If you’re looking for a weekend spot north of Orlando where you can kayak, canoe, and hang out by the river or in a tiki bar, Wekiva Island is the place for you. It was not the place for us old fogies. The structures had a dilapidated look about them, except for the bar that appeared much more appealing.
The café, while offering an interesting menu, looked no bigger than a food truck and had outdoor seating. Even the view wasn’t as expansive as I’d expected. It was more like a canal.
I could see the appeal for young adults but not seniors like us who prefer more atmosphere for a lunch venue. We came on a quiet weekday but I understand they can get lines of cars waiting to get in on weekends. Artists had set up their easels along the waterfront on the day we visited. A sign warned of gators and snakes so swim at your own risk if at all and don’t fall out of your boat.
We walked around the perimeter in about ten minutes. For a scene in a mystery, however, this place could serve as a model. The various buildings, including one set up as a classroom, harbored intriguing nooks and crannies.
For lunch, we drove to The Southern Deli in Apopka since I’d been wanting to try it. The food was tasty if you enjoy southern fare, but next time I’d rather go to a deli with traditional favorites like grilled cheese, tuna melt, and nova on a bagel. My meal here was chicken in BBQ sauce over cheese grits and my husband had a burger.
It’s fun to go out exploring and trying new places even if it’s a One and Done experience.
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The 72-degree waters at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida attract hundreds of manatees, also called “sea cows.” Situated by the St. Johns River, this park offers canoe and kayak rentals, a walking trail, a river boat cruise, food concessions, and more.
We’d heard about the manatees but hadn’t gone to this park before as it’s a forty-minute drive north from where we live. But when our daughter said she’d like to take our grandson there since he was off school for Martin Luther King Day, we jumped on the wagon – or rather, in her SUV.
Orange City seemed interesting as we passed through a historic section. My gaze was drawn to the 1876 Heritage Inn. However, the Alling House Bed & Breakfast has better reviews if you’re looking for a place to stay.
We turned down a two-lane road to head into Blue Spring State Park. Capacity was full by the time we arrived at 10:30, and they were only letting vehicles into the parking area as people left. We got into a snaking line from down the road, where you are stuck until you reach the park entrance. In other words, use the potty before you start on this excursion. You might want to bring snacks and water bottles, too.
We finally got in after a long wait, parked, and strode past the playground to the boardwalk where you can see the manatees. The large creatures glided past in the water, which was surrounded by woods. They were fascinating to watch. It’s a peaceful setting where you can picnic, hike, or just relax.
Can you spot the alligator on the log?
We walked along the waterside path and passed a historical house but didn’t go in. The Thursby House was built by Louis Thursby in the 1800s and hosted steamboat passengers as they made their way up and down the St. Johns River. Today it serves as a museum.
Ready for lunch, we bought burgers and hot dogs at the concession hut and ate under cover at a picnic table. The burger was bland. I’ve had better at other parks. Our grandson enjoyed the playground on the way back. Then we were done, got in the car, and left. However, someone had been injured in the park, and the exit was blocked while the attendants waited for the ambulance. I couldn’t imagine how it would get past the clogged traffic on the two-lane road.
After twenty minutes or so, the emergency vehicle arrived and cars were permitted to exit. Then once we got on I-4, there was another blockage due to a crash and we had to take an alternate route. At last, we made it home safely despite these delays, and it was worth the trip to see the manatees and the park. I’d suggest going earlier in the morning and on a weekday.
Maitland, Florida is a community north of Orlando. The city hosts its own art and history museums on five acres along a shady side street off Maitland Avenue. The Maitland Art Center was originally created in 1938 by artist and architect Jules André Smith as a winter artist retreat. The art center and history museum merged in 2010.
We parked and first went in the art museum. This consisted of several small rooms with a couple of artist’s works on display. I liked the colorful acrylics on wood.
From here, we entered the history museum next door. An antique table and chairs face the outdoor courtyard. We viewed a decorative fireplace, relics from the indigenous populations, and more art works. I wished this museum were larger.
Adjacent to this building is the Telephone Museum. This offers fascinating displays of a bygone era.
Outside is a courtyard lined by visiting artist’s studios.
Across the street, the Mayan Courtyard and Garden Chapel are even more interesting. The grounds, registered as a National Historical Landmark, are a popular site for weddings, and I could see why. Laden with history, the various nooks and crannies are fun to explore with their intricate artistry.
We visited Harry P. Leu Gardens during their Dazzling Nights display, although we went during the daytime. I love to walk these grounds that remind me of a rainforest. The shady paths wind past trickling brooks and pass by a nearby lake.
The azaleas looked as though they wanted to pop out soon, but the camellias were in full bloom in all different colors. Seeing them made this visit worthwhile alone.
I was surprised at the variety of colors among the poinsettias on display.
We came upon some other interesting plants too, such as these specimens.
This one looked like it had a tongue coming out. It could easily double for a carnivorous alien plant.
