TreeHoppers Aerial Zip Line Adventure Park Set to Open in Dade City in August

TreeHoppers
Photo: TreeHoppers on Facebook

TreeHoppers Aerial Zip Line Adventure Park Set to Open in Dade City in August

Indiana-based Owners Invest $2 Million in Aerial Adventure Park

 

TreeHoppers, an aerial/zip line adventure park in Tampa Bay, breaks ground this summer and plans to open to the public in August 2015. Indiana-based White River Zip Lines purchased a 60-acre wooded tract in Dade City on March 2nd property to develop TreeHoppers and another attraction to be named in the coming months.

TreeHoppers will feature dozens of zip lines, rope bridges and aerial climbing elements. The attraction will have eight unique courses and nearly 100 aerial features catering to adults and children ages five and up.

“We are thrilled to offer this new experience to the Tampa Bay area,” says Benjamin Nagengast, CEO at TreeHoppers “Our team carefully and thoughtfully selected Tampa Bay for our newest attraction and we can’t wait to introduce TreeHoppers to the community. There is nothing like it anywhere in Florida.”

The property features several acres of beautiful, hilly forest with sprawling live oak trees that will stretch down to a five-acre lake in the back of the property. TreeHoppers will fully utilize the property, allowing adventurers of all skill levels to traverse through the canopy trees, crossing the picturesque landscape. Climbers will be provided with the latest safety climbing technology and full safety instruction from highly-trained climbing monitors before setting out on the course. The aerial adventure park concept was brought to the United States from Switzerland six years ago after an increase in popularity in Europe.

With an exact August opening date still to be determined, TreeHoppers will be open year-round, 7 days a week and is located at 27839 Saint Joe Road Dade City, FL, only 35 minutes north of Tampa.

For more information, please visit www.treehoppers.com.

TreeHoppers

About TreeHoppers:

TreeHoppers is a new aerial/adventure park which hosts eight unique courses and over 100 aerial elements for adults and children ages five and up. It’s the perfect activity for the entire family. Leisure fun seekers to expert climbers can venture through a variety of zip lines, rope bridges and aerial climbing features. TreeHoppers is an ideal attraction for birthday parties and corporate events. TreeHoppers is located in Dade City, Florida just north of Tampa. For more information, visit www.treehoppers.com.

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2014 Osceola Fall Art Festival

2014 Osceola Fall Art Festival

The 2014 Osceola Fall Art Festival, presented by Osceola Center for the Arts and Kissimmee Main Street, will take place in beautiful historic downtown Kissimmee on November 15 & 16.

Up to 150 artists will be invited to participate in this two-day event.  As an invited artists you will enjoy easy load in/load out, artists awards breakfast, free parking, $20,000 in cash prizes and excellent restaurants in a beautiful historic setting.

This year the Osceola Fall Art Festival has a new Patron Purchase Program, and it’s a great way to support local art!
If you are planning to make a purchase at the upcoming Osceola Fall Art Festival, please consider taking part in our Art Patron Program.2014 Osceola Fall Art Festival Art Patron

You can also head over to http://osceolaartfestival.com/ to find our more details.

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Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp

petty_camp

Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp October 11-14, 2014!

Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp will take on THREE NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks!
Designed as the ultimate stock car experience for racing enthusiasts, The Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp gives YOU the chance to experience the thrill of driving hundreds of laps on three of NASCAR’s most historic tracks; Charlotte Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Martinsville Speedway over the course of three days, with feedback and coaching provided by industry experts … and legends.

Plus…you and your guest will take in the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway from the comfort of a VIP trackside suite.

PROGRAM TRACKS:
  • The legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway
  • The historic ‘Lady in Black”, Darlington Raceway
  • The challenging short track at Martinsville Speedway
     
CELEBRITY INSTRUCTION AND APPEARANCES BY*:
  • Dale Inman, winningest crew chief in NASCAR history
  • Randy LaJoie, two-time Nationwide series champion
  • Our accomplished team of Petty instructors
  • … and, of course, rubbing elbows with “The King” himself, Richard Petty!
 
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
  • VIP treatment (for camp participant and one guest) during Saturday’s Bank of America 500 race
  • Lunch and dinner events (for camp participant and one guest)
  • Luxurious four night accommodations (for camp participant and one guest)
  • Exclusive tour of original Petty Enterprises race shop in Level Cross, NC hosted by Dale Inman
  • Great gifts that will include custom apparel, in-car video and commemorative photos
  • …and the racing tales that our team of legends and experts will share, throughout the camp
     

The registration fee is $9,500 (plus tax). Experience Rewards members receive a $500 discount.Contact us at 704.454.6224 or rick@drivepetty.com to secure your place! 

*Scheduled to appear. Subject to change. Rules and Regulations apply.Visit www.drivepetty.com/FantasyRacingCamp for complete details.

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Girl’s Day in St Cloud

st cloud

 

I love finding small towns to visit that have wonderful historic downtowns, with fun places to shop and eat. St Cloud is one of those places for me. It’s a bit further out from where I live, so I like to try a different place each time I visit, especially on girl’s day! So this time I went to a cafe based on my friend’s recommendation that she had been to before. Diane’s Tea Room is located on New York Avenue in the heart of downtown St Cloud.

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In the front of the cafe is a gift shop featuring collectibles, decor and gifts that you can peruse while walking through to the cafe at the back.

