If you're looking for a fabulous family adventure, there's a spot in Florida that offers parents an oasis and their offspring incredible sea-life encounters. The folks at Busch Entertainment invited me to Orlando to check out Discovery Cove, a reservations-required, tropical retreat that offers kids six and older the chance to get up close with dolphins and those of all ages the opportunity to swim with rays (their stingers have been removed) and tropical fish. One lagoon also allows for safe snorkeling alongside sharks and barracudas as a partition separates the two pools. And, a bird aviary where park goers can hand feed over 250 exotic birds.

  • Location: Orlando
  • Price: $269 all-inclusive per person, children under 3 are free.
  • Includes: Dolphin encounter, unlimited access to coral reef, ray lagoon, pool, tropical river, and aviary, all food, beverages (including alcoholic ones), swim gear (mask, snorkel, swim vest, or wetsuit) towel, locker, sunscreen and use of locker-room showers, etc., parking, a complimentary photo, and a pass to SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
  • Food: Breakfast — muffins, pastries, coffee, juices, tea,etc. Snack stations — chips, cookies, sodas, juice, etc. Lunch at Laguna Grill — offering entrees like pasta primavera, lobster salad, fried chicken, salmon, and kid-friendly favorites from mac and cheese to mashed potatoes.

While some parents may find the park a tad pricey, the chance to interact with sea life in such a safe environment is well worth it in my opinion. My experience was so incredible that I plan on returning with my own kids once they are old enough to swim with the dolphins. Most amusement parks cost a pretty penny, but this one is incredibly relaxing since it also offered sandy beaches for lounging and was not over crowded. Discovery Cove also has ample lifeguards patrolling the water areas and staff at your beck and call. If you're searching for a place to splurge on your fam, this is it.