Archive | Worth the Drive

Winter Park Autumn Art Festival this Weekend!

Just a friendly reminder that the annual Winter Park Autumn Art Festival is this weekend. I have attended this festival many years, and it does not disappoint. If you are a tourist in the area, it really is worth the drive to attend this art show.

Winter Park Autumn Art Festival

2016 Festival Poster by Don Sondag

Held in Central Park, October 8 & 9, along the historic Park Avenue in downtown Winter Park, this event is the only juried art show to feature Florida artists exclusively. The festival is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. both days and admission is FREE. The community-oriented sidewalk show presents quality visual art and live entertainment the whole family can enjoy.

There will be ceramics, digital art, drawing/graphic art, fiber media, fine crafts, jewelry, painting (all media), photography, sculpture as well as live music and entertainment. Each year, this elite group of art enthusiasts support a 43-year tradition of producing a world-class festival.

Winter Park Autumn Art Festival Entertainment

In addition to the art, the Central Park stage will feature a wide array of entertainment including:

Saturday, October 8
9:00 a.m. – Mike Petrovich
10:00 a.m. – Mike Petrovich Trio
11:00 a.m. – Maitland Middle School Jazz Ensemble
12:00 p.m. – Casey Picou
1:00 p.m. – UCF Flying Horse Jazz Ensemble
2:30 p.m. – Cat Ridgeway
3:30 p.m. – Hannah & The Lionhearts

Sunday, October 9
9:00 a.m. – Nicholas Roberts
10:00 a.m. – Swamp Sistas Songwriting Circle
11:45 a.m. – Crenshaw
1:00 p.m. – WPHS Jazz Ensemble (Michael Clemente)
2:00 p.m. – Ukiah
3:30 p.m. – Beth McKee Band

*All acts subject to change

Other Features of this Festival

In addition to the art show, there will also be children’s activities and workshops. Prepare to do some shopping at this festival since the entire community gets involved and the shops offer some great items in their sidewalk sales. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from vendors at the festival. Also featured is a beer garden for guests (21+) to sample a variety of seasonal beer.

Parking is offered along Park Avenue and on the surrounding streets, with handicap spaces available in municipal lots throughout downtown as well as in the SunTrust and Park Place garages. SunRail will not be operating during the Autumn Art Festival. Pets are allowed, but must be on a leash, and well-behaved. For more information visit their website or call (407) 644-8281.

Keep your fingers crossed that this beautiful weather will hold out and another successful Winter Park Autumn Art Festival will be enjoyed by all. This is one of my favorite art shows in Florida. If you are looking for something special to do this weekend, visit Winter Park and enjoy autumn – at least Florida’s version within art.

Shrimp & Seafood Festival in New Smyrna Beach

Shrimp & Seafood Festival in New Smyrna BeachAre you ready for a road trip? If you like seafood and want to experience a small-town seafood festival, New Smyrna Beach is the place to be this coming Thursday, August 4, 2016. The Annual Shrimp & Seafood Festival takes place on Flagler Avenue (beachside) from 5pm – 9pm. During this festival, the street is blocked off and food, art and craft vendors are set up outside along the street. Live performances are featured on a small outdoor stage and visitors are free to wander around, sample the great food selections and enjoy an adult beverage (if old enough). Flagler merchants open their doors for guests to shop and escape the warm air.

Award winning area restaurants will be in attendance serving up the best seafood samples. Local restaurants as well as a few from the Daytona area are expected to have booths. Prices of these samples usually range from $3 to $6. Some are smaller than others, but by consuming 2 or 3 samples, you’ll manage to consume a nice meal at a fraction of the cost to dine at any one restaurant.

Shrimp & Seafood Festival Favorites

Shrimp & Seafood Festival favorite restuarantThere are many restaurants along Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach. The Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill at the end of the north causeway is one of the favorites at the Shrimp & Seafood Festival. Their booth will be along the avenue, or you can check out their restaurant location. Surf boards decorate the upper balcony with colorful paint. It is a fun location to sit outside and enjoy live music. The inside of the Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill is decorated tastefully in surfer fashion. Try the fish tacos. Some folks say they are the best EVER! The empañadas and hamburger are excellent too. Dishes from various regions are featured on the menu.

Flagler Tavern deckThe Bounty BarAlso located on Flagler Avenue is a newly renovated restaurant, the Flagler Tavern. While this location has been here for decades, this past year the restaurant added onto the front, side and top floor. Popular for its deck, this Shrimp & Seafood Festival vendor is a favorite among locals and visitors. Enjoy people watching from the deck, or sneak upstairs for a quite brunch or adult beverage at the bar.