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If it’s not too busy you can chose where you would like to sit, and really with all the cute decorations they have, you can’t really pick a wrong table!

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They do feature some specials for dinner, and for lunch they had a good variety and had some vegetarian options too.

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I decided to go with the homemade quiche that came with fruit and a choice of side. The quiche was brie and broccoli and it was so fresh and delicious I actually wanted more! I loved the presentation of the food, especially the chocolate covered strawberry! The plates used gave a warm homey touch to all the food.

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They feature some delicious flavored iced teas, and their hot tea was very tasty too, which again, was presented very nicely in your personal tea pot and cup with a saucer.

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For dessert we had to try the scones as they make them fresh and I was told they are so soft and melt in your mouth! The other desserts featured that day sounded great too, but the scones just sounded too tempting, especially when I saw they come served with fresh made Devonshire cream! Delicious!

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I am already looking forward to the next time I visit Diane’s in St Cloud, as there were many other items I would love to try! I also loved how when you go to the bathroom, you walk through the back of the restaurant and into the foyer of the Hunter Arms Hotel. It had such cool decor, and I read afterwards that its known to be haunted, by a ghost named Vivian?! So if you’re into that kind of thing then maybe this is somewhere for you to visit! I just thought it looked like a cool historic hotel lobby!

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After we ate, we walked around the antique stores and gift shops, and they have some lovely stores there that I always end up spending money at!

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At the moment, the downtown area of St Cloud is under refurbishment, as they are removing the asphalt on the roads to expose the original historic bricks underneath! I didn’t even know you could DO that, but I’m sure its going to look beautiful once its finished! At the time of writing this I’m not sure how far they have gotten, hopefully they may have even completed it by now! I can’t wait to see what it looks like!

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If you would like to visit Diane’s Tea Room, it is located on 1023 New York Ave in St Cloud, and you can also friend them on Facebook to look for their weekly specials.

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Girls day at The Barn Antiques, Lake Alfred

antique Rooster Table

 

Last week for girls day we decided to go visit The Barn Antiques, which is located in Lake Alfred toward Lakeland, and was established back in 1969. Not only is there a huge antique showroom, but also a large showroom of new gifts, some from local artists, but there is also a garden center and cafe!

 

The Stable

 

My friend told me about this place a while back, and how a lot of their antique items are from England, she has some great items from here around her home. So we thought we would make a day out of it and go for lunch and a shop around their antique showrooms.

cafe

We decided to meet early for lunch at 11:30am as she had mentioned it can get quite busy around the midday time. The cafe is called “The Back Porch” and has a lot of seating both indoors and outside in their porch area facing their gardens. Upon entering you pick up a paper menu with a post it note at the top, then take your seat where you would like to sit. There are pencils in jars on the tables, so you jot down your table number on the post it note at the top, then check the items you would like to order. The menu has so many options, and you are able to mix and match between these. We all chose “the Country Picnic”, which included a soup, sandwich, salad and dessert for only $7.84! There were even a couple of vegetarian options, and the soups were also vegetarian friendly.

 

order

For the drinks you could chose from their different freshly brewed ice teas, hot teas, coffees and lemonade. I decided to go for the spiced raspberry iced tea, which included free refills so that worked for me. When they bring the food out, they bring it in little picnic boxes, which I thought was such a lovely presentation style, so different! The food was delicious, and the little desserts were very cute and tasty, I opted for an English trifle, which didn’t include jello so was great for this vegetarian!

 

Picnic

After lunch we headed into the antique showrooms. The gift part was a lot of fun as they had such an array of items to purchase! From candles, to jewelry, clothes, light fixtures and kitchen ware, they had it all! Some parts were presented in themes which made it easy to show around and look at your favorite things.

Decorbunny

 

Next we headed into the antiques part, and It looked smaller inside, until i realized it just kept going and going! A lot of their pieces are from England and Europe dating from the 19th and 20th century! They get shipments quite regularly, so no one visit is the same, so it’s good to keep coming back and seeing what else they get in.

Mirror

They even have a stained glass window section toward the back, which made me wish I had somewhere to put one as I saw some beautiful pieces!

 

Stained glass

We then made our way out to the “Backyard Shop” located in the garden. Here you could find so many whimsical garden ornaments and decor, from solar powered fairies to gnome homes and mailbox covers! Some parts of the store are designed around the oak trees themselves so you almost feel like you are shopping in the forest or inside a huge tree house!

GardenFlowerbust

We pretty much stayed the whole day at The Barn as there was so much to do. It was so relaxing and fun that I am already planning my next trip there! It’s only about a 45 minute drive from the Orlando area, so well worth the trip for some fun and unique antique finds! Their opening times are always seasonal, but this season they are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10-4pm, be sure to check them out soon for some great antiques!

 

Sun

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Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp Florida

rpfcfl

Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp FLORIDA is July 4-6, 2014!

Designed as the ultimate driving experience for racing enthusiasts, The Richard Petty Fantasy Racing Camp FLORIDA gives YOU the chance to experience the thrill of driving two different types of cars and on 3 different tracks, with feedback and coaching provided by industry experts … and legends. In addition to our NASCAR stock cars you will climb behind the wheel of some of the world’s fastest supercars from Exotic Driving Experience.

