Central FL attractions

Posted on 11/28/2009 in misc

We haven't set foot on Disney property, although rumor has it we might be visiting downtown Disney today. If you want my take on Disney, check out my trip notes from a few years ago.

We arrived last Sunday after a 14.5 hour drive, so we took it easy on Monday by lounging around the pool and taking a short trip to Gatorland. Gatorland is exactly what it sounds like, a park full of gators, snakes, lizards, and other assorted natives of the FL swamps. There is also a water park for the kids to play in. It's a fun diversion for a couple of hours.

Tuesday was split between horseback riding at a friend of my father-in-law's, and a visit to the Serpentarium near Kissimmee. This place was pretty amazing. He has about 60 or so venomous snakes on display, plus an assortment of constrictors. The primary purpose of the facility is the collection of venom which is used for research and anti-venom production. And when I say collection, I mean the guy that runs the place grabs the deadly snakes with his bare hands and coaxes them into striking a porous membrane over a beaker or flask to gather the venom. I would have thought there was a safer way to do that, but I guess not. At about $7 per adult, it's a cheap outing and worth every penny.

On Wednesday we headed east and spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center. This was the outing that I insisted on. You can't cover KSC in one day. The tickets are good for a 2nd entrance at no additional charge, but we didn't make it back over there. NASA is clear that KSC is not run with tax dollars, it's 100% commercial. I'm not sure that is a good thing. It's set up a little too much like the amusement parks in FL, with attractions funneling you through a gift shop before you can exit. On one hand, pretty much everything is included in the $40 entrance fee, the IMAX movies, the space shuttle launch simulator, the lectures by visiting astronauts, the tour of the facilities, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame are all included. We didn't make to the Hall of Fame, and we didn't get to one of the IMAX movies. You really need a day and a half to do it all at KSC.

On the other hand, I paid $43 for burgers, fries, and sodas X 4, and it was school lunch room quality at best. The concessions at Sea World were less expensive (seriously, I'm not kidding). I was also surprised that there is not a comprehensive book store offering hard to find stuff written during the space race, or more depth on the attractions. It just seems like the monument to maybe the greatest scientific and engineering achievement of mankind (so far) should be a little more reverent, a little more educational, and a little less like a theme park.

One other note on KSC, which may or may not be indicative of anything important. It's the first tourist thing I've ever been to in FL where the Japanese were not the dominant foreign visitors. People from India seem to be really into NASA. It might not be surprising if one generation from now they are outsourcing their menial customer service jobs to us!

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