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5 Fun Things To Do This Valentines Day in Orlando

5 Fun Things To Do This Valentines Day in Orlando

If you are going to be in Orlando this Valentines Day then here are 5 quick ideas for things to do:

  1. Go to a Theme Park

There are tons of fun and romantic things to do at the theme parks on Valentines Day like Disney, Universal or SeaWorld, make a day of it!

2. Hang out in Winter Park

You can watch chocolate being made on site at Peterbrooke Chocolatier along with shopping and a bevy of restaurants to choose from.

3. Visit I-Drive 360

Experience the Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds wax museum or Sea Life Aquarium.

4. Go to Disney Springs

Enjoy all the specialty shops, restaurants and activities at Disney Springs.

5. Dine on Restaurant Row - Sand Lake Road in Dr. Phillips Area

There are plenty of great dining choices on restaurant row, get ready to eat well!

Those are just a few ideas that can help you to enjoy your Valentines Day in Orlando! Enjoy!

SeaWorld Wild Days

SeaWorld Wild Days

SeaWorld will be hosting "Wild Days" from January 16-31. During this time each weekend will have special guests like Jack Hanna, World Renown animal expert (January 16-17), Julie Scardina SeaWorld's Animal Ambassador (January 23-24) and meet SeaWorld Rescue Team members and partners (30-31).

During wild days there will be special opportunities to get up close with the animals and experts. January 16-17 you can sign up for either breakfast or dinner with Jack Hanna. The next weekend you can meet a penguin up close with Julie Scardina at the Glacial Collections area. You can meet Rescue Team members and partners and get their stories and information from actual rescues on January 30-31.

Of course you can also enjoy all the other attractions including the roller coasters like the "Manta".

If you are looking for a great experience with animals and experts then you should definitely pay a visit to SeaWorld's "Wild Days". For more info check out SeaWorld Orlando's website.

Crayola Experience

Crayola Experience

The crayola experience is a fun family visit with plenty of activities to keep everyone involved.

The Crayola Experience is a great place to spend an afternoon with your young kids. If you ever enjoyed coloring then Crayola Experience will be a fun and education visit. It offers hands on opportunities for kids to learn how crayons are made and use them to create fun and artsy things if they want. If you have younger children this is an easy place to educate and entertain. If you are visiting the Orlando area this is a great rainy day alternative to the parks since it is fully enclosed and has many different activities for kids. You can easily pass a rainy Orlando afternoon here. It is also an easy place to entertain adults and children alike because it is located in the Florida Mall one of the top shopping destinations in the area.

Crayola Experience is a bright colorful place that has all types of activities for kids.

 Kids play area

Kids play area

 Color work area

Color work area

Crayola Experience is a great place to have fun and interactive time with your kids. It is worth planning a trip!

Crayola Experience

8001 Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809

(407) 757-1700

Hours

Daily 10:00 am to 8:00 pm

Gatorland: True Family Fun!

Gatorland: True Family Fun!

Earlier this week I visited Gatorland and had a truly wonderful and educational time. If you are looking for an affordable and enjoyable outing while in Orlando then Gatorland should be on your list.

After arriving on the campus you can quickly get a sense of the friendly nature of the park by the giant teeth at the entrance. It is a great place to take photos to remember your visit.

Gatorland was founded in 1949 by Owen Godwin and is the oldest amusement park in Central Florida. Over the years it has grown from 16 acres and expanded into a large complex of 110 acres with a plethora of experiences with gators and other wildlife. The park is unique in the way that the staff interact with guests, they are truly friendly and approachable. They are extremely welcoming and go out of their way to make you feel at home.

When you go to Gatorland you should look at the website to find out the show times in advance. There are several shows that offer interesting experiences such as the "Upclose Encounters", the "Gator Jumparoo" and "Gator Wrestlin" shows.  Each one offers an opportunity to see gators and other animals in action.

The property has a number of enclosures and pens where you can see different types of gators.

The photo above was taken in the pen with the gator, his name is "Chester". I had the privilege of entering the pen with the "Dean of Wrestling" Tim Williams. That is the only way I would feel comfortable taking a photo this close. This is a large gator, he is close to 1,200 pounds and he looks menacing! But, with Tim, I felt totally safe.

The gator pictured above is a leucistic alligator commonly mistaken for albino. The difference is the leucistic gators have blue eyes while albino gators have pink eyes. Once again I was inside the pen when I took this photo. He is really cool looking but, he can create 1,200 pounds of bite force and kill you! So I was very careful while in his presence!

I think the most beautiful and and interesting part of my visit was the breeding marsh. It is a large marsh and river area with a really nice boardwalk that allows you an up-close view of the gators in their natural environment.