PROGRAM TRACKS:
  • ‘The World Center of Racing’ Daytona International Speedway – 2.5 mile tri-oval
  • Walt Disney World® Speedway – 1 mile tri-oval
  • The Exotics Course at Walt Disney World Speedway – 1 mile road course design especially for Exotic Driving Experience supercars
CELEBRITY INSTRUCTION AND APPEARANCES BY*:
  • Dale Inman, winningest crew chief in NASCAR history
  • Randy LaJoie, two-time Nationwide series champion
  • David Green, Nationwide series champion
  • Our accomplished team of Petty instructors
  • … and, of course, rubbing elbows with “The King” himself, Richard Petty!
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
  • Watch the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway as well as visit with Richard and Dale before the race
  • Dinner events including an awards dinner on Sunday night
  • Luxurious accommodations: Thursday and Friday nights at the Buena Vista Palace in Orlando. Saturday and Sunday nights at The Daytona Hilton Ocean Walk in Daytona Beach
  • Great gifts that will include custom apparel, videos and commemorative photos

The registration fee is $10,500 (plus tax). Experience Rewards members receive a $500 discount. Contact us at 704.454.6224 or rick@drivepetty.com to secure your place with us! 

*Scheduled to appear. Subject to change. Rules and Regulations apply.Visit www.drivepetty.com/FantasyRacingCamp for complete details.

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Richard Petty Driving Experience Valentine’s Specials

rpde_vday

SPECIAL VALENTINE’S $79 RIDE-ALONG OFFER:

Get their heart racing with our high-speed ride-along experience! Our 3-lap Ride-Along lets them ride shotgun with a professional driving instructor around the track at speeds up to 165mph. Click here and get our limited time $79 Ride-Alongs (retail $99-$135).

SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DRIVING EXPERIENCE OFFER:

Click here to get 25% off a reserved driving experience of your choice. Driving Experiences start at $449- your price only $336.75! This special driving experience offer is also available by calling 1.800.237.3889 with promotion code VD25RPDE.
Your discount will be displayed at time of checkout.

For Valentine’s Offers Click Here

Rules and regulations apply, sales tax applies where applicable. To receive your 25% off a reserved driving experience or $79 Ride-Along please click on the links above or here to continue to our site. Your discount will be displayed at time of checkout. Discounts are not valid on Driver Release fee, gift cards, merchandise, group events or previous purchases. Reservations may also be made by calling 1.800.237.3889 with promo code VD25RPDE. Offers expire 2/14/14. Other rules and regulations may apply.
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Girl’s Day – Mount Dora Garden Gate Tea Room!

When I want to go and experience a quaint, relaxing and comfortable girls day lunch, a tea room always seems to be top choice. We are lucky to live in an area where we have many to chose from, specializing in many different foods and or themes. One of my most favorite places to go for this experience is the Garden Gate Tea Room in Mount Dora.

 

Gorgeous
Gorgeous

If you haven’t visited Mount Dora before, firstly you need to, and secondly its a wonderful little lake front historic town! Its famous for its festivals, arts, dining and especially its antique stores. They often have art fairs and festivals, there’s always something to do when visiting.

IMG_6266 Garden Gate Tea Room

There are so many restaurants I love here, but the Garden Gate Tea Room is always my most favorite!

Nestled in the heart of historic Mount Dora, The Garden Gate Tea Room is such a wonderful establishment, I end up spending the majority of my birthdays and celebrations here. They have a wide range of different teas, and despite my British heritage I actually find myself favoring their iced tea! My favorite is their Southern Belle peach iced tea, which comes served with the sugar around the rim of the glass, its so refreshing! I love their menu, as being a vegetarian I love that they have a delicious vegetarian option, the asparagus sandwich melt, and sometimes the quiche of the day. I feel neither are rushed just to simply accommodate vegetarians last minute, they are wonderful options.

 

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One of their most popular dishes is their “famous Herb-crusted Rosemary Baked Chicken Pie”, everyone I go with who orders this cannot believe how it just melts in your mouth. It’s so popular they do end up selling out some days, but don’t fret as, really, any of their options are just wonderful.

They also offer “Afternoon Tea”, which does require at least a 24hr reservation in advance, and costs $17.95 per person. I can tell you it was worth every penny!  I let them know in advance one of us was vegetarian so they ensured that I had a starter in place of the salmon souffle salad normally served first.

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After this you are presented with a three-tiered tray of chef’s assorted sandwiches (again vegetarian ones are made by request).

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Next are the desserts, my favorite! This featured a selection of chocolate covered strawberries, lemon curd cookies, fruit and their home made Cream Puff Swans filled with Chantilly Cream, so good!!!

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No afternoon tea is complete without  fresh home made scones! Theirs are served with clotted cream and jam. There is much debate on the appropriate way to layer ones scone, from what I have been told it is proper to spread the jam first, then apply the cream going around the scone in a circle. But hey, who are we to judge how to eat your scone, as long as it tastes delicious thats all that matters!

My favorite feature of this tea room is the simply stunning, shabby chic inspired decor. From the light blue paint, to the antique artifacts placed around the cafe, you feel so cosy and comfortable there. You wont be able to stop looking around at all the antique mirrors, lamps and twinkling lights.

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For those with a sense of style, one may also select a hat from their collection to wear during tea! I like to try them on after my lunch and take silly selfies in the mirror, but thats just me!

 

Silly Selfies
Silly Selfies

The ladies who work there encourage you to take your time and take as many pictures as you’d like, and will happily take any groups pictures for you. Make sure you go down the stairs and look into their larger seating area too, its simply stunning. You can also get a glimpse into their garden from there, which is available for private functions.

