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Orlando - Disney World - Environs

giradman

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Susan and I are back in Florida for 5 nights - we visit each spring and usually alternate the east and west coasts, BUT this time decided to make a return to the Orlando area which we've not visited in nearly a dozen years; although since the late 1970s (bringing our young son) and up into the late 2010s (medical meetings - MANY over the decades), I've probably been to the area well over a dozen times. Just added to our local Triad airport is Spirit Airlines which had a non-stop flight to the Orlando airport (quite a complex); only 90 mins in the air!

This time Susan picked the Caribe Royale Hotel & Convention Center - we are staying in one of the 2-bedroom suite buildings w/ a small private pool (see pics below) - yesterday was rainy but we had a nice afternoon and early dinner (upcoming post) - today, the fitness center in the morning and then a visit to Sea World which is off International Drive and probably just 15 mins or so from us). We have a number of planned other activities which will not include most of the Disney attractions ('been there, did that' kind of feeling), but I may mention some briefly from past experience because Disney World is the main reason families visit the area in the millions. Just a few pics below including the city of Orlando which I may have been in once or so - not the attraction here. Dave :)

Orlando is a city in the U.S. state of Florida located in Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau (July 2017), making it the 23rd-largest metropolitan area in the United States, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States, and the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida. As of 2015, Orlando had an estimated city-proper population of 280,257, the state's largest inland city. The City of Orlando is nicknamed "The City Beautiful," and its symbol is the fountain at Lake Eola. Orlando is also known as "The Theme Park Capital of the World" and in 2016 its tourist attractions and events drew more than 72 million visitors. (Source)

One of the main driving forces in Orlando's economy is its tourism industry and the city is one of the leading tourism destinations in the world. Nicknamed the 'Theme Park Capital of the World', the Orlando area is home to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland, and the Fun Spot America Theme Parks. A record 72 million visitors came to the Orlando region in 2017, making it the top tourist destination in the United States. The Orlando area features 7 of the 10 most visited theme parks in North America (5 of the top 10 in the world), as well as the 4 most visited water parks in the U.S. The Walt Disney World resort is the area's largest attraction with its many facets such as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, and Disney Springs. Universal Orlando, like Walt Disney World, is a multi-faceted resort comprising Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk. SeaWorld Orlando is a large park that features numerous zoological displays and marine animals alongside an amusement park with roller coasters like Mako, Manta, and Kraken. (Source)

The property also comprises more than one park, alongside Aquatica water park and Discovery Cove. Fun Spot Orlando and Kissimmee are more typical amusement parks with big thrills in a small space with roller coasters like White Lightning and Freedom Flyer in Orlando and Mine Blower and Rockstar Coaster in Kissimmee. Orlando is also home to I-Drive 360 on International Drive home to the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds, and Sealife Aquarium. Orlando attractions also appeal to many locals who want to enjoy themselves close to home. The convention industry is also critical to the region's economy. The Orange County Convention Center, expanded in 2004 to over two million square feet (200,000 m2) of exhibition space, is now the second-largest convention complex in terms of space in the United States, trailing only McCormick Place in Chicago. The city vies with Chicago and Las Vegas for hosting the most convention attendees in the United States. (Source)
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giradman

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Disney Springs - Shopping, Entertainment, & Eating

On our first full day, we spent some time in the morning at the fitness center, which is in its own 2-story building and quite nice - the weather was light rain 'on & off' all day, which is not good in this theme park & golf mecca - SO, we decided to spend the afternoon at Disney Springs, which has had numerous names over the decades (see quote below) - since our last visit, the place has at least doubled if not tripled in size and further expansion is planned (see first pics below - close to our hotel - the aerial view is amazing compared to my previous visits here).

