Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Florida Vacations - Off the Beaten Trail

When traveling in Florida most people stay within the tourist corridor and rarely encounter any wildlife.  Florida is just like anywhere else, an ever-evolving sub tropical ecosystem.  At the top of that system is the guy you see up top.  This Florida alligator is about 10 feet long and weighs in at about 350-400 lbs.  These are peaceful, lazy creatures but if you go near the water be sure they are there and they already are aware of you.  The gator can grow up in excess of 13 feet and over 1000 lbs.

If you stop while driving through the state please look where you're walking, especially in grass or water or you can encounter one of these:

This is an Eastern Diamondback Rattler and is native to the southeast.  He won't bother you but he's a viper so has no sense of humor.  He is relatively nocturnal but I found him warming himself in the roadway on a cold day.  When I snapped this photo I stepped out of my truck and his reaction was predictable:

We have various snakes that are harmless, feral hogs, bobcats, and the very rare Florida Panther.  I've lived here all my life and have yet to see one outside captivity.  Be careful where you sit, stand, or place your hand.  The Brown Recluse is on of many spiders that are toxic.  Just remember these creatures only want to be left alone but can be trouble if bothered.  You likely won't encounter any of them but they don't mention them in travel brochures.

BIG NOTE:  Wherever you are in Florida DON'T feed the seagulls.  If you do you will step right into a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!!

Our family wishes each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or any other celebration you are enjoying this holiday season.  I enjoy writing and appreciate everybody for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.  I look forward to contributing more very soon so please stay in touch. Thanks and best wishes for 2013.   -Kevin-

Monday, December 24, 2012


I didn't film this but found it very good and informative. Thanks to the YouTube viewer who posted it.

Rockin' Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith

Rockin' Roller Coaster with Aerosmith is a high speed roller coaster ride through down the Santa Monica Freeway, Los Angeles, and Hollywood to the blasting sound of a medley of Aerosmith tunes.

Get a Fast Pass for this one or go in the single rider line when you visit Disney Hollywood Studios because it's always a wait but well worth it.  Sit back in your car and blast off into the California night.  This ride will hurl you from 0-60 MPH in less than 3 seconds so take off your sunglasses because you will lose them.  Enjoy the soundtrack of a medley of Aerosmith tunes and scream your way through the dark while passing street signs, landmarks, and locations familiar to the music set.  It's not a long ride- lasts about 55 seconds but you'll love every second of it.  I've always been a roller coaster junkie and I never get tired of indoor coasters where I can't tell where I'm going next.  Never gets old!

As always you have to go through the gift shop!  There's no escaping them because we know how to get you to buy things!  You can get a photo of yourselves blasting off or pick out some cool t-shirts.  My daughter loves the headgear.  I know you'll love it.  Have a great time!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Reimagined Basin Reopens at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort

Basin at Walt Disney World

Basin Stores are a great place to get any kind of bath salts, scrubs, soaps, moisturizers, perfumes, etc. for the discerning shopper.  Basin has the top of the line in any kind of bath items. There are two locations at Downtown Disney,Orlando, and the Grand Floridian, in Florida. Those on the west coast will enjoy the Basin Stores at the Venetian Resort and Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

Whenever we visit Downtown Disney we visit the Basin, and now, with their reimagined design there is more shop space and larger hand washing stations so customers can browse and try their salt scrubs before buying.

Does this look like it's just for the ladies?  Well, it really is but the guys like to browse if for no other reason to get gift ideas for the woman in their lives. Sign up for the free Basin Newsletter and order your favorite products at:


When you're in Orlando or Las Vegas, Basin is a definite stop.  See what it's all about by visiting it on-line but we'd rather you come on down and visit in person.  Thanks.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tickets and Passes - LEGOLAND

Tickets and Passes - LEGOLAND

Cafe Cubano - Downtown Disney

At Downtown Disney right next to Bongo's Cuban Cafe, you can have a sandwich or cup of Cuban Coffee at the Cafe Cubano.  It's a little express sandwich shop right next door.  A quaint, comfortable little nook right on the street where folks can sit and socialize and imagine old Havana.  It must be similar to Ernest Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place".