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If you have not been already I strongly suggest you take the time to visit this wonderful cafe, it does close at 2/3pm, so ensure you come early or book in advance.

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After lunch, you can walk off your food and browse the many stores they have here, or drive a mile or so down the road to the lake and miniature lighthouse for a peaceful relaxing afternoon.

 

Mount Dora Lightouse
Mount Dora Lighthouse

You can visit www.thegardengatetearoom.com for more information or how to book your visit ahead of time, and also take the time to look at www.mountdora.com for ideas on how to make the most of your visit.

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Florida Day Trips – St Augustine

Living in Central Florida there is always something to do, or somewhere to go, it’s one of the many reason I love living here! Having said that, I do like to venture out a little bit, and the wonderful thing about Florida is that you don’t have to go very far to feel like you’re in another world. Whether its Miami, Naples, or Clearwater, or if you’re looking for scenery, culture, or shops there is so much to see and each place is unique in it’s own way.

St Augustine
St Augustine

 

There are some great Florida Day Trips, and my favorite place to visit to is St Augustine. The city is the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement and port in the Continental US, with a founding date of 1565. If you have a passion for history and or architecture, then this city is for you! Aside from that, it also has some wonderful stores, carriage rides, restaurants, and we can’t forget the famous ghost tours!

St Augustine  Clock
Clock

Speaking of Ghost Tours a few years ago i did one of the guided ghost tours, and one of the points of interest were the city gates. Legend has it that a ghost of a little girl (Elizabeth) who died due to yellow fever can be seen waving to passerbys. Others just capture orbs within their photos of the gates at night. While on the tour I was the only one who caught orbs by the gates, many of them in fact, so everyone wanted to look at my photo.

 

gate orb St Augustine
gate orb

I recently went back to St Augustine on a day trip and took another photo of the gates, this time in the day light. I didn’t notice at first, but on closer inspection I noticed that I captured an orb this time too by the gates. It was during the day light, yet its as bright as it were night, right by the gate. Whatever your beliefs are, it is a strange coincidence to get orbs in the same place, this time with my iPhone, and in day time.

 

St Augustine

 

The only other place I captured one that day was by the Old School house, which is the oldest wooden school house in the US. It was just as bright as the one I captured by the city gates!

 

school house St Augustine
school house
St Augustine  Old School House
Old School House

 

If you get the chance you should pay a visit to the St Augustine Lighthouse and museum out on Anastasia Island. Built in 1874 and standing at 165ft , the 360 degree views from the top are amazing! Some come back at nighttime for the haunted tour, but I have yet to be brave enough to do this!

Lighthouse St Augustine
lighthouse
Views St Augustine
Views

 

The shops here vary quite a bit from gift stores, unique jewelry stores, health shops, and clothing. We especially loved our visit to the Arcade of Professional Artisans and Craftsman!

 

Arcade St Augustine
Arcade

One of my favorite places to go for lunch is the Spanish Bakery right there on St George Street. Not only do they bake the best fresh bread, but they sell Empanadas, sausage rolls, soup, cookies, and a lot of carry out options. I like to buy 3 loaves of bread, one to eat when i get home and 2 to freeze. Although, the bread is so tasty they normally don’t even make it to the freezer!

St Augustine

If you haven’t been over Christmas time to St Augustine i highly recommend it, they have light shows, trolley rides, and the decor is just stunning all over!

 

Christmas
Christmas

We normally end up visiting the beach on the way home, as its pretty quiet and very pretty. Its also not far from the center of town.

I feel like there is something for everyone in St Augustine, and I haven’t even mentioned Castillo De San Marcos, Ripley’s Believe it or not, or the premium outlets! With so much to do in St Augustine, you could come back each week and still find things you haven’t done or seen before!

the mill St Augustine
the mill

 

Im already planning my next visit back, maybe it will involve another ghost tour this time since I haven’t done that in a while.

Have you had the chance to visit St Augustine?  If so, what were some of your favorite things to do or see when there?

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No App For That Family Event

No App For That

No App for That Event Will Encourage Parents to Set a New Year’s

Resolution of Less Screen Time and More Nature for their Kids

 

Screen time”- the time children spend in front of some sort of electronic device- has taken over an alarming portion of U.S. children’s lives. The No App for That Event in Orlando on Feb.1, 2014 will take a step to try and change that.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates children spend an average of 7 hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.

Studies have shown too much screen time has been linked to obesity, irregular sleep, behavior problems, impaired academic problems, violence, and results in less time for play.

No App for That is a three-hour interactive seminar for parents to help them evaluate the impact this is having on their families, and offer an alternative: exposing kids to the many benefits of more time with nature.

The event is the brainchild of Lake Mary’s Chad Crawford, creator and host of the Emmy Award-winning syndicated TV series “How to Do Florida.” Crawford- a father of four young children- read the best-selling book “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv and felt immediately called into action.

That book smacked me in the head,” said Crawford. “This is information every parent needs. What they decide to do with it is up to them.”

Crawford contacted author Richard Louv and invited him to be the keynote speaker for the seminar. Louv, who has also authored the best-selling “The Nature Principle,” has sparked an international movement to reconnect kids and nature. He has influenced national policy and helped inspire campaigns in over eighty cities, states, and provinces throughout North America.

Louv coined the phrase “nature deficit disorder”- the loss of connection children increasingly feel with the natural world. He argues, nature-deficit disorder affects “health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including people’s ability to feel ultimately alive.”

