The Festival of the Arts during the winter months at Epcot is always fun to attend. You can view art works on display and sample dishes at food booths around World Showcase.
Here are some of the items we tried:
Duck and Dumplings at the Artist’s Table by the American Adventure. Smoked Duck Breast, Ricotto Dumplings, Petite Vegetables, and Duck Jus. I liked the smoked duck flavor, and the meat was easy to cut. I’ve had better at higher end restaurants, though. The ricotto dumplings were interesting, almost like a potato texture.
Three-Meat Meatloafwith “Peas and Carrots” came with Green Pea Pudding, Carrot Ketchup, Shaved Carrot salad, and Snap Peas. This was a dish that appealed to my husband. He said it was “average,” meaning it wasn’t anything special to his palate. Same location as above.
Red Wine-Braised Beef Short Rib with Parsnip Puree, Broccolini, Baby Tomatoes, and Aged Balsamic at the Pastoral Palate by Germany was by far the best of the batch. The boneless meat was supremely tender and tasty as well. This one would be on my repeat list.
General Tso’s Chicken Shumai at The Painted Panda by China came with three pieces of shumai. These were tasty and enough to share. I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s frozen chicken shumai and so I knew I’d like this version.
On a second visit, our friend Ann Meier had the Napoleon with Beets, Cashew-Herb Filling, Pepper-Pine Nut Sauce, and Balsamic Vinegar Caviar from the France pavilion.
Then Ann tried the Carrots Three Ways from Morocco while I had their Chicken Skewer.
Next, we’ll look forward to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. A whole new tasting experience begins March 1st with a fresh set of “outdoor kitchen” choices.
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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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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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We enjoyed the trails at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Central Florida where you can picnic on the grass, eat at the concession stand, rent boats, hike along twenty-five miles of wooded paths or swim in the seventy-two degree natural springs.
Forty-two million gallons of water flow each day from Wekiwa Springs into Wekiwa Springs Run. The run joins with Rock Springs Run to form the upper Wekiva River. Since its discovery in the 1860s, Wekiwa Springs has attracted visitors. It had a hotel and bathhouse in the 1890s. The Apopka Sportsman Club bought the land in 1941 from the Wilson Cypress Company, which had logged the area. In 1969, the club sold the land to the state of Florida to become Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Near the main parking area, a grassy slope leads down to the crystal-clear water where the natural springs provide a swimming hole. Further along are boat rentals. The scenic beauty makes you pause to absorb the sights. It’s a popular place to visit with limited capacity, so get here early.
After viewing the springs, we followed a wet-to-dry trail through the tropical hammock and fortunately came out at a place we recognized. This was a lovely walk through the forest. It was an easy trail to follow.
We grabbed lunch at the concession stand and sat on the elevated deck overlooking the woods. It was a delightful setting for a meal while soaking in the scenery. Leafy trees provided shade and there weren’t many insects around this time of year before the summer humidity sets in.
The landscape here is very different from our former home in South Florida. The natural attractions of Central Florida have their own beauty with hills, tall trees with Spanish moss, lakes and fresh-water springs. It brings home how diverse Florida is with so many varied regions, from the sunny, sea-kissed Keys to the subterranean caves in the northern part of the state. Each area should be appreciated on its own. Look beyond the theme parks and come visit the natural springs and numerous lakes that grace the central part of this state.
Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida has 120 acres of woods and wetlands. In the late 1800s, settlers arrived to buy land and to enjoy the desirable climate. The railway spurred development. In 1972, the City of Altamonte Springs purchased the property to preserve its unique ecosystem. The nature preserve has a one-mile-long raised boardwalk, picnic tables, walking trails, playground, restrooms, and a fishing pier on a lake.
The park has limited hours and parking is not always available on site, so check the times before you come. This nature preserve has no concessions so don’t expect a snack bar. You’re pretty much on your own. We were hoping for an office where we could get a map but that was nonexistent as well. We tromped around on our own, fortunately ending up on several loops that took us back where we started.
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