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IMG_6480

Along with the marsh area there is a amazing natural area to walk that is completely open, if you see a gator over there he is in the wild!

There are also several zip line towers that you can enjoy. They even have a zip line harness for handicapped and wheelchair users.

When you visit Orlando Gatorland is a must! If you enjoy nature and are interested in seeing the American Alligator, crocodiles and other exotic animals then this is the place to go. There was so much to do that I have to cover the rest in a future post! Gatorland is great for a family visit and is reasonably priced with a bounty of things to do, see and experience.

 

Gatorland

Hours

10:00 am - 5:00 pm Daily

Admission

Adults 13 and up $26.99

Children 3-12 $18.99

Children under 3 free

 

1-800-393-5297

 

 http://www.gatorland.com/public/the-park/hours-prices/index.cfm

 

Park Avenue Walking Food Tour

Park Avenue Walking Food Tour

Coming this weekend is the Park Avenue Walking Food Tour on June 6th and 7th. The event will highlight food from various Winter Park restaurants with a wide variety of cuisines. The cost is $47 per person. For more information visit their website at www.orlandofoodtours.com. The event will be held in downtown Winter Park on Park Avenue. Exact meeting location will be giving out after ticket purchase.  

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Now through May 17th you can experience the beauty and great food specials of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. The festival has some beautiful exhibits that cover various types of plants and topiaries. The various exhibits cover everything from dry succulents to everyday garden plants from your backyard. Come out and experience the beauty in the park. Each of the exhibits is meticulously maintained and all the topiaries are living plants.

While your out at the festival you can also try the various foods stations that have been set up. The photo below is of a Teriyaki curry bun – Steamed bun filled with chicken, vegetables, curry and sweet sauce and a dessert Frushi – Fresh pineapple, strawberry and melon—rolled with raspberry coconut rice, sprinkled with toasted coconut and served with whipped cream on the side available in Japan at the World Showcase.

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IMG_4007

If you have the opportunity head out to Epcot and check out the Flower and Garden Festival, it is truly worth seeing.

Coming Soon: The Orlando Eye

Coming Soon: The Orlando Eye

Soon you will be able to see the skyline of Orlando from the newly built Orlando Eye. The Orlando Eye recently completed construction and will be opening later this spring. The outer structure of the wheel is completed and now the 30 capsules that will carry riders are being installed. The Orlando Eye will offer riders a 360 degree view of Orlando from as high as 400 feet. Riders will enjoy a 30 minute ride in air conditioned capsules with audio and lighting effects.

There are different types of tickets available for riders single or combination tickets ranging from $25 to $32. For more information go to their site:

 https://www.officialorlandoeye.com/

Keys to Stress Free Travel

 family-biking

family-biking

Some dread travel.  Traveling to new places can be stressful and frightening. We want to take the fear and dread out of your travel.  Especially when you come to Orlando!  Here are five ways to have stress free travel:

1.  Give yourself time.  I always say that I would rather, "arrive early and wait, than run and be late."  Getting to the airport or train station with ample time will cause you to be at ease.  Giving yourself more time will help in the event of travel delays.

2.  Meditate.  Before you go on your vacation, spend time visualizing it.  Think about where you will go.  The places you will dine, the things you will see.  Visualize your days.  Meditating on your vacation will build your excitement for your vacation and give you ideas on what other things you can do with your time.

3.  Be organized.  Make sure you know where all your travel documents are located and you keep up with your essential items when traveling.  When you wake up on the day of travel, make sure you pack up all your essential items.  One one trip, Bill left his wallet at my parent's home.  We did not have enough time to go back home (I should have followed point #1).

4.  Don't over pack.  Over packing will weigh you down.  When you have too much stuff it leads to clutter and clutter causes confusion.  Look at your suitcase (Ladies, your purse) and see what you can eliminate.  You can wear clothes a few times during your vacation.

5. Have a game plan for your trip.  The more planned your trip is the more your will enjoy it.  You don't have to stick to your plan, but at least you know what you can do.  One way to make travel easier is to consult with the locals.  That's why we started trip consultation services for those traveling to the Central Florida area.   We can help you plan your ultimate vacation.  Over the years, we've helped dozens of friends and family members plan their Orlando vacations.  If you are coming to the Orlando area and want to take advantage of our trip consultation services.

Book your appointment today!