Of course, this is a popular place on a 'rainy' day, i.e. a lot of indoor shopping and eating! Parking options are VAST and I decided to use the valet option at an extra fee (and glad that I did) - just a few web pics of the main area (now there are 4 'main' areas, in bold below) - we did some shopping, Susan spending the longest in Sephora, one of her favorite 'beauty' chains. We had an early dinner at the Boathouse - more on that later - there are dozens of eating options from fast foods, snacks, drinks, bars, and fancier 'sit down' restaurants, such as the Paddlefish and Boathouse. Pics below just a few web examples - we had a nice afternoon and a excellent dinner. Dave :)

Disney Springs (previously known as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village in 1975, Walt Disney World Village in 1977, Disney Village Marketplace in 1989, and Downtown Disney in 1997) is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando. The complex opened on March 22, 1975, and has been expanded and renamed at other times over the years, until 2013, when plans were announced for a three-year renovation and expansion of the complex, and on September 29, 2015, the name officially changed to Disney Springs. The complex includes four distinct areas: Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side. Buses and water taxis operated by Disney Transport provide transportation between Disney Springs and other areas of Walt Disney World. (Source)
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giradman

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SeaWorld Orlando - Part 1

SeaWorld Orlando began decades ago and has expanded into a number of parks and remains a popular attraction - brief description below (check the link for the many offerings) at the park which include sea animal shows, rides (3 scary roller coasters which at our age were not an attraction BUT if a young family likely a thrill!), games to win prizes, exhibits (the Antartica Penguin was my favorite), plenty of food options (nothing fancy), and frequent gift shops mostly w/ stuffed animals - definitely a theme park that would attract the younger crowd.

We mainly went to the exhibits and attended the live, excellent Dolphin Show (tried to get to the Sea Lion show but was full - anyone planning to go needs to time their appearances at these shows). Pics are mainly my own - loved to see the manatee rehab area w/ well over a dozen of these so-called gentle 'sea cows' - several in the rehab tanks had obvious injuries on their backs which looked like propellor blade gashes - hopefully part of our expensive entry fee goes to this effort? The Dolphin Show as mentioned was enjoyable and worth seeing (as are likely the other shows) - Part 2 of this posting are my own pics of some of the dolphin 'acts' - nice afternoon followed by a great dinner (coming up!) - Dave :)

SeaWorld Orlando is a theme park and marine zoological park, in Orlando, Florida. It is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. When combined with its neighbor Discovery Cove and Aquatica, it forms SeaWorld Parks and Resorts Orlando, an entertainment complex consisting of the three parks and many hotels. In 2017, SeaWorld Orlando hosted an estimated 3,962,000 guests, ranking it the 11th most visited amusement park in the United States. (Source)
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giradman

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SeaWorld Orlando - Part 2

Just some more pics from our afternoon at SeaWorld - the live dolphin show, which also included beautiful macaws flying above the audience and landing on the arms of the trainers - tried to get some good images but none worth showing, sorry. Dave :)

P.S. Tomorrow - planning on an all-day trip to the Kennedy Space Center on the Atlantic east coast - just an hour's drive.
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giradman

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Thanks Scifan.. & Johanna for chiming into the thread - hope that some of the Floridians or past visitors to the area respond w/ recommendations and eating favorites - Orlando has just a plethora of attractions, so being selective and planning your schedule are critical here. We'll be leaving for the Kennedy Space Center in about an hour - we've taken the main 'added' bus tour before, so will see what else is available. Dave :)
 
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Venetian Room - Boathouse - Oceanaire - Eating in Orlando!

One of the main reasons for our return to Orlando is the wide availability of eating options - these can vary from inexpensive chains, to standard restaurants (such as Italian pasta places), plenty of pizza places, to rather expensive gourmet meals. If you like to eat, then this area offers much!

Venetian Room
- in our hotel and convenient for the first night - beautiful place (first 2 pics below) - the menu when opened lit up (like an iPad) which Susan loved (she often uses her iPhone as a flashlight to see menus) - Susan had the lamb chops and I a delicious veal chop (we love to eat 'baby' animals - ;))

Boathouse - our first full day and located at Disney Springs - beautiful restaurant w/ obviously a nautical motif (noticed the boat near the entry pic below which is an eating booth) - little boats shaped like old Fords can be rented. We had ALL shellfish - started w/ a dozen oysters (one from the West Coast, our favorites, and one harvested for the Boathouse from Massachusetts) - Susan had a steamed lobster and I had two appetizers, i.e. the cold lobster and lumped crab meat - we had another half dozen oysters for dessert from Washington State.

