On The Go with Gail: A Trip To Wild Florida

Wild Florida

We recently visited Wild Florida located in Kenansville, if you haven’t been yet there is so much to do! You can do airboat rides, there’s a gator park, animal encounters, and a drive-thru safari park!

This time we just did the drive-thru safari park, but I know we will be back to do the rest soon!

Wild Florida

At only a 45 minute drive away from Orlando, this is an attraction you don’t want to miss. They have over 100 native and exotic animals roaming freely.

Wild Florida
Wild Florida

As soon as you enter the drive-thru you start seeing animals right away, not only are they roaming around the 85 acres of untouched scenic landscapes, but the way it is set up gets you upfront and personal with the animals. We even saw the car in front of us had an emu come right up to their vehicle and stick their head inside! You are not permitted to feed them but I’m sure they get curious and want to take a look!

Wild Florida
Wild Florida

They have animals from as far away as the African Savanna to the deciduous forests of North America. They do state that your vehicle has to have a top, no convertibles (could get awkward when an emu decides to call shotgun and ride with your family!). No motorcycles either, assuming you are too exposed and the noise could frighten the animals.

Wild Florida

You will have the opportunity to get up close to many animals such as giraffes, zebra, eland antelope, scimitar oryx, American bison, mouflon sheep, and many more! It’s a two-mile path through the safari, and there are places to hug the path a little if you wanted to pull to the side and let people by, while you admire the animals and take some epic photos! It really does feel amazing to be that close to these animals.

I loved how they had little feeding areas scattered around the route to encourage the animals to graze close to the safari path so we could see them better. It was even nice to see them resting so close to us!

After you have driven the route you can come back anytime during that day to drive it again as many times as you like before they close, which is great because you get the opportunity to see animals you may not have seen that close the first time. You can also head over to the giraffe encounter after, this is where you can pay extra to actually feed the giraffes up close. We didn’t do it this time but it looks like an amazing experience for the family! They even offer a painting with a giraffe package which sounds amazing!

Included in your drive-thru safari ticket is admission to their Gator Park. Here you can view more than 200 additional animals, as well as enjoy a variety of educational animal shows. You can also meet Crusher, their biggest American alligator (weighing just over 1,000 pounds). You can also watch a demonstration with some of their residents during their Exotic Animal Show.

They also have airboat rides and special animal encounters. You can pick from meeting a sloth, porcupine, tamandua, lemur, and more! They have unique swamp delicacies served at their Chomp House Grill so you really can make a whole day of visiting here!

Since 2010, their goal has been to provide an unforgettable Everglades experience that promotes a connection with animals while inspiring education and conservation. There really is something for everyone here, we can’t wait to go back and experience more. You can visit their website http://wildfloridairboats.com to purchase tickets in advance, and check out the VIP Tours and Florida resident tickets/annual pass options. Or you can call 407-957-3135.

They are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m to 6 p.m and closed on Sundays.

Want to be On the Go with Gail more? Follow her @gailyw on Instagram and find posts like her visit to the Apopka Wildlife Drive here!

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On the Go with Gail: Kraft Azalea Garden

Our adventures around Orlando took us to the Kraft Azalea Garden in Winter Park, and I have always seen my photographer friends post the most stunning wedding and portrait sessions here.

I wanted to go see it for myself after seeing their wonderful photos, and I am so happy that we did as it is a beautiful little gem of a park!

The Kraft Azalia Garden is a 5.22-acre public park that is located on the shore of Lake Maitland, making it so secluded and unique!

The park is full of beautiful and enormous cypress trees that provide a wonderful canopy for shade.

We visited on quite a hot Florida day, and the trees provide much relief while we walked around comfortably!

From what I have seen and heard about this place, it can get extremely busy, especially on weekends when there are more photographers and people heading over for picnics with their families.

Luckily, we went on a Monday afternoon and it was super quiet and peaceful, we even saw a group practicing, what I assume, was Tai Chi in the middle.

The views by the water were just spectacular, not only can you nosey at the gorgeous homes over the water but you can watch boaters and jet skiers going by, it was so peaceful!

My favorite area by far is the Exedra monument, it is located right by the waterfront to get those perfect idyllic photos. On the weekends, I can imagine this spot would be hard to get to, due to the professional shoots going on as its such a main feature of the park! The Exedra can also be reserved for events like wedding ceremonies at sunset, for up to 20 guests and can be reserved by calling 407-599-3334.

