second. 18,000 feet. That’s 3 1/2 miles in the air. That’s like stacking 90 Tower of Terrors on top of each other and jumping off the top. OH… YES! From the second we stepped out of the airplane to the moment we touched the ground I was in pure bliss… It was everything I could ever have hoped it would have been and so much more! When I go back (yes when… I may be addicted) I’m going back to Skydive Space Center. The instructors were awesome, you get a beautiful view of the coast and Kennedy Space Center… plus you get the bragging rights to say you took the highest tandem skydive in the world!

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Stacey’s Reaction:

When I woke-up this morning (before we jumped) I was surprised at how nervous I was. To calm myself down I did everything I could to make myself feel more comfortable. I made a good cup of coffee, listened to Colbie Colliat, and wore my favorite t-shirt. Yet after all this my heart was still racing when we arrived at Skydive Space Center. But the staff was really chill and made me feel good about my jump. Ok the jump…WHOA! Looking out the door of the plane 18,000 ft up I was just in awe! Earth looked so beautiful from up there :) The jump itself was a rush like nothing else I have experienced…even though we were falling at 140 miler per hour it felt more like being stuck in powerful hurricane winds. Then when the parachute was pulled I was overcome with the amazement of the situation. I was in the sky..above the clouds…looking down at our earth…no worries…just LOVE.

how we felt after we landed

how we felt after we landed

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Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show

On the evening of Day 59 we headed to International Drive to check out Sleuths Mystery IMG_3341Dinner Show. Sleuths has fifteen different dinner shows ; we saw the Halloween special (funny costumes were involved).

Before the show starts the small cast mingles among the guests in character helping the crowd get excited for what is to come. The show itself is almost three hours long separated into two halves IMG_3350with your meal served between. The first half of the show set up the scene of crime: women in cat costumes, audience interaction, and clues around every corner of who was the murderer. It was fun!

But, after dinner the show started to go downhill. Unlike the first half of Sleuths which is scripted, the second half is improv. Before the characters get back on stage for the second half, Sleuths reminds us there are children in the audience and all audience comments (they ask for them) should be clean. Yet as the play continues the characters themselves become very inappropriate and make way too many off-color jokes that were not needed for the plot.

In the end Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show had the opportunity to wow and it missed its mark.

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Typhoon Lagoon Surf School


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14483930004We had a great time at Typhoon Lagoon! Relaxing in the world’s largest outdoor wave pool and enjoying walking from one ride to another amongst the beautiful landscaping. We loved the thrill of the Crush ‘N Gusher ride and the warm water in the wave pool. Stay away from Mayday Falls which tries to simulate ‘rapids’ in the ride…but just ends up throwing you around. But do not avoid anything else :) This park is a great place to bring the whole family for a relaxing day at Disney.

Check out all the awesome pics on Flickr

*ps Kyle was actually up for quite a while on the board, but SOMEHOW the only thing that made it in the video was my wipeout… hmmm :)

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Universal Studios Florida

getting eaten in front of the famous JAWS ride

On day 5 of our 67 days we got to go to Universal Studios Florida and feel like celebrities on a VIP tour, but don’t worry you can be VIP for a day too! It’s an additional charge, but you get so much from it! NO waits for any ride (as in you go through the EXIT to board), discounts on food/merchandise, backstage access, and a VIP guide for the whole day!

Let me tell you a bit about our guide, Joe. He was AWESOME! He tailored the day for us: holding our stuff when we were on rides, calling ahead to make sure attractions were open and ready for us and giving us tons of info/tips about the park. He also spoke 4 languages… basically he was a superhero! Here’s some info/tips we learned about Universal…

us with our VIP guide Joe
us with our VIP guide Joe
  • When you go on Men In Black, just hold down the trigger the whole time… you get extra points. Also when you get to the huge bug at the end, be the first to hit the red button in front of you and you get 100,000 extra points (ps Kyle beat Stacey)
  • To make the tornado on the ride Twister, they suck in enough air to fill 4 Goodyear blimps every show… and they use a JET engine to do it!
  • The new roller coaster Rip Ride Rockit lets you choose your own song that’s played while you ride. When you get on, if you hold down your finger on the ride’s logo for 10 seconds and then take your finger off you get access to hidden tracks! (beware you can’t get a DVD if you do this)

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SPEAKING of Rip Ride Rockit, it’s AWESOME. Great airtime and you get to listen to a song of your choice while it’s going, so it’s a great ride to do over and over. Plus hearing a song blaring in your ears only makes the ride THAT much better. When you’re on it you’re actually being recorded, so you can see every terrifying face that you make!

*Check back soon for your chance to win a GREAT prize!*

check out more pictures on Flickr

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Wallaby Ranch – hang gliding

Orlando has so many hidden gems. You know about Disney, Sea World and Universal but did you know you can go hang gliding in Orlando?! Well you can at Wallaby Ranch. How do you go hang gliding in Orlando you may ask… well they use an ultralite plane designed just for this which tows you and your pilot up 2,000 feet and then sets you free to gently glide back down to earth. It isn’t an adrenaline filled flight though, it’s actually incredibly peaceful and it feels like you’re a bird floating through the wind. Just walking into Wallaby Ranch sets the mood for your trip through the skies. It’s a little of the beaten trail and as we stepped out of our car the smell reminded us of camping in the woods we were little. If you’re looking for something a little less terrifying than sky diving but more adventurous than hot air ballooning this is the answer. When you’re done with your flight you can even grab home cooked breakfast in their screened in dining room.

