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!