Visit Key West and Feed the Stingrays at Sea World Orlando

Upon entering the five acre section of “Key West at Sea World” from the main entrance, you will come upon Stingray Lagoon. The brightly colored shacks and vibrant music let you know that this is going to be a fun and quirky experience!

The Lagoon is home to over 200 rays that are all waiting to be viewed, touched, and most importantly fed! Also part of the area is sectioned off from the larger rays and humans to showcase stingray pups as they learn to interact with the world around them.

A Stringray near the feeding/touching ledge.

Stingray Lagoon is usually super busy, but there is always a Sea World expert on hand to give you tips, answer questions, and to help give an extra boost of confidence as you think about putting your hand in to touch and feed the rays.

Hey....Feed Me!!!

First things first, you will notice that these guys (and gals) are NOT shy. They will swim right up to the ledge and start flapping it with their fins to let you know that they are ready to play. You will definitely want to be careful, because their tank is filled with salt water which is super harmful to electronics!

They will splash A LOT!!!
If you want to feed the rays you can purchase a tray of five small fish from a nearby counter. The first tray costs $5.00, and you get a discount if you buy more trays.
They look super gross in this pic, but they really weren't that bad to touch.

The best way to feed the stingrays is by placing the small fish between your fingers and submerging your hand under the water so your fish is jiggling above your fingers. (Yes, jiggling is a purely technical term! J ) You want to feed them like this for two reasons. The first is that their mouth isn’t where you think it is, because they are bottom feeders their mouth is on the underside of their body. The second is that there are always a ton of birds around waiting to grab fish out of your hand. And the birds are definitely the most aggressive thing that you will find around Stingray Lagoon!!!

Don't feed 'em like this...but it does make for a cool picture!

These stingrays are super docile, and feel like a velvety sponge. At first little ones may be weirded out by the idea of sticking their hand elbow deep in water to feel this oddly shaped animal, but after they get their first “high five” they’ll be hooked.

We absolutely loved watching, feeding, and touching these beautiful and friendly stingrays! It is definitely something that we will do again!!!

BYOC…Bring Your Own Cast

So the other day, we got the dreaded news that Zoe had fractured her arm and needed a cast.

Having never had a cast, I of course was super nervous…But then I had a big idea. What if we went to the Magic Kingdom and had all her favorite characters sign it for her.

So we boarded the Monorail on a quest to get some signatures!

Riding the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom!

Our first stop was City Hall. What are we Celebrating???

Then it was on to Toontown to see the Princesses!!!

The waiting is the hardest part!!!
Aurora was the first to sign!!!
Cinderella was next up to sign!
And finally, it was Belle's turn!

Then it was time to head over to the Judge’s Tent to get Mickey and Minnie to add their signatures to the collection.

Hey guess what happened at Preschool???
Minnie signing...

And then we were off to find Zoe’s favorite…Peter Pan!!! I was so worried that he would be in Neverland, but he had just finished playing tag with the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell…

Zoe's main man!!!

She had such a great time getting all of them to sign her cast, and she had a great evening showing it off to everyone! It was the perfect way to end a not so good day! 🙂

Hidden Gems: Morocco’s Fez House

I always look longingly at Morocco as I pass it in the World Showcase at EPCOT, because I usually have zero time to explore my favorite pavilion.

Morocco may not have a ride or movie to lure people in, but what it does provide you with is an intimate glimpse into what it may be like to live there.

Over the years, I have found The Fez House to be a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle out on the World Showcase Lagoon.

From the outside the Fez House looks unassuming…

While the outside is plain, once you enter the doorway you are instantly transported to a time and place that is both unfamiliar and comfortable all at once. The walls echo with the sounds of traditional music mingled with the soft flow of water from the fountain, and all around you are details that make you feel like the family that lives there has just popped out to the market.

Just to the left of the fountain is a brass plaque that tells you some details and information about not only the design of the house but of how important homes are in Moroccan culture.

The First thing one should own is a home;

and it is the last thing one should sell. For

a home is one’s castle this side of Heaven.

Moroccan Proverb

If you ever find yourself needing to take a break from it all, I strongly suggest popping into the Fez House to take a moment to reflect on your day.