Don’t forget to look up when you’re here, because the views are quite stunning with the tall trees all around you. The park is actually home to a very large banyan tree. These trees are native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and often planted around temples as it is considered sacred by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is quite unusual to have one here locally as it generally only grows in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 10-12 which begin in an area south of Miami…the more you know!

Some have said that this tree may be the northern-most Banyan tree in the state. It is believed that the tree was planted in Kraft Azalea Garden when int was developed in 1938. Notable nurseryman Martin Daetwyler was hired to design the garden by well-known residents George and Maud Kraft, Mayor Frederick Cady, Forney Shepard, Leonard Hackney and Mrs. C. F. Ward.

On the way in to the gardens, it is hard to miss the sounds coming from the trees right by the entrance! At this time of the year, they are absolutely covered with great egrets nesting! Breeding for these birds occurs in the spring and they congregate into colonial nesting areas known as rookeries. These dense aggregations of nests are typically found in low trees near or over water. Winter park is fortunate to have a rare urban rookery for this stately bird. Every year between late February and early June, up to 50 nesting pairs of great egrets gather at Kraft Azalea Garden to begin nesting rituals.

Apparently, the males develop large showy feathers during the nesting seasons, and the females lay two to three eggs, and both parents share feeding duties. Its such a unique opportunity to be able to be up this close to so many at one time, it was such a nice surprise on our visit!

The gardens are open year-round from 8 a.m, until dusk. If you are planning on heading over to take professional photos and portraits, you must obtain a permit ahead of time to operate inside the park. This can be done by heading to www.cityofwinterpark.org/parks.

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On the Go with Gail: Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Did you know that Lake Apopka has a Wildlife Drive? This drive is a one-way 11-mile drive that snakes (no pun intended) through the property. It begins on Lust Road and ends on Jones Avenue.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

The drive is completely free, but they do welcome online donations to assist with recreation maintenance. There are little QR code signs throughout that you can scan from your car and it will take you to the donation page.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

When you first drive in you can pick up a leaflet that gives you some more information, and they also let you know there are signs throughout the drive with QR codes that can be scanned to listen to their audio tour.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

The speed limit is 10 MPH but there are plenty of places if you wanted to pull over to look at something as they just ask that you don’t stop and block the road. This was hard at times because the road can get quite narrow with water on either side, so if someone up front stopped we all had to. I was fine with this because it meant there was going to be something cool to check out at that spot once we reached it!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

As you drive along, you get the opportunity to see so much wildlife, we chose a rainy day so we didn’t get too may gator sightings, I’ve seen people post gators all along the sides of the road they were driving down at times! Which sounds crazy but you’re inside your vehicles so its safe and such an opportunity!

We did get to see some close up including a really large one, I’m not going to guess how many feet it was but it was huge even from a distance!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

A lot of people come here to bird watch, it is one of the top three birding areas for the entire state (includes Everglades National Park and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge).

The Lake Apopka North Shore, where the wildlife drive goes through, is considered one of the most renowned birding destinations in Florida, with 369 different bird species.

During the winter months, more than 150 species regularly use the property, from snowy herons and egrets to numerous tiny warblers and flycatchers. Other wildlife commonly seen include numerous American alligators, bobcats, otters, bears, raccoons, armadillos, and coyotes. I really wish I had seen some of the otters!

It was really something you could do with the whole family as you are driving slow enough for the kids to be by the window if you feel comfortable, which our daughter really enjoyed looking out and searching for the different wildlife.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

There are a few restrooms along the way which is helpful as the drive could take up to three hours depending on how many stops you make along the way. There are also a few picnic pavilions so you can get out and stretch your legs and stop for some lunch together. The locations are all listed on the trail guide map. You can bring dogs but they must remain on a leash at all times.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

There are also areas marked as a white trail suitable for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding on a 6-mile loop on Clay Island.

The wonderful part of this trail is that I feel that each time you visit, it will be a completely different experience. One time you may see gators, another time many species of birds, so it’s somewhere you could visit again and never be bored. I feel it’s so wonderful they did this trail, I wish I had heard about it sooner, but I will definitely be coming back often, I need to see some otters still!

The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive entrance gate is open between 7 a.m and 3 p.m on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays. All vehicles must exit the drive by 5 p.m. You can find more information on their website.

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A Trip to the Winter Garden Honey Farm

Did you know that Winter Garden has a self-serve honey farm? I had heard about it, but I hadn’t had a chance to go take a look yet, so I ventured out to find it as I love supporting local businesses!

