Posts Tagged ‘orlando’

How you can make a positive impact in Orlando

by on December 5, 2016

What a year 2016 has been for all of us. It seems now more than ever we all need a little escape and to take some time to enjoy the good things in life, and Orlando is the perfect place to do just that. And perhaps while you’re here, in the vacation capital for millions of people, you would like to make a positive impact, to give back to the place that has given so much to so many. There are many volunteer opportunities in Orlando.

With all its charm, magic, and fantasy it is sometimes forgotten that Orlando is a real place, with real people, and faces the challenges that many other communities face. In the spirit of the holiday season and as we wrap up such an interesting year, I’d like to share with you some charities and organizations that make a distinct difference in Orlando. Some of these are personal favorites in which I am involved, others are suggested organizations from friends and other prominent members of the Central Florida Community.

Find something that speaks to you and consider making time in your next Orlando vacation to volunteer, or set aside a little bit in your budget to make a donation.

Yours truly and my co-workers at Clean the World

Yours truly and my co-workers at Clean the World

Clean the World

Do you load up your suitcase with those little bottles of hotel shampoo and conditioner? Did you know there are organizations that collect bottles of unused shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and shower gel, as well as unused bars of soap all left behind in guest rooms?

Clean the World is the largest of such an organization and they got their start in Orlando! Hotels that participate with Clean the World train their housekeeping attendants to collect the unused bottles and bars and place them inside special shipping boxes that are sent to Clean the World’s sorting warehouses. There is one warehouse in Orlando and one in Las Vegas.

The unused products are sorted and sanitized. The soap is reformed into larger bars of soap and sent to impoverished countries, including remote villages where thousands of lives are often lost to disease that could be prevented just by the regular use of soap. The other products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and shower gel) are sanitized and then packaged into care bags that are distributed to shelters and centers to be given to anyone facing hard times and in need of such products.

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What makes I-Drive 360 and Tin Roof worth a visit?

by on November 2, 2016

I-Drive 360 will soon enter its second year in operation, but what makes it worth a visit? There are some hits and misses here, that’s true. The misses, like a gift shop selling the same mugs and t-shirts you can find along less desirable strips of highway, make it difficult to be on the level of Universal Orlando’s CityWalk or Disney Springs. The hits, however, make it a worthwhile destination.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

The hits

Though Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figures don’t appeal to me all, not a day goes by that I don’t see someone in my social media feed posting selfies with their favorite wax celebrities. It looks to be a fun, inexpensive attraction. Secondly, SeaLife Aquarium appears to have some beautiful settings and lots of great photo opportunities.

Combine these two attractions with a breathtaking ride aboard the Orlando Eye and now you’ve got a great afternoon mapped out. I’ve been aboard the Orlando Eye twice. I felt a swell of pride as we rose above and gazed out over the attractions area. On a clear day, Fall is a great season to hop on board and enjoy the views from the Orlando Eye.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

I-Drive 360’s best feature is actually their dining offerings. I appreciate that there is a range of options to fit practically any budget. Most of the restaurants are popular chains, but there is one in particular that is my favorite reason for visiting I-Drive 360. Tin Roof is the place! Every night live music can be heard pouring out of this place. It is vibrant and friendly. Best of all, the food is fantastic and a new menu has elevated Tin Roof to an even higher level, making it a must-visit for anyone who likes good music and great food.

Tin Roof’s new menu

Let me first say, I enjoyed Tin Roof’s previous menu so when they announced that a new menu was coming I got a little worried. Thankfully the revamp has taken a good thing and made it great! A group of local social media and blogging enthusiasts were invited to try out the new menu, but many of us were already regulars at Tin Roof, so this was a real treat!

Appetizers

On a night out, especially with friends, I tend to gravitate towards ordering 2-3 appetizers and sharing them as a group. So it’s important to me that this part of the menu have some stand outs. In fact, one of the items has now become something I crave on occasion.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Dixie Biscuits ($9.00)

These little bad boys became the hit of the table. Love at first bite! Three sliders are presented on the plate and I would have a hard time sharing them. A new star of the menu is the house smoked beef brisket. It is served in a few ways, but in this case it is sandwiched in between a deep fried biscuit – yes, that’s right a deep fried biscuit, then topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, and peach jam. Everyone at the table loved these!

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Bacon Mason ($5.00)

For those that enjoy the simple things in life, this one’s for you. A nice stack of crispy bacon is served alongside peach preserves. The end. For $5.00 this is a quick and easy snack to share.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Poppers ($7.00)

Confession: I love pimento cheese. It is a slightly spicy creamy, cheese spread that nearly every Southerner knows from their childhood. These little croquettes are filled with peppadew and pimento cheese, then wrapped in bacon. My one qualm with these poppers is they can be difficult to eat without being messy.

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Dani’s Best Week Ever March 31, 2016: Universal Orlando CityWalk

by on March 31, 2016

Spring has sprung! Orlando has welcomed Spring Breakers and Easter holidayers with open arms. Word on the street is that this past Saturday marked the most amount of passengers through Orlando International Airport in a single day! After a quick, less-than-24 hour trip to visit my parents in North Florida, I headed to Universal Orlando for an extensive stroll around CityWalk and a movie. It was evident that the Spring Break / Easter crowd had descended upon Universal Orlando, but I easily had an enjoyable time. I noticed a few details I hadn’t before and although I had the ability to go into the parks, the desire to do so gave way to enjoying CityWalk instead.