Kennedy Space Center is a great place to visit if you’re a space program fan, like to observe space launches, or merely want to learn about our space-age achievements. We’d been there years ago and wanted to see the new attractions. Plus, all the recent launches had piqued our interest in the space program.
It took us an hour to get there from the Orlando area. We parked by the Visitor Complex and entered through the turnstiles. It wasn’t crowded in the morning, so we could stand in awe to see the rockets poised in the Rocket Garden beyond the entrance.
We skipped the Heroes & Legends pavilion to our left and walked briefly through the Nature & Technology building. This housed museum-type exhibits of the local environment. Up ahead was Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex. Inside the dark building were multiple space capsules and other displays. Upstairs was Spaceport, an immersive ride experience with four itineraries. We bypassed the line and headed instead for the Observation Port to view the films. It’s a good way to have the experience without the jostling motion. This building also has an IMAX theater.
We didn’t really want to watch any other movies, so we skipped the Universe Theater. I dipped into the Journey to Mars to view the different land rovers. Again, I passed by various interactive displays so we could move on.
Inside the Space Shuttle Atlantis building, we viewed a 12-minute movie before being allowed into the exhibit area. This film shows how the Space Shuttle came into being. There are several floors with displays and interactive exhibits plus a huge slide. If you like thrill rides, there’s also the Shuttle Launch Experience.
Another building called Planet Play is an indoor playground. It’s way cool for kids and has a seating area for adults to order drinks. A large globe circulating in a plaza with cascading water also attracted young children as did a Lego section.
Re dining, we ate at the Orbit Café that has a good selection of menu items. Other venues offer bistro bowls, hot dogs, ice cream and movie snacks.
It’s not possible to do everything in a day, especially if you want to sign up for any of the special experiences such as a bus tour of the complex or Chat with an Astronaut. But it was enough for us and re-inspired our awe of the space program. Now all we need are anti-gravity engines and warp drive.
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Hurricane season begins June 1st, and this month is the best time to stock up on emergency supplies. Once a storm is on the way, store shelves will empty fast. Remember to also review the expiration dates on your pantry items to see if any need replacements. When a warning is issued, follow the tips below.
1. Buy bags of ice. Put on lower shelves in freezer, and later in fridge if power is out, so melting ice doesn’t flood the interior. Or freeze water in plastic containers to help keep food cool. You can also use empty water bottles instead of discarding them. Turn fridge to coldest setting ahead of storm.
2. Buy bottled water, fruit juices, sports drinks, and caffeinated beverages that you can drink cold or at room temperature. Fill plastic pitchers, thermos bottles, and other containers with tap water and refrigerate for drinking.
3. Have enough food in stock. Fruits that keep well are grapes, apples, bananas. Applesauce and other packaged fruits are good buys. Get bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can buy peanut butter in individual portions. Get snack packs with hard cheeses, crackers, dried fruits, apple slices, or grapes. Canned chicken, baked beans, and nuts are good sources of protein. Cans of tuna or salmon tend to smell more if there’s no garbage pickup so buy these in a pouch. Make a sandwich ahead of time so you have a grab-and-go lunch.
4. Cook and eat the perishable foods in your freezer and refrigerator. Hard boil your eggs, and make sure you cook dinner early as the storm approaches in case the power goes out.
5. Have a cooler handy. If you lose power, put a container of ice or a freezer pack inside along with the refrigerated foods you’re likely to eat first. This will save you from opening the refrigerator door too often.
6. Consider boarding your pet at a kennel or make plans to secure your pet with enough supplies.
7. Back up important computer files. Send an email to yourself at another address with your most recent files. Back up to a flash drive that you can carry around. Store files in the Cloud.
8. Bring in all loose objects from outside.
9. Do the laundry.
10. Perform personal grooming essentials. It’s hard to shave and wash hair with no lights, and the water might get contaminated.
11. Fill gas tank in car. No power, no pumps. And motorists on the run will consume the fuel.
12. Get extra cash to have on hand. ATMs won’t work in a power failure.
13. Pay bills due or coming due.
14. Charge cell phone, tablet, and other portable electronics. Get a portable charger.
15. Prepare a list of repairmen and tree trimmers who might be needed.
16. Buy hand sanitizer and moist wipes in case the water is contaminated.
17. Have paper plates and cups on hand along with plastic utensils and paper towels. Also invest in duct tape and plastic sheeting to use if a window breaks.
18. Stock up on trash bags to clear away debris.
19. Place a flashlight or battery-run lantern in each room or in a central location. Keep extra batteries in stock. Candles can be a fire hazard, and they don’t provide enough light to read by in the dark. Carry a flashlight with you wherever you go in the house in case the power blinks out. For any solar-powered devices, make sure they’re well exposed to light beforehand.