The farm is located at 9816 Tower Pine Drive, Winter Garden and they are open everyday 6am-9pm (although the website states 7am-7pm so make sure to check). It is completely self serve so make sure you bring cash or check as they are the only forms accepted here and it features a locked box for payment.

They have 24 hour video surveillance and request no one under 18 enters without an adult.

They advertise the finest local honey, their raw honey is 100% pure, with nothing added or subtracted, no high-heat or force-filtering techniques are used with their honey.

Inside, you will find Orange Blossom Honey, Palmetto Honey and Brazilian Pepper Honey in a variety of sizes in bottles and jars. All the pricing is on their website, and posted inside the stand.

You can see some older historic photos from this local family business posted inside. Bob started keeping bees back in 1968 at the age of 8. At age 15 he started his first Honey Company in Windermere, Florida in 1975. He moved around after this to finally settle back in Florida in Winter Garden, where he launched Winter Garden Honey Farm with his family.

They also sell Beeswax candles and honey sticks in various sizes and packaging. They also have an Observation Beehive inside, they had it cleaned last summer and not had chance to put the bees back in, but they hope to get it back up and running this summer. I would love to see that! It has 27 large frames, three frames across at 9 levels. It is this large because typically observation beehives are only a single frame width, which usually means the bees can not store enough food to survive or get over crowded and they swarm out.

As you can see from the shelves, some of their stock is low. According to their website, Orange Blossom Honey will only be sold in 2lb, 1lb, 8oz and 2oz as it is almost sold out until mid-April. Palmetto Honey is also running low, they only have what is on their shelves right now and this will return to shelves mid-June. They still have 8oz and 2oz for this one.

Don’t forget, the stand is open everyday 6am-9pm (website does state 7am-7pm) and it is cash or check only, they do have a collection of pens to write them out, along with some hand sanitizer for afterwards.

You can check out their website http://wghoney.com and if you have any questions you can call Bob himself on 407-454-0866.

You can also check out their Facebook page where they update daily and have some fun content!

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Coney Island Drive-Inn- Brooksville

Looking for a fun outing, we decide to head over to Coney Island Drive-Inn that has been in Brooksville, Florida since 1960 when they took over an old boat manufacturing building.

While the building has changed hands a few times over the years, the quality and vibe has remained the same.

Legend has it that in 1961, Elvis Presley was in Inverness, Florida, filming a movie and he ventured down to Brooksville for one of their world Famous Footlongs.

We have been here many times before, and some of these photos were pre-Covid to give you an idea of the inside, but they do have a walk up window if you didn’t want to go inside to eat or order.

I love the vibe inside the Coney Island Drive-Inn, because there are a lot of classic photos of not only Elvis (who ate here don’t forget!) but also so many old license plates and old photos.

I love all the Betty Boop items, too!

During my first visit a few years ago, I stared at everything for a long time, as there’s so much to look at!

I even love the furniture it feels like an old retro gas station vibe which sounds really odd but as you can see from the photos, it really works!

There are a few different rooms you can sit in too if eating inside, each with plenty of cool items to admire.

As for the food, they do have their famous footlong hot dogs, including gator dogs, Reuben dogs and “Hot Diggity Chix Wings”.

Below is a photo of their selection from their Facebook page, then a photo of what I, the awkward vegetarian at a hot dog place, orders, fried corn!

Image taken from the Coney Island Drive-Inn Facebook Page.

I can honestly say its the best fried corn I have ever had! Which is why I always come back, its so tasty as are their fries!

They also have free Elvis impersonator shows, and you can check their Facebook or Instagram for their upcoming calendar of events.

In 2015 they purchases an old turpentine building in Zephyrhills Florida as their second location, and just this year they opened their first licensed location in Crystal River, Florida.

Depending where you live, it is quite a drive out of the Orlando area, off the beaten track, but it is a really pretty drive over there and you can always visit downtown Brooksville for the local stores after and make a fun day out of it.

Coney Island Drive-Inn is located at 112 East Jefferson St, Brooksville, Florida 34601. Their hours are Monday & Sunday 11am till 6pm, Tuesday-Saturday 10am till 9pm.

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A Visit to Crumbl Cookies

Living in Orlando, we are spoiled with choices when it comes to sweet snacks and treats, and it is hard to branch out from the places that have been around forever and so we tend to stick to where we know.

