Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SHARKS, MANATEES, and STITCH - Fun under the Floridian Sun

It's that time of year again, where most of us head off for Spring Break
and planning for our vacations for the Summer Break.
Discussing vacation for the summer with my husband just gets me excited.
Where to go and what to do ... what to do this summer.
Somewhere sunny with white sand and warm water.

 We have had it with this freezing temperatures and we just want to be somewhere warm.
"Mr. Freeze" if you are listening,
just because you weren't around as much for us last year,
doesn't give you any permission to stay as long as you want this year.
You are no longer welcome here and we just want "Mr. Warm Sun" to stay around longer.
As we discuss where to go this summer,
my Little 4 year old "Taz" said he wants to go see E.T.
I don't know of any 4 year old who is so crazy over E.T.
He hums the movie theme song while he is playing and he knows it was produced by Universal and can spell U-N-I-V-E-R-S-A-L before he learned to spell C-A-T and D-O-G.
He asks to go on youtube all the time just to listen to Universal's opening song and watches anything E.T.
And one day surprised us by pointing out Steven Spielberg  in the picture whom he said the one who made E.T. 
But Little Taz was vetoed by everyone.
No one really wants to go back to busy Orlando this year.
We all want a very relaxing vacation.
Orlando is best when all tourist have gone home.
And that's what we did a few years ago.
We went the third week of August, that's when most visitors are gone because they have to go back for school.
Since our School District has an after Labor Day first day we are able to have the luxury of picking that date.
If you are thinking of going to Florida this year and looking for things to do,
 here's a few things we did while still having a very relaxing vacation back in 2010.
The first thing is we figured out the activities we wanted to do, the schedule when we want to do those activities,
then where we wanted to stay.
I am very lucky to have first cousins that live in Orlando so we always stay with them.
We wanted to go to Clearwater beach area,
so we had to look for a place to stay at there.
Since we have a Gold Passport with Hyatt, and we know we can never go wrong with Hyatt we decided to book a room there over Don Cesar off of the St. Pete's waters.
From research and reviews Don Cesar has very tiny rooms and that's just not what my family needed.

Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa
We flew in at Orlando, stayed and visited with cousins for the night,
 then headed off to Clearwater Beach in the morning.
It is a good 2+hours drive.
 When we got to Clearwater, upon crossing the bridge you can definitely see the Hyatt.
As we park in front of the hotel,
someone immediately helped us with our luggage, and the valet took our keys and parked our car.
Upon check in we were greeted by very friendly faces at the front desk. 
The manager was at the front desk at that moment, and surprised us by upgrading
our room to a much larger room with a terrace.
The terrace had a table and chairs,
 it was overlooking the beautiful view of the Gulf and the marina. 
We had a good view of the Pier and the bridge as well. 
We had a gorgeous room at the Hyatt, complete with kitchen amenities, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, stovetop, full-size refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and a dining table for 4. 
Perfect for a family with little children, it's a home away from home
We bought groceries from the local market before we checked-in.
We ate out twice in our stay, and the rest we made delicious food in our beautiful kitchen.
Since the hotel is located at the Beach Boardwalk,
we just took the elevator down,
and a few steps away are restaurants, and the pier where we would walked every night,
and joined the fun beach activities.
Across the street is the Marina where you can booked any boating activities.
Every morning after breakfast the kids get themselves dress without us even asking,
because they can't wait to go down and play at the beach.
The water at Clearwater beach in the summer is warm,
unlike our freezing beaches at California when we lived there.
Clearwater Beach with the Pier on the background.
We stayed most of the morning at the beach and we would go up to our hotel
and have lunch either in our room or have lunch by the pool
Swim Bar & Grill,
it offers an assortment of Pan Latino sandwiches and appetizers,
and a great view of  the Gulf  of Mexico.
We especially love the Pressed Cuban sandwich and the Grilled Chicken sandwich.
After Lunch,
the kids would jump right back into the pool and play.
Hyatt's Lovely Pool in the evening.
Lunch at the Swim Bar & Grill

