Southern Hill Farms

A visit to Southern Hill Farms requires good tires as you have to drive several miles over a bumpy dirt road to get there. It seems like you’re driving in the boonies and heaven forbid you get a flat tire. But other cars are also rumbling along toward this popular location.

If it’s your first visit, you’ll be surprised by the crowd. There’s lots to do beside picking strawberries, blueberries or sunflowers. We saw these peach trees near the entrance.

But the fields of crops are only one of the attractions. You can see this big covered space where they hold farmer’s markets or other festivities on different occasions.

  

There’s a gift shop, food trucks, homemade strawberry donuts for sale, and a kids’ playground. A live band was playing while we were there.

If you’re in the area, watch their website for special events. I know next time I come, I want to try the peach cobbler.

A Trio of Florida Parks

Recently we visited a trio of parks all within walking distance of each other in Maitland, Florida. Our excursion began at Minnehaha Park. This seven and a half acre facility overlooks a lake with a scenic boardwalk through a wetland forest. A playground, exercise stations and picnic tables dot the open landscape. Restrooms are available.

 

A side path takes you to a tunnel that dives under the road and crosses to Covered Bridge Park. Here is the tunnel view from the Minnehaha side.

   

Here is the view from the Covered Bridge side looking back at the other park. This park doesn’t have much except a walking path in a viewable loop and the bridge. But if you cross this bridge, you come to the Jim Houser Azalea Garden.

This oasis offers bushes in full bloom during season, which unfortunately we’d just missed. Still, the winding path made from recycled tires was pleasantly relaxing.

We’d also visited Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs on another excursion. This offers a nature walk through forested land, also with picnic pavilions, a playground and restrooms.

Cranes Roost Park

Cranes Roost Park

This past weekend, we went for a stroll around the lake at Cranes Roost Park located in Altamonte Springs, FL. This one-mile paved walkway is shaded by large trees while the boardwalks are mostly in the sun. Numerous benches provide seating to people watch or gaze at the lake. This 45-acre park also has an amphitheater and a plaza with a water fountain.

Cranes Roost Park     

We spotted turtles, ducks and birds as we meandered along. The azaleas were in bloom, adding bright splashes of color against the green landscape.

   

At Café Murano, we picked up a fresh baked pizza to go for lunch. It had a thin crispy crust just as we like it with garlic and mushrooms for our custom toppings. Inside, a live band played for Sunday brunch. This restaurant is definitely worth a repeat visit.

        

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Did you miss my guest posts? If so, check these out:

“Writing about Real Places”
Guest Post on Cozy Florida

Author Interview with Nancy J. Cohen
Guest post at Eat my News 

“How to Make an Audiobook”
Guest post at Hallard Press Gazette 

“True Life Experiences in Fiction”
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Harry P. Leu Gardens Revisited

Harry P. Leu Gardens is one of my favorite spots for a nature walk in the Orlando area. Located at 1920 North Forest Avenue in Orlando, FL, this botanical oasis offers a delightful stroll through its fifty acres as well as a historical home. It’s the site for many weddings and was the model for Orchid Isle in my mystery novel, Shear Murder.

   

My favorite section is the Tropical Stream Garden with shady paths and tropical plants like in a rainforest. The sounds of a trickling brook follow you as you continue along toward Lake Rowena for scenic water views. Across the way in the photo below and on the left is the Orlando Science Center, a trip for another day.

     

As we continued along, we admired the flowering azaleas, camellias and other colorful blooms. The temperature was comfortable in the low seventies with sunny skies. We peered at the rose garden with a fountain at its center and bypassed the vegetable, herb and butterfly gardens that we’d seen on previous visits.

 

The Dinosaur Invasion exhibit was in force as were many children squealing with joy over the life-sized displays. The creatures are scattered around the park and look natural in their habitats.

The only thing missing from this park is a café. They have a gift shop with interesting garden-themed items but nowhere to buy a cool drink and a snack or to sit outside and view the gardens while eating lunch.

For more photos, visit my earlier post on Harry P. Leu Gardens.