Recently I had been seeing a lot of California friends posting about a yummy cookie store called Crumbl, a cookie shop where the cookies are decorated so pretty and come presented in a beautiful pink pastry box that we have all come to associate with the best kind of bakeries.

Crumbl Cookies

I searched online and found 4 locations in Florida with two in South Florida, one in Lutz close to Tampa and one in Lake Mary that is closest to Orlando.

It is still a bit of a drive, but it’s not too far of a drive to make when warm cookies are involved!

What is really cool about this place is the many options they have to get their cookies, you can order online and pick up curbside (my favorite option) you can chose to have them delivered (locally) and they can even be shipped. If you want to look at the cookies first you can order inside at the counter, or at the touch screen computers inside the store.

They even have a space where you can watch the cookies coming out of the oven and decorated. it reminded me a lot of Sprinkles in Disney Springs in that way.

If you order online, you just choose an estimated time of arrival, and once you pull up you click to let them know you are there, and once they are ready they bring them right out.

You can even get the box gift wrapped with ribbon and chose a message sticker to go over it for an extra $1 which is really cute if you are surprising someone with a box.

Even if you get one single cookie it still comes in a really cute little pink box.

Crumbl features 6 cookie flavors at a time, and two of the cookies are their staple flavors, the Warm Milk Chocolate Chip and the Chilled Sugar cookie, that are always offered.

Then they have 120 PLUS, specialty flavors that rotate weekly! You can head to their website to see which they offer each week or download the app, which I recommend because then you get points and birthday offers, etc.

The first time we went, we got two of the Chilled Sugar cookies, and two of the Pink Velvet.

The Sugar cookie was good with a strong almond taste, so I may not get that one next time.

But the Pink Velvet was what dreams are made of, I’m not even exaggerating they were that good!

The buttercream on top was just amazing, I will be sad when this one rotates off the menu for a while.

The next time we went, which was very close to the first time, we got the Cinnamon Swirl, Molten Lava, and the Peanut Butter Bar.

We were supposed to get the Caramel Popcorn but they gave us two Peanut Butter instead.

We did love these as well, just not as much as the aforementioned Pink Velvet!

The first Crumbl store opened in Logan, UT in 2017, since then, the franchise has expanded to over 75 locations in 11 states nationwide!

They are currently in the middle of opening one in Winter Springs, Florida, too.

The Lake Mary bakery is located at 245 Wheelhouse Lane, Suite #1441, Lake Mary, Florida, 32746.

They are open Monday through Thursday 8 AM-10 PM and Fridays 8 AM-12 AM, they are closed on Sundays.

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On the Go with Gail: A Visit to Mount Dora

I have always loved Mount Dora, it’s such a quaint little town not too far from Orlando, about a 30-45 minute drive from the Disney area.

Founded in 1880, Mount Dora is known for its quaint southern charm, it has many stores including antique stalls and local craft shops where you can find unique gifts for anyone and everyone!

If you have ever wondered why it’s called Mount Dora with no actual mountains in sight, the Mount part reflects the fact that the town is on a plateau 184 feet above sea level. The more you know!

Normally we come over to go visit the shops and try the restaurants, you really can’t go wrong with any of them here. You can grab Italian, Indian, American, British, Cuban, French, the list goes on! I have tried most of them and multiple times. They also have some really unique coffee shops and ice cream stores that are worth trying out.

This time, we just came to wander around outside and enjoy the peaceful town. We love to go for a walk by the lake, Lake Dora is so beautiful, whether you are by the lighthouse or the docks, the views, especially at sunset are spectacular! If you have time, they offer a lot of boat tour options down at The Rusty Anchor (Golden Girls Fans will smile at that name!). I have not done one myself but would love to do a sunset boat tour one evening so I will have to come back for that soon.

I was pleasantly surprised to see they still had their Christmas tree on display, as I hadn’t had a chance to make it over there for the Christmas season yet. My daughter loves Christmas Trees, so we were really happy they had theirs up still.

We found out that they still had their Christmas lights up around the town too, and that they usually do until the beginning of February. So this meant that, of course, we had to come back and see the lights as we hadn’t done that yet either.

Most of the lights were centered around Donnelly Park, where most of the trees were draped in lights and they even had a Santa in his sleigh pulled by his reindeers.

I love the fact they still had their decorations up, plus it was super quiet so we were able to just wander around admiring them! Mount Dora is one of my favorite places locally, we normally like to visit Renningers Antique Center on a weekend then head over. It makes a nice day trip that way as they have the antiques on one side and a flea market on the other.