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Italio-Great Casual Dining

Italio-Great Casual Dining

If you are in the greater Orlando area then stop by Italio in Winter Park. It is a great stop for casual italian dining, Think Chipotle but italian. They offer three main options salad, pasta and wrap. The have a plethora of options for each and it can be individualized to fit any taste. Italio also offers several appetizers such as Rissoto balls, Calimari, and Italio Sticks. They even offer Cannoli Chips, a tasty dessert treat. If you are looking for something new to try stop by Italio and bring your appetite!

Italio

http://italiokitchen.com/

276 S. Orlando Ave.

Winter Park, FL 32789

Open

Monday - Sunday

10:45 am - 10:00 pm

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

Mardi Gras at Universal Orlando

 Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras

Annually, Universal Orlando brings the fun and festivities of New Orleans Mardi Gras to Central Florida.  Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras.  During weekends in February, March and April, Universal Orlando will host 16 concerts with popular artist like Kelly Clarkson and Trey Songz.  During the Mardi Gras Parades Universal Orlando will distribute over 1.8 million beads.

Access to Mardi Gras is granted with Universal Studios Admission or Annual Passes.

Mardi Gras 2015 Concerts

Saturday, February 7 - Olivia Newton-John

Saturday, February 14 - Jessie J

Sunday, February 15 - Barenaked Ladies

Saturday, February 21 - Kelly Clarkson

Saturday, February 28 - Heart

Saturday, March 7 - Trace Adkins

Friday, March 13 - TBD

Saturday, March 14 - STYX

Sunday, March 15 - American Authors

Friday, March 20 - Becky G

Saturday, March 21 - Yandel

Sunday, March 22 - The B-52s

Saturday, March 28 - TBD

Saturday, April 4 - The All-American Rejects

Saturday, April 11 - The Band Perry

Saturday, April 18 - Trey Songz

Each event night features zydeco bands from Louisiana.

Check it out.

Best Places To Watch The Game

Best Places To Watch The Game

 

I happened to be traveling during the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament and the World Cup.  I know what it feels like to be in a foreign city and want to watch a big game.  If you find yourself in Orlando during a big game, here are some options for you to consider:

1.  The Hotel Restaurant - Most hotels will have a bar/restaurant where they will show the game.  It is the best option if you don't want to walk or take a taxi to and from a restaurant.

2.  The Brick House - The Brick House has good chicken and waffles, Kobe beef burgers.

http://brickhousetavernandtap.com/

3.  The Yard House- Great selection of sandwiches, burgers and Mac+Cheese.

http://www.yardhouse.com/FL/orlando-restaurant/

4.  The Ale House-Try their world famous Zingers (Hand breaded boneless chicken tenders dipped in your favorite sauce).

http://www.millersalehouse.com/index

5.  Bloodhound Brew -sometimes for big games they will have a giant outdoor screen. Try their award winning Shrimp and Grits.

http://bloodhoundbrew.com/

6. Kings Bowling Alley-Lots of screens and affordable but, good eating choices.

http://kingsbowlamerica.com/

 

These are just a few options but, there are a number of sports bars here in Greater Orlando area. So when your visiting Orlando you don't have to miss the big game!

It's A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

It's A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

If you love Harry Potter, come out to Universal Orlando January 30-February 1, 2015 for A Celebration of Harry Potter.  There is be interviews from celebrities from the Harry Potter movies, special presentations and even a Harry Potter expo! To download the complete Celebration of Harry Potter  schedule Click here.

Arrive early, because there are usually crowds for this event.

New Years Eve in Orlando

New Years Eve in Orlando

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We are only a few hours away from 2015.  If you don't have plans, it's not too late to make some.  Orlando is a great city with a lot to do. First and foremost, it is important to be safe.  If you are going out, make sure you go out with family or friends and use taxi service like Uber or Metro Cars if needed.  AAA also offers a service called Tow To Go that offers a free and confidential local ride for AAA members and non members until 6:00 AM January 1st.  free and confidential.

Here are four things you can do to bring in the new year.

1.  Check out hotel celebrations.  Every major hotel will have a New Years Eve Party.  Here are a few links

a. The Four Seasons Orlando.  See our blog post about this new hotel.

b.  The Hyatt Regency Orlando on International Drive.  See our blog post about this hotel.

c.  The Rosen Centre.

d. The Waldorf Astoria Orlando 

 2.  Go to church.  Churches around town will have a mass service or a New Year's Eve celebration.  It's a great way to get a positive message before the new year.  Our church, Dream Life Center, has a New Year's Celebration.  Here is the invitation.

 Dream Life Center

Dream Life Center

3.  Go downtown Orlando

There is the Aloft hotel, which always has activities.  A ton of restaurants and clubs.  Also this year Billy Joel will be performing at the Amway Center tonight at 9:30 PM.  Get tickets through Ticketmaster.