Oceanaire after our SeaWorld visit - this is a small chain throughout the USA (ate at one in D.C. last year and discussed in one of my other travelogues) - the images below may be from other locales but give the picture of the restaurant, inside and out. About 10+ oyster selections were available - we shared a dozen (6 from British Columbia and 6 from Washington State, all West Coast); also shared a delicious grilled octopus (one short tentacle each). Susan had their excellent lumped jumbo crab cakes (claimed to be 95% crab, like we've had in Maryland); I had the Monkfish in a wonderful sauce w/ some small mussels and clams. For dessert, we again shared a half dozen Washington State oysters - this time from Tetton Island. We might just return here tonight after our drive back from the Space Center - there are some good seafood restaurants at Cocoa Beach but the menus seemed ordinary, plus NO oysters! Dave :)
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giradman

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Monkfish - Eating Addendum!

For those not familiar w/ monkfish - see quote below - one of the ugliest fish on the planet (see below); basically, only the tail is used and the fish is typically cooked in a sauce (the one w/ my dish was delicious w/ a lobster flavor) - the meat is white and has the texture of lobster (ofter called the 'poor man's lobster') w/ a mild flavor that is altered by the cooking method - if the description sounds appealing, give the fish a try (and don't worry about the head being on your plate - would not fit anyway!) - ;) Dave

By all accounts, monkfish is one of the ugliest fish in the deep, having a huge head, tiny eyes and an enormous mouth filled with needle-like teeth. On top of that, to lure other fish into its grotesque mouth, it is equipped with a peculiar apparatus that looks like a spike with a bit of meat on it, which it waves back and forth to entice its prey. Obviously not intended for the display case, the whole fish rarely makes it ashore, since fishermen generally remove the tail and liver at sea and throw the rest back. Tail meats range from 1 to 4 pounds. Most of the livers are exported to Japan, where they are used in soup. Monkfish are found worldwide, but the primary harvesting areas are in the North Atlantic from coastal Norway to the Mediterranean and from the Grand Banks to North Carolina. U.S.-landed monks are taken by trawlers and gillnets and as bycatch from scallop draggers. (Source)
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Kennedy Space Center - Part 1

Today, Susan & I drove about an hour (route below on map) east to the Kennedy Space Center (probably our third or fourth visit over many years) - the Center, including the Visitor's Complex is located in the huge Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (first quote below); next two quotes describe the John F. Kennedy Space Center, and the final quote the beginning Wiki article on the Visitor's Complex - check all of the links if interested in a visit.

The Visitor's Complex is large w/ many different attractions - the pics are a combination of some from the web and my own (hard to obtain great images w/ the crowds around, sorry). We spent just over 5 hrs and probably did about a third of the many options, including extra paid attractions - if you really want to see the place 'thoroughly', a two day visit is recommended, so nice to be near the area. The complex map below shows the many building exhibits - the Atlantis Shuttle Building was particularly impressive - we were unable to see all of the many attractions, but did watch one outstanding 40 min iMax movie (numerous theaters show different films as part of the general admission); the gift shop is HUGE and there are plenty of eating opportunities (basic food fare - we had a light lunch during the bus trip, which I'll describe next). Dave :)

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a 140,000 acres U.S. National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on the Atlantic coast of Florida's largest barrier island. NASA's Kennedy Space Center and visitor complex are also situated on the island and NASA can restrict access to the refuge based on its operational needs. The NWR contains over 1000 species of plants, 117 species of fish, 68 amphibians and reptiles, 330 birds, and 31 mammal species, of which 21 species are listed as endangered by the state of Florida or by the US federal government. Management of the NWR is provided through the Merritt Island NWR Complex, which provides hiking and driving trails for the public, subject to access restrictions from NASA. (Source)

The John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is one of ten National Aeronautics and Space Administration field centers. Since December 1968, Kennedy Space Center has been NASA's primary launch center of human spaceflight. Launch operations for the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs were carried out from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 and managed by KSC. Located on the east coast of Florida, KSC is adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). Though the first Apollo flights, and all Project Mercury and Project Gemini flights took off from CCAFS, the launches were managed by KSC and its previous organization. Starting with the fourth Gemini mission, the NASA launch control center in Florida (Mercury Control Center, later the Launch Control Center) began handing off control of the vehicle to the Mission Control Center shortly after liftoff; in prior missions it held control throughout the entire mission. (Source)