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Oak Haven Farms

We took a break from isolation to visit Oak Haven Farms & Winery to pick our own strawberries and roast hot dogs over a fire. It was a fun excursion, about a forty-minute ride from our new house. We parked in the dirt field then poked our heads inside the gift shop, café and wine tasting room. A staff member told us to go out in the field and someone would give us a crate to fill with fresh picked berries.

Sorrento Florida    Oak Haven Farm

We stooped to pluck the strawberries off the stems. When tired of bending, we gave up and headed into the shop to have our bounty weighed so we could pay.

u-pick strawberries    Nancy in field    fresh-picked strawberries

Then we bought hot dogs that came with rolls and a forked tool. We wove the meats onto the tines and went outdoors to cook the hot dogs in an open fire. I loved the charred taste.

  roasting hot dogs    charred hot dog

Then we went back inside to order a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for dessert. It was a treat and enough for two to split.

We skipped the wine tasting that cost extra as we are not fond of fruit wines or the Florida grape varietal. But if you’re interested, you can indulge.

   

If you wish to visit, check online to see their schedule first. Strawberry season is limited.
Oak Haven Farms, 32430 Avington Rd, Sorrento, FL 32776 or http://www.berriesandwines.com/

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I’m looking forward to warmer weather so we can get out more and explore the many sights of Central Florida. Suggestions are welcome!

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Disney World: Epcot

We always enjoy Epcot’s annual Flower and Garden Festival. Colorful blossoms met our gazes everywhere with perfect landscaping as only Disney can do. Not a weed in site, even in their vegetable gardens.

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Our main purpose being to eat, we aimed for World Showcase and the international food booths.

Turning right, I passed on the hot dog with spicy pineapple chutney and the refreshing pineapple soft serve at the Pineapple Promenade to head for France. They always have the best food. Here I had the pulled duck confit with parsley potatoes, and it was as delicious as expected. My husband had the Parisian dumplings with mushrooms and vegetables.

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Further along, I sampled the sweet corn pancake from Venezuela at a booth labeled Botanas Botanico. It was tasty but filling.

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I topped these meals off with a lemon curd and blueberry tart from Florida Fresh. This dessert was lip-smacking good.

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As the sun blazed overhead, it neared eighty degrees but wasn’t nearly as bad as in the humid, warmer months. After ending up back where we started, we headed home for a much-needed nap. Since we have annual passes, it’s easy to show up for a long walk and lunch and then leave. One thing I will advise, and that’s to avoid Downtown Disney. The construction is a mess over there, and parking is difficult I’ll wait until things improve, and the new restaurants open at the renamed Disney Springs.

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Spring is the perfect time to visit Disney World, same as November, when temperatures can be milder. Meanwhile, if you’re stuck at home, look for the new Cinderella movie debuting on Friday. Hopefully, it’ll be a winner. How can it not be, when Lady Rose from Downton Abbey plays the title role?

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Disney World: Animal Kingdom

March weather in Central Florida can be variable, and the day we chose to go to Animal Kingdom was cool and overcast. But the clouds kept the sun at bay and the temperatures comfortable. We strolled through the winding paths amid tropical foliage with temps in the delightful low seventies. I noticed the location for the Lion King show had been moved to a new section in Africa, presumably because of Avatar land being constructed. The new theater has a cool design as an old fort. Everything in this park looks so authentic.

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While in Africa, we ate lunch at one of the take-out eateries. Our chicken curry came with rice and was a substantial meal.

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After dining, we hit the tiger trail, spotting a Komodo dragon and other creatures along the way. The tigers didn’t disappoint us, ranging their turf in full view. The path took us to an Indiana Jones-type realm with ancient ruins and crumbling temples.

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From Africa, we headed toward Asia with its thrill rides and passed through dinosaur territory with its circus arcades and kiddie play areas. Another live show about Nemo attracts visitors at this end. We didn’t go on any rides, having been on most of them before. The African safari remains my favorite. If you have time, take the train to the conservation station and hear the behind-the-scenes talk. Once back at the central island with the Tree of Life, we headed for the exit. It’s the perfect time of year to hit this park if you’re visiting Orlando.

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