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Spring Training in Florida at last! We’ve been trying to head down to Florida to see our hometown boys, the Detroit Tigers, play ball for the past few years, but flight prices kept us grounded.
Friday night flight's rule! Friday nights, after 7pm, are not a busy time at the airport – baggage check lines and security check lines have been pretty much non-existent for us when we fly after this time.
Orlando Airport car rentals rock – we love it when you don’t have to take a shuttle bus to an off-site car rental location.
We booked a car through Enterprise for this trip. Using one of the many self-checkout terminals, we were able to print off what we needed and head out to the garage and pick up a car.
We stayed at a timeshare place called Mystic Dunes Resort in Celebration. The check-in process was time-consuming, but I guess you could say it was worth it since we had a newly remodeled unit!
We were also placed in a building where you could see the Disney fireworks from the balcony.
The resort provides a shuttle service to Disney, discounted tickets, numerous pools, tennis courts, and a golf course.
Day 1: Lakeland
11 am-4 pm Joker Merchant Stadium, Lakeland
Parking: There was ample parking surrounding the stadium. For $10 we were able to park in the lot right in front of the main entrance. Parking was in a grass field.
Stadium: The stadium was nice – it was renovated at the start of the 2017 season. We arrived at the stadium early to have time to walk around and get a good view of everything.
Arriving at the game early allowed us to obtain an autograph from a Tigers player; the game we went to had Daniel Stumpf signing. The signing took place near the Corona Bar (in the outfield area).
There were lots of silent auctions going on in the concourse, some stuff baseball-related, some things not.
Food: There was a nice variety of options: BBQ, Pizza, Chick-fil-A, hotdogs, and strawberry shortcakes. The BBQ was delicious, and the strawberry shortcake is a must!
The strawberry shortcake people even come into the stands – so no excuses!
4:30 pm-5 pm: Lake Mirror, Lakeland
On a previous visit to Lakeland, during the non-baseball season, we visited Lake Mirror and Hollis Garden and thought it was very beautiful.
Unfortunately, there was a wedding going on at the Hollis Garden during this visit and it was closed due to the private event. We were able to soak up some sun rays as we strolled along Lake Mirror.
6 pm-9 pm: Top Golf, Tampa
This was not a planned vacation destination but an amazing charity event to raise money for Kingdom Home. Kingdom Home is a charity founded by Detroit Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd and his wife Ashley.
Kingdom Home is a refuge home for rescued and vulnerable girls in Uganda. Visit the website to learn more (or donate): https://www.kingdomhome.org/
There were about 20 Detroit Tigers players at the event that we attended. We were able to talk and interact with the players – getting photographs and/or autographs. It was an awesome experience!
Day 2: Atlantic Coast
12pm-5pm: Kennedy Space Center
Be prepared to pay $10 for automobile parking. The lane on the left is for credit card payment only – there is a machine. The other lanes have a person in a booth.
People don’t pay attention and go in the credit card lane but then need assistance – don’t be one of those people!
Since we had pre-paid tickets (from where we stayed), we had to go to the will-call window to exchange the voucher for the real tickets. Consider grabbing Kennedy Space Center tickets online, including a ride to the park from Orlando!
There is a security checkpoint before entering the park. The lines were not too bad at the time we were there, but the day was very windy and cloudy.
We were told it was a good idea to do the bus trip right away, so we did that. There was about a 20-minute wait that went quite fast, mostly because you were shuffled from line to line. The bus takes you to the Apollo/Saturn V Center.
The Apollo/Saturn V Center takes about 2 hours to go through – there are many videos to watch as you work through the complex.
Once back to the main portion of the Kennedy Space Center, we explored the Space Shuttle Atlantis building – it is located right next to the bus drop-off area.
Again, videos start the experience. Once through the videos, there is a large area of displays and interactive activities. Plan to spend about 2 hours exploring this building.
There are many other exhibits to see during your visit that we did not do, like the Heroes and Legends building (allow 1 hour), IMAX video (extra fee, allow 1 hour), Dine with an Astronaut (extra fee, allow 1.5 hours).
6pm-8pm: Celebration, FL
Celebration has a pretty downtown area. Free parking is available on side streets. We chose to dine at Celebration Town Tavern. We sat outside and had lovely views of Lake Rianhard.
There was about a 30-minute wait to get seated. While waiting, we walked around and checked out some stores – Wonderland Cookie Dough Company and Sweet Escape Celebration being favorites.
Market Street Diner also looked like a great place to grab a bit to eat.
Day 3: Orlando
If you have AAA, you are eligible for a discount at Gatorland! Arriving early allowed us to get a close parking space and a very short line to get in. You will be given a map when entering.
The performance times are listed along with a description. We watched the Alligators: Legends of the Swamp show, it was quite entertaining.
We planned to watch the Gator Jumparoo Show but got tired of waiting for the show to start. Snakes turned us off from wanting to catch the Up-Close Encounters Show!
Many “extra” options can be purchased: Meet-a-Gator (get your photo taken crouching over a gator from the Legends of the Swamp show) and a train ride (seriously, the park isn’t that large that you can’t walk – but sure if you have kids that love trains check it out).
Some other optional add-ons are Gator Chow (feed the gators / watch the birds steal the food from the gators), Zip Line, and Off-Road Adventure, to name a majority of the options.
If you have a few hours, check it out; it is a unique experience.
1 pm-2 pm: 4 Rivers Smokehouse
We love BBQ food, so it isn’t too big of a surprise that we had BBQ. This place is a Texas-style BBQ chain that is mostly found in Florida. It’s a counter-serve place that serves all the BBQ favorites.
Final Thoughts: Spring Training & More
What a weekend, from one coast to the other, from baseball, gators, and space history. Until next time, safe travels!