Wide Variety of Samples

In addition to the local restaurants, the Shrimp & Seafood Festival also features restaurants from nearby Daytona, DeLand and others known for their excellent seafood. The festival offers a great opportunity to sample their dishes at one time and one location. With such a wide variety offered, you are sure to find several to sample.

New Smyrna Beach is about an hour’s drive from Orlando. Go early to get a parking place. Enjoy the seafood and the beach. If you can’t make it to this festival, try for another one. The merchants in NSB host a street festival almost on a monthly basis. They’re worth the drive!

This Central Florida Attraction Will Amaze You!

Central Florida has many attractions who’s founders based their theme park upon dreams and followed them up with a lot of hard work. Long & Scott Farms can be included in this list. A farm as an attraction? Well, this is no ordinary farm.

50 years ago, what started as a small farm located near Mount Dora (north of Orlando) was purchased, and dreams (and a few struggles, I’m sure) had begun. Today, the farm is not so small, and the dreams of a productive and successful farm can be experienced by hundreds of folks who are willing to make the drive. There is something for everyone to enjoy at this farm, including a market, cafe, and for the next few months, the Scott’s Maze Adventures. This is an Orlando attraction of another kind, and a great way to experience real Florida.

Scott’s Country Market is known for their Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. If you’ve ever attended a Zellwood Corn Festival, you’ll know that this corn is delicious. Even when it is not in season, this market is known for a lot of other freshly harvested produce. Local growers and farmers sell their best potted plants, cage-free eggs, Amish cheese, butter and bacon, local honey, dressings, BBQ sauces, jams, candles, cider, and much, much more! If you are looking for a farmer’s market outside of the immediate Orlando area, this market is open Tuesday thru Saturday 8:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday 12:00 pm- 6:00 pm and closed on Mondays.

Check out the market early in the morning and eat breakfast at Scott’s Country Cafe. If you’re not an early riser, plan on shopping and having lunch, although you can’t be too late. While the market stays open later, the cafe closes at 2pm on weekdays and 4pm on the weekends. Enjoy a meal made fresh from the farm’s very own produce. Unlike a few Central Florida attractions, this meal will be affordable, not to mention delicious! Be sure to have a cup or bowl of the corn chowder.

Long & Scott Farms MazesWhat truly makes this a Central Florida attraction is Scott’s Maze Adventures. For the past ten years people have traveled from all over to get lost in a cornfield! Located at the southeast corner of County Road 448A and Jones/Duda Road, the farm is fairly easy to get to. They provide very good driving directions, so you’ll not get lost. You may, however, get lost once you get there! If you like a challenge, find all 23 stations within the maze and successfully complete the game sheet. It can take up to 2 hours, or as little as 45 minutes to cover the 6-acre mazes. Many people come to this attraction for all of the other fun things to do outside of the maze. Kids will enjoy playing on the playground, bouncing on a huge jumping pillow, zip lining, going for a hay ride ($4) or fishing from a stocked pond ($2).

This year’s mazes highlight the partnership that the farm has with Second Harvest Food Bank. With the holidays nearing, it is a great time to visit the farm. Purchase customized, one-of-a-kind gift boxes and baskets for everyone on your list. If you are in need of a pumpkin they are available now. If you want a Christmas tree, visit the farm after Thanksgiving. The mazes are open through December 15 – weekends for the general public and week days for reserved groups. Cost for this attraction is $9 for youth (3 – 16); $11 for adults (17 & up), and free for children under 3 years of age. Admission includes:

  • Large & small Corn Maze
  • Tree Maze
  • Rock Maze
  • Mist Maze
  • Super Slide
  • Jumping Pillow
  • Zip Line for Kids
  • Playground
  • Picnic Area
  • free parking
  • access to food vendors.

It may be a little bit of a drive to get to this attraction, but you’ll be glad you went. It’s affordabe fun that the entire family will enjoy. In fact, I’m betting you and your family will have an aMAZEing time!

A Little History About a Mansion and a Man Named Capone

Central Florida may be home to our very own “Al Capone” and his rowdy gang of mishaps at Capone’s Dinner & Show, however, a little over 60 years ago, Al Capone made his home a little farther south of Orlando. Palm Island, Florida is an area near Miami Beach where Al’s last years were spent. His home still stands as a reminder of a different era.