Grab a cup or a Cuban sandwich and have a seat under the umbrella's while you just relax. It's even more tranquil at night.  It's a good place to go for a no frills lunch.  It's a short story but worth telling and certainly worth the mention.  Enjoy and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A "Snow Day" for Tigers at Busch Gardens

A "Snow Day" for Tigers at Busch Gardens

Splitsville Luxury Lanes - Downtown Disney

Splitsville Luxury Lanes and Dinner Lounge at Downtown Disney is the newest concept in entertainment.  Located in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fairview, Texas, and Fredricksburg, Virginia, this venue is going to be a great idea in entertainment for all ages.

Splitsville, Orlando, will be two stories, 45,000 square feet of 30 bowling lanes, patio dining, dancing, drinking, and live music.  It will also have sushi bars and outdoor seating.

Those who have been here before will remember the old Virgin Records store across from House of Blues on the west side.  This is the location of Splitsville.  The concept will be an upscale entertainment complex with everything for those who may want a new place to hang out but not necessarily interested in bowling.

Splitsville, Downtown Disney, opens on December 19th, 2012, so only a few days away.  Reservations can be made at:


I've checked the site and the reservation page wasn't open at the time I wrote this but should be up soon. I also wasn't able to get inside when I went by there the other day.  I wanted to get some photos to post but I'll put some up as soon as I get them.  More to come!

Friday, December 7, 2012

New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World's New Fantasyland recently opened it's first stage with the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus.  This will be the single largest expansion Disney World has completed since it opened in 1971.

Enchanted Forest includes attractions such as the Undersea Journey of the Little Mermaid which is a rockin' ride through a musical attraction. Join your kids for a photo shoot at Ariel's Grotto and enjoy dining at the Be your Guest Restaurant.  Make reservations (407-WDW-DINE) well in advance because it's booked through the new year already. The kids can also enjoy Enchanted Tales with Belle, a storybook telling by Belle and Luminiere'.

Storybook Circus is also open which includes the Barnstormer, an age appropriate roller coaster that kids love.  This attraction was already in place before the expansion but because of it's popularity the ride survived the expansion effort. Those who are return visitors will remember Dumbo The Flying Elephant.  It has been updated and now has two carousels spinning simultaneously which helps with the tremendous crowds we get year round. Summertime makes Casey's Splash-n-Soak Station an awesome break in the sub-tropical heat we get here in Florida.  When we were there recently there were kids running around in the water but you can be sure they were not from Miami!

Future plans for Fantasyland are the Princess Fairy Tale Hall and the Seven Dwarf's Mine.  Not much information is available right now but the mine is probably a 21st Century version of the old Snow White and the Seven Dwarf's ride.

New Fantasyland is located at the back of the park behind Cinderella's Castle.  There's still plenty of construction but what has been added is charming and you will surely love it.  Have a great vacation!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios

When traveling to Orlando one of our biggest attractions are the hotels themselves.  Portofino Bay is located right on the property of Universal Studios and is a water taxi or cycle trip to the parks.  The hotel is designed like 15th century Venice, Italy with spacious grounds, several wings of rooms and villas with two pools and numerous bars and restaurants.

Rooms start at $279/dbl but they also have deluxe and luxury suites for those who can afford them.  Presidential Suites are for the rich so most of us can't afford them but they are all available.

Room sizes range from 475 feet to 675 feet with the elite suites upwards of 2000 feet (Maybe someday). We've stayed there both in winter and summer and it's always a great experience.  The staff is very gracious and treat everybody like a VIP.  There is formal dining and cafe dining or you can order a pizza to take to your room.  Pets are welcome (for a charge) and there is a nice kennel available for them while your family enjoys the parks.

Portofino Bay, like the other on-site hotels, also has the Fast Pass privilege that goes with your park tickets for no additional charge.  There is also a one hour early in for Harry Potter for room key holders which is great for the kids.  They have two great pools.  The one pictured above shows the water slide and is more family-oriented while the villa pool (right) is a little quieter.  They both have bars and food availability but the kids like the grand pool because of more activity.

