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Erik & Smisty's Florida Oddventures

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The Florida Aquarium in Tampa has quite a few interesting and unique aspects to it. And yet, it seems to lack a true signature attraction (like the Georgia Aquarium's Whale Sharks, or the world's longest shark tunnel at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies). Still, it's an aquarium, and a big one, and we like aquariums.


Yes, I am the entrance.


Okay, not really. THIS is the entrance.


(I would have been just as good, though. *kick*)


It costs money to get in.


(Unless you're a fish. Then they pay you.)


Most of the good stuff is on the second floor. Or, at least, most of it starts there, but then you end up back on the first floor somehow. I suspect witchcraft.


The stingrays seem confused by their oddly-shaped pool. "Crap, this is a dead end too!"


This aquarium seems suspiciously noncommittal on the issue of whether or not magic exists. (Witch.)


The first big exhibit area is dedicated to Florida. Which I can only assume helps to keep costs down.


Turtles will poop on your head!!!


So, there are supposed be otters in here somewhere, but I didn't see any.


If you use your imagination, you don't even have to be here!


"I've never seen any fudging otters, and I live here!"


"Dude, you're not Aquaman. We can't help you."


I don't really have to write a caption here, do I?


Otter stage?


Upside down jellyfish. No, really. It's a thing.


Up these innocent-looking stairs lurks awesomeness.


Yes, the aquarium has an exhibit about aquariums.




I'm pretty sure we're just at the pet store now.


Okay, this is nice.


"Are you stressed out? Watch fish for a while."


"Are you relaxed yet? We have other stuff to do, you know?"


The worst thing about this photo is that it was taken by my mom.


So, as if that wasn't weird enough, the next exhibit (Coral Farm) is on the roof.


And when I say, "On the roof...."


So, basically, it's what Disney tried to do with the train ride at Animal Kingdom: Turn a backstage area, that they had to have anyway, into an attraction.


Heading back down into the wetlands.


"Now, which fish did you want again, sir?"


I'd like to take this opportunity to point out some different types of fish. Here's one.


These are sharks, mostly.


That...seems wrong.


This is part of the "Bays & Beaches Gallery."


This is a batfish. You can tell because he talks in a really deep voice.


Boring fish, that way. Interesting fish, to the right.


Her job is to read to the fish.


More rays. An interesting room, though.


Pay money to help decorate. We call it, "Project: Tom Sawyer."


They've confused me by giving this area two ridiculous names (The No Bone Zone and SCUM. Tank), leaving me unable to effectively make fun of either one.


I like this guy. I know he's just a drawing, but I think we could be friends.


The problem with touching things in the water is that very few of them actually live in WARM water.


"Now, Harry, their backs are turned. Swim for freedom!"


Next up: the Coral Reefs Gallery.


The Florida Aquarium doesn't actually have any underwater tunnels (unfortunately), but this kind of looks like one.


Misty got a pretty good shot of the sea turtle.


(There, I'm crediting you. Happy?)


This photo is here because of two words. And if I ever start a band, that'll be the name of it.


Either that sign is grammatically incorrect, or just really high concept.


This exhibit is all about seahorses and sea dragons.


G'day, mate.


Australian fish are dicks.


Coolest fish ever, the Leafy Sea Dragon.


Across from "Dragons Down Under" is the Florida Aquarium's biggest single tank.


This fish thinks he's better than you. Just look at him. Punk.


With the power within this acrylic block, I could reshape the universe.


So this area is interesting. It's still just normal aquarium stuff, but presented in what is clearly intended to be a more kid-oriented way.


Jellyfish aren't really green and purple and blue, no matter what aquariums would have you believe.


"Spider crab, spider crab, does whatever a spider crab does! Spider crab, spider crab, I am never going to Japan!"


Fish like pickles.


So, this show area thing is supposed to be a submarine...or something.


You'll have to ask Misty about the show. I was so annoyed by it after about 30 seconds that I ran away.


I know that the show involved this somehow.


"Oh my gosh, humans! Swim away!"


Plankton in Space. Which doesn't really seem to have anything to do with anything. But hey, plankton.


A starfish and, like, another thing standing on a big sea dildo or something. I don't know. I just like to look. I try not to learn things.


This fish is so tough he wears pink.


Parents, make sure to exclaim wildly to your child, over and over again, "It's Nemo! Look, it's Nemo!"