You can always come to visit during one of their many outdoor festivals too, you can check out their calendar for upcoming events by visiting https://www.mountdora.com

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Southern Hill Farms Strawberry Picking

If you have ever been to Southern Hill Farms, you know they have different events and pick your own fruit events throughout the different seasons. Right now, its strawberry picking season! If you have never been to the farm, now is the time, there is no fruit better than freshly picked!

The farm is on roughly 120 acres of land, and depending which way you come in, the entrance is a long clay road. There is plenty of parking available, and for the strawberry picking, you do not have to pay to park like during other events there where they have more going on.

When you first enter Southern Hill Farms there is an employee letting you know how everything works and giving you directions to the strawberry field and the barn. The barn is where you can go up to the air stream they have parked, and purchase their drinks and donuts that are made right there on the farm, and yes right now there are strawberry donuts and drinks to enjoy! They also have their market open, the eatery and beer shed.

They also have a play area for the children to play and plenty of photo opportunities with signs and the ones you put your head through the holes to become different characters like snowmen and such. They actually just announced on their Instagram page, which I will link below, that they will be opening their kids zone back up for the season on weekends. There will be a festival swing, jump pillows, a giant slide, obstacle course, sports game and farm wagon rides available in one all-inclusive wrist band for purchase.

On approaching the strawberry fields, you walk up to the check-in desk where the employee there lets you know how it all works and hands you their box. She told us which side the farm has been using and which sides have more fruit so you can start there. They ask that you pull the strawberry with one hand while holding the vine with the other to protect pulling the plant out of its delicate row.

The field was pretty large and as you can see, so it’s very easy to social distance from other groups. There are signs that ask that you wear a mask where social distancing isn’t possible, like at the entrance and exit. Most complied with that, we just kept ours on the whole time it was easier and luckily a nice cool day when we went.

Once you have picked your row, if you bend down slightly you can see the fruit better to know where to start. I recommend pushing the leafs aside slightly as that was where the bigger riper strawberries were hiding. There were some quite large ones ready to pick when we went too.

We took our daughter with us, and being a toddler I wasn’t sure if she would want to join in but she loved scanning the plants for them. Once we pointed one out she did really well pulling them off while we held the stem. This was the first time strawberry picking for all of us, and now I am wondering why we waited so long, hopefully we can keep coming so she can continue to make these memories.

Once you are ready to leave you head over to the exit for weighing and they do take cash or credit, this part was all outside too which was helpful. We didn’t fill the whole box but had a good single layer which was close to a pound in weight. Once we got home we washed them and honestly, I don’t want to ever buy grocery store strawberries ever again, they were so sweet and fresh! It was almost like they had sugar on, they were that sweet! I cannot recommend this activity enough!

You can check their website out or their Instagram page, as that is where they will update you on when they run out of ripe fruit to pick and update you once they are open again. They open only on certain days so check their schedule to plan your trip.

The Southern Hill Farms website is http://southernhillfarms.com and their Instagram handle is @southernhillfarms and you can also check them out on Facebook for live updates.

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Clermont’s Holiday Enchanted Forest

The City of Clermont has many activities to safely enjoy this season and take part in. They just had their Virtual Light up Clermont Ceremony on December 4th, which featured a special message from the Mayor and Council. Don’t worry if you missed it, because there’s something so fun going on at Victory Pointe!

Clermont’s Holiday Enchanted Forest opened December 5 and runs until January 3, 2021 at Victory Pointe. It is open nightly until 10pm. There are over 40 decorated trees all lined up by the lake.

Schools, organizations, businesses, and families have individually decorated these trees being showcased nightly.

You can stroll through the Enchanted Forest at your leisure while listening to the Holiday music being played throughout. Signs in front of each tree tell you which group decorated each tree, some are more obvious than others, but they are all so fun!

We went on quite a cold night for Florida, and since it is located right by the lake it got very chilly so be sure to take a blanket or decent coat/sweater so you can enjoy it more. Don’t be like me in shorts and a T-Shirt wondering “where this cold snap even came from?”.

There is also a box to drop off letters to Santa in Santa’s mailbox which will be delivery directly to the North Pole. It’s right by the entrance to the Holiday Enchanted Forest, and also has a great area for photo opportunities.

It really is a fun, cute event and completely free! I want to go back in the day time now to enjoy some of the details more as they were all lit up so beautifully but I want to see the creativity close up!

