Saturday, July 19, 2008

Top 10 Theme Park Survival Essentials

Mount Dora is so close to all the action in Orlando ... and thankfully it feels a world away! But when you have a hankerin for some hustle & bustle, speed, adventure & thrills ... no one does it better than our World class theme parks such as SeaWorld, Universal Studios & Disney.

We recently had family in town from North Carolina and became a tourist for a day with them at SeaWorld Orlando. This is probably one of my favorite parks because of how much I love animals.

With all of the theme parks, there is so much to see and do that you might feel a little sensory overload. Growing up around Orlando I've gone to the parks more times than I can count and over the years I've learned a few things that have made exploring these attractions more fun.

Here are my Top 10 Theme Park Survival Essentials

1) Comfortable Shoes -- Do not underestimate the value of comfortable shoes. It never ceases to amaze me to see fashionistas wearing heels or dressy shoes at a theme park. Believe me when I say there is not going to be anything attractive or trendy about the blisters on your feet at the end of the day. Over the course of a day at the parks you can walk on average 8 to 10 miles. Cozy sneakers are best. Your toes will thank you!

2) Backpack -- Pack it with all your Theme Park Survival Essentials. I have some suggestions for these continuing in the list below.

3) H2O -- You can never get enough this one. However, instead of weighing yourself down with a 6 pack of Zephyrhills, bring a durable bottle that you can refill as you go. Not only is this "green" for the environment, but it's also greener for your wallet. For those that still want to lug around a 6 pack of water, I was delighted that SeaWorld had added recycling bins for aluminum and plastics since I last visited. Some parks will have vendors that sell big collectible mugs that you can buy and then refill throughout the day and save yourself more moolah.

3) Poncho -- This is not just for the rain. There is usually a ride in every park that will soak you to the bone. And while it might feel refreshing at first, you'll soon be cranky in those wet drawers. You might also want to bring a set of flip flops. Having wet feet all day is no fun. See item #1.

4) Hat & Sunglasses -- Inevitably, these are always the things you think about when you're a couple miles down the road and yell, "Doh! I forgot my (fill-in-the-blank). When you're outside all day in the Florida sun, your eyes will be thankful you brought these.

5) Sunscreen -- You may think that you'll be able to dodge the rays and find bits of shelter and shade, but don't risk it.

6) Snacks -- A protein bar, some granola, an apple, some cheerios. Any little bit that will give you the energy fix you need. All the parks have a wide selection of restaurants and eateries, but you'll be grateful that you had a little something stashed away for yourself when the lines are long and your stomach is growling louder than the shows.

7) Hand Sanitizer -- Wet wipes, purrell gel, etc. I even found these cool towelettes by Giovanni that are scented with an organic essential oils such as grapefruit and lavender and they're biodegradable to boot! More green goodness!

8) Camera -- This seems like a given. But I want to remind you to also pack extra film or a memory card, batteries, and a plastic zip lock bag to protect it from getting soaked in a splash zone or river rapids ride and, of course, the crushed cheerio crumbs dusting bottom of your bag by the end of the day.

9) Quarters and dollar bills -- There will be some rides that will not allow you to bring your bag on with you, but typically lockers are provided. You'll need some loose change to take advantage of this convenience.

10) A good night's sleep -- No, you can't pack this one and take it with you. Unless, of course, you prefer a grande latte with a triple shot of espresso to a nap. Get some rest, you'll need your energy for the adventures Orlando has is store for you.

Got any other tips, insider scoop or must-haves for going to the theme parks? Then comment below and let us know!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Innside Story: The Grandview Bed & Breakfast

In continuing my quest to be a backyard tourist, I packed my overnight bag and makeup case and rode down to a meandering driveway only four blocks away from my home ... but a world away. With a large wrap around porch enveloping the main house, swaying palm trees and a windmill cottage the Grandview Bed & Breakfast is a classic small Southern estate.

After settling in, we sat by the fireplace, sipping red wine and nibbling on crackers and cheese while listening to their many fascinating stories of growing up in the Carolina's on a tobacco farm, renovating historic homes and the experience of opening their first B&B on Ocracoke Island.