“The future will belong to the nature-smart,” Louv says. “Those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Other speakers will also highlight the seminar which runs from 9:00 a.m to noon:

– Dr. Angela Fals, Medical Director of Healthy 100 Kids at Florida Hospital for Children, who will speak on how to obtain a healthy balance for screened devices in the home.

-Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed. He serves as a spiritual advisor to President Obama and works with respected members of the religious and scientific communities to call attention to human-caused threats to the environment. He will speak on experiencing God in nature.

-Chad Crawford, Creator and Host of “How to Do Florida” TV series. Crawford, the ultimate Florida adventurer,” will have an interactive presentation with video on the top ten outdoor things to do for families in Central Florida.

Parents will walk away from this event with concrete ways to connect their kids to nature, set healthy boundaries for screen time, and how to create a culture of the outdoors for their families,” said Crawford.

No App for That” is being presented by Florida Hospital for Children and is being held at Northland Church, 530 Dog Track Road Longwood, FL 32750. Seating is limited and tickets are $10 and available at www.noappforthat.com. Free childcare is being provided for infants through 5th grade.

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Christmas in Orlando

Wordless Wednesday – December 25, 2013

We want to wish everyone celebrating today a very Merry Christmas!

We hope that you all have a day full of family, fun, and love!

Merry Christmas from Orlando!!!

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Recreation Options at Westgate River Ranch

Last week I talked about the great accommodation options found at the recently reopened Westgate River Ranch. While we were there, my mom and I got to experience several of the fantastic recreation options available to guests and locals. I’d like to take this opportunity to review what we did, plus many of the other activities that we just didn’t have the time to fit in to our fun weekend at the Ranch.

When we first arrived a bit before check in time, our room was not yet ready, so we were encouraged to check out some of the recreation offerings the ranch has. Since we originally were not scheduled to arrive until that night after midnight, we really hadn’t looked too closely at what choices were even available for use as far as recreation for that Friday. Much to our surprise, the ranch was offering helicopter rides as a special activity just for the grand re-opening. I’ve always wanted to ride in a helicopter (I partially blame my love of Magnum P.I. as a child), and I thought this would be a great way to get an overview (literally) of the ranch. The helicopter ride was a great recreation treat, even at just about ten minutes. It was so cool to see the cows and other animals below as well as the layout of Westgate River Ranch.

Before our helicopter ride
Before our helicopter ride
Helicopter cockpit
Helicopter cockpit
Aerial view of shooting range
Aerial view of shooting range
Private airport runway at the ranch
Private airport runway at the ranch

After the helicopter ride, we settled into our rooms before we opted to explore a little on our own prior to dinner. The ranch has golf carts available for rent, but we found it easy enough to drive from place to place by car to get to our recreation activities. The ranch is 1700 acres plus, so walking in the 90+ degree heat was not on our to do list for the weekend. In cooler times of the year it would be a beautiful walk. We checked out the marina area where we would be catching the swamp buggy the next day. We could also see the airboat that was another option. I had taken an airboat ride a few months ago for a friend’s birthday, so we opted for the recreation activity neither my mom nor I had tried.

That night after dinner, we got to experience some of the great nightlife recreation at Westgate River Ranch. The brand new adventure park really comes to life at night, especially since it is directly adjacent to the saloon, bandstand and outdoor dance floor. There was so much fun stuff going on for guests of all ages. We watched others try their hand at the mechanical bull (I wasn’t dumb enough, nor had I imbibed enough alcohol to make that happen), then stumbled upon the miniature golf course. I love miniature golf, and we were still enjoying our beers, so one handed beer golf was born. For the record, I won by a stroke, even though mom did get a hole in one on the last hole. The band played a great mix of country songs, with some pop and classic rock mixed in. In between their sets, there was still music playing, I believe from a DJ. Kids seemed to love the bungee jump and rock climbing wall. The zipline was also one of the most popular recreation options by far. Adventure Park passes include unlimited access to the mechanical bull, miniature golf, bungee jump, rock climbing and two zipline rides per day. One day passes for adults are $39.00 and $29.00 for children, two day passes are $59.00 and $49.00.

Mechanical Bull
Mechanical Bull
Rock Wall
Rock Wall
Kids bungee jumping
Kids bungee jumping
Miniature golf with zipline in background
Miniature golf with zipline in background
Mom shooting skeet
Mom shooting skeet
Me shooting
Me shooting

The next day after breakfast, we headed off to our first scheduled recreation activity, which was the one we were both most excited about when we saw the list of choices: skeet shooting. Neither my mom nor I had ever fired a gun prior to this, unless you count BB guns at fair games. Skeet and Trap Shooting costs $30.00 per session. There was a couple in group who were experienced shooters and had also shot the day before. We were firing a 20 gauge shotgun at moving targets. The orange discs came flying out of a window behind us, and then we had to try to hit the moving targets as they sailed up into the sky at about a 45 degree angle. The man from the couple went first and hit four of his five shots, then his wife hit two of hers. Mom went next and didn’t hit any, but she didn’t expect to not having shot a gun previously. I was up last and hit my first target, missed the next four, but I hit the first one and I had witnesses! It was awesome! I guess all those years of playing Duck Hunt and Goldeneye really paid off. 😉

We had the Swamp Buggy as our afternoon recreation activity, and it was a large open air truck that seats about 12, up about 10 feet in the air. The Swamp Buggy ride is $25.00 for adults and $15.00 for children. Being the last ones on, we were all the way in the back where the seats sit sideways and it is very hard to hear the driver. If you choose this option as one of your recreation activities while at the ranch, make sure you get on first so you can sit up front facing forward. We rode for about 45 minutes through swamp lands across the ranch property and saw some gorgeous scenery and even a couple of baby gators.