On the way out we decided to walk by the historic village and I am so glad we did, they have a few little cute displays and cut outs. But what was a really nice addition this year was over in the bay window of the Train Depot, the building closest to West Avenue.

Tommy Candido, display coordinator at John Zweifel’s President’s Hall of Fame, set up his personal Christmas Village. The display fills the entire window and is lighted every evening, 6-10pm.

It’s such a pretty animated display, featuring children on sleds, ice skaters, an air balloon and Gibbon (a Yeti, a signature of every Christmas Village Candido has put together over the years). I loved the little town square in the middle with all the light up trees leading to the big tree!

You can check out more about this event among others if you head to their website www.ClermontFL.gov

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Christmas in Downtown Winter Garden

This year, Downtown Winter Garden will be different for Christmas in order to keep people safe, but they are still offering some fun and safe entertainment for everyone.

This year, they have festive lighting and decorations, holiday-themed photo stations, a painted holiday mural wall, Santa’s Workshop, Winter Wonderland and many more activities outside for everyone.

There were plenty of places for photo opportunities and they even had a small area cordoned off with real snow that they kept topping up for kids and big kids-alike!

All the activities were free except for the horse-drawn carriage which requires reservations.

Our personal favorite was the projection light show they are doing on Town Hall. It runs in about a 20 minute loop and features Christmas songs and projection mapping over the building.

The light show runs mostly on weekends from 6-9pm, the link to will be at the bottom of the page for their Holiday Calendar.

They also have a Merry Winter Garden Farmer’s Market every Saturday in December, 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, where you can find produce, artisan foods, wreaths and holiday plants.

Seasonal food, drinks and merchandise will be available for purchase at shops and restaurants, and you will find expanded outside seating. Make sure you also check out the Garden Theatre, as they will be having live theatre and holiday movies shown throughout December.

Check out http://downtownwg.com for the town’s schedule and www.gardentheatre.org to see what Garden Theatre is offering this Holiday season.

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A Visit To Historic Clermont with Gail

This week we decided to take a walk through historic Clermont and the waterfront there. It was such a beautiful breezy day for Central Florida so we had to go out and enjoy it!

At the corner of West Avenue and Osceola Street, is Clermont’s Historical Village. The houses were individually moved from their original locations to sit where they are now, for visitors to come and learn about the City’s history. The Kern House was built in 1885, the Townsend House was built in 1895, and the Depot building around 1925.

The village also features the original Cooper Memorial Library, built in 1914, and it also has a Quonset Hut which is used as a World War II Museum. Clermont’s Historic Village open hours are Friday from 1 p.m to 3 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Clermont was founded in 1884 and incorporated in 1916. Right now, the City is undergoing a Downtown-Waterfront Master Plan, so you will see a lot of construction going on around the Downtown area and around the Historic Village. There are some wonderful additions coming, some have already been built like Victory Point, Kehlor Recreation Center and the new boat ramp.

Currently, they are working on a Wi-Fi Trail to enhance safety and navigation for trail users, plus, it will be able to support events with data and live broadcasting in key areas. The streetscape is also in progress all around the area, to create a focal point at City Hall. I am most excited about their Art Walk area, this is still under construction downtown and due to be completed at the end of this year. If you want to take a look at any of the improvements and what’s coming you can visit https://www.clermontfl.gov/MasterPlan

After the Historic Village, we took a walk down to the waterfront as it was such a beautiful day, you can often catch sight of gators and many different native birds down here.

There’s a bike trail going right past the lake (part of the upcoming Wi-Fi Trail) and many picnic benches, so it’s a perfect location to bring the family or friends and catch up with a great view! Today we just walked around staying outside, enjoying the views. But Clermont has some amazing places to eat and drink, with many new places opening all the time. Next time you are thinking of visiting a local town, consider Clermont as there’s something for everyone here.

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The Chick-Fil-A Christmas Spectacular at the Citrus Tower

The Citrus Tower in Clermont has brought back its light show for the first time since they stopped the show 2 years ago. The new light show this year features 50,000 lights on the 226-foot tower, synchronized to music and snowfall.

Owners Scott and Heather Homan reached out to the community for help and support in funding the return of the show. They were seeking people to purchase $100 annual memberships, and the proceeds from those sales would go toward the light show. Then, Chick-Fil-A of Clermont’s owner Rocky DeStafano contributed 20-free chicken sandwich vouchers per membership, and sales spiked. With the support of other local business groups and the Real Life Church, they were able to meet the funding needed to make the show happen.