I journeyed to Universal property via exit 75A (West bound just after Kirkman), this ramp provides a great vantage point of Volcano Bay water park and Sapphire Falls resort construction. This side of Universal property has been under construction for a few years now with the building of Cabana Bay and now its expansion and the addition of Sapphire Falls and Volcano Bay.

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I arrived around 2:00 PM and of course there was a large amount of cars waiting at the parking plaza, and not all lanes were open; thankfully things moved relatively quickly. One tip I can offer for parking is to make sure you have your form of payment ready to go and know ahead of time whether or not you want to shell out the extra money for preferred parking. If, like me, you’re an annual passholder then have your pass and photo ID in hand ready to go.

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The lesser known rides at Universal Orlando

by on January 27, 2016

It’s clear that Universal Orlando has cornered the market on thrilling, exhilarating rides. When you want exciting experiences, Universal Orlando is the clear choice. But there is more to Universal than thrill rides, and we often overlook the smaller, more minor attractions here. Especially with the closure of two of Universal Studio’s minor attractions: Disaster! and Twister Ride It Out! (both names ending in exclamation points I might add), it can be easy to forget the small collection of less thrilling rides.

Kang and Kodo’s Twirl ‘n’ Hurl

It seems that the spinner style ride is a must-have when building a theme park. It all started with the iconic Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Disneyland in 1955. Ever since that time it has become a staple of theme parks to have at least one of this type of ride in its line-up.

At Universal Orlando two spinner rides are offered, both with a little added touch. Twirl and Hurl came onto the scene when the World Expo area received a makeover courtesy of The Simpsons. After The Simpsons Ride took over for Back to the Future, the turf of the Simpsons was expanded to include multiple eateries, midway games, and this spinner ride.

Pay close attention to the signage throughout the ride’s queue and exit, as well as the audio messaging. I love the names of the ride vehicles, each flying saucer has a unique, pun laden name such as Mai Tai Fighter or Ronald Ray-gun. Additionally, the extra touch here are the targets around the circumference of the ride. As you spin through the air aim, your vehicle up or down to line up with the targets of varying heights. If you line it up just right you’ll cause the targets to spin accompanied by silly sound effects.

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The most relaxing place inside Walt Disney World

by on January 21, 2016

In 1971, the dawn of the Vacation Kingdom, Walt Disney World came to be. In the beginning Walt Disney World wasn’t about theme parks, it was a sprawling vacation getaway with multiple ways to relax and reconnect. Now that Walt Disney World has grown to encompass four distinct theme parks, two water parks, mini golf, PGA golf courses, and over 20 resort hotels, it can sometimes feel like the is no room for relaxation. But, if you look for it, you can still find the Vacation Kingdom’s message of leisure, and one of the best places to find it is the Bay Lake area.

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(Photo by Brian McNichols)

A brief history of Bay Lake

The strategic development of what was once marsh land to create Walt Disney World is pretty fascinating. It is a smart business move that sometimes happens today: company names created to purchase the land without the attractive, financial appeal of the Disney Corporation, and thus a price increase. Then there’s the creation of a self-governing city: Bay Lake. Many steps were taken to make Walt Disney World incredibly unique and free from much of the normal regulation other enterprises have to face.

Lay of the lake

The main destinations within the Bay Lake Area are some of Disney’s most iconic resorts. Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge resorts each have their own distinct character and appeal. Visiting these resorts is enough to make for a nice afternoon, but the activities that can be enjoyed throughout this resort area can make for a full day of recreation.

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Food and Wine Festival: Epcot vs. Busch Gardens

by on April 13, 2015

The waterbound octopus topiary is just one of the sights at the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival

The waterbound octopus topiary is just one of the sights at the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival

Look, I love Epcot, and because you’re a faceless (but doubtlessly beautiful and well dressed) internet entity, I’m going to project and say you love Epcot, too, and one of the things we both love about it is the International Food and Wine Festival. What’s not to love about food and adult beverages from all over the world amassed in one beautiful sunny location? But this year, for the first time, we have… other options. Saturdays and Sundays from March 7th to April 26th, Busch Gardens Tampa is having their very first Food and Wine Festival, and as a local who now has literally been wined and dined by both of her beloved theme parks, it’s only fitting that I tell you what you’re missing if you stay in Orlando, and what the differences are. Is this a “one is better than the other” situation? Given that the events take place at different times of the year in different locations with different offerings, not really. It’s more my hope to let Epcot fans know that there’s something else going on nearby in Florida now that they really might want to make a visit to when their tummies are a’rumblin’ if they’re on vacation. Hey, if you’re gonna be a foodie, at least be an equal opportunity foodie!

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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Heading to Orlando? Pop on over to the Kissimmee Popcorn Company

by on May 26, 2014

Kissimmee Popcorn Company SignFair warning: if you don’t have a trip to Orlando planned soon you might want to postpone reading this one. If you continue on I can’t be held responsible for any airfare booked as a result! You’ve been warned. 😉

Many of you have probably seen me dropping into articles here and there that I’m maniacally planning a trip to Tokyo Disneyland Resort later this year. Apparently, I’ve been talking about it a little too much at home, too. Earlier this week my hubby came home and announced he had a surprise for me. We piled into the car and just a short while later arrived at the Kissimmee Popcorn Company. For anyone who is confused, Tokyo Disney is known for exotic popcorn flavors sold around the parks. Some of the oddest include: curry, strawberry, soy sauce, and milk tea! I didn’t find any milk tea popcorn, but I did find something really special. And just like all good things – I couldn’t wait to share it with you guys!

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