Portofino Bay hosts a full service Convention Center which is great for business travelers and they can cater large events such as wedding receptions.  This place has it all and it's always great to spend the day at the parks and walk straight to your room.  We love staying there and will be going back soon.

Check their rates through Universal Studios web site but also compare to the other travel sites.   I know I say it a lot but compare and save. It's money in your pocket.  Have fun.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a Walt Disney World Special Event premiering on select nights from November 9th through December 21st.  The party begins at 7:00 pm on these nights when the regular pass holders depart the park and those with special wristbands remain for the rest of the evening.

Main street and all the attractions are lit up with Christmas lighting and decorations while all your favorite characters walk the streets and mingle with the crowd.  The party features the famous Disney lighted Christmas parade and, as always, Santa Claus makes his annual appearance.  The crowd is  huge for this event and the atmosphere is awesome, especially for the kids.

Tickets for this event are not included in regular park admission.  You can purchase them at:


Prices range from $53.95/Child 3-9 to $58.95/Adult in November and increase periodically through December depending what night you prefer.  Florida resident rates are slightly lower.

Enjoy the fireworks, complimentary cookies and hot chocolate (although it's a little warm some nights) and then see all your favorite attractions as they stay open til midnight.

It's a little grainy because I was walking when I took it but you can see the Disney snow in the lights above Main Street.  This may not excite you if you're from Canada but for those of us from the Sunshine State it's pretty exciting.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tony's Town Square Restaurant - Magic Kingdom

A couple of days ago we visited Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  The crowds were moderate and we managed to see almost everything by 7:00 pm after which pass customers were escorted out and Mickey's Very Special Christmas began.  We made reservations (407-WDW-DINE) at Tony's Town Square which is a casual Italian restaurant just inside the park next to the train station.

The dining room is styled like a turn of the century restaurant such as the one in Lady and the Tramp.  Dinner for us was spaghetti, Shrimp Scampi, and Chicken Parmigiana.  Individual plates range from $15 to $35 but I think the most expensive on the menu was the New York Strip steak at $29.99.

Service was good but could have been better.  Wait time after arriving prior to our reservation time was over 20 minutes and it took another 10 minutes for a server to arrive.  Our server was affable and efficient but we didn't get anything but "cookie cutter" service.

Minus a few points I look for in a restaurant my family enjoyed the dinner.  I give the place a "B" overall.  It was very nice but I'm a little critical of theme park restaurants because I believe their standards are high.  I can't help but notice the dinners and service I experience at Epcot are much higher that at Magic Kingdom or any of the other Disney parks.  This may my perception but it's a consistent perception.  Nonetheless, it was a nice experience but I'm not in a hurry to return.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Caribe Royale

One of the Disney area hotels that can be overlooked is the Caribe Royale.  A sprawling 50+ acre arrangements of towers and villas, this resort is well worth your stay.  Set a few blocks off the mainstream hotel locations of Lake Buena Vista, Caribe Royale is a great place for families and business types to stay for surprisingly reasonable rates.

Enter the spacious lobby with tropical appeal and be greeted by a professional front desk staff who aim to please. Check in is quick and painless.  Once you get your room walk down the majestic staircase and out to the pool area surrounded by three towers hosting over 1, 200 one room suites ranging from $109 - $129/night during this season.

Caribe Royale has casual dining and a 24 hour deli where you can walk down in your pajamas and get whatever you want.  Wander past the towers and view the Convention Center located adjacent the 2 bedroom villas raging from $134 - $149/night.

Spend some time at the pool and have a drink at the poolside bar.  You can enjoy the 2 Jacuzzis and there is a kiddie pool/playground for the kids.  They also have a fitness center (see picture to the left).

Say "Hi" to some of our Florida wildlife.  I met these red-crested cranes ambling through the parking lot.

