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.

A Trip to the Zoo: The Magic of Meeting the Wildlife

Next to Disney World, nothing gets a kid more excited than the idea of going to the zoo for the first time. Recently, Ariana had her first field trip to the zoo and couldn't contain her excitement. Her entire kindergarten class visited Lowry Park Zoo, a 24-acre facility that houses more than 1,200 wildlife. 

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There were many reasons why the little one was beyond thrilled about this field trip. For one, visiting the zoo is better when you have an exploration buddy, in this case, Gabie, who shared every "ohhs" and "ahhs" at the magical sight of giant elephants, playful tigers and splendid manta rays, just to name a few. 

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Secondly, this little girl was so excited about the trip because she was eager to go on a school bus for the first time. Yes, this trip was a lot of firsts for this five-year-old! She was more than eager to report that her first bus trip was "magical." Only one other thing could possible top that: Being in the zoo itself and seeing all the rare and endangered animals.   

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There are multiple exhibits at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, but her favorite is the Safari Africa exhibit. To experience the full exhibit, we hopped on a Safari trolley where a guide drove us around the entire area and pointed out unfamiliar wildlife in each enclosure. We saw okapis, zebras, cheetahs (the little one's favorite!) as well as magnificent African elephants. Lowry Park Zoo is home to three elephants from Swaziland, one from Namibia and two calves born at the zoo. Our guide also noted that the male elephant is always separated from the rest of the herd as he prefers to be solitary.

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When planning a zoo trip with your little one, wait to visit until they are old enough to truly appreciate the full experience. As rookie parents, we made the mistake of taking Ariana too early to the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati in the pastshe was either uninterested or terrified to see the giant mammals. Learning from our mistake, we made the decision to wait until she's older before bringing her to the zoo. This time around, she enjoyed every bit of the experience, including seeing the gigantic rhinocerous up close. 

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Don't skip the bird sanctuary when in the zoo. The girls were delighted to see different species of birds, including eagles, hornbills and lovely flamingos in bright tangerine color. They were truly a one-of-a-kind sight to see!

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Over at the Florida exhibit, the girls saw the Sunshine State's diverse wildlife, including manatees, crocodiles and the Florida panther. In fact, the girls (above) were simply in awe at these pre-historic-looking creatures.

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Next to the sting ray exhibit is the aquarium for otters. The otter was clearly loving the attention as it kept showing off its amazing swimming and diving skills close to the glass where the kids were huddled to get a closer look at the tiny animal. As clearly shown on the little one's face, she was impressed by the little creature's aquatic performance!

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Aside from its wildlife exhibits, Lowry Park Zoo also has a mini aquarium which displays sea horses, rare schools of fish, turtles and other amphibians.

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Perhaps the highlight of the day was seeing the tiger and her baby cub play and chase each other. It was so adorable to see these wild creatures play hide-and-seek and playfully pounce on each other. It was almost easy to forget these are natural predators that are, in the wild, born to haunt and prey. 

Overall, it was such a wonderful experience for the kids. On the way home, this little girl summed up her day: "Best day ever!"