Additionally, the center manages launch of robotic and commercial crew missions and researches food production and In-Situ Resource Utilization for off-Earth exploration. Since 2010, the center has worked to become a multi-user spaceport through industry partnerships, even adding a new launch pad (LC-39C) in 2015. There are about 700 facilities and buildings grouped across the center's 144,000 acres. Among the unique facilities at KSC are the 525 ft tall Vehicle Assembly Building for stacking NASA's largest rockets, the Launch Control Center - which conducts space launches at KSC, the Operations and Checkout Building, which houses the astronauts dormitories and suit-up area, a Space Station factory, and a 3-mile-long Shuttle Landing Facility. There is also a Visitor Complex open to the public on site.(Source)

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the visitor center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It features exhibits and displays, historic spacecraft and memorabilia, shows, two IMAX theaters, and a range of bus tours of the spaceport. "Space Shuttle Atlantis" is home to the real Space Shuttle Atlantis orbiter and the Shuttle Launch Experience, a simulated ride into space. The center also provides astronaut training experiences, including a multi-axial chair and Mars Base simulator. The visitor complex also has daily presentations from a veteran NASA astronaut. A bus tour, included with admission, encompasses the separate Apollo/Saturn V Center. There were 1.7 million visitors to the visitor complex in 2016. (Source)
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Kennedy Space Center - Part 2 - Bus Tour & Apollo/Saturn V Center

As part of the general admission, there is a popular MUST bus tour - this is narrated w/ both a new video and driver input - the famous VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) is seen from many vantage points and well discussed; the tracks that carry the assembled rockets to the various launchpads are indeed impressive (shown in some of the pics below); the tour route is shown by the dotted line on the map and mainly covers the LC-39A SpaceX and LC-39B SLS Rocket sites; Space X is the company owned by Elon Musk and the SLS Rocket is the next being developed for space travel - I can add more if there is interest and questions.

The bus stops at the amazing Apollo/Saturn V Center described below - additional pics below, many my own - an impressively large rocket 'in person'!

Despite not wanting to leave we left about 4:30 PM for the hour drive back to Orlando - the Kennedy Space Center is a MUST visit if in the area and plan at least a whole day (if not a return ticket). Dave :)

The Apollo/Saturn V Center is located north-northwest of Launch Complex 39 near the Shuttle Landing Facility and is only accessible to visitors by bus tours from the Visitors Complex. The center, which opened December 17, 1996, was designed by Bob Rogers (designer) and the design team BRC Imagination Arts, for NASA and Delaware North Companies. The opening of the exhibit was historic for NASA as it was the first large exhibit to be opened inside a restricted area, only accessible by Kennedy Space Center tour buses. The 100,000-square-foot facility was built to house a restored Saturn V launch vehicle and features other exhibits related to the Apollo program. Until the structure was built, the Saturn V was displayed horizontally for many years outdoors just south of the Vehicle Assembly Building and tour buses brought visitors to it. (Source)

Other large exhibits include the Apollo 14 command module, an unused Apollo Command/Service Module (CSM-119) and an unused Lunar Module (LM-9). CSM-119 was designated for a possible Skylab rescue mission and as a backup for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project. LM-9 was originally scheduled to be used on Apollo 15, but when missions after Apollo 17 were canceled, a later LM (LM-10) was used instead. Also on display is a slice of Moon rock that visitors can touch. Other exhibits include a replica of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, a variety of space suits including Alan Shepard's Apollo 14 extravehicular suit, a piece of Apollo 13's Lunar Module returned by the astronauts, lunar samples from Apollo 15 and Apollo 17, and a large cut-away scale model of the Saturn V. Two theaters allow visitors to relive parts of the Apollo program – one simulates the environment inside an Apollo-era firing room during the launch of Apollo 8 and the other simulates the Apollo 11 landing. (Source)
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Kennedy Space Center - Part 2 - Bus Tour & Apollo/Saturn V Center

As part of the general admission, there is a popular MUST bus tour - this is narrated w/ both a new video and driver input - the famous VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) is seen from many vantage points and well discussed; the tracks that carry the assembled rockets to the various launchpads are indeed impressive (shown in some of the pics below); the tour route is shown by the dotted line on the map and mainly covers the LC-39A SpaceX and LC-39B SLS Rocket sites; Space X is the company owned by Elon Musk and the SLS Rocket is the next being developed for space travel - I can add more if there is interest and questions.

The bus stops at the amazing Apollo/Saturn V Center described below - additional pics below, many my own - an impressively large rocket 'in person'!