 4.  Go to Universal Orlando

Islands of Adventure closes at 11:00pm on New Years Eve.  Universal Orlando closes at 12:30am.  There is a laser show and fireworks at Universal.  You can even enjoy Universal CityWalk.  There is a big countdown and fun.

CityWalk offers a number of nightclubs and bars.  Most have a cover charge.

4.  Hang out at Disney

The Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios are all open until or past midnight.  There will be family friendly parties, fireworks and festivities to help you bring in the new year magically.

You can also go to Downtown Disney.  There are restaurants and night clubs there as well.

Whatever you do be safe and have fun.

Circus Xtreme is Coming to Town!

Circus Xtreme is Coming to Town!

If your going to be in the Orlando area between January 8-11, 2015 then you may want to check out the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey presents "Circus Xtreme" at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. We also want you to know that they are offering a discount of 40% on tickets if you order online with promo code:PRESENT. Act fast because this offer is only valid until December 24th! We have been given courtesy tickets to attend the show and simply cannot wait to see it! Here are a few photos so you know what to expect.

Here's the link to purchase tickets for the show: http://www.amwaycenter.com/events/detail/ringling-bros-and-barnum-bailey-presents-circus-extreme

See you there!

We're Grateful For Orlando

We're Grateful For Orlando

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We just finished the Thanksgiving Holiday.  During that time, Bill and I always take time to reflect and be grateful for the people that have poured into our lives with wisdom and ideas and the experiences in which we were exposed.  I thought it would be a great idea for us to share our gratitude list for Orlando.  I am truly grateful to live in such a great place.  The people are friendly, there is so much to do and see.  Review our list below.  We hope it causes you to be grateful for this fantastic city. Five Reasons We are Grateful for Orlando

1.  The Theme Parks.  I love the large parks Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld.  They are always coming up with something new.  I also love parks like The Holy Land ExperienceFun Spot, Gatorland, WonderWorks and Ripley's Believe It or Not!  They all can add to a family's amusement.

 WonderWorks

WonderWorks

2.  The accessibility to the Beaches.  The great thing about Orlando is that you can be consumed with the Theme Parks, but you can also take a short drive to the beaches.  There are great beaches to the east (including Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna, Melbourne or Daytona).  To the west you have the beautiful beaches of Clearwater, Siesta KeyCaladesi Island State Park just to name a few.  With beautiful sand and breathtaking views, what's not to love?

 Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach

3.  The Shopping.  Let me just say that people come from all over the world to shop in Orlando.  The shopping is not just good, it is great!  I love the malls (The Florida Mall and Mall at Millenia).  I also love the outlet malls (Premium outlet mall on International Drive and Apopka Vineland are great).  There are so many other shopping areas, you just need to get our guide.

4.  The Food.  I love the local restaurants you can find in communities like Mills 50 (Downtown Orlando) and Winter Park.  You can also dine lavishly on Restaurant Row (Sand Lake Road), where you can find most cuisines.  Let me also mention the food at the theme parks are amazing.  Finally, check out the food tracks throughout the city.  My friend, Jackie Wilson,  just opened her first food truck, Eat My Treat.  Visit her website and find out where she will be next.  You must try her desserts.  They are amazing.

 Eat My Treat Food Truck

Eat My Treat Food Truck

5.  The people.  Disney is known for its outstanding service, but there is something energizing about the people from Orlando.  Every where I go I am shocked by the hospitality, sevice and friendliness.

I hope these five things made you apprciate Orlando as much as we do.

==

Hero World Challenge

Hero World Challenge

If your are visiting the Orlando area in the next two weeks and enjoy golf then you should check out the Hero World Challenge. The event features Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker. The tournament is held at the Isleworth Gold and Country Club December 3-7th. The event is sponsored by the Tiger Woods Foundation and Tavistock Group. Ticket prices range from $39 (For a one day grounds ticket) to $250 (For a weeks book of tickets). If you are a golf fan this event should make you pretty happy.

Coming Soon: Marvel Universe Live

Coming Soon: Marvel Universe Live

Coming soon to Orlando is the Marvel Universe Live show at the Amway Center December 5-7th. The show is an interactive experience with all your favorite Marvel heroes in an original story battling the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. The event has great live action and story line to keep you enthralled for the entire time.  

 

Readers of The Orlando Travel Guide can receive 25% off any ticket to Marvel Universe Live in Orlando by using the discount code SAVE25.  To purchase tickets visit: http://www.marveluniverselive.com/

Stay tuned for future posts about the show.

 

 

Please Note:  The Orlando Travel Guide received complimentary passes for this event.

