Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Longwood for the Day

You don't always have to go far to have an adventure. We ventured over to Longwood today to check out the Sweetwater Wekiva Farmers Market before exploring some more. I will say the market was a little sparse today but then again it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We spoke with a guy that filled us in that this market was started by the same people that started the Winter Garden Farmers Market. With that being said it should go up from here. Nicest people, just not a lot out there today. 

Next up - Big Tree Park The Senator was burned by a crazy meth-head back in 2012 but at least they could save just a little of the tree as well as plant some seedlings and try to clone the tree. 

The remains of The Senator.

Lady Liberty still stands. She's a mere 2000 years old. 

Time for the playground where we ALL act like kiddos. 

But now the fun! Time for Hourglass Brewery and a nice flight. 

Just look at that oh so beautiful Imperial Stout. That's good stuff right there!

Check it out. Make a day of it. Grab some Wako Taco or some Papa Bee's wings and bring them over to the brewery to eat. Good stuff, I'm telling you. You won't be disappointed. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Back to the Palm Coast We Go!

Off to my happy place. Well, really, it's one of my 3 favorite spots that include sand and water. The list is long but I would say Washington Oaks Garden State Park is easily in the top 3 along with Lover's Key and Blowing Rock.... and.... and...and... Okay, I'll stop there. The list of favorites is long.

But look at this! How could you not love it?!?!?

Doesn't even look like Florida, right?

Shadowy self-portrait.

Panoramic view of the rocks and the ocean.

 Nice little archway letting some light in.

 Rocky view.

I imagine the rocks in Sedona looking a bit like this.

Rocks as far as you can see.

Playing with the light.

I always seem to find my way into this little spot with this same view.

And if you go across the street to the gardens you'll see ponds, the rose garden and the beautiful view of the bay. 

I won't bore you with tons of details since I've reviewed this one before but pack a lunch. Check it out. Check the tides before you go. Seeing the tide in is just as cool as seeing it out. Getting to see BOTH is worth it!

Oh, and on the way back stop in and eat at The Funky Pelican in Flagler Beach. Yum!!! I had some delicious shrimp and grits. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lights in St. Augustine

So we were just sitting around and trying to think of something to do. The kid says, "St. Augustine." I followed that up with, "Lights!" Moments later it was, "Let's Go!" So we did.

It actually was perfect timing since it was already the afternoon and well, you need it to be dark to see the lights. It is roughly a two hour drive for us to get up to St. Augustine and it was perfectly timed. The weather was beautiful and chilly making it feel even more like the holidays.

I mean, take a look....

I'm always on the search for a Geocache in the area and St. Aug doesn't disappoint. This one qualifies as the smallest one we have ever found. It feels a little like finding a hidden treasure. Good stuff. And the street musician playing for us as we searched was quite awesome as well. 

The buildings are beautiful and the architecture is superb everywhere you look. 

The statues and history around St. Augustine are fun to read up on as well. It's not the 4th grade field trip capital of Florida for nothing!

It's getting DARK!  Look at the lights... everywhere!!!

This display wins my vote for the best decorations in the city!

And last but not least we made a stop inside the oldest pharmacy. I was able to see it all before the wax museum purchased the building but the last time we went it was closed. I am glad to see that they have maintained the original shelves and items that were in some of the pharmacy. It's fun to just stand there and read the labels. I mean, there was even a suppository mold. Try explaining that one to the kids. Interesting.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wednesday's Adventure to Rainbow Springs State Park

When you have a Wednesday off for Veterans Day in the middle of the week what else is there to do but have an adventure? For my gang, it was a no brainer. I needed to be outside and Florida State Parks are FREE on Veterans Day!

Say no more. Arm twisted. Let's go to Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon.

The park was once privately owned but it fell into disrepair and the state park system decided to buy it and take it over to preserve some of natural Florida. I'm so glad when they do that. It's HUGE. I have visited quite a few parks in the area that have that same story to tell.