As close as I am going to get to the octopus. Because I feel about octopuses the way Tyler feels about mayo. How Elissa feels about Pepsi. How Dave feels about things that aren't head-banging sharks with tasers. How Robb feels about LAX. (Okay, to be fair, everyone feels that way about LAX.)


At the end of this area, you get to vote for your favorite fish. It's not a popularity contest, guys! They're all special in their own way! (Except for the octopus, who is evil.)


Deposited back on the first floor, we find the aquarium's main eatery, and the entrance (er...exit?) to the outdoor play area.


Cafe Ray isn't bad. Maybe just smidge above what you'd expect.


Though I'm showing you Misty's pizza, mom and I both had the Cuban sandwich.


The outdoor seating area looked surprisingly nice.


There's also a bar, so you can numb the pain of your crappy decision to have children while they shriek and play over there somewhere.


You know, if I ever got my hand bitten off, I'd tell people that I lost it in a lightsaber duel. If they then asked me where my lightsaber was, I'd say, "I lost it. With my hand."


I'm not sure what I'm doing here. Whipping the fish to go faster, maybe?


There's also an upcharge boat tour that goes out into Tampa Bay to look for wild dolphins, but we passed on it.


In case you can't quite read that sign, allow me: "Moral eel is supple and thin, with slimy mucus on its skin, It can slip in anywhere... Beware!"


And now just one area remains: the gift shop!


Really, Florida Aquarium, fart jokes?


My mom found a slinky.


I faced my deepest fears.


And Smisty found something not quite right.


Gozer the Traveler. He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldrini, the traveler came as a large and moving Torg! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the McKetrick supplicants, they chose a new form for him: that of a giant Slor! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!


And on that note....


The backside of the aquarium, as taken from the location of a future update. Thanks for reading, fish friends!

Edited by ernierocker
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Great photos! I like the Florida Aquarium because I can stare at fish all day. I'm like, "Fishie, fishie, fishie, tee hee hee!" My nephew and niece enjoy the aquarium as well.


What's up with the Charlie Poe book? I don't see what it has to do with fish. It looks quite creepy and I would have bought it.

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Another great update! I too, love aquariums. Thanks for sharing.


This is one of, if not my favorite captioned updates that you've done yet. Especially these two! I seriously laughed out loud. My roommate thinks I'm nuts.


It costs money to get in.


(Unless you're a fish. Then they pay you.)


There's also a bar, so you can numb the pain of your crappy decision to have children while they shriek and play over there somewhere.
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I hear that there is some sort of Penguin encounter/meet n greet of some kind??


Allegedly. But after the dreadful shark diving show, and a failed attempt to see the otter show (which was prohibitively crowded, due to the otters not being in their exhibit during non-show times), we sort of gave up on the shows. Sorry.

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^ I relayed your question to Smisty, and she said, "Nothing. Erik is just a big baby."


As mentioned, I ran away after the beginning, which consisted of seemingly endless banter between the "captain" of the room-that's-supposed-to-be-a-submarine and a "mechanic" on a TV screen talking about how the sub was leaking and we were all going to be stuck there a while.


Smisty says it got better. Apparently the divers swam out of the cage and and bantered with the captain while trying not to get eaten by the sharks or some such. But since none of them actually were eaten by sharks, I still don't feel as though I missed much.

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Never did the Florida Aquarium in all my time there. KT's really into fish though so it gives us something to check out in the future.


I got to thinking though, and one of my childhood nightmares/memories was constantly having to go here on school field trips: http://www.southfloridamuseum.org/


Their big claim to fame is 'Snooty The Manatee' some crazy manatee that's been alive for over 60 years! He was actually born at the Miami Aquarium. Might be fun for a future oddventure!

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^Bradenton is kind of sketchy, but there used to be a decent FEC right on the Sarasota/Manatee County line that was fun. I remember playing laser tag there (multi level) and running down a ramp full speed in the pitch black into a wall. As I was a teenager at the time, I was of course impervious to pain and just fine!

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The Orlando International Airport has a Disney store, a Universal store, and even a SeaWorld/Busch Gardens store. It also has a lot of planes and stuff. But that's not what brought us out there. No, we ventured out to MCO yesterday for a far nerdier reason....


In 2007, a documentary came out called The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. It was about the rivalry of two men who were both chasing the all-time high score for Donkey Kong. (No, really.) The upstart challenger was Steve Wiebe, and the long-time record-holder and mustache-twirling villain of the film was Florida-resident and entrepreneur Billy Mitchell.


But lest you think Billy feels slandered by his portrayal in the film, he very recently opened an arcade celebrating it....