Sea World for Beginners

I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Sea World since I was young,  so I decided it was time to take a stroll down memory lane and visit one of my favorite childhood parks. It was definitely a good decision! Sea World  is a beautiful park that is more of a destination than a place to see a “whale show”!

I’ll be posting more about the shows, experiences, and rides that Sea World has to offer in the upcoming week. But right now I want to talk about a few things that you should take into consideration when planning your trip to Sea World, from someone who didn’t plan anything! 🙂

When you arrive at Sea World, the first shocker for me was the photographers jumping in front of you trying to take your photo. I know it is their job, but seriously! If I don’t look interested in stopping, please don’t even try!

But I did find one photo op that I couldn’t pass up…

 

The Shamu character photo op as you enter the park.

 

 

Zoe and Shamu!

 

Now for the awesome news….They have a Starbucks in the Park! Now lines in here can be just as long as some of the attractions, but the rides don’t taste this good!

The most important thing to consider while you are at Sea World is their “loose items” policy. Now while you can bring your backpack or purse onto most rides at Walt Disney World, this is DEFINITELY not the case here. They will not allow you on any ride with a “loose item”, but they do provide lockers throughout the park for you leave your items in. For us it was an issue, since we don’t typically use a stroller in smaller parks and I am so used to carrying snacks and drinks in for Zoe.

 

When they mean loose articles, they mean NO LOOSE ARTICLES!

 

The shows are amazing, and you really need to show up about 30 minutes in advance to avoid the “Splash Zones”! Now while there have been a lot of tragedies lately, you can definitely tell that the trainers at Sea World have a true love for what they do and the animals that they work with.

 

Zoe and one of the trainers from "Believe"

 

Sea World had definitely earned a spot in our theme park rotation! They offer great & unique animal experiences, have some great coasters, and have show that capture the magic and love that we all have for nature and its inhabitants.

If you haven’t considered a visit…you might want to!

Put the Twitter Down and Walk Away…

It seems like I am ALWAYS on my phone in the park checking into foursquare or tweeting and while I love twitter my family doesn’t!

So this Saturday, during our family trip to EPCOT I tried my best not to tweet or check in. While I wasn’t totally successful (and I got the shakes a few times), it definitely was an eye opening experience.

Usually when I am in the parks, I am scouring for details, new tweaks, merchandise, and general news. But on this trip I took a step back and focused more on why I love the parks!

We rode rides we hadn’t done in a long time, ate at Biergarten with friends (usually this is a no go, since we have a tendency to camp out!), and just watched everything around us. We had such an amazing day!!!

Now I know that I am extremely fortunate in that I get to go to the parks often, but I really have started to take it for granted! So from now on, one day a weekend will be twitter/foursquare/phone free…and I am okay with that!

What about you? Are you guilty of getting caught up in your cell phone, too?

Duffy, It’s what makes the world go round!

Love him or hate him Duffy has arrived to the Walt Disney World Resort! If you missed today’s arrival, I have a ton of info and pictures in my twitter stream (@shelleycaran).

I am a Duffy fan. There I said it! But it appears as if I am not the only one, because as of noon they were sold out of several costumes and tonight all I could find were a handful of the baseball & sailor outfits.

Now while I am a Duffy fan, there is one thing that is REALLY bothering me…

The world showcase masks, tags, and stamps have all been Duff-ified!!!!

The masks have been replaced with a picture of the lovable bear, and the stamps have also had a makeover to resemble the bear of the hour.

However, the most heinous crime has been committed…the tags for each country are GONE! It makes it all so super vanilla now!!! Most of the cast members manning the spots all said that they are getting a number of complaints from guests about the loss of the tags, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for their return!

I only had the chance to visit a few of the countries tonight, but it was definitely a lot of fun. We got stamps in Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Morocco, France, and the United Kingdom.

We are really excited to go back to the World Showcase to get all of the stamps and to visit with Duffy!

If you love Duffy, these are good times in deed. If you are not a fan, prepared to be Duffy-rolled!!! 😀

I hope that you enjoy the pics!!!

Thanks, but no thanks

Hi everyone!!!