Swamp Buggy
Swamp Buggy
Ankole cattle as seen from swamp buggy
Ankole cattle as seen from swamp buggy
Baby gator in the swamp
Baby gator in the swamp
Beautfiul scenery from swamp buggy ride
Beautfiul scenery from swamp buggy ride

That Saturday night was the Rodeo, which is the longest running in the state of Florida. Admission is $15.50 for adults and $8.00 for children. There were amazing trick riders, bull riders, barrel racers, and even great fun for the kids under 12 where they could chase a calf with a ribbon tied to its tail to win a prize if they were able to pull off the ribbon. I had never been to a rodeo before and was pleasantly surprised by how exciting it was and how much fun I had getting in to cheering for the contestants. After the rodeo was over, there was a fantastic fireworks show to celebrate the grand re-opening. Once the rodeo was over, mom decided she was going to tackle the zipline. I had done ropes courses and ziplines before, so I passed this time so I could take pictures and video. She had a great time! In addition to the one and two day adventure park passes, you can pay for the individual recreation activities a la carte.

Rodeo host
Rodeo host
Trick riders before the show
Trick riders before the show
Bull rider
Bull rider
Bucking bronco
Bucking bronco
Kids chasing calf
Kids chasing calf
Trick rider with the flag
Trick rider with the flag
Barrel racing
Barrel racing
Rodeo recreation
Rodeo
Mom getting ready to ride zipline
Mom getting ready to ride zipline

Overall, we got to experience many of the recreation choices at Westgate River Ranch. We visited the petting farm to see all the animals there. Also, we checked out the ropes course, which would be fantastic for a corporate retreat or family reunion for bonding exercises. We passed on horseback riding and golf since these are activities we’ve experienced before, but the facilities looked great. I would definitely like to check out the airboat ride next time and revisit skeet or maybe try trap shooting. The helicopter ride was definitely a bonus treat, but it is great to know there is an airport there for private planes and helicopters if I ever marry a millionaire and want to arrive in style. The adventure park and saloon area were also favorites of mine, especially at night. There was such a fun atmosphere of electricity with families and adult couples enjoying different aspects of the nightlife. Prices for all activities are subject to change. Please contact the ranch directly for the most up to date pricing.

Baby calf
Baby calf
Buffalo at the petting farm
Buffalo at the petting farm
Goats
Goats
Rogue turkey
Rogue turkey

If you get an opportunity, I highly recommend visiting Westgate River Ranch to check out their amazing recreation facilities as well as accommodations. In case you missed it, you can check out my post from last week here describing the different types of rooms the ranch has.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary recreation activities in exchange for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Westgate River Ranch Grand Re-Opening

Westgate River Ranch
Westgate River Ranch

Last weekend we were invited to take part in the Grand Re-Opening of Westgate River Ranch in River Ranch, FL. The ranch is the largest Dude Ranch East of the Mississippi and sits on 1,700 acres  in the Kissimmee River area. This resort features options that will suit everyone from those who like to rough it to those who are used to more upscale accommodations. There is tent camping, RV hookups, Glamping sites, traditional resort rooms, as well as cabins with studios, one and two bedroom units that can sleep up to ten guests.

At Westgate River Ranch you are able to experience as much or as little as you would like to with a la carte activity options. I will get more in depth with the numerous adventures available to guests in my next post as well as go in to more detail about what we experienced ourselves. To give you a quick taste of what is offered though, you can golf, fish, go on an airboat ride, swamp buggy, skeet and trap shooting, there is a ropes course, petting zoo, brand new adventure park including miniature golf, mechanical bull riding, zip line, rock climbing wall, bungee jumping for kids, horseback riding, golf, horseshoes and archery. Next month the ranch will play host to the Tough Mudder competition on November 2nd and 3rd.

Smokehouse Restaurant
Smokehouse Restaurant
General Store
General Store

Restaurants at the resort include the Smokehouse, which features a la carte menu for lunch and dinner and also offers a breakfast buffet with a great view of the water. We didn’t get an opportunity to eat here since our meals were catered for the weekend, but the menu looked great and I look forward to returning to try it next time. The General Store at Westgate River Ranch has options for doing your own grocery shopping if you’d like to cook your own meals if you are camping or in a cabin. You also can order pizza, sandwiches, salads, etc. from the General Store if you are staying in the Inn rooms and don’t have cooking facilities available to you or just choose to get take out. Snacks are also available for sale in the evening around the adventure park area and Saturday nights at the rodeo.

While at the resort we were able to tour the different types of rooms and campsites available to rent. Westgate River Ranch has campsites available to those who like to do traditional tent camping.  Bathrooms are available nearby for campers to use by the Trap and Skeet Range. For those who have pop up campers, motor homes or travel trailers, there are options for you too. RV hookups with water and electric are available with a dump station adjacent to the campsites for sewer. Glamping is the bridge type of accommodation for people who like to camp, but don’t want to give up creature comforts like electricity and air conditioning. These Glamping sites are awesome with either one or two beds, a ceiling fan, your own private bathroom with a key in a building close by, mini fridge, microwave, sitting area, board games included, as well as a grill for each site and a larger community campfire area.

