Written by Teresa Goodnight

If you aren’t working a children’s museum into your vacation or weekend trip planning—you just aren’t doing the kiddos justice.  When my now four-year old came to me with the plan to go to Tampa when she was just two, I was a bit intrigued.  Turned out, the fun programs on her iPad included a guy named Blippi.  He’s a zany reviewer of kids museums all over the country.  Since her first request for Tampa, she’s asked to go to Vegas, Los Angeles, and Seattle.  So, we decided to take her to Tampa to see what the fuss was all about.  It did NOT disappoint.

Tampa, as a vacation spot, is a fairly cheap plane ticket on Southwest.  It’s a one hopper ranging from four hours or so if you plan well and book early.  In fact, looking out a bit on my Southwest app, I could get there for $138 plus tax each way.  Tampa gives you driving access to Orlando for a day at Disney.  It offers Busch Gardens, which is really a lot of fun.  In addition, with a short drive, you are at the ocean. It’s 30 minutes from St/ Pete.  In the spring, you can even catch spring training with the Yankees and their opponents.  I’m not gonna lie.  I did hold my foul ball over a few kids heads to get Jeter’s autograph.  I’m not proud.  Well, I’m proud of the ball but not the reach. Anyway!  I’m not sure where dads are in the family vacation planning, but if you haven’t thought spring break at Tampa, you might have missed it.  Now you won’t.  Seriously.  

You’re welcome, BTW.

Tampa is relatively inexpensive.  The cool thing about Southwest flying?  One way tickets aren’t penalized with higher rates.  You can even fly into Tampa, rent a car when done and drive to Orlando and fly home from there.  We’ve driven to the Keys and flown back from Ft. Lauderdale.  It’s really a versatile tool in my trip bag.  I’d explain more about Southwest, but then you’d be taking my flights.  That’s all I dare to share.  Some things are private treasures.

So, back to the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa.  First, it’s part of the Tulsa Discovery Labs network of children’s museums.  So, if you already spend a lot of time there—an annual pass works well for both.  Glazer becomes half price with that membership, normally $15 adults and $10 kids aged one to 12.  My daughter has now been over five times at four years of age.  Needless to say, she adores it.  The experience was everything she fell in love with on the Blippi video and really more.

Izi spent at least 2 hours in the water exhibit on the first floor.  There are waterways allowing for boats, sea creatures and fun balls lifted onto railways rolling into the water.  Setting out for treasure in the Gasparilla Island sand pit brings another hour of sheer joy to her face.  Funny thing?  These aren’t even her favorite experiences.  She just can’t pass them up to get to all that I know she loves even more.

Upstairs?  Immediately you are in the middle of a climbing apparatus allowing for exploration using her astute climbing skills, many of which were first tried at Glazer when she was younger.

Behind the climbing area, she skips the super cool tents, where other kids are building their campsites.  She instead moves straight to the opposite side of the building for the fire truck, pizza kitchen, and dancing room.  With fire helmets, a fireman’s pole, and a truck with seats for at least 6—she’s off on an adventure to save the burning town.  The pizza kitchen has beautifully crafted ovens to fire up the pizzas with seating for guests to be served.  The dancing area offers a selection of crazy music, lights and a video display of her dance moves.  She can spend another two hours in these three sections alone and did.

When we finally vacate the burning buildings, burning ovens and burning moves on the dance floor, Izi heads straight for the career and economics section.  She loves the area to play doctor. They have jackets, stethoscope’s, x-rays, and more to create a really authentic doctoring experience for the kiddos.  The same style of equipment is available at the vet’s office next door, including some pretty fun stuffed animals requiring her care.  Then, she cleans up and we’re off to another hour or more in the well stocked grocery store.  At her disposal were baskets, both the push kind and the ones you carry on your arm.  She loads them both with every veggie, can, bread and cookie in her reach.  Children interact together.  Some stand behind the cash registers to check out LITERALLY every item she puts in every basket.  She waits patiently, loading them into her sack.  She gladly pays and finds some sort of adulthood satisfaction with her venture. 

When we finally find the little gap of boredom to leave the grocery store, Izi heads into the Twinkle Stars Theater where her true self finds a home.  The children have costumes to dress up, enacting their own versions of scenes and plays.  They enter from behind curtains.  The lights come on.  The parents sit on the bench with other kids and enjoy the show.  By far, this section alone is worth my time and money.  I love watching her incorporate ballet moves into dragon scenes with swords.  It’s really a creative talent I didn’t realize she had. 

The list of activity centers is long.  I can’t even explain her thrill with the rock wall.  I’ve never been that we haven’t been marched out with the end of the day parade.  Considering the fact that she would have me drive from Orlando (leaving the opportunity for a day at a Disney park) to take her to Tampa—you can calculate the savings.  Last ticket for Disney, $130 per person.  Glazer half price? $7.50/$5.  Air conditioners, bathrooms, a giant grassy park area to run around in with fountains at the end of the day?  It’s a super museum.  Blippi hasn’t made it to Oklahoma yet, but I hear we have one that might make our list this fall in Seminole.  Stay tuned.  The Tulsa Children’s Discovery Museum is also breaking ground on a brand new facility that might be ready as early as 2020.  

In any event, we really haven’t been disappointed in a children’s museum yet.  From Denver to LA, Tulsa to Tampa—they are really a wonderful activity to add to your plans for any style of trip!