Amusements and Attractions

click to enlarge G WIZ: THE GULFCOAST WONDER AND - IMAGINATION ZONE - G WIZ
G WIZ
G WIZ: THE GULFCOAST WONDER AND IMAGINATION ZONE

ADVENTURE ISLAND, 10001 Malcolm McKinley Drive, near Busch Gardens (813-987-5660). Open only through May 28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. & Sun. One-day passes cost $31.95 for adults, $29.95 for ages 3-9, and children 2 and younger enter free. Two- and three-day Value Tickets for Busch Gardens and Adventure Island are also available. www.adventureisland.com.

ANIMAL KINGDOM, I-4 East to State Road 536 to Disney property in Orlando (407-824-4321). This Disney attraction is a hybrid zoo theme park running the gamut from "wild creatures of southern Asia" to gibbons and other exotic animals. Top attractions include the jungle safari, a Jeep-style tour through the bush, and Dinosaur, a virtual encounter with beasts of the past. Eat lunch at the entertaining, interactive Rainforest Cafe. Regular one-day passes cost $54.75 for adults, $43.75 for kids, and free for tots under 3. Other passes are available, including a five-day Park Hopper to all four parks. Hours vary.

AROUND THE BEND NATURE TOURS 1815 Palma Sola Blvd., Bradenton (941-794-8773 or www. aroundbend.com). Take an Eco Tour on the Gulf Coast of Florida with a guide. Rates vary a lot, so check the web site. Basically trips cost about $15 per kid.

BUSCH GARDENS, 3000 E. Busch Blvd., Tampa (813-987-5082). This 300-acre African-theme park and zoo has one of the area's best collections of alligators and flamingos, along with a mock Serengeti plain stocked with giraffes. Attractions include the Gwazi, Kuumba and Montu roller coasters, Myombe Reserve, Great Ape Domain, Rhino Rally and Tanganyika Tidal Wave. The mock-preserve Edge of Africa, featuring hyenas, giraffes and other jungle creatures, offers a variety of guided Jeep tours (for an additional charge) that allow guests to feed, observe and learn about giraffes, ostriches and other animals. Admission is $53.95 for adults; $44.95 for ages 3-9. Parking costs $7. Hours vary.

DISCOVERY COVE, 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando (877-434-7268). This reservations-only, man-made aquavaganza features swim areas where visitors can actually splash about with bottlenose dolphins and rays, snorkel among exotic fish in a coral reef lagoon, wade in freshwater pools and rivers, hand feed birds and relax in hammocks. The prefab Tahitian-style day-resort boasts sandy white beaches, thatched huts and a "high level of personal attention." The latter obviously due to the hefty admission price: $249, which includes all the cove's adventures, a freshly prepared meal and free access to guest amenities (snorkel gear, wet suits, towels, lockers, beach umbrellas, chairs, hammocks and a personal guide). Admission also includes a seven-day pass to nearby sister park Sea World and Busch Gardens. A more reasonable $149 admission includes all of the above, minus the dolphin swim. Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. www.discoverycove.com.

EPCOT CENTER, I-4 East to State Road 536, Kissimmee (407-824-4321). In the land where pigs and carrots sing, this renowned Orlando attraction makes learning fun. Be sure to check out this park's newest attraction, Mission: SPACE, a thrilling interactive adventure. Future World features informative displays about technology and science. And Test Track takes visitors on the longest, fastest ride in the Disney Triumvirate, where guests see and feel the Arctic cold and desert heat, then zip along at 65 mph. Admission is $54.75 for adults, $43.75 for kids 3-9. Hours vary. www.epcot.com.

GATORLAND, U.S. 441 at the Orlando-Kissimmee line in southern Orlando (800-393-JAWS). This place claims to be the alligator capital of the world, and hey, who wants to argue? Take the Swamp walk and watch gators lounge, stroll down a wooden boardwalk through a canopy of trees and enjoy a view of the 10-acre natural habitat from a three-story observation tower, or check out the park from the safety of the Iron Horse train. There's a petting zoo (sorry, no gators), and Lilly's Pad, a water fountain park for kids. After working up an appetite, sample the smoked gator ribs and deep-fried gator nuggets at Pearl's Smokehouse. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Tickets cost $19.95 for adults, $9.95 for ages 3-12.

G WIZ: THE GULFCOAST WONDER AND IMAGINATION ZONE 1001 Blvd. of the Arts, Sarasota (941-309-4949). Sarasota's only science and technology facility features newly installed hands-on exhibits every year by ExploraZone, a well-respected science facility in San Francisco. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission costs $7 for adults, $5 for kids, seniors pay $6. Free admission from 5 to 8 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month. www.gwiz.org.

HISTORIC SPANISH POINT 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941-966-5214). An environmental, archaeological and historic site featuring a prehistoric Indian mound, pioneer homestead buildings, and gardens from the estate of Mrs. Potter Palmer. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission costs $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12. Seniors pay $5 on Monday. www.historicspanishpoint.org.

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