We've stayed here many times over the years and always enjoy the stay.   It's close to the parks and shuttle service is available. Visit their website at and take the virtual tour. You won't be disappointed. Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Raglan Road Irish Restaurant- Downtown Disney

Stopped by here last Saturday night.  The place was rocking with every table and chair full and people standing in the aisles. There is no other way to enjoy an Irish Pub.  The service and food was fantastic.  They do a stellar job of keeping up with a Saturday night crowd.

The dancers and musicians began about 8:00 pm and were still going strong several  hours later when we left.  we started with an appetizer called Dalkey Duo, (breaded sausages on forks). Dinner for us was lamb, burgers, Bangers & Booze, and chicken.

Needless to say you can have any drink you like or make something up.  Reservations come highly recommended because there is no room after 7:00 pm.  Call 1-407-WDW-DINE or go on line at

Gaylord Palms Resort - Orlando

Gaylord Palms Resort just off the Osceola Parkway near the gates to Walt Disney World is a world class hotel and convention center with a lot going on this fall.  To step into the majestic corridors and gardens of this hotel will amaze even the most critical traveler.  The grounds and amenities appeal to the business traveler and families looking for a great place to stay while visiting the parks.

Visitors can choose from Sunset Guest Rooms, Emerald Guest Rooms, or Luxury Suites and Presidential Guest Suites that range in price from $199-$850/night.  They also have rates for Florida residents, seniors, AARP, military, and more.  Remember to bounce their deals against the travel sites.  Believe it or not, you may find a better rate at another site.

I thought it would be good to display the layout of the place. It's that big!

This fall there are several events that will attract folks from up north and Floridians alike.  Christmas at Gaylord's is a decorative celebration of the season that includes a 54 foot tall tree and over 2 million lights inside and out of the resort.  There are Dream Works characters from films like Shrek, Madagascar, and KungFu Panda which also accompany the character dining events.

The incredibly popular "ICE" premiers from Nov 10-Jan 31.  This one appeals especially to Floridians whose kids never get to see ice and snow. They can play on and slide on a 2 million pound ice sculpture. Packages start at $189 per night but you can also attend the event separately starting at 13.99/Child and $22.95 /Adult Visit the website for more information, tickets and reservations:

We certainly plan to attend this year and hope if you do that you will enjoy it!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rain Forest Cafe - Animal Kingdom

It's always a great experience to visit the Rain Forest Cafe in Disney World.  We usually go to the one at Downtown Disney but last week we stopped in to see the one at Animal Kingdom.  The experience was just as fun.

The menu can be viewed on the Disney web site or off Google.  We had the spinach dip appetizer followed by the  chicken finger plate and Pastalaya which I always seem to get.  Not as good as the Jambalaya at the Cheese Steak Factory but very good nonetheless.

                                               Then there's the ever present gift shop!

You can make reservations at or visit to see the menu. I have never had a bad lunch or dinner and the atmosphere is spectacular. Our service was great and although the prices are up there ($58.00 for two of us) it's a memorable place to go especially when you go to Animal Kingdom.

They accept the Disney dining plan but what they don't tell you is that you get discounts for your annual pass as well.  I had to ask. Also ask if they give military discounts because the restaurants at the theme parks do at various times and it seems to me they do it sporadically.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tips on How To Plan a Florida Vacation

This is an email I received from a friend of a friend.  Thought it was worth passing on.

Hi Kevin!
I work with a friend of yours in Princeton, NJ. He gave me your card and said I should
contact you.
My story is a bit unusual but wonderful. My son is 28 and not long ago weighed close
 to 400 lbs. All the lecturing in the world was totally ineffective to get him to lose weight
 until I promised him a trip to Disney World if he could lose 100 lbs. A challenge for
But since last January, he’s lost 108 lbs through good diet and exercise. He did this
 all on his own, all I did was find the best incentive for him and off he went!
When we started planning this trip, he decided that he’d much rather go to Universal
Studios. So that’s where we’re going.
Can you help us plan it?
We’re looking towards February,2013 to go. We want to spend 4 days and three night
 there, perhaps right on the premises if we can afford it. Due to his autism, we would
also like the quick pass so there won’t be long waits on lines. Bill said this is right up
 your alley!

