Amusement Park Adventure: A Fun Weekend Idea for the Family

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We all have been through them—weekends with no real agenda. But for a working mom, it's not very often I am able to spend a weekend without a set of to-do list. 

For most working parents, weekends actually mean extra work days—without pay! Ah, this thankless job called parenting! A Saturday often mean a day to catch up on piled-up laundry, deep-clean the carpet, work with the little one with her school assignments or head out to the fresh market to replenish a dwindling grocery supply.

A Lovely weekend calls for a family trip down to the amusement park at clearwater, florida.

A Lovely weekend calls for a family trip down to the amusement park at clearwater, florida.

For this particular weekend, high up in the to-do list is to de-clutter the little one's room of old clothes and toys and later hit consignment shops so she could earn a dollar or two for her piggy bank. Reselling once-loved toys and clothes is a great incentive to motivate the little one to give up a few of her prized possessions. Any parent with a pre-schooler knows how difficult this process is for any five-year-old with a deep attachment to one-armed Barbie or stained Lalaloopsy dolls. 

photo booth at the park means daddy having more fun than the little one!

photo booth at the park means daddy having more fun than the little one!

While heading out to the closest kids' consignment shop, we passed by an indoor/outdoor amusement park that has a go-kart track. Then, a light bulb switched on: Let's bring Ariana to the park for her first-ever go-kart adventure!   

Celebration Station is a playground for kids and kids-at-heart who love outdoor rides, bumper boats and go-karts.

Celebration Station is a playground for kids and kids-at-heart who love outdoor rides, bumper boats and go-karts.

Where To Go

Celebration Station, located at Clearwater, Florida, is a popular weekend spot for kids and families. In case you are no where near Clearwater, the park is also in a few other states, including Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma. Indoor, the park offers an area to hold kiddie parties and an arcade full of interactive games. Outdoor, it has a Jurassic Park-inspired mini golf course, bumper boats, playland rides and a go-kart track. 

An all-day go-kart pass would cost $24.99, but since this is the little one's first time and we weren't sure if she would even enjoy the experience, we opted to do a single ride which costs $7.50.  

how high can you jump? eurobungy is a favorite among amusement park lovers.

how high can you jump? eurobungy is a favorite among amusement park lovers.

The Initial Fear

At first, this mama bear was a little worried the little cub may find the experience too scary or the engine noise too loud to actually enjoy the experience. 

What would she make out of other aggressive drivers who would intentionally bump into her and daddy's go-kart in an attempt to overtake them and get ahead? Will she feel petrified half-way through it by its speed? 

the view from the road offers a sneak peek of the thrill and fun awaiting amusement park guests.

the view from the road offers a sneak peek of the thrill and fun awaiting amusement park guests.

The Drive

I was only slightly comforted by the idea that her daddy will be taking control of the wheels and driving in a safe distance and speed in order to ensure this little girl doesn't get traumatized by her first experience. But I should have known better. As soon as other daddy drivers bumped into them, Brian's competitive spirit kicked in and he started racing with other drivers! Goodness!

Sometimes, you just have to feed a hungry dinosaur!

Sometimes, you just have to feed a hungry dinosaur!

As it turned out, I was worried for no reason. At the end of the ride, the little one jumped out of the kart like a pro and exclaimed she enjoyed her first go-kart experience! Silly mommy for even worrying.

Here's the face of a girl thrilled to see dinosaurs in the park.

Here's the face of a girl thrilled to see dinosaurs in the park.

Outdoor Fun

Aside from go-karts, there are several other outdoor activities to enjoy. There's the bumper boats, eurobungy and playland rides. We further explored around and toured its dinosaur-themed mini golf course, which would be a lovely way to introduce the little one to the sport of golf as going through its themed course feels like kiddie play. 

Who's ready to take a shot? hitting the 18th hole in the mini Golf course is dinosaur play.

Who's ready to take a shot? hitting the 18th hole in the mini Golf course is dinosaur play.

Arcade Games

After exploring all the outdoor activities, the little one couldn't resist playing indoor in its arcade. Oh boy, that brought so much fun memories since—before internet, video games and the malls—arcade was the place to be to spend a fun weekend with kids and family! So what's coming up next? Keep an eye out on a future blog post about why you need to let your child explore old-school family entertainment and where to go for a weekend at the arcade when in the sunny city of Tampa.

The indoor arcade is an explosion of bright lights and colors.

The indoor arcade is an explosion of bright lights and colors.

Sponge Docks: A Little Taste of Greece (Part I)

When I think of Greece, I think of its storied history, temple ruins, mythical gods and undeniable beauty, much like Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships" in Greek mythology. The beautiful island of Greece is definitely on the family's bucket list of places to see, so when we heard of a little Greek community at the Sponge Docks at Tarpon Springs along Tampa Bay, Florida, we took the opportunity to experience a little taste of Greece.  

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A trip to the Sponge Docks from where we live is a short 30-minute drive, making it ideal for a quick Saturday family adventure. Despite what mythical stories may tell you, there is no Greek tragedy here. The Sponge Docks came into being after John Cheney discovered the business potential of selling sponges harvested from Florida's rich ocean floor. Cheney was an associate of a wealthy entrepreneur named Hamilton Disston who, in 1880, saved the state of Florida from bankruptcy by purchasing four million acres of land (Tarpon Springs included) from the government.

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By 1890, the sponge industry was firmly established at Tarpon Springs. With news of a growing sponge industry, Tarpon Spring's population grew as experienced sponge divers from Greece were soon after hired to help meet a growing market demand. Along with this, tourism exploded as more tourists were eventually drawn to the Sponge Docks to purchase sponges, see the divers in action and indulge in authentic Greek food. 

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As more and more Greek divers came to Tarpon Springs for work, they later created a community that continued to celebrate the Greek way of life. Today, a life-sized statue of a sponger stands tall to honor the early divers who helped put Tarpon Springs on the world map as the "Sponge Capital of the World."

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Sponges are aquatic animals that cling to a rock or coral. When harvesting, divers gently squeeze out the gurry, a gelatinous substance found in sponges. They then pound and clean the sponges on the ship's deck. Be warned: You'll likely get a whiff of rotten smell while walking by a ship with drying sponges. While the sponges' skin is drying, heat releases a gas that causes a salty, dead-fish smell.

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Today, the Sponge Docks offers a lot of quirky finds, including decorated bicycles randomly displayed throughout the street, which are actually art installations by a local artist named Warren Gregory who was inspired to create art bikes from his time in Amsterdam. Visitors and diners may also enjoy acoustic music al fresco-style, with a view of the calm sea, docks and ships. Who could possibly resist a nice glass of wine, gyro or baklava with a stunning view?

Clockwise:  Ariana with her Papaw Arvil at The sponge factory; playing with puppets sold at one of the gift shops and with the rest of the family for a customary photo shoot in front of the divers' memorial.

Clockwise: Ariana with her Papaw Arvil at The sponge factory; playing with puppets sold at one of the gift shops and with the rest of the family for a customary photo shoot in front of the divers' memorial.

At the Sponge Docks, there are surprises at every turn. There are many more to this adventure so keep an eye out of Part II of this travel diary.