The day had finally come, our last day of vacation. My wife and would be heading back to work, and our kids back to school and their daily routine. We checked out of our hotel in Fort Myers and jumped back on Highway 75 north towards Tampa. There was no real rush home, and we all had such a good time that we asked the kids if they wanted to visit one last place. Their options were either the Tampa Zoo or the Glazer Children’s Museum.
To my surprise they picks the Children’s museum, but at this time of year it was probably the best option since it was entirely indoors and air-conditioned. It’s located right downtown near the bay, not too far from the Florida Aquarium he had visited last year. There is a big parking garage right beside the museum and it was free when we visited, but this may change depending on the day you visit.
I say this all the time, but I knew this place had a pressed penny machine (actually the zoo had a couple of machines but we will visit that place another day). To my surprise the penny machine was actually just inside the main doors. I always enjoy a good hunt for penny machines, but every so often it’s nice to have it served up on a platter and then I can leisurely enjoy the rest of the museum.
This was a standard 4 design hand crank model. The cabinet was nicely designed for the museum and was in good working condition. Also there is no admission needed to use this machine. You may have to pay for parking though as I’m not sure of how that works on weekends.
The sets of pennies from this machine included designs of 1914 Pilot Tony Jannus, R M & V Alphabet blocks, a Veterinarian, and a Fire Truck from the Fire House. With the pennies pressed and stowed away, we bought our museum tickets and headed in.
The first floor didn’t have much. Other than the ticket area, there were a set of restrooms, a Subway restaurant, a birthday party room and then the largest area had a big water exhibit. This thing had a lot of “science” involved but it’s another of those famous things that kids don’t realize they are actually learning. It was setup like a canal and docks system with toy boats the kids could float around. There were pulleys and levers, and buoyancy tests and even a weather machine that simulated rain. All in all this was a nice detailed area for the kids to play (and learn).
Eventually we made our way upstairs which is where things really got fun. This was setup like a main street and there was a Global Cafe with fake food items from all over the world kids could pretend to cool and serve. There was also a mock theater that they could dress up, and then put on a play. This area even had a sound board that could trigger sound effects during the performance.
The middle section of this area had a large Lego wall that you could design things up against the wall. It seems that each day there is a different challenge posted. On this day it was to display your name in Lego. Next was a farmhouse, that had a garden out front with vegetables to be planted and harvested. Inside the farmhouse the walls were covered in clear plexiglass so you could see the support beams, insulation and wiring that makes up a house. The second floor also had a hands on exhibit where you could try to wire up a door bell by connecting different pieces of wire together.
Our kids favorite was the grocery store. This place had little shopping carts or baskets you could use. They also had different shopping lists to go through the store and collect all the items on the list. Then there was a check out and bagging area. They also had a deli area where they could take orders for submarine sandwiches unfortunately made out of plastic.
The back area of the second floor had a mock veterinary clinic, a hospital emergency room, a pizza restaurant and a fire house. The fire house even had a fire pole they could slide down onto a padded mat.
We spend a good part of the day here, actually much longer than we had anticipated. Our girls had such a good time we actually made a trip back a couple of weeks after this visit. For anyone that has driving I-4 from Tampa to Orlando you know that if you aren’t on the road early the hour-long drive could take a lot longer. With that in mind we dragged the kids out of the museum as usual, got in the car and made the final leg of our trip back home. It’s always sad to end your vacation, but I always made sure to take lots of pictures and video so we could watch and remember all the things we did on this years trip. Plus I have a lot of pennies to catalogue, and document. I’ll take a few days off before I start trying to figure out what we will do next year for vacation. For me planning is always part of the fun.