Thank you for reading our story and thank you in advance for any help you may provide.



It's cool to hear about your son's extraordinary success with the weight loss.  It's a
 major obstacle but I've heard stories in the past of people who tackle mountains
 and win.  Congrats to you both.

I'm guessing from your content either the trip was the incentive  to lose the weight
 or just something you're both planning on doing.  One way or the other our theme
 parks can only be the best vacation you've ever had.  The memories are priceless.

There are several ways to plan your trip and are remarkably painless.  I strongly
suggest vacation package deals which are available on all 3 major park sites:,, or Look for the package
 that fits your stay including lodging.  Universal has FastPass privilege built in to their
lodging as all 3 hotels are on Universal property.  Sea World has participating hotels
 that give discounts and transportation but Fast Pass is extra.  The same with Busch Gardens.  Walt Disney World doesn't have front of the line charge but you can use
 any ticket combo by scanning your ticket at one ride, ride another, then return at
the time they give you to bypass the regular line.  

Also look at dining deals such as pay one fare and eat all day.  Food prices in the
parks are high so to not worry about shelling out every 3 hours is worth the headache.

If you want all-inclusive packaging, to include airfare, then the travel sites are for you.  Expedia, Orbitz, and Kayak can book everything on one site including transportation
to and from the hotels and parks. I'm partial to expedia but they all operate the same
way. If you do your homework and compare all the site deals you can actually save
 on car rental by reserving at the right hotel and be transported to your daily venue.  

The key here is to shop and compare.  I can't emphasize this enough.  Orlando is the
 number one tourist destination in the world.  A lot of people are interested in your
business and competition is fierce.  If you look at several sites and it seems as though
 they are all the same don't be fooled.  They all have a slightly different deal so see
 which one best fits you and your son's needs.  I would research for at least a week.
 It could save you a lot of money.  Also stick to mainstream sites.  There are a lot of
 folks who want your money.  If you find a site and are not sure of their validity please
 contact me and I will verify their authenticity.  I'm certain I know most of them.

I hope this helps.  Enjoy your vacation.  I know you will love it.  



Thank you, Kevin. This is just what I needed! I’ll start looking this weekend.
Thanks so much.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville - Universal City Walk

Remember this place?  At Universal Studios City Walk,  Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville is the place to go for food and drinks with great atmosphere and fun.

Step into the world of Margaritaville, the imaginary play land Jimmy crafted way back in the 1970's.  The restaurant is a perfect depiction of his themed song.  You can enjoy some fantastic food while watching some entertainment.  Or sit out by the tiki bar on the lagoon that was built into the float plane from the book "Tales From Margaritaville".

Inside the restaurant you can have the "Cheeseburger In Paradise", a whopping patty with anything you would like topping it.  I always get this but you also have a good selection of steak and seafood.  There are also Caribbean-style dishes like calypso chicken pasta or conch fritters for starters.

If you want the nightlife and enjoy mixed drinks and good company, come down in the evening , sit outside, and enjoy the music.  It's like being at a concert but you'll feel like you're on your own private island far from shore where you can just relax and enjoy living.

If you're not in a hurry grab a pager and have a drink.  If you're like me reservations are available at 1-407-224-2155.

Hope you enjoy the experience!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hard Rock Cafe Universal Studios Orlando

Want to visit the biggest and best Hard Rock Cafe in the world?  We have it right here in Orlando at Universal City Walk.  London to Amsterdam, Biloxi to Las Vegas, you won't find a bigger, better one anywhere but here.

Hard Rock Orlando is situated on the lagoon between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the famed City Walk.  Boasting three stories of food, entertainment, and music (including the largest gift shop anywhere) this place is not to be passed up when visiting Orlando.  Have a great lunch or dinner starting with the Hard Rock Nachos, hickory smoked chicken wings, or Santa Fe Spring rolls.  Do you like giant burgers?  Or would you rather have steak or seafood?  Their menu is explosive and the cooking is always top notch.

