Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Not EXACTLY The Wild Kingdom

Florida is absolutely beautiful in its natural state. The beaches! The wetlands! The tropical jungle-looking stuff! Being the naturalist outdoorsy types that Hubby and I are, we enjoy viewing all this fabulous natural scenery in pictures. We even don't mind viewing it from, say, the tinted windows of our speeding van, or the safety of a tourist tram, or especially from the hermetically sealed windows of our plane as we are flying over! What we DON'T want is to encounter any of it in an up close and personal way, such as the kind that would result in bug bites, rashes or any type of alligator incident that would make the local section of our paper. What we want to do is confront nature on OUR terms, which is basically to pretend it doesn't exist except perhaps in stories, photographs or tour guide monologues. What we like is FAKE nature that looks beautiful but doesn't smell like anything unless you spray it with one of those outdoorsy car deodorizers. Which is why we LOVE our trips to Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven, Florida. We actually used to live a stone's throw from the park (assuming the stone is the size of a baseball and the thrower is Randy Johnson.) Really only a 5-minute drive depending on whether we had to wait at the signal. Now that we live in Lakeland the park is about a half hour ride, but still well worth getting the season's pass. The park got re-made in the past year and added all kinds of great rides plus a water park, making it perfect for our 4- and and 6-year-old! It used to be primarily botanical gardens, an animal section, plus a water ski show and some dusty exhibits. Now it's like Disney without the lines! Like Six Flags without the defibrillator! Like the zoo but without any significant odors! Really, you get a lot of bang for your buck at the New Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. And no one is paying me to say that! (Yet. I have hopes! This space available!) When we went earlier in the summer only two sections of the water park were open. It is called Splash Island, which sounds more kid-oriented than parent-friendly. But in reality it is both! Especially in Florida's 95-plus degrees summer heat. The two open sections were Paradise River, which is where you get on your own personal inner tube raft and float lazily in this meandering "river" that is only about three feet deep. And you can make a flotilla out of your whole family so you don't have to worry about losing the kids! There are lifeguards stationed everywhere along the way so they don't have to worry about losing any paying customers. This is a fabulous ride if you just want to cool off and don't want to have to use any muscles or even open your eyes! In other words, MY kinda ride! (Parental disclaimer: I did glance at the kids every so often.) The other open section was "Polynesian Adventure." It is an elaborate structure placed in shallow water. It is swarming with kids of all sizes and bursting with water from every possible direction. Don't stare too closely up at that Polynesian god or his face will tip, dumping buckets of water onto unsuspecting onlookers. Exotic birds will spit water at you! Water sprays up at you on the stairs causing sensations best not described on a G-rated blog! I'm not sure why I wear my glasses to these things, except for the fact that I can't see without them. (Note to self: Maybe a swimmer's mask or diving helmet next time?) Then there are these twisting slides which the kids insist we go down with them. (Special note: the green slide is the most aggressive and will result in water up your nose.) Now if your goal is to "not get your hair wet" you will not enjoy the Polynesian Adventure. But if you're more concerned with keeping your body temperature from soaring into fever range, this is the perfect way to do it. Yesterday's adventure added a whole new wrinkle, the Wave Pool. First let me tell you what this pool did NOT have: stingrays, sharks, sharp stones, stones of any kind, jellyfish, dead fish, toxic waste, seaweed, litter, members of FEMA or cable news reporters. In other words, it was like paradise. TRUE, there was technically no sand, either, but that's nothing you couldn't fix by adding a sandbox to your backyard if you really wanted the sensation of sand between your toes. And the concrete at the edge of the wading pool was sand-colored, in contrast to the blue concrete in the wave area. So the visuals were harmonically blended. So I sat in about a foot of water and just let the waves roll over me while I made sure the 4- and 6-year-old did not go "out too deep." (The Deep End was an impressive 6 feet.) I'm not certain what exactly generated these waves. It was definitely not the ocean, and I'm pretty sure God was not directly involved either. Right now my suspicion is lingering on some kind of 'Wave Machine" that may have been invented in Hollywood around the time of the first Poseidon Adventure. This was the perfect clinically sterile experience I was looking for. Better than real waves because they come in faster and you don't have to worry about getting the flesh-eating disease. (Thank you Mr. Pool Chemical Guy) Meanwhile, I noticed Hubby in a beach chair in the "sandy" area. He was talking to some young fellow I didn't recognize. Perhaps someone he knew in connection with work? Later he told me the guy was a total stranger, but appeared "stoned," and was complaining that the waves weren't big enough for his surfboard. How's THAT for realism? Our very own stoned surfer kvetching about the quality of the waves! Public Safety Note: There is NO SMOKING at the Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, no matter what the substance. So we don't know how he got in that condition. The kids also got to do some Kidsapalooza activities involving: Thumbprint Art (the 4-year-old wiped his thumbs on me), a Graffiti Wall (the 6-year-old somehow turns the first letter of his name into a waterslide, with the vowel sliding down into a pool. It's much more artistic than anything I have ever conceived.), Animal Tracks (we had plenty of room on our sheet until we got to the baby elephant stamp), Sand Art, Create Your Own Magnet, and Boomerang Decoration (0uch.) If you have a kid under the age of 10, this is the park for you! If you like to enjoy the water without enjoying shark attacks, riptides and waterborne funguses, this is the park for you! If you don't want to fight the crowds at Disney but still feel like you got your money's worth, this is the park for you! Plus at the end we got to stroll through the botanical gardens part, with funky new age music playing out of strategically placed speakers. Enjoying nature without having to touch it! They pay others to keep everything trimmed and make sure there are no spiders. Ah, Natural Florida. Can't beat it!


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10/03/2005 07:06:00 PM  
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10/04/2005 07:22:00 PM  
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10/04/2005 08:18:00 PM  
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11/06/2005 09:45:00 AM  
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11/23/2005 08:10:00 AM  
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11/24/2005 04:17:00 PM  
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11/30/2005 01:23:00 PM  
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12/06/2005 07:13:00 AM  
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