Tent camping area
Tent camping area
RV site
RV site
RV hookup
RV hookup
RV setup
RV setup
Glamping area
Glamping area
Glamping grill
Glamping grill
Glamping tent
Glamping tent
Glamping tent ceiling fan
Glamping tent ceiling fan
Glamping tent mini fridge and microwave
Glamping tent mini fridge and microwave
Glamping tent portable a/c
Glamping tent portable a/c
Games in Glamping tent
Games in Glamping tent

If you are like me and are more inclined to stay in something with four walls and central a/c, then you’ve got plenty of choices at Westgate River Ranch, too. We stayed in a beautiful Inn room in the Lodge section of the resort that had been recently renovated. The room had a brand new 51″ tv (not that you’ll want to spend much time in your room with all the great activities, but it is still nice to have at night), new linens, floors, countertops, the works. If you are looking for something for a larger group, the Westgate River Ranch offers cabins that have studios, one or two bedrooms. The two bedrooms are considered lockoffs that consist of a one bedroom and a studio combined. The studios have a kitchenette and the one bedroom has a full kitchen so it is great to have that extra fridge space for snacks and drinks. The two bedroom has three full bathrooms and can sleep up to ten guests. The cabin we toured had a gorgeous wraparound porch with rocking chairs and a fantastic view of the buffalo at the ranch.

New Renovated Inn Room image courtesy Westgate River Ranch
New Renovated Inn Room image courtesy Westgate River Ranch
Single cabin
Single cabin
Cabin exterior
Cabin exterior
Cabin wraparound porch
Cabin wraparound porch
Buffalo outside the cabins
Buffalo outside the cabins
Cabin 1 bedroom 1st bath
Cabin 1 bedroom 1st bath
Cabin 1 bedroom 2nd bath
Cabin 1 bedroom 2nd bath
Cabin 1 bedroom 2nd bath jetted tub
Cabin 1 bedroom 2nd bath jetted tub
Cabin 1 bedroom 2nd shower
Cabin 1 bedroom 2nd shower
Cabin 1 bedroom desk area
Cabin 1 bedroom desk area
Cabin 1 bedroom king bed
Cabin 1 bedroom king bed
Cabin 1 bedroom kitchen
Cabin 1 bedroom kitchen
Cabin 1 bedroom laundry
Cabin 1 bedroom laundry
Cabin 1 bedroom living and dining area
Cabin 1 bedroom living and dining area
Cabin studio
Cabin studio
Cabin studio bathroom
Cabin studio bathroom
Cabin studio kitchenette
Cabin studio kitchenette
Cabin studio view from bathroom
Cabin studio view from bathroom

I cannot wait to go back to Westgate River Ranch for a girls getaway weekend or even a family reunion. There are great meeting spaces, so it is also perfect for a corporate retreat or even wedding. The choices of activities and types of lodging offered at Westgate River Ranch are diverse so there is sure to be something for the cowboy or cowgirl in all of us. I hope you take an opportunity to check out the resort for a stay soon or even just to experience the awesome recreation options they have or to see the rodeo and come out dancing some Saturday night. Please go check out Westgate River Ranch and let me know what you think!

Entrance
Entrance
East Corral
East Corral
Mom and me with John Wayne
Mom and me with John Wayne
John Wayne
John Wayne
Western and General Stores
Western and General Stores
Western Store
Western Store
Post Office
Post Office
Map of the Ranch
Map of the Ranch

Have you been to Westgate River Ranch before? Are you looking for a new adventure? This is the place for you just about an hour and a half from the Orlando area and about an hour from Tampa.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary lodging and meals in exchange for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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A Trip to Wild Things Zoo!

We recently heard about a local ecotourism zoo in Dade City called Wild Things, where you can get up close and personal with animals normally only admired from afar! The zoo (in conjunction with Stearns Zoological Rescue & Rehab Center, Inc) is located on 22 acres of land in the heart of Paso County and prides itself on rescuing animals and providing a natural botanical landscape.

When you visit the Wild Things Zoo, you can choose to either go on a tram ride of the grounds or a walking tour where you can see up to 200 animals!
If you want to get more of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you can even chose to do some personal animal encounters where, accompanied by a trainer, you can sit with some of the animals and hold or touch them. You could pick from a bunch of different experiences to do after the tour, so we took full advantage of our day, and chose to do 3 encounters!

The main reason we decided to go to the Wild Things Zoo, was to do the baby white tiger cub encounter as neither of us had ever got that close to a tiger cub before. Also, once the cubs reach 40 lbs, they don’t allow encounters anymore. The cub was already at 25 lbs at 2 months old, so it wont be long until he is too big. We also chose a coyote experience as neither of us had even seen one in the wild yet, and then we chose to feed black bears, as we thought interacting with them would be really unique.

There are another number of encounters you can chose throughout the year, including swimming with the tiger!

We were told from the beginning that photos are not permitted at any time, but that they do offer a fair priced photo package where a professional photographer takes photos of the encounters that were available to download later.

Our visit started with the tram tour we chose, our driver was so friendly and knowledgeable it made for a fun tour! I really wish they let you take photos on this tour, as I have never seen some of these animals so close before!