Service there is provided by an energetic staff of servers who know it's there job to not only take your order but to make you feel as though they want to party with you.  They move fast serving drinks and menu items as well as I've eve seen.  There is always music playing and you can view the impressive display of Rock and Roll memorabilia. It's almost like being in a museum except it's a lot more upbeat.
Step up to the round bar in the rotunda where there are TV screens everywhere showing all the rock legends in action and have a stiff drink.  Sit by the rotating Pink Cadillac and immerse yourself in the shrine to Rock music.

There is no casino here but Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa (75 miles west) has all the gambling if that's what you want.  Also consider staying at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal just a short boat ride from the Cafe.  It's always a good time so see for yourself.  You won't be disappointed except when you have to leave!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Halloween Horror Nights 2012

We visited Halloween Horror Nights this past Saturday night and had a great time as usual.  The folks at Universal are never short of "wow" factor when putting together a theme but I expect no less from the people who make the movies.

They started screening ticket holders at about 5:45 pm even though they weren't to open until 6:30 pm.  We were screened, scanned, and in the park by 6:15 pm and hit the streets full of goblins, ghouls, zombies, and chain saw guys bent on terrifying anyone walking the street.  We hit a few of our favorite rides such as the Mummy and Rip Rocket Roller Coaster. We also went on the Despicable Me ride which is new this year replacing Jimmy Neutron.  If you haven't been to Universal for some years that one was originally a Flintstone's ride.  Although it was the same type of virtual roller coaster they did a great job and it was nice to have something new to see.

After that we hit the haunted houses.  Silent Hill, which was billed as the most popular attraction, was excellent.  I may have enjoyed it more if I was more familiar with the video game culture but it was certainly awesome.  My favorite houses were Penn & Teller, Alice Cooper "Welcome To My Nightmare", and Gothic.  Gothic had a flying gargoyle that stood out for me as the best character in the entire park.  The other houses, Walking Dead, House of Horrors, and Dead End were all great and nothing was short of fantastic.

They also had Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween and 20 Penny Circus, supposedly a remnant of the old carnival shows.  We didn't participate in those because we weren't interested but I spoke with some party goers by the bars and they all liked them so each to his own.

I noticed something different this year.  Last year we went on Friday night and the crowd was moderate until about 10:00 so we were able to do a lot more.  This year we went on Saturday and the crowd was loaded and ready to go at opening time.  They were rowdier and definitely more of a party crowd but we didn't witness any trouble.  If you go with your kids like I do you may opt for a week night or Friday but if you go with friends or couples Saturday is probably more for you.  I also recommend investing in the Fast Pass option because the lines after only an hour were 60-90 minutes long.  That's a lot of standing.

There are still plenty of nights left so hit it if you can.  I promise you won't leave disappointed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Howl-o-Scream Busch Gardens Tampa

                                            (photo provided by Busch Gardens Tampa)

Not to be outdone by the other parks, Busch Gardens, Tampa, is hosting it's annual Howl-o-Scream bash.  It started on 27 September and is featured every Thursday through Saturday night between now and Halloween.   There will be haunted houses such as Circus of Superstition, House of Blood, and Nevermore (my favorite because I'm an Edgar Allan Poe nut).

This year features scare zones highlighting 13 years of this event where a lot of scenes and characters from past years converge to give the right effect.  Also featured are Howl-o-Scream Shop of Horrors and Club XIII where the adults can party away the night.

Tickets can be purchased several ways.  There's always the gate price - don't do that!. At $79.99 you're paying mini-bar prices. On-line tickets are $54.99 and Pass Members get in for $34.99.  See how fast the price goes down? There is also a Promo to check out at your participating Taco Bell, Applebee's or Walgreen's carrying Fanta products and I believe the price with the promo is $44.95.

Included in your admission price are all the great Busch Gardens rides and shows. The event starts at 7:00 pm and goes until 2:00 am. If you want front line access you can get access to a variety of houses, shows, and other exclusive offers but be careful.  It's like ordering drinks and appetizers at a restaurant - you can double your initial investment very quickly.  I sometimes get the advance passes to events but usually I figure I'm there for the night and not in a hurry anyway so I don't usually bother.