To read more about our experience at The Grandview and other guest comments, click here: Innside Story.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Quarterly Art Stroll Growing Bigger!

Downtown Mount Dora's quarterly Art Stroll continues to grow, become more diverse, and attract more art lovers from around Central Florida. Despist the July heat, this past Friday's event was well attended!

The stroll has grown to include the Donnelly Park Building as a main location as well as all 6 local galleries and studios including: Jane Slivka Gallery, Lauren Cunningham Art Gallery, Salter & Smathers Studio, Patrick's Fine Art Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery, Malcolm Yawn Photography Studio & The Painter's Daughter.

The main locations feature regional art from several organizations and independent artists including the Florida Committee of the Arts, Women in the Arts, Mount Dora Art League, Eustis Art League, and the Leesburg Art Association.

The event meanders through downtown Mount Dora offering an evening of art, live musical entertainment, wine & lite hors d 'oeuvres.

If you happened to miss this one, the next Stroll will be on October 10th this year. Mark you calendar now!!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fresh Perspective

I've had the wonderful opportunity to be a tourist in my own backyard this week in a much different way then the day trips I've been taking and blogging about this year. I was invited along with the rest of the team to spend the night at two of our town's distinguished b&b's; The Grandview and the Mount Dora Historic Inn.

At first I thought it might be strange sleeping only three blocks away from my home, but what a fresh perspective it gave me. I think we sometimes get stuck in similar routines and schedules and we loose that first pure outlook that we have when we first visit a place that we've never explored before.

To make the experience well-rounded, we walked around town doing what visitors usually do, all the while I was trying to avoid being lured like a magnet back to my home and office where a ton of work waited for me on my desk. After all, I'm supposed to be "vacationing" in my hometown, right?

We had lunch, went shopping, got caught in a rainstorm and popped in for a spontaneous waiting-out-the rain pedicure. It was nice being welcomed in without an appointment.

The pedicure we had a Synergy Salon & Spa was the experience that finally tipped me over the edge into vacation-mode. Their pampering and waiting on us hand and foot (no pun intended) finally allowed me to relax.

After doing some new things in town and spending extended time with fellow innkeepers Mel & Andy and Jim & Ana, I fell in love with Mount Dora all over again.

Stay tuned for our in-depth stories about The Grandview and Mount Dora Historic Inn featured on the Innkeepers Blog: InnSide Story. To be posted soon!


Friday, July 11, 2008

New Public Transportation

We now have public transportation! The LakeXpress has recently expanded it's route to include Mount Dora. The schedule runs every hour and fares are extremely affordable at $3 for an all-day pass.

For more information, visit or call (352) 742-6580.

Frolicking Femme

Another new business has opened in town and it's a place where "Femmes" can frequent to find fashion, furniture & florals to fit your fancy! Okay, so I maybe made that sound a little too much like Dr. Seuss. Must be the wine talking. Next time you are enjoying a glass of wine or cup of coffee at One Flight Up, venture over across the hall for some retail therapy at the Frolicking Femme.

The Frolicking Femme is a group of 4 female artists with diverse talents that opened a shop showcasing handmade jewelry, custom portraits & paintings, artfully re-upholstered and hand-painted furniture, mosaics, unique clothing and gorgeous silk floral arrangements. Whether you want to freshen up a room in your home with something new and unique or spoil yourself with a saucy outfit or original piece of jewelry, they've got the just the thing.

Their soft opening over the past month has been a tremendous success. The Frolicking Femme's official grand opening is on July 17th. You go girls!


Monday, July 7, 2008

Red, White & Blue Weekend

OMG! For slow summer days, it does seem like the season is going by pretty fast! I can't believe we're already in the second week of July.

You can tell it' s an election year since our Independence Day parade was speckled with political floats and advertisements. But I guess I can appreciate that people are getting involved in government and embracing their red, white & blue!

Good friends, BBQ, and frozen strawberry lemonade followed the morning parade festivities and ended with a big BANG at our town's fireworks over the lake at dusk. As we strolled back home a couple of blocks up the hill, we passed countless non-city dwellers waiting impatiently in their cars following the mass exodus after the fireworks and I was reminded again how lucky I am to live downtown where walking home after an event is the norm.