Wild Things Trolley Wild Things Zoo
Wild Things Trolley

They had quite a few species of monkeys, including Cornelius, a rhesus macaques who was captured in St. Petersburg, putting an end to a four-year search where he avoided capture as he made his way around Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

The monkey’s origins are unknown, but speculation has been that he traveled from the Silver Springs area near Ocala, where a group of rhesus macaques had made its home for decades.

We were able to get as close as 3 feet away from the tiger and lion enclosures! We witnessed our tour guide interact with them through the fence while giving us their backgrounds. The tigers even rubbed up against the fence purring at us!

We were able to get off the tram to feed the buffalo they had on the tour! I got to feed the mother Jessica carrots, and I can say its something we didn’t expect but it was such a cute experience!

Feeding Jessica Wild Things Zoo
Feeding Jessica

We also saw kangaroos, parrots, miniature ponies, foxes, raccoon, lemurs, panthers, ferrets, zebras, emus, and so many more!

Then it was time to have our baby tiger encounter! We were able to pose for a photo with him first (his name was Remington) we were given our instructions then sat down to interact.

posing with Remington Wild Things Zoo
posing with Remington

 

Remington the white tiger cub Wild Things Zoo
Remington the white tiger cub

The trainer entertained him with toys and milk while we were able to pet him from the neck down only, for safety reasons. He was so soft and fluffy with such bright blue eyes!

Remington Playing Wild Things Zoo
Remington Playing

She gave us a little bit of history about him, and even showed us how his paws are webbed to enable him to swim efficiently, a little fact I had never heard of.

Petting Remington Wild Things Zoo
Petting Remington

I have to say it was such a wonderful experience that I, for one, will never forget!

playing Wild Things Zoo
playing

Next up was our coyote interaction!

Posing Wild Things Zoo
Posing

Growing up in England we didn’t have coyotes, the closest we had to them would probably be wild foxes. So I found this experience fun! He really did look like a dog but with a much longer nose and coarser hair.

nom nom laces Wild Things Zoo
nom nom laces

He seemed to really love Simon’s laces on his sneakers, and even when the trainer would try deter him he would lean toward them pretending not to care and then at the last minute start nibbling at them again, so cute!

Our last encounter was with the black bears, these you cannot go in to the enclosure, its illegal unless you’re trained. I’m assuming this may have something to do with the fact they are in the wild so close to our homes, that it may desensitize people to them, and the threat they can pose in the wild.

feeding time Wild Things Zoo
feeding time

We were able to feed them marshmallows on sticks through the fence, which they loved! The male would stand tall, and the female would remain seated but was far more vocal in expressing her love for marshmallows!

After our experiences we were given the link to the site to download our pictures from home. I am not really a fan of zoos personally but I loved this place as there was such a sense of family here, and all the animals are either rescued or born there. I was concerned what the animals might be treated like but they looked so healthy and happy, and sometimes you felt like you were watching them in the wild!

I would definitely recommend the photo package as it’s such a wonderful experience you don’t want to forget! They are also getting bigger all the time and even plan to build an aerial ride going across the tiger enclosure! Hmmm I MAY just give that part a miss!

Next time you are wanting to plan a local day out, with an experience to remember I suggest you book a day at Wild Things, I hope to go back myself soon!

 

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NASA Time Capsule at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

NASA Time Capsule Ceremony in Space Shuttle Atlantis at

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

We were extremely luck to attend a ceremony marking the placement of a NASA time capsule inside a wall of Space Shuttle Atlantis will be held at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The capsule, which is filled with a huge assortment of items related to the 30-year Space Shuttle Program, is scheduled to be opened by space enthusiasts in the year 2061.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

At the ceremony we got to hear from the Kennedy Space Center Director of the Education and External Relations Directorate Cheryl Hurst and Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana about their person experiences and hopes for the future of exploration.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana

And Space Exploration Ambassador Patrick Sullivan was inspiring! I wish that I could have been such an great speaker at his age!

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Patrick and Steven Sullivan

The Space Shuttle Program Time Capsule was created to help explain to people in 2061 the significance of the shuttle program by including items that tell the compelling story of what it meant to work at Kennedy Space Center during that 30-year period. All of the time capsule items were showcased at a “We Made History” event in August 2011 and include:

 Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

  • A “Mission Accomplished” bear from the final shuttle mission, STS-135 (Atlantis). A bear was created for each shuttle mission.
  • A mission patch for every shuttle mission.
  • A Kennedy Space Center director’s coin. A coin is created for each center director that highlights personal career achievements.

At the “We Made History” event, attendees also nominated individuals to become ambassadors for the time capsule. Those Space Exploration Ambassadors number 426 and are to be present when the time capsule is opened in 2061. One of the ambassadors, Patrick Sullivan, will speak at the time capsule ceremony about both the shuttle program and the future of space exploration.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

After the ceremony we took the opportunity to look around the breathtaking Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, which was full of interesting facts and exhibits!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImSg-zwVhIA&feature=share&list=UUxhza5Nkv4ukqKmIFLE9dgA

 

We’ll be sharing more of our pictures from our visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on our Facebook Page!

  Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering a full day or more of fun and educational activities, including the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the new Angry Birds Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and many other interactive exhibits. The new $100 million home for Space Shuttle AtlantisSM opened June 29, 2013. Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world’s largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, which opens daily at noon and closing times vary by season. Only 45 minutes from Orlando, Fla., Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season.  Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Commander’s Club Annual Pass is $63 + tax for adults and $53 + tax for children ages 3-11.  For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

 

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