Despite not wanting to leave we left about 4:30 PM for the hour drive back to Orlando - the Kennedy Space Center is a MUST visit if in the area and plan at least a whole day (if not a return ticket). Dave :)




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Thanks again for a wonderful travel story.
 
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giradman

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Thanks again for a wonderful travel story.

Thanks Scifan.. - just before coming to Orlando, we saw the new documentary describe below, i.e. Apollo 11 about the 'man on the moon' mission - all archival footage (the quality not always the best, BUT some 70 mm filming that is spectacular) - all of this Apollo history well covered in the Apollo/Saturn V Center on the bus tour drop-off - for those reading this thread and who have not seen this 2019 film, then highly recommended. Dave :)

Apollo 11 is a 2019 American documentary film edited, produced, and directed by Todd Douglas Miller. It focuses on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first spaceflight to land men on the Moon. The film consists solely of archival footage, including 70 mm film that was previously unreleased to the public, and does not feature narration or interviews. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019, and was released theatrically in the United States by Neon on March 1, 2019. It received acclaim from critics and has grossed over $5 million. (Source)
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Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) - Kennedy Space Center (KSC)

Well, I could easily add a number of more posts about the KSC - one is more detail about the main rocket launch center, LC-39 - see quotes below (much more in the link, if interested) - first pic below an aerial view of the VAB w/ the launch pads 39A & 39B labeled, followed by several images of just two of the many launches from site 39A - SpaceX, Elon Musk's company, leases 39A from NASA - more in the pic below and the previous link. Dave :)

Launch Complex 39 (LC-39) is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified for the Space Shuttle program. As of 2017, only Launch Complex 39A is active, launching SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Pad 39B is being modified to launch NASA's Space Launch System. A new, smaller pad, 39C was added in 2015 to support smaller launches but has not yet been used. Launch Complex 39 is composed of three launch pads—39A, 39B and 39C, a Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a Crawlerway used by crawler-transporters to carry Mobile Launcher Platforms between the VAB and the pads, Orbiter Processing Facility buildings, a Launch Control Center which contains the firing rooms, a news facility famous for the iconic countdown clock seen in television coverage and photos, and various logistical and operational support buildings. (Source)

SpaceX leases Launch Pad 39A from NASA and has modified the pad to support Falcon Heavy launches in 2017 and beyond. NASA began modifying Launch Pad 39B in 2007 to accommodate the now defunct Project Constellation, and is currently preparing it for the Space Launch System[5][6] with first launch scheduled for December 2019.[7] Pad C was originally planned for Apollo but never built, and would have been a copy of pads 39A and 39B. A smaller pad, designated 39C was constructed from January to June 2015 to accommodate small-class vehicles. NASA launches from LC-39A and 39B have been supervised from the NASA [URL='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Launch_Control_Center']Launch Control Center (LCC), located 3 miles (4.8 km) from the launch pads. LC-39 is one of several launch sites that share radar and tracking services of the Eastern Test Range.(Source)[/URL]
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Mead Botanical Garden - Winter Park Attractions

On our last day in the Orlando area, we decided to visit a favorite local town, i.e. Winter Park, which is just north of Orlando - our first visit was the Mead Botanical Garden, a new experience for us; named after Theodore Mead who is buried in Orlando (beginning of his Wiki bio quoted below - much more in the link). There are many of these 'gardens' in Florida (a number in some of my other threads) - this one not as impressive as others, but some beautiful wetlands views, boardwalks through natural flora of the area, a variety of flowering plants, and an assortment of fauna, including turtles, birds, et al - alligators live in the waters and we saw an obvious 'sunning spot' but no live ones this time. A pleasant area for a picnic and weddings; pics below mostly my own w/ Susan present in one image - she is wearing her 'Minnie Mouse' cap from the World of Disney Store (seen in one of the earlier posts). Dave :)

Theodore Luqueer Mead (February 23, 1852 – May 4, 1936) was an American naturalist, entomologist and horticulturist. As an entomologist he discovered more than 20 new species of North American butterflies and introduced the Florissant Fossil Beds in Colorado to the wider scientific world. As a horticulturist, he is best known for his pioneering work on the growing and cross-breeding of orchids, and the creation of new forms of caladium, bromeliad, crinum, amaryllis and hemerocallis (daylily). In addition he introduced many new semi-tropical plants, particularly palm varieties, into North America. Recently a comprehensive historical biography of his life and times has been published. (Source)
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