While I am busy working on today’s post, I wanted to take a second to talk about the Mom’s Panel.

First of all, I would love to congratulate those who are going onto the second round of interviews! I can’t imagine all of the emotions you’re experiencing. I am so genuinely excited and happy for all of you!!!

For those of you who did not get into the second round (yours truly included), I offer these words from Sir Winston Churchill…

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

Personally, I look at my “Thanks, but no thanks” as a challenge to achieve my dreams on my own terms!

While I would love to one day have a pink jacket of my own and I am proud to call many of those that do my friends, I am going to turn my focus to finding my own way with a song in my heart and a spring in my step! (Hopefully that song won’t be “It’s a Small World”!!!)

Care to join me???? 🙂

It’s a Walled World After All…

I decided to take a walk around the Magic Kingdom to take a look at all the construction going on in the Magic Kingdom.

I even rode Dumbo! 😀

The last few pictures are of the Haunted Mansion construction are from the bottom deck of the Liberty Belle.

Also, I got a few cool shots of Big Thunder…which NEVER happens.

Enjoy!

 

10-7-10 MK Update

Let the Parade Debate Begin

With Block Party Bash coming to a close in January 2011, I thought that I would swing by and check it out since I absolutely love this parade!

Now while I totally understand the point of view of those that wish that they could see the whole parade, I absolutely love the energy of the show and the life that it pumps into the Studios.

A look down the Hollywood Boulevard.

There is just something about seeing the Hollywood Boulevard area lined with people who are tapping their feet, clapping, and movin’ it with the performers.

Now I am not knocking the parade before I see it, but I feel like a more traditional parade would absolutely juxtapose the whole vibe of Hollywood Studios. I know that the whole “working studio” thing has been long abandoned and cut away over the years, but the Citizens of Hollywood that populate that area make it a real and tangible place.

I always love that at the beginning of the parade there are always older dudes with their arms crossed, leaning on the trashcans that are shaking what their Mama gave them by the end of the parade!

All of that lovefest aside, I feel like the weakest link of the parade is the “Bug’s Life” float. The performers definitely do their thing, but most kids don’t know or recognize those characters…or at least all of the ones that I am always around.

What makes me the most excited? Having the characters from “Ratatouille” and “Up” returning to the parade!

While I will be excited to see what the new Hollywood Studio’s parade has to offer, I can only hope that it captures the same sense of movement and life that Block Party Bash brings to the Boulevard!

Zoe the Dancing Queen

Illuminated by Illuminations!

I have to absolutely admit that when my Sister-in-law invited us to tag along on their Illuminations cruise I geeked out for a minute. It is my absolute favorite nighttime show in my favorite park!!!

We met at the Yacht Club Marina at 8 pm to board our boat, and we were greeted by Captain Michael. He was super funny and awesome! Zoe had to wear a life jacket, and at first she was nervous. The good Captain was quick to reassure our little lady, and soon enough she was walking down the dock showing off her “magic vest”.

The cruise began with a tour around the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, followed by the area in front of Hollywood Studios, and then back again to tool around in front of the Yacht Club and Boardwalk Resorts.

Then it was time…

We pulled under the bridge near the International Gateway between two other boats, and we got settled in for the show.

Now while the view from this area was absolutely beautiful and spectacular, it was by far not the shining star of the cruise. That spot alone goes to our fearless Captain.

As the show was about to start, up crept Michael to walk us through the show. He talked us through each image on the globe, explosion of each firework/gas/water effect, and the lighting of the torches. It was amazing! I never noticed a quarter of the images that he pointed out, and I have Goosebumps just thinking about it now.

From the bubbles as the land of the earth was rising from the sea, to the journey through the cave, the creativity of man, the many faces that grace the globe (equal parts women and men), to the fact that the Tapestry of Nations parade is shown so close to the finale you easily miss it…

I absolutely apologize for the total lack of photos, but I wasn’t going to let myself get distracted from Captain Mike for too long. 🙂

If you haven’t had the chance to take an Illuminations cruise, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Also, I can’t thank Elizabeth enough for inviting us to join her and letting us in on this crazy and amazing experience!

I am afraid that I may be hooked, and will HAVE to do this again!!!