Florida, Where We've Been

Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX, Universal Studios Orlando, Presidents Hall of Fame, and Showcase of Citrus

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Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center manages the launching of rockets into space, while Space Center Houston operates as command and control. Because the two have separate missions, the experience of visiting and touring each will be different. However, if you’re looking for more of an interactive and fulfilling experience, Kennedy Space Center wins hands-down. Plus if you time it right, you may just get to see a rocket launch.

Inside the extensive visitor’s complex are a number of unique exhibits covering the historic Apollo missions and the space shuttles, and the present day missions to the ISS, Space X, Boeing, and others. 

There’s also a memorial to the Apollo 1 astronauts that died in the fire. It was a well done tribute to their legacy and their untimely deaths.

At many stops along the way, there are interactive exhibits that let people experience their own simulated space flight. Ellie is attempting to fly the space shuttle below. Not as easy as today’s computer interface on the SpaceX Dragon capsule.

One thing that Houston does not have is a real life space shuttle. While Houston has a replica on the back of an airplane showing how the shuttle was to be flown back to Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center highlights the display of the space shuttle Atlantis. Atlantis flew 33 missions to space, including the last of all the space shuttle missions in July 2011. 

This map of the moon shows the locations of each of the landing sites from Apollo 11, the first landing on the moon, to Apollo 17, the last.



SpaceX Rocket Launch

The day we went to the Kennedy Space Center there was supposed to be a Starlink rocket launch, but as these things tend go to, it was delayed. That next morning at around 2am was scheduled to be the launch of the SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 taking astronauts to the ISS for a crew swap. We drove out in the middle of the night, found the closest site we could find (nearly 12 miles away), and waited with bated breath. With just a couple minutes to go, the launch was scrubbed. So close! 

The next day was the rescheduled Starlink rocket launch, so we again drove out to see the launch. Nearly an hour into the drive (of a 1.5 hour drive from Orlando to Cape Canaveral), and fairly grumpy from a poor night’s sleep that mission was also scrubbed. After 3 failed launches in less than 24 hours and a fairly grumpy demeanor, we returned home yet again.

They rescheduled the Starlink rocket launch for later that evening, but rather than attempt a 4th 3-hour round trip to Cape Canaveral, we decided not to go, assuming it would be canceled anyway. Well, it launched…

So we missed that one too.

A few days later, and again in the middle of the night, we again set out for the SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 launch. At least if it was going to be scrubbed, we were well rested by this point. 


We saw the incredible light across the water on Cape Canaveral and a few minutes later heard the boom from the rocket reach our location. It was very cool!

The light from the rocket lit up the night sky as though it was daylight, even from 12 miles away it was incredible. The pictures I took don’t do it justice. We were too far away to take any good ones.


Universal Studios Orlando

When we were in California, we visited Universal Studios Hollywood. The Universal Studios in Orlando well surpasses the Hollywood version of the theme park. It has nearly everything that the Hollywood theme park has and then some. Orlando is divided up into two parks and is packed with rides. 

It has a lot of entertaining mellow rides and shows, a number of medium level rides, and a few knock your socks off roller coasters.

Connecting the two parks is the Hogwarts Express that itself is a ride as you travel on the train with Harry Potter and the crew. Each direction you travel between parks is a different experience, so make sure you take it both ways.

Two of the Harry Potter rides were the same as the ones at Hollywood, but one was new and unique to the Orlando location. It was an underground mine roller coaster that takes you below Gringots.

Ever since riding the Emperor roller coaster at Sea World, Ellie has been eager for better and faster rides. She went on everything that went upside down, backwards, and topsy turvy. That was not me at her age. I wouldn’t touch anything that went upside down with a 10′ pole. That’s how Jaden felt too and I don’t blame him. Some of them were intense. 

The Hulk was one such ride that propels you through a tube and rockets you this way and that way and every which way. I thought that might deter her, but she wanted more. So she and I went on the red Rip Ride Rockit coaster. It was the last coaster of the day and we were both falling asleep standing in line as it had been a loooong day already. Oh my! If going straight up 167′ to be then turned every which way and backwards weren’t enough to wake you up, I don’t know what would. That was a thrill and enough of an adrenalin rush to stay awake on the ride home. 

Universal was a great experience. I think we all liked it better than Disney too. I would do it again if we were to return to Orlando.


Presidents Hall of Fame

This is one I heard about from the Roadschooling Facebook group. The Presidents Hall of Fame is a collection of memorabilia from past and current Presidents with a little bit of interactive fun for the kids. They have miniature versions of some of the D.C. memorials, the construction of the White House, a rather large detailed model of the White House, a video on the President’s pets through history, and a chance to make believe you are the President of the United States.

Now we’ve seen it. There’s no need to visit Mt. Rushmore anymore.

This Presidential limo was the car that carried Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter. It’s not in very good condition now, but if you peer in, you can see that they had all kinds of instruments in the front and back seats. They had a phone, CB radio, tv, and a bunch of dials and buttons that I have no idea what they controlled. Way ahead of its time.

Ellie gave a speech as President. Perhaps if she attains that position one day, I can play the clip for posterity. 

This miniature model of the White House was actually quite big and very well detailed. It was like taking a mini tour through the President’s house.

Jaden and Ellie were both at the Presidential and Vice Presidential duties behind the resolute desk. Guess who was below the desk. True to historical records, it was one of the JFK kids. 

This little exhibit was a favorite and I’m sure you can tell why. We made so many funny faces peering into the oval office!


Showcase of Citrus

You can’t go to Florida and not get oranges. 

Fairly close to the Presidents Hall of Fame was a u-pick farm called Showcase of Citrus. You buy a bag from the office, pay a small picking fee and whatever you can fit into your bag is yours for the taking. The only fruits that were ripe were the Valencia Oranges (and many of those were still green) but we were able to find enough to fill our bag. 

Some were farther up than others so we let Jaden reach up there to grab them for us. He’s the tallest one now. Even though they were still slightly green, they were delicious! 

In the shop they also carried a number of oddly named sodas and jams. I’m not sure I would want to try any of these. Ranch Dressing soda, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Dirt Soda… we passed, but we got a laugh out of the different varieties they carried.

Mustard soda… that would be interesting.

And from the jams that they carried. This one here was Toe Jam. Mmmmm…. Others were bacon jam, frog jam, or gator jam. I also saw some monkey butter. Lol, I didn’t venture into that either, but did pick up some apple butter before heading out the door. Delicious! Reminded me of the kind Grandma used to make. 

Anyone want to try to Toe Jam?



Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake

This campground is a diamond in the rough. In the middle of expensive Orlando is a little city park known as Bill Frederick Park. They have a small campground for a handful of RVs who are lucky enough to make reservations 11 months in advance. 

Not far away, in the same park, is a frisbee golf course, playground, pavilions, bike path, and several other fun park amenities.

The bathhouses were small and a little cramped. We needed to use them because only some of the sites had full hook-ups. The site I reserved was only a partial hook-up so while it had electric and water, it didn’t have sewer.

They also didn’t have large dumpsters in the campground for trash service, just small bear trash cans, so we had to find one in another area of the park to dump our microwave since it decided to blow a fuse and melt some wires on us. The microwave’s been replaced and fortunately a fire didn’t start thanks to the fuse backing it up.

We didn’t have Starlink service here due to the tall trees, but we were able to use our Verizon phones and AT&T data plan without issue.