The King of Kong Arcade


In truth, we're not really gamers, but we did see the movie (on the recommendation of a friend), and being who we are, we just had to check this out for ourselves.


Yay, we found it!


It's actually rather small. In fact, this is pretty much the whole thing. And they don't even have a Donkey Kong machine. However, we spoke to the attendant on duty who said that they should be getting one in the next week or two. He also said that Billy is there quite frequently and is actually a pretty good guy.


The stuff that was behind me while I was taking the previous photo.


The merchandise counter, featuring limited-edition King of Kong Arcade T-shirts autographed by Billy Mitchell, and his line of hot sauces.


We would have played the pinball machine, but apparently they just got it and hadn't set it up yet.


Autographed shirt #104, a gift for the friend who told us to watch the movie.


Now you go watch it.


And then buy us some t-shirts.

Edited by Electerik
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That is the worst execution of an idea in the history of mankind. How do you open an "arcade" (I use that term very loosely in this case) celebrating a classic video game, and not have at least one classic video game in it........especially the one the film centers around?!?!?*


As a child of the 80's, I'm almost embarrassed and insulted by his efforts on that place. It's bad when Erik and Smisty's humor can't even save your place.








* Yes, folks, I realize they plan to receive one, but still, the place opened without it. That's business plan FAIL right there.

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That is the worst execution of an idea in the history of mankind. How do you open an "arcade" (I use that term very loosely in this case) celebrating a classic video game, and not have at least one classic video game in it........especially the one the film centers around?!?!?*


You sound like Erik at the airport. I was surprised at how small it was, I assumed it would have been bigger.


What was wrong with the show?


There wasn't anything wrong with the show. Erik just isn't a show guy. I could have done without the pretending to be in a submarine but the divers got in the cage talked a little bit and then left the cage to sit in the middle of the exhibit, which I had never seen before. They mainly talked about the animals and how important it was to protect them. At the end you could do a photo op with the divers in the cage. I think they were just trying a little too hard.

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I hear that there is some sort of Penguin encounter/meet n greet of some kind??


Allegedly. But after the dreadful shark diving show, and a failed attempt to see the otter show (which was prohibitively crowded, due to the otters not being in their exhibit during non-show times), we sort of gave up on the shows. Sorry.



No worries....I see that the Gatlinburg Aquarium has a new-ish penguin encounter/igloo/whatever...didn't make it to the aquarium last time but in June we will for sure.

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That is the worst execution of an idea in the history of mankind. How do you open an "arcade" (I use that term very loosely in this case) celebrating a classic video game, and not have at least one classic video game in it........especially the one the film centers around?!?!?*


As a child of the 80's, I'm almost embarrassed and insulted by his efforts on that place. It's bad when Erik and Smisty's humor can't even save your place.


Obviously, I agree with you. (Um...except for the part where you said I'm not funny.) But, consider this: Billy Mitchell is a genius. You and I are not. And while I would not pretend that I can figure out his entire strategy (which is no doubt deep and precise), this fact does inspire me to at least attempt to figure out some way in which the current set-up makes sense.


Obviously, Billy Mitchell loves classic video games. How could he not? Yet he is also nothing if not forward-looking. I would imagine that retail space at MCO does not come cheap, and as nice as the King of Kong theming is, if this arcade is to survive and prosper, it must surely do so as an arcade first--it must ensnare all the kids flying in and out of Orlando who've never heard of the documentary, and who are only vaguely aware that there used to be a game called Donkey Kong. With such limited floor-space, therefore, the need to fill it with the most modern games available is clear.


But, you say, surely they must have a Donkey Kong machine, simply to complete the theming, other consequences be damned! And you would be correct. And I am sure that Mr. Mitchell is far more aware of this than any of us. And this his where is true genius begins to take shape.


Already, he has managed to get media attention for what would normally be a very un-newsworthy event. (In fact, it could almost be a headline from The Onion: "New Arcade Opens at Airport.") And yes, almost every one of those stories has pointed out (often in rather snarky fashion) the lack of a Donkey Kong machine. Ah, but once they add one! Then all of those news outlets will begin running follow up stories: "King of Kong Arcade finally adds Donkey Kong Machine." Thus getting the arcade back into the spotlight a second time, with almost no additional effort. (Since, after all, there was always going to be a Donkey Kong machine eventually. Why not make it an event?) Then will come the "so-and-so sets new record on Donkey Kong machine in Billy Mitchell's own arcade" story, followed by "Billy Mitchell's arcade set to expand," "Second King of Kong Arcade to open in ______," and "Big Donkey Kong showdown set on Billy Mitchell's Home Turf."