This 360-degree light show truly is one of a kind, and something we felt is very safe to be able to go view during these times of Covid-19. As you can see, it is really easy to social distance from people here. At first, we stayed in our car, but then we got out to view it better since the parking lot gives you plenty of space to stay away from others safely. They do have an announcement asking that children are monitored since it is a working parking lot.

Back in March this year, they had some lights attached to communicate hope amid the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. But bringing back this light show was so magical, they even have snow machines set up and have a little closed off area right up front for people to stand closer away from the parking lot.

The owners have recently transformed the inside of the building adding a coffee shop, arcade, and a board game store. They also added free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and a new seating area at the top of the tower to sit and enjoy the views, maybe with a coffee from downstairs.

The show will run until January 1st from 6-10 pm every night. Their Facebook page suggests you wear a mask at all times, social distance when possible, and to remain in your car to view the show if you are at risk for Covid. If you are comfortable heading inside (wear a mask please) the Citrus Coffee Company inside the lobby has a limited-time Christmas Drink: Ginger Snap S’More Latte available for purchase among other sweet treats.

The Florida Citrus Tower is located at 141 S Hwy 27, Clermont FL 34711.

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A Visit to Newton Park with Gail

In these times of Covid-19, we have to decide what we are comfortable doing when venturing out of the house and looking for entertainment.

It really depends on what you feel is right for you and your family. For my family, we have a young toddler, so I personally haven’t felt comfortable to go inside buildings with her yet.

Instead, we try to choose some outdoor places we can visit, and we try to do this a couple of times a week.

Newton Park

This week we decided to wander around Newton Park, in Winter Garden which is a lakefront park by Lake Apopka.

It wasn’t busy at all mid week, but I can see it being more popular on weekends for fishing and picnics.

Newton Park

In this park, you can even bring your own boat and go out onto the lake itself and do a little fishing.

Newton Park

We mainly love it because it’s so peaceful and the views are so pretty, on a clear day you can see pretty far.

The day we went, it was pretty cloudy so you couldn’t see too much but it helped that it was much cooler!

Newton Park

We walked right out onto the pier to take in some of the views since it was such a nice windy day.

Pro-tip, try not to drop any Goldfish snacks along the pier if you can help it, was a bit daunting like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds movie!

Newton Park

We even got to see some gators, they were a few baby-sized ones floating around and then we spotted this larger one right by the pier. Must have been a good 5-6 feet long!

Newton Park
Newton Park

Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida, and during the 1940s was one of Central Florida’s main attractions.

Anglers traveled from through the world to fish here. The Edgewater Hotel in downtown Winter Garden used to house many of these visitors.

Newton Park
Newton Park

Sadly, the discharge of water, rich in nutrients from agricultural and other sources, produced conditions that created a chronic algal bloom and resulted in a loss of the lake’s recreational value and game fish populations.

In the ’90s, clean up measures with good intentions failed and muck choked the lake bottom.

This eventually led to other restoration projects, each with its own problems and work continues to develop a plan to ensure future development does not negatively impact the lake.

Newton Park

We continue to visit other parks in the area but wanted to talk about this one since its a lovely local place to visit.

Newton Park is located at 31 W Garden Ave, Winter Garden, FL, 34787.

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Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids The World

This week we were invited to preview the upcoming Night of a Million Lights event, taking place for the first time ever at Give Kids The World!

The Give Kids The World Village was forced to close back in March this year due to Covid-19, delaying more than 4,000 wishes. This 89-acre non-profit resort provides critically ill children and their families with magical week-long wish vacations at no cost to them. There are a total of 166 storybook residential villas for them to stay in while enjoying experiences at the local theme parks and attractions.

Night of a Million Lights is designed to raise funds to ensure that when they are able to reopen, the wishes for these families can be granted and return bigger and better than ever before.

This event has transformed the village into a dazzling wonderland!

The Night of a Million Lights features more than 3 million glittering lights, larger than life displays, and 45 amazingly decorated wish family residential villas. This really is a sight to see!

Once you enter the residential villas area, you will see each house has its own sponsor, some are very obvious who the sponsor is before you even read the sign, one of my favorites being the Crayola house!

I love the crayons “decorating” the house and their expressions!

Mayor Clayton’s home, which is home to the 6-foot tall bunny rabbit who governs the Village, has a garden area that is not to be missed with decorations under a beautiful archway perfect for those selfies!

They were busy at work setting up all the lights and we even saw a “whack a mole” game being set up.