Visit for all the details and view some cool pics and video.  It's definitely worth it for a memorable Halloween celebration.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sea World Halloween Spooktacular

Every year Sea World hosts the Spooktacular.  Included in the price of a One-day park ticket is the Halloween celebration geared for kids 12 and under.  Along with the regular Sea World amenities Spooktacular has attractions like Penelope's Party Zone.  Kids can immerse themselves in games, music, crafts, and characters every weekend between now and Halloween on weekends.  Here they can also decorate apples or rice crispy squares.

There are also shows starring all the Sesame Street characters and kids can be selected to be part of the show.  Children's costumes are encouraged so dress them up and their photo can be part of the virtual costume parade at the Bayside Theater.

It's not Halloween without trick-or-treat.  Throughout the park are 15 or more trick-or-treat stations where kids can safely enjoy the traditional candy grab we all grew up on.   There is a lot of strolling entertainment such as characters, gifts, and places to eat.  It's a great alternative to walking around the neighborhood! If you really want to bump up your experience for additional prices you may consider Count Von Count's Spooktacular breakfast, the Family Fun Tour, or the Halloween Sleepover for kids Kindergarten - 5th Grade.

Check out for park hours and pricing as they tend to change.  Our kids love it and we think you will too.  Mine are a little older now so we go to other venues but this one is a lot of fun.

(NOTE:  The above image is courtesy of

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Orlando Science Center

Just up the road from the theme park corridor on the north side of Orlando is the Science Center.  It's just off I-4 on Princeton Street next to the Loch Haven area.  The Science Center opened about 20 years ago and struggled for years amid all the mega parks but carved out a nice existence for itself.

Six stories tall with an observatory on top the themes of the different floors changes periodically.  Dino Digs and  Lights & Lasers are two of the exhibition themes where kids can do hands on exploration with physics and chemistry.  They can also visit the lab and look at things under microscopes.  There are also electrical and water experiments with which they can amuse themselves.

My favorite exhibit is the Dino Digs.  Dozens of fossils behind glass are displayed in this room.  There are employees and volunteers all over who are there to speak with visitors and to discuss or explain the science and history of the dinosaur periods.

The Science Center is geared for school age kids but all ages enjoy this place.  It's educational for everybody and a great family experience.  There are playgrounds for the little kids and when you go make sure you secure reservations for the 6-story Imax Theater.  It's always awesome.  Check the website for shows and times.

Also check for admission and pricing.  If you're from the area the best price is the annual family pass for $135/year.  This price includes a free parking garage and discounts at the gift shop and cafe.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bongo's Cuban Cafe - Downtown Disney

Bongo's Cuban Cafe in Downtown is like visiting Havana in the 50's.  Established in the 90's by Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio, this is a great experience even if you aren't too familiar with Cuban fare.  The reservations line is a good idea but this time of year it's not quite so essential.  The staff is almost entirely Cuban and the service is usually fantastic.  More of that in a moment.

The girls at the reception desk are quite nice and hospitable.  We arrived early and were seated right away.  The food was perfect and we loved the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, our server wasn't the best and, while she was pleasant, was not very helpful.  Other servers paid more attention to us so it was still a nice dinner.

Dinner was perfect in every way.  We started with a potato ball with meat stuffing appetizer.  Cuban fried rice and fried pulled pork were also delicious.  The drinks were awesome and the children's menu had a good variety.  I recommend the pollo with yellow rice or the fried pulled beef which is a great choice every time.

The dining room is typically bustly and it's a little hard to hear everybody but not annoying.  The bar area is nice although we visited the dining room and entertainment on weekends is worth filming. There is a small gift shop attached if you're a souvenir hunter.  It's often too hot but this time of year you can sit outside and eat as well as on the balcony overlooking the sidewalk at Disney Village.  At night when the street music is playing and the street is lit the feeling is awesome and you never want to leave.

I give the experience an "A" although our server left something to be desired.  Everything else was great for us so we recommend this as a dining experience and hope to return as soon as we can.