Now Rainbow River is really known for the pristine water and getting into 72 degree water wasn't in my plans for the day but man o' man, I would have loved to get out there in a kayak again. You can see straight to the bottom as it is crystal clear. There is a swimming area, plenty of picnic areas and you can Geocache as well. We found 4 today! Yahoo!

Because the park was once a tourist attraction there were some manmade waterfalls that were fed from the springs. The park still maintains these waterfalls and it's a beautiful walk through the park with the sounds of running water all around. 

The entire place is picturesque and really pops like a post card from the 1960's. Doesn't it? 

The State Park also has a butterfly garden and the remains of what once was a small zoo with a few animals. It just gives you more to walk around and look at throughout the park. And yes, I managed to find something to put on my nose. The frogs were there but uncooperative but the Monarch caterpillar was willing. 

There was a bugle, (yes, the snack food) that was balanced on the tip of the nose at one point of our picnic lunch as well but I'll spare you from that. Lots and lots of fun was had. Lots of acorns were whistled into annoying everyone. Pecans and other nut pieces were found and lobbed at each other in fun. A few games of Marco Polo were even played as we explored and lost each other. I'd say that was a successful AbJ day! Yes, Hailey, we need t-shirts. Still. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Blue Man Group VIP Event

It's not often that I get the chance to do something as cool as be a VIP at the Blue Man Group show at Universal Studios but thanks to Yelp that is exactly what happened. Even better, it happened for my sister too so we got to experience it together. Yeah!

Basically BMG is starting a VIP ticket experience with a before the show preview and after the show experience. Before the show you get to go back and see the hallways and learn some history of the BMG. You also get to see the theater empty and even stand on the stage for true perspective.

Right before the show we were led to some wonderful seats right in the center of the theater but safely outside of the splash zone. We had a great experience watching the interactive performance and we were all hooked and engaged the whole time, marshmallows and all!

After the show were some more perks for the VIPS. We got to go to the backside of the stage and see the instruments and even play with one. We heard more about the Blue Men and what makes them what they are. And then we got to take some pictures with one of the Blue Men and yes, I even got him on my nose. 2 points!

I don't want to give away too much about the show because it truly is about the experience. Telling yo u all the the fun nuances and secrets may just take that magic away... and well, I don't want to do that to you! Go. See the Blue Men. Enjoy it. Have a marshmallow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Time Changes Things...

Time truly changes things. It just does. The events today were a definite showing of just how well time can do when given a chance.

It was Orlando Pride today. The parade, the festival, the vendors, the speakers... everything Pride. Today.

And I got to bring kids. Seriously. I brought my daughter but she's no stranger to Pride events. She attended her first at a mere three months old in Atlanta. She's been to quite a few since then, even if we don't go every year.

Even more remarkable was that we got to bring her boyfriend with us. And another friend. These parents didn't bat an eye at the idea of me taking their 13 and 14 year old kids to Pride. Not a flinch.

But when I was 13... I didn't know what Pride events were. I remember "sneaking" to my first one when I was in high school here in Orlando when it was at a small park off of Red Bug Road in Casselberry... for all of Orlando. It was just a picnic back then but I'm sure I wasn't forthright in telling my parents where I was going. I'm sure I said I was just out with friends. I remember the lift in the parking lot area and the police were video taping the cars in the lot. We all swore that it was so they could run the plates so they could know who the gays were. It wasn't unheard of at that point. Even my high school had a list of the gay folks just in case they needed to know, you know, because we stirred up oh so much trouble.

But thankfully things have changed.

For the better.

I mean, just look at these kids having a good time at Orlando Pride. I'll take that any day.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Day at Harry Potter World!

Okay, okay. It's not called Harry Potter World but it is now such a HUGE part of Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks. In fact, that is really all I even cared about seeing. The rest of the gang had much more on their lists for the day but really, the new Happy Potter area in Universal Studios was the first stop.