This wasn’t our first visit to Wallaby Ranch, and I have a feeling it won’t be our last.

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Warbird Adventures

Whoa! We flew airplanes this morning! Wait…wait…wait. I need to write that again (because I hardly believe it myself). Yes, we flew planes from WWII this morning. The experience could be described in so many adjectives: amazing, beautiful, heart-pumping…

Orlando really does have it all! Anyone can take a flight in one of these classic planes at Warbird Adventures. There are three flights to choose from: 15 minute, 30 minute, or 60 minute. The longer your flight the more aerobatics you will do. But every flight is a once-in-a-lifetime experience no matter what!

Check out video from our flight below. We flew at the same time so we were able to do a lot of formations. I felt like I was eight years old watching the Blue Angels except this time I was in the plane!

if you don’t think you can stomach the airplane ride, Warbird Adventures is also home to the Kissimmee Air Museum, where you can see other warbirds up close.

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Wells’ Built Museum &

Zora Neal Hurston Museum

IMG_3764The Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (whew) is a small museum located in Eatonville, just north of downtown Orlando. It currently features an exhibit that focuses on viewing the African American middle class through its own lens. It was really cool to see all of the old photos, some ripped and tattered from age. It was really interesting to see Orlando’s history from another perspective.

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IMG_3820We also stopped in the Wells’ Built Museum and found the old hotel was alive with rich history. Back when jazz was coming on the scene many famous musicians came to Orlando to perform and stayed at the Wells’ Built including Ella Fitzgerald and more! It was amazing to walk around the museum and think of all the amazingly talented people who walked through there too. I was in awe.

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Wet ‘N Wild

Day 19 brought us to Wet ‘N Wild waterpark. It’s actually America’s first true water park as it was the first to not have thier slides on the side of a hill/mountain. We loved it there and were very impressed with their assortment of rides. It also did what no other amusement/water park has ever been able to do. Watch our reaction video to find out what: (warning: we get a little intense… but those slides deserve it)

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Winter Park

Winter Park feels like a trip back into the high life of the 1950’s. Old large Mediterranean houses with beautiful gardens and pools line the several lakes. It’s clear that lots of history has happened in these city limits (including Mister Rogers living there).

In our day in Winter Park today we went to many places that we would love to recommend for your visit to Winter Park; here they are:

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden

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Albin Polasek is a Czech sculpture who moved to Winter Park after great success through-out the states. Mr. Polasek bought the property where the museum is today in the 50’s and immediately started to fill the gardens and house with his work and art collection. Today the Museum is a wonderful retreat: a great place to bring a lunch, read a book or just enjoy the beauty of art in Florida.

Scenic Boat Tour of Winter Park

IMG_3631We have been on three boat rides since we came to Orlando and Winter Park’s boat ride is by far my favorite! We were able to see many of the beautiful houses (some owned by famous residents) built on the lakes in Winter Park along with Florida’s wonderful natural beauty.

Lunch at Park Plaza GardensIMG_3662

Park Plaza Gardens is a unique and hip restaurant on Park Avenue. The menu had a wide variety of choices and we chose a lot of them :) Our favorites were the corn chowder soup, crab cakes, and the turkey and brie sandwich…they were all just amazingly delicious! One of my favorite restaurants in Orlando and that is saying something!

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

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The Morse Museum wowed us, just down right wowed us. It holds the most comprehensive Tiffany exhibit in the world and it is gorgeous. I have to say that I had no idea how amazing Tiffany glass is until I saw how it used color and layering in the wonderfully complicated patterns today in the museum. It was stunning and a strong recommendation of ours if you are visiting Winter Park.


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Wycliffe Discovery Center

There are 7,000 different languages in the world. 2,400 of these do not have their own Bible translation which equals over 200,000,000 people. Wycliffe Discovery Center‘s (newly renamed from Wordspring) basic mission according to our guide, Kathy Zoeteway is “To show there’s an urgent need for Bible translation and show people how they can be a part of it”.

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From what we experienced from their interactive displays and lectures teaching people all about Bible translations (and even how to read Thai 101) it seems that they are doing just that. What we really appreciated about Wycliffe is that while they’re bringing the Bible into areas across the globe, they’re also spreading literacy and in many cases, helping the people develop a written language. Having this ability to write their native tongue helps with their social status, cultural history and even more practical things like knowing how to read prescriptions given to them.

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From the people at the front desk, to the lovely elderly woman helping us at the salad bar it was evident to us that everyone at Discovery Center is not only dedicated to their mission, but also to making sure you get the most out of your $8 admission to this interactive exhibit.

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Links:

Adventures – Mild

Adventures – Wild

Amusement Parks

Shows

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