Of course, this is all just my take on it. I may have many of the details wrong. But, I can assure you, BILLY MITCHELL does not.

Edited by Electerik
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There's a lot of mini golf in Florida. In fact, without bothering to do any research into the question at all, I'm going to go ahead and speculate that there's more mini golf here than in any other state. Unfortunately, there is a certain sameness to most of it, with very little in the way of what you might call "funk." And, as a guy who spends most of his days-off photographing tourist traps, I find that slightly disappointing. Luckily, I recently uncovered a previously-unknown-to-me mini golf course right here in Orlando that has funkiness in spades. So that's nice.


Gator Golf


It's located on I-drive. And by "on," I mean it has a toe-hold on I-drive. This is literally its entire frontage. Blink as you're driving by and you'll miss it. You might even miss it on foot.


Little gators out front. Kind of like how Congo River does. But that's where the similarities end.


There's one 18-hole course and a show(!) Note the cool murals on the *inside* of the ticket shack, so the employees will feel good about what they're selling.


Most mini golf places all have pretty much the same assortment of colored golf balls. But Gator Golf distinguishes itself in the respect, as well. Viva Canadia!


Incidentally, this golf ball was one of the things we sent monkeyoverlord71 as part of the "Bag O' Feces" that never arrived. :(


Smisty loves her dad. Behind her are the restrooms, which I only mentioned because...


...this picture is in the ladies room. (Um...photo by speedmetal. Ahem.)


Next to the restrooms, looking back towards the front, is this weirdness. (Apparently, Payless Shoe Source has a lot of water they need to get rid of.)


Note that the only way to get back to everything else is to walk on the green of hole 1. So if you're just there for the show, you pretty much have to interfere with the golf (if its busy).


I know this isn't the best photo, but just look at how random this is: Mini golf, fake rocks, wind chimes, a model ship, and a snake...in a mill.


"Dude, don't dis my wind chimes."


Hillbilly trompe l'oeil, a ship's wheel, and signage for a lazy river. I think I'm in love.


Yes, Gator Golf, be happy with what you are. Because you are marvelous.






"Go ahead, hit the ball in the water."


The gators made me miss. Oh, the shame.


Well, why wouldn't there be a giant pot there?


Don't even worry about the alligators; Japanese ghost winds will protect you.


And also there's turtles.


Mini golf here, big giant alligator there. His name is Doofy. I'm guessing that's to keep him in his place.


Some of the middle holes are slightly dull, thematically.


Still, they offer their own unique challenges.


If I have a complaint about this course, it's that there seem to be several water-features that have been abandoned or converted into planters or rock gardens.


Most of the greens are in great shape, though damage to this block of wood has made it impossible to use as a ramp.


Climbing up. Note the tub o' rocks.


This hole is weird. You putt hard underneath this thing, which flings you up onto the top, where you then roll off. Unless you're my ball, in which case you get stuck up there somehow. Plus, you know, birdhouses. And that black strap center screen? Why, that's for the roll-up door, of course.


I dunno, pick one.


But either way, you have to go down the rape stairs.


Oh, so that's where they go....!




I expect a big finish.


Hmmm, rocks in a building with graffiti-covered walls. Well, okay, but can we make it weirder?


Like, by being dumped unceremoniously into the driveway next door? Perfect!


I've actually been sitting on this update for a little while, because I really didn't feel like it would be complete without the Gator Adventure Show. Luckily, an opportunity to see that finally presented itself. So here you go.


Unfortunately, my better half couldn't be here for the show. Therefore, for the rest of this update, the part of Smisty shall be played by TPR member Andrew "Pufferfish" Singleton.


Hey, they added a fish tank!


Okay, on with the show. This guy comes out...


...drags a gator around by the tail...


...and then sits on him.


"Dude, I didn't know Ralph was gay!" - "Depends on how many beers he's had."


And then you can come sit on a gator yourself. (Although, I was all impressed by the guy until I saw that anyone can do it.)


Smisty really wanted to to sit on the gator (which isn't like her at all), but had to settle for petting a little one out front instead.


Hey, gator-sittin' on ain't free, ya know!


I had to stand on a fence to get this shot, but I think it was worth it.


So yeah, basically, Gator Golf is awesome and you should go there if you like mini golf that is awesome.

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