While most people were living up the fall weather last week, Sean and I headed south for a very warm week in Florida! And it turns out it was for the best, because Michigan had some pretty crazy wind / rain / snow while we were away!
Sean’s parents moved to Florida right around the same time we moved to Kalamazoo, and our goal is to go down and visit for an entire week once per year. We plan to spend every other Christmas there, and 2019 is an off year, so we planned a trip in the fall!
Our goal was to go when it wouldn’t be too terribly hot, and schools would be back in session so it wouldn’t be too busy if we decided to go to a theme park.
And… we were successful with one of those two goals.
It was hot pretty much all week. We tried to go golfing one day, but it was in the 90s and super humid, so we stopped after 9 holes. But it made for great pool weather!
On Sunday, we headed to a polo match! Like, with real horses! It was such a cool experience, and one I wouldn’t have thought to go to, but it was so fun! Plus, at intermission, everyone runs out to the green and stomps on all the divots the horses make in the grass… and then gets free beer and shots as a thank-you.
On Monday, we spent a bunch of time at the pool, followed by dinner and wine with Sean’s parents.
We’ve visited Sean’s parents twice so far, and it seems like one long-distance driving trip per week is a good balance. We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year, so this year we went to the Kennedy Space Center, which was so cool!
The Kennedy Space Center is where a bunch of the manned rocket launches have launched from—it’s actually a spaceport, which has got to be the coolest word ever. It’s so futuristic!
Because we went in October, after schools were back in session, it wasn’t too terribly busy! We saw at least one school group, but didn’t really run into them that much, and we didn’t have to wait in any crazy long lines.
We started out by taking the bus tour, which is included in your general admission ticket (so rare these days! who would have thought?), which took us around to the different launch pads and the Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB.
Fun fact, the VAB has the largest functioning doors in the world! The tall grey columns on the side of the building open up so completed rockets can make their journey over to a launch pad. You can just barely see the regular doors in the photo above—there are 3 small doors that look like little mouse holes in between the two big grey doors. Those are actually 10 feet doors for humans to use!
The size of these rocket doors makes total sense when you see the size of the rockets… but then seems silly when you consider that SpaceX just makes the rockets horizontally and then tilts them upright before launch.
Speaking of SpaceX, they’re currently renting out Launch Complex 39A, which is where the Apollo missions launched from. They unfortunately didn’t have any rockets out when we were there, but it was still cool to see all of the work the private sector is doing!
The bus tour ended at the Apollo / Saturn V Center, which is only accessible via the bus tour. It went through all of the Apollo missions, and had a real Saturn V rocket suspended from the ceiling—that thing is huge! It would have been used if there was another Apollo mission, but the program ended before it could be used.
They also had the actual gangway that the astronauts used to get to the spaceships during the Apollo missions, which we got to walk across—how cool!
Once we were done at the Apollo / Saturn V Center, we took the bus back to the main visitor campus and hit up the Atlantis exhibit, which houses—you guessed it—the Atlantis Shuttle! The Atlantis was the first space shuttle that could return to Earth and then be reused for future missions. It’s the iconic space shuttle that most Millennials (myself included!) think of when they think of a space ship!
We then grabbed lunch in the park and headed to the Space Shop, where I was disappointed to learn that the entire Kennedy Space Center (all 3 clothing shops and the online store) are sold out of medium and large light grey NASA t-shirts. Womp. But I ordered one online (which will be delivered when they’re back in stock) and got myself a light grey crewneck sweatshirt in the meantime!
Fun fact that I learned: they call the NASA logo the “meatball,” which I find hilarious.
I also got myself a meatball patch (a Girl Scout can’t resist a patch!), and Sean got a Saturn V bottle opener and a wind-up Atlantis space shuttle, which is now displayed on our office bookshelves!
Then we headed over to the Mars exhibit, which I have to say I was a bit disappointed in. There weren’t many concrete examples of what NASA / the private sector are planning for Mars; it was very kid-friendly, which is great, but it wasn’t the most engaging for adults.
Next we hit up the rocket garden, which would have been a lot more exciting if it hadn’t been so bloody hot! I have the feeling we would have stuck around for the tour of the rocket garden if we weren’t sweating so badly.
Instead, we finished out our trip at Heroes and Legends: the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. It was super cool! Though I was disappointed to see that Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, wasn’t featured anywhere. And once I noticed that, I also realized I hadn’t seen anything about her or Sally Ride at any of the exhibits. It’s very possible I missed it, but since we went basically everywhere, any mention of them would have to be pretty well hidden for me to have missed it!
The next few days we relaxed and recuperated at the pool, followed by dinner, drinks, and music out and about! We also learned how to play bocce ball and shuffleboard, which are much more fun than I thought they would be! Over the course of the week, we played each game twice, with me and Sean playing Sean’s parents each time, and each team won one game of each!
On Thursday evening, our last night in Florida, Sean’s parents took us out to ice cream, and asked if we wanted to go to “a candy store that also sells ice cream,” which we were fine with. We imagined a 50s-style candy shop with an ice cream counter, similar to the one in Cincinnati that was right down the street from us. Instead, we pulled up to…
Russell Stover Candies. Apparently there’s a huge factory near them in Florida, and this place was huge! They had an entire room full of past holiday candies. Valentine’s, Easter, Christmas, even some called “bloopers,” which had small manufacturer defects. Next time we’re going to have to bring an empty suitcase so we can bring a bunch of it home!
While it was insanely hot for most of the week, we had a really great time, and loved spending time with Sean’s parents, whom we don’t see frequently enough. We can’t wait for the next trip down!