Jazz On A Green at Lake Nona

Jazz On A Green at Lake Nona

Saturday night the CFE Credit Union hosted Jazz On a Green in Lake Nona at the UCF College of Medicine from 5 pm to 9:00 pm. The event proceeds went to help the Lake Nona YMCA and University of Central Florida Scholarship programs. The evening started with the UCF Flying Horse Big Band and was headlined by "The Voice" Finalist Sisaundra Lewis. The Flying Horse Big Band entertained the crowd with several jazz standards and showed exceptional ability for a student band. Although the evening was a little cool it only took Sisaundra Lewis hitting the stage to heat things up! She wowed the crowed with exciting renditions of Luther Vandross (Which got members of the crowd up and dancing) and exceptional vocal performances of Chaka Khan and Whitney Huston songs. Sisaundra showed why she was a singer that captured America's attention on "The Voice" she has the ability to draw in her audience and make the performance memorable. Over a thousand folks were in attendance to enjoy a exciting night of jazz and great vocal performance by a native Central Floridian with a stellar voice!

 

Please Note:  The Orlando Travel Guide received complimentary passes for this event.

Starwood Shows us "The Future of Hotel Rooms"

Starwood Shows us "The Future of Hotel Rooms"

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If you are a frequent hotel guest then last week's announcement from Starwood hotels should make you pretty happy. Starwood hotels announced that at 10 of their hotels Starwood Preferred Guests would be able to enter their hotel rooms without a room key. The new system SPG Wireless, works thru a smart phone app that will also allow you to skip the entire check in process at the front desk and complete everything with your phone. The system is now available at Aloft, Element and W hotels in 10 cities worldwide in markets like Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles and Doha and hopefully Orlando. Starwood has plans to expand the system to more of its hotel family in early 2015. Check out this video to see how it works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6yb2TprJkc

 

Five Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Five Tips for Black Friday Shopping

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 Bill Land Shopping

Bill Land Shopping

If you're like me you have already started thinking about the holidays.  I am looking forward to eating good food, spending time with my family and Christmas shopping (of course).  Part of the fun of the Holiday season is partaking in the Black Friday sales.  Orlando has amazing shopping. The Florida Mall and the Mall at Millenia continue to provide great retail shopping and designer stores from Gucci to Rolex.  Orlando is also home to over 200 outlet stores.  Almost every major designer has an outlet here.  A few of my favorites are BCBG, Thomas Pink, Ted Baker.

Because I want you to have an enjoyable Black Friday, here are five tips that will help you make the most of your holiday shopping experience.

1.  Shop before Black Friday.

Every Sunday I read the newspaper.  for the past two weeks I have found some amazing deals on TVs, furniture, holiday china, purses and more.  The prices I'm seeing are competitive with the deals offered on Black Friday, but without the drama.  If you see something you want and it goes on sale, get it early.  At some stores like Banana Republic, you can get a price adjustments if your item goes on sale within two weeks.  Simply bring your receipt to the register and they will give you the difference in price.  

2.  Map out your strategy.

This is a critical piece.  I have a great shopping spreadsheets, which lists the gift recipient, gift ideas, budget and past gifts.  Are their items on your list that will sell out? Plan to get that item first or order it online.

As a child I asked for an Omnibot 2000 because I needed it to clean my room (or so I thought that is what it could do).  My mother was notorious for beginning her shopping on Christmas Eve and it was sold out for years.  Save your children from disappointment, plan your strategy and get your gifts early.

Also, consider the stores that you want to go to.  It may be better plan a trip to the hardware store early to get some poinsettia's (they are usually $1 each).  Early the stand alone hone store was not crowded.  If I would have waited a few hours it would have been crowded.

3.  Get help and bring cash.

Take a shopping buddy.  They can stand in line why you shop.  Also, the easiest way to not overspend is to bring cash and leave the credit cards at home.  Black Friday will have some enticing sales including items that you did not plan to buy. The best way to stick to your budget is to use cash and to have an idea of what you are going to give. 4. Go early.

The malls are going to open on Thanksgiving now.  Once you have your strategy, determine your plan of attack.  Get to the mall early and plan to stay until the next morning. Most people will come to the mall after 8am on Friday.  If you get their early and shop all night you avoid the crowds

5. Valet park if possible.

Most of the malls have valet parking.  I strongly encourage you to get to the parking lot early and valet park (valet parking will sell too) .  At the outlet mall, there is a regular valet parking and VIP valet service where you do not have to wait in line upon your return.  Of course, the VIP valet is slightly more expensive, but well worth it if you want to maximize your Black Friday shopping time.

Happy Shopping!