We got their bright and early and hiked our way over to the new area and looked at the Knight Bus and fountain outside of King's Cross station. I was in awe already. Luckily I really hadn't seen or heard much about how the new area was set up so I had no idea that when I walked the other side of a plain brick wall I would stand there with my jaw dropped open. Seriously amazed and awestruck!

The dragon on top of Gringott's even breaths fire about every ten minutes or so. Awesome! The Gringott's ride was thrilling and fun as well, so much so that we rode it twice! There are so many little details in this area that I could stay for hours looking in the stores, walking through Knockturn Alley, buying a wand to use on all the windows and displays, people watching and eating crazy food. Yep, you can get Butterbeer here as well as Butterbeer ice cream! Chocolate chili ice cream and Earl Gray and Lavender ice cream are both choices as well. Add a few beers that are made just for the park as well as the specialty candies and such and you're set with treats for the day.

Don't forget to take a ride on the train to the Islands of Adventure side of Harry Potter World. But, plan on riding it both ways since it's different each direction.

Once you get to the other side the view changes and it is just as wonderful. On that side you have the rides for Hogwarts and the dragon roller coasters, both large and small. There are many things to see on this side as well, but it has been there for about 4 or 5 years now so the wow factor really goes to the Universal Side for today!

And don't forget there is more than just Harry Potter World to explore at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios! We even caught up with some cute, green aliens on the set of Men in Black!

Happy Exploring!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Let's go to Lakeland!

There is actually quite a bit to do out there in Lakeland and usually I just drive through on my way to Tampa/St. Pete. But not today! Time to stop and explore. The mission today is actually to hit two college campuses to check out the, wait for it... architecture!

Yep. First up is Florida Polytechnic University. I'm sure you have seen the futuristic, white dome from the side of I-4 in the area referred to as Orlampa. It is technically in Lakeland but Orlampa has such a nice ring to it!

This beautiful building is open to explore on the weekends and explore we did! Just be sure to be nice and quiet when you enter because sound does carry in that building. The whole place is done an a bare, industrial style while still being futuristic. The floors are concrete and the walls are stark white with glass here and there. There are interesting chairs placed here and there in sitting areas and upstairs is the book-less library. I'm still not sure how I feel about that. The offices are small, glass pods with windows to the outside. Downstairs are the classrooms, the robotics lab, the gaming design center and more. The space I love the most is the outside area that surrounds the building where you can sit under the slatted roof. The view is pretty amazing.

Surrounding the main building there are a series of 7 different ponds. The ponds and grounds are also beautifully maintained and you can catch a glimpse of wildlife here as well. Next time though, I want to see it at night! Looks beautiful all lit up as well. 

Oh, and the roof, well... it doesn't open but the panels shift to allow the light in or to keep the heat out. A pretty neat concept. We learned that if a storm is in the area it shuts down and then has to be manually turned back on to start doing it's job again. Pretty neat. 

So time to head to the next campus! Where? Why Florida Southern College, of course. Did you have any idea that right here in Lakeland there was such a large collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture? Yep, it's right there in Lakeland. 

This campus is absolutely beautiful and the area looks more like a park than a college campus. The Frank Lloyd Wright designed walkways take you around from building to building and allow a nice covered pathway around campus. There are several different tours available that you can sign up for or you can do it yourself by purchasing a map from the visitor center. 

Starting your walk out at the visitor center will let you see two different buildings as well as a water feature designed by Mr. Wright, himself. 

Besides the architecture there is a beautiful rose garden you can walk through and be sure to catch the water dome fountain when it is on. They are in the middle of a renovation of the dome but it does come on every half-hour. The day we visited it was only running at 50% instead of the full 100% but still, it was nice to sit and watch the fountain under the bright blue sky. There is a little coffee shop on site that serves Starbucks as well. Take a break, sip on some refreshment and take it all in.... ahhhh! Right here in Lakeland.