20. Put insurance papers and other important documents, including copies of recent utility bills, into a plastic bag for quick departure, or store copies in a separate location. Scan them into your computer files and backup to the Cloud. Put other important papers into a plastic container. Some folks suggest putting these papers into your dishwasher or washing machine, as they are waterproof, and closing it tight.
21. Buy an emergency hand-crank radio that also comes with a light and a cell phone charger. I like the Eton brand, which is sold on Amazon. Make sure you get one with a USB port for charging your devices. 22. Learn how to open your garage on manual in case the power goes out. Keep these instructions handy. Also learn how to turn off the low battery alert on your security system.
23. Get a Kindle or other e-reader with a backlight to use when the power goes out. Keep it fully charged.
24. If you think water might get into the house, put some clothes into a large plastic garbage bag and seal it.
25. Prepare your safe room for tornadoes. Put blankets on the floor unless it’s carpeted. Add a portable radio, lantern, e-reader, snacks, water bottles, and emergency papers in a plastic bag. Put your purse in there. Also have a go-bag with chargers and other emergency items.
26. Keep the air-conditioning temperature very low so when the power goes, it’ll stay cooler a little longer.
27. Add a first aid kit to your supplies.
28. Have a plan with family members on how to get in touch after the storm passes.
29. Take photos of your belongings. If you can, keep a spreadsheet with dates and place of purchase as well as cost. Store these in the Cloud or on a flash drive for insurance purposes.
30. Consider where you’ll go if power outages will last a while. Hotel or relatives? That’s assuming you can leave the area with downed trees and power lines.
We had the opportunity as WDW Passholders to preview Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride at Disney World’s Epcot theme park. Getting there was a hike. The trams weren’t running in the parking lots, presumably due to Covid changes, and so we had to make a trek in the heat to the gate. The entire front part of this theme park is being renovated, leading to long detours to get to World Showcase at the rear. Wear your sturdiest walking shoes if you plan to come. Here I am geared up. Besides my sun hat, I have on a rechargeable portable fan around my neck to keep me cool in the heat and a water bottle holder purchased at the Animal Kingdom.
On our way around World Showcase, we stopped at the Noodle Exchange to sample a bowl of Shrimp Coconut Curry Rice Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms and Thai Basil. Basically, we got three shrimps and a bowl of spicy broth with noodles. I didn’t care to fill up on a bowl of what was essentially chicken noodle soup, so I ate the shrimp and took a few spoonfuls of the broth. This satisfied my stomach until later, but by then it was too hot under the sun for me to have an appetite. I’ll come back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival when it’s cooler out.
Since it wasn’t time yet for the ride, we stopped into the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, a new attraction in the France pavilion. In a quiet, air-conditioned auditorium, you sit and watch an abbreviated version of the animated film unfold for approximately fifteen minutes. Closed captions encourage you to sing along with the characters, or you can sit back and relax and enjoy the music. It’s definitely worth a stop to experience this happy, feel-good experience. Here is Belle outside posing for photos.
At our appointment hour, we headed to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to check in. We still had to snake through a line for about twenty minutes to enter the building. We noted a new Crepe restaurant next door that was bustling with customers. Once inside the Ratatouille ride, we wound through darkened corridors with these scenes.
Then we were herded into mouse cars. A safety bar lowered, and we swerved away from the dock on our trackless vehicle. Here we donned 3-D glasses and became part of the film. It was awesome how the effects were done. You really felt you were inside this house and careening through the kitchen, even scooting under the ovens with a hot blast of air. Twice we got spritzed with water as part of the action. All too soon, the ride was over. It swirls around a bit but it’s not jerky. If you keep your eyes on the visuals, you’re fine. It’s really an amazing technology, and I hope we’ll see more experiences like this one.
As we strolled through the rest of World Showcase, several Disney heroines made their appearances. Besides Belle above, here are Snow White, Princess Jasmine, and Alice in Wonderland.
We heard a mariachi band by the American pavilion. Back in Future World, we ducked by the new Space 220 Restaurant, which is already booked out 60 days in advance. You don’t need a reservation for the Lounge but be prepared to wait in line for an indeterminate time if you plan to visit the space station restaurant.
Gold statues of various characters are spotted around the park to commemorate Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. A long trek back to our parked car ended the day. We were happy but tired. I’m hoping the trams are running again by our next visit.
We took a break and went to the Animal Kingdom at Disney World to make use of our annual passes. Our parking space was within easy walking distance of the entrance so we were lucky in that regard. We walked along the shady paths toward Africa.
After stopping at Starbucks for some snacks to refuel our energy, we headed onto the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. No wait in the line, which we also saw later at Expedition Everest. The park is so spread out that it didn’t seem terribly crowded. We got front row seats in our safari vehicle.
The animals were strolling about or lazing in the heat. We viewed quite a few as you can see from these photos.
We lunched in Dinoland at a fast food place where we could sit indoors and enjoy the air-conditioning. On our way out, we browsed in the shops and then headed home tired but happy.
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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.
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.