Sunday, January 2, 2011

Florida Field Trips #3: The Orlando Science Center

Dear friend,

This is the third post in my Florida Field Trip series.  You can find the first two here:

(I thought I had posted #2 back in November, but apparently I never hit the post button!  So, it's actually a new post! Check it out!)
Our family just signed up for an Orlando Science Center annual membership, which is $125 per family.  For a large family like ours, this is quite a deal, especially since it includes parking, which is usually about $5.  Regular daily admission, which includes entry to the giant screen IMAX movies, is $17 for adults, $16 for students with ID, $11 for children ages 3-11 and free for under age 2.  You can calculate how many trips it would take your family to break even on an annual membership.  For us, it is just two, and we've already been twice!

There are four floors of great exhibits.  We haven't had the time to fully explore all of them yet, but the weather and Dino Dig rooms were my favorites on our last visit.  I know we'll be back to spend more time in those.  We have also enjoyed petting the baby alligator and playing in the physics room.

The Kids' Town is a perennial favorite in our family, especially the Orange Grove.

OSC has a very special exhibit, The World of Mechanical Muusic, which is just about to end next Sunday, January 9.  I went this week with my kids and thought it was well worth it.  Here is the blurb from the OSC web site (  "Do you still think of a music box as a trinket or novelty, something pretty to look at for a while, then placed on a shelf or stored and forgotten? The up-coming exhibit at the Orlando Science Center might just change your thinking! This new exhibit called The World of Mechanical Music; Science, History, Craftsmanship and Art will take place at OSC beginning November 13, 2010 through January 9, 2011.  Mechanical Science, where it all began, will prelude this musical interlude. Visitors will be given hands-on, self paced lessons in the basic physics of sound and instrumentation, as well as the physiology of hearing. They may even learn how to tell the difference between music and noise…. if there IS a difference!  Next, visitors will step back in time to the Victorian era where they will enjoy a glimpse into lifestyles and leisure activities of the day. They will be escorted by docents to hear, see and experience live musical entertainment just as ears heard it over 100 years ago!"
In case you are wondering what kind of instruments they are talking about, there are vintage music boxes, metal disk players, mechanical bands, organ grinders, player pianos, and much more.  The guide will play most of them for you on the tour.

We have seen both of the current IMAX movies, The Forces of Nature (about volcanoes, earthquakes, and tornadoes) and The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti.  Both films interweave scienctific principles, nature, and world culture and were highly educational.  The visual effect of the huge screens is stunning.  Just a heads up, though: the dramatic natural disasters in the first film can be alarming to small children, and the second film shows bikini clad surfers which may offend some people.  I think an IMAX on chimpanzees is coming soon, but I don't know when.  The current films are playing at least through the end of January.  You can see  video trailers for both of them on the web site.
We enjoy the Orlando Science and we're glad we signed up this year.  The kids have been asking me for months to do this.  It's going to be our main source of science field trips in 2011.   We hope to see you there!

Virginia Knowles

Florida Field Trips #2: Silver Springs Nature Park in Ocala

Dear friends,

Silver Springs is a beautiful nature theme park in Ocala, Florida, about an hour and a half drive from Orlando.  It borders the Ocala National Park.  The oldest theme park in Florida at 132 years old, it is now owned by the state of Florida and managed by another company.

The admission fee is about $30 per person, but they sometimes run a Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal for adult tickets for certain days, as well as annual passes.  They still have the Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon on-line, but it says it expires December 31, 2010.  Call to see if it is still good.  The park is not open every day of the week.  They also have country and rock concerts once in a while.  The park is generally open from 10 AM to 5 PM.  It takes just about that long to see everything in the park, maybe longer if you have children. (My husband and I went by ourselves.) Check the web site,, for current information.

The main features are the three different glass-bottom boat river cruises, the animal shows and displays, and a very bumpy Jeep safari.  Keep in mind this is not Disney World!  The park is simple and very nature oriented, not luxurious and commercialized.  But for the price, I felt it was well-worth it, especially as an extremely educational field trip.  On the cruises, you'll find out more about the history.  The water is quite clear and visibility is astounding.  You can see right down to the bottom of the many springs that feed the rivers.  You will see a huge variety of animals, far more than I could show in this blog post.

Without further ado, a few dozen pictures!

OK, that's enough for now!

Go enjoy Silver Springs!

Virginia Knowles
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