Admission for all guests includes complimentary ice cream from the Village’s new centerpiece, Henri’s Starlight Scoops and hot cocoa. There is also unlimited access to the Village’s wheelchair-accessible rides and attractions.

Additional food and beverage and special edition holiday merchandise- including 3D glasses for the lights will be available for purchase.

Santa and some other surprises will be making this visit extra special for all guests!

Night of a Million Lights will take place from November 13 through to January 3, from 5:00 p.m to 10:00 p.m daily with staggered entry times to promote social distancing. Mask wearing will be required for all guests.

The Village is always open for more volunteers, especially to help decorate for this upcoming event, you can apply on their website now at http://gktw.org/lights/volunteer or email them at volunteer@gktw.org

To purchase tickets for the event please head to their website http://gktw.org/lights today as some busy days may start selling out.

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Sugar Factory Orlando is now open!

Sugar Factory Orlando is one of the latest wonderful additions to IDrive 360, located right next to The Orlando Eye. It lists itself as an American brasserie but it really is the ultimate place for sweet treats, gourmet food and world famous smoking goblet candy-infused cocktails!

Sugar Factory Orlando

We had the opportunity to get a sneak peak of the menu before it opened to public, and get a taster of what was to come! We were treated to many samples of what would be on the menu for food, and while everything was so delicious, our favorite were the red velvet pancakes with white chocolate chunks and orange zest! They were just sweet enough and would make either the perfect late morning snack, or a tasty dessert after a meal here. In Fact they have a whole page on their menu dedicated to pancakes and waffles, so there really is something for everyone.


Speaking of sweet things, which is pretty much everything on the menu, another one of our favorites were the milkshakes! We got to try the Very Berry Blast and the Chocolate milkshake, which left us wanting more. They have a large selection of milkshakes on their menu and personally i want to go back and try The Barbie, it’s garnished with pink rock candy crumbles!


Ok so maybe that wasn’t quite sweet enough for you? If this is the case, then you might want to try their ultimate signature dessert, the WORLD FAMOUS Sugar Factory King Kong Sundae!

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Why yes, those ARE sparklers in the sundae! Other ingredients include… are you ready? 24 scoops of ice cream covered with hot fudge, caramel and strawberry sauce, sliced bananas, toasted marshmallows, Reese’s Pieces, chocolate chip cookies, crushed waffle cones, gummi bears, white chocolate strawberry shavings and toasted walnuts with whipped cream, giant lollipops and aforementioned sparklers blaze away on the top! You can close your mouth now! As you can tell, it’s meant to be shared, they suggest 12 people share this $99 dessert show! When ordered the servers make a fuss, dim the lights and everyones attention is on this dessert! Perfect for birthday parties, bachelorette parties and more!

Now we know desserts can make you thirsty, so what about their drinks? They actually have quite an extensive cocktail and martini menu, but it is their smoking goblet signature drinks that make them famous!


We actually got to try 4 of them, pictured above, and each one can be made non alcoholic upon request also, and they all feature dry ice for that mystical look.

The blue one was Ocean Blue, which contained Hpnotiq and featured gummi sharks swimming within its deep blue sea!

The orange one was the Mai Tai, which blended fresh orange and pineapple juices with coconut rum topped with a float of Dark Myers rum.

The yellow one was White Gummi, so fresh and fruity and features gummi worms floating around in the goblet!

The green one….well best until last they say, this one was the Lollipop Passion and is their signature goblet. It blends together melon, coconut and pineapple and is garnished with lollipops and necklace candy!

Whether getting one for yourself or to share, I don’t think you could be disappointed with any of these flavors, but just in case…Lollipop Passion!

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After dinner be sure to check out the store side and candy factory amazingness. Whether you are craving one of their famous Couture lollipops, or some gummi bears and chocolates, head to their pick and mix selection. Here you can get everything from trail mix, to spicy hot pepper gummies (take our word for it) and a snake gummi that is so large, when you select it from the container you will be pulling and pulling and pulling until you finally remove it’s 3ft body!

(Disclaimer-We have no confirmation on actual size due to the fact that he got eaten too fast, RIP Gummi Snake, your sacrifice was not in vein!).


So whether you are on a girls night, bachelorette party, birthday party, or date night, Sugar Factory is perfect for any occasion. On weekends they even have a special brunch menu from 11am-4pm…remember the red velvet pancakes? They also have free parking and valet parking is also available nearby. They are open now, so be sure to stop by when you can and let us know what YOUR favorite drink or menu item was!

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