We enjoyed our stay at the Hyatt.
From the friendly, helpful, and well informed staff to the beautiful beaches, great view of the ocean, cleanliness and overall comfort to the delicious dishes they offer at their restaurants.
I give the Hyatt a 5 Gold Star rating.
One of the coolest things we have ever done as a family on this vacation,
is swim with the Manatees at Crystal Rivers.
The time we came they were very scarce.
Manatees are mammals that look something like a cross between a seal and a cow.
They have large flippers and their fins in the back are shaped like a great fan or large paddle.
 Their faces have a long snout – with whiskers.
They actually are related to the elephant and the hyrax and it’s believed manatees evolved
from wading, plant-eating animals.
Adults can grow to be more than 10-feet in length and they can way up to 1,200 pounds.
The ideal time to come for swimming with the manatees is on the winter months.
And if you can't swim very well find a tour guide that can take you to a stream shallow enough
that you’ll be able to stand in the water while the manatees swim around you.
We were not very happy with the tour guide we got from River Ventures
Let's just say he was not a very friendly guide especially to minorities like us.
He pretty much ignored us and focused on other guests and if we had questions, 
it was like talking to a wall. 
It took us about a good hour cruising the river before we had our first sighting.
The water was quite high that day that it was close to impossible to see one.
We also took the middle of the day tour,
the best time to go is at the earliest tour which is 6:30 a.m.
But we did and it made our day.
Frolicking in the water with the manatees is indeed an experience!
We had a great time, despite of the bad treatment from the scruffy, long haired, looks like he hasn't showered for days ignoring mean Captain.
Little 2 yr. old Taz suited up for the swim

What an experience!

Next Pit Stop was, SNORKEL with the SHARKS at Shark Reef at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon.
Yes, unknown to most,
even to the ones who has been in Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, at Shark Reef you can snorkel with the sharks, stingrays and adorable little nemos and doris.
They provide the snorkels, masks, fins and an optional lifejacket for everyone,
the only requirement is, you can swim or float across with a lifejacket.
All equipment used for Shark Reef  are included in your park admission, at no additional charge.
Glide from one end to the other and enjoy the whimsy seascape Disney has created.

They're not large but it gave me a fright when it swam passed me.
Little Taz not so happy to see Stitch.
Fun at Typhoon Lagoon
My princess and her Uncle Mike underwater.
Little Taz definitely had a blast.
Our last pit stop was the KENNEDY SPACE CENTER a.k.a. NASA.
This was for my husband, myself, and for our sweet daughter.
It was an educational tour for all of us.
Since my husband and I were kids we have dreamt of coming here, and another thing off our bucket list.
We toured the center and the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), you get to see how this monstrous vehicles were assembled for launch.
We were so lucky to have met Space Shuttle Commander Astronaut Colonel Rick Searfoss
a.k.a. "NOAH ",
who flew 3 space missions.
That was icing on the cake!
Control Center

Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)


Photo-op with an Astronaut before we left.
What a fun educational tour!!!

This trip was definitely a fun under the Floridian sun.
Why didn't we got to Disney World, Epcot and the rest of the theme parks?
Well, we've have visited them all from our last trip,
and when we lived in California,
we would take my daughter once a month to Disneyland and Universal.
I'm just Disney'd out! ;)
When Little Taz gets a Little older, maybe when he's 6 years old,
we will definitely bring him back to those theme parks.
I want him to remember the experience when he goes,
just like my daughter.
For now, I will have to think up of our next summer destination.
I can assure you one thing,
it'll be another fun memorable summer vacation!!!


  1. Looks like you had a great time, jealous!

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  2. We definitely had a great time that I felt it's so selfish not to share this great activities with my readers and to the ones who are looking for an alternative to the theme parks.

  3. Didn't know about the swim with the sharks at Shark Reef. We skipped that, if we had known what it was all about the boys would have loved it.
    Next time we go, we will try it for sure.
    We will schedule our next visit to a winter vacation so we can try the snorkeling with the Manatees too.
    Awesome blog!

    1. You should take the kids back. We had so much fun.
      We will be back next year.

  4. Your vacation looks wonderful.

    I have never been to Florida before and love to visit this destination too.

    Have a lovely Easter break!

    1. A definite Family Destination.
      Let me know if you when you go and I can give you some tips.

  5. Love the NASA educational tour!
    Happy Easter!

    1. We loved our visit. Meeting and talking with a real Astronaut that went on 3 missions was icing on the cake.


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