Photo of Al Capone's home
Historic photo of Capone homeThis beautiful mansion was purchased by Capone for $40,000 cash in 1928 from Clarence Busch of the Anheuser-Busch family. It’s no wonder that these two knew each other. Prohibition dealt a serious blow to the brewery company in the 1930’s. Perhaps Al was just trying to help out an acquaintance after some rough times. More likely, he just wanted to own a piece of paradise! Of course, Anheuser-Busch bounced back quite well and up until 2009, they were the sole owners of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

Photo of Capone's mansion on a large lotThe property is quite large and spans the waterfront of Biscayne Bay the size of a football field. With the Bay practically at his back door, Al could toss out a line and relax while enjoying the sport of fishing. First, however, he needed to make some improvements including a 30-by-60-foot swimming pool, a two-story cabana pool house for his guards, the addition of another guesthouse, a gated guard house in the front of the mansion, all secured within a tall masonry wall. Capone had everything and the privacy he so desired.

Photo of Capone pool in FloridaRumor has it that this house is where Capone planned the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929. This home is also part of his alibi, since he was here in Florida when the famous incident took place and seven mobsters in Chicago were killed. Capone made sure that many people saw him enjoying the Florida sunshine in South Beach that day. While the FBI knew he was the master mind and ultimately responsible for the crime, they were unable to prove it. It would be tax evasion that put the famous mobster away behind bars for nearly a decade.

Purchase Capone’s Dinner Show Tickets!

Photo of the gatehouse for Capone's guardsAl held onto the Florida home and return there after being release from Alcatraz in 1939. These were not happy years for the notorious boss, despite the home’s beautiful surroundings. Capone suffered from syphilis and the disease had degraded his mind to that of a paranoid child. It was said that he slept in the front room of the home so that he could watch who was coming and going.

photo of Capone's art deco powder roomAl Capone died in an upstairs bedroom in 1947. The home has only had a few owners since. One of the concerns is that future owners will tear down the home and guesthouses in order to make use of the massive waterfront property, destroying a piece of Americana. Photo of Al Capone's bedroomThe most recent owner (until June of this year), Peter Corsell restored and updated the mansion to it’s original gangster grandeur including a powder room in Art Deco style. Although it is completely renovated, the home still maintains a tropical Havana style. It sold for $7.43 million after being listed originally at $9.95 million (Corsell bought it for $5.56 million).

While the current owners are staying private as Capone did, let’s hope that they give the boss some respect and keep this treasure ‘as is’ for many years to come. Al loved Florida, and it served him well. Let’s hope the home does so for the current owners and those to come. Rest in peace Al, all is well on the home front in Florida. Toss out a line and catch a big one!

Photo of Al Capone fishing.

Airboat Tours: See Wildlife the Real Way

Any Orlando attraction planning should include Airboat Tours. No, these are not like Airboat rides that are available. Tours are quite different. In Kissimmee, FL there are several places that will take you on an Airboat Tour with a set price for the entire family.

Some people feel like a boat is, well, a boat. Yet, to get the feel of a true airboat, a person needs to experience riding in a real one. Many companies claim to give tours when it is really just a ride in a “theatre seating” barge that accommodates several people. Finding an airboat tour with an airboat that seats, basically, six people is the way to go. This is a true airboat ride.

There are many Orlando attractions offering Airboat Tours. The place to find the genuine offers are in Kissimmee. There are tours that are located by Lake Kissimmee, the third largest lake in Florida. In this area, Airboat Tours give people the chance to be surrounded by 36,000 acres of pure swampland, and the wildlife that inhabit it. The area is undeveloped so no houses or buildings are in the area, only the Federal Wildlife Area and Protected Wetlands containing endangered wildlife.

As far as being an Orlando attraction, Airboat Tours are best experienced, to get the real experience, outside of Orlando. In order to see real endangered wildlife and experience the ride in a real Airboat, Kissimmee is the place to be. Overall, it isn’t that far of a drive. It should not be categorized as a theme park. Even though a rush and thrill can be had from the experience, it is so much more because nature and real life is involved.

So, what can one expect on a real Airboat Tour? If it is a real airboat, then it will be loud. Do not worry, experienced tour guides will provide headphones to block out the loud motor and allow you to hear your Captain as he points out “must see” wildlife and swamplands.

American Alligator can be seen on Kissimmee Airboat Tour

Some endangered species one can expect to see on these tours include, but are not limited to, Snail Kites, Whooping Cranes, American Bald Eagles, and, of course, the Florida Alligator. Seen on the best Airboat Tours are: wild turkeys, deer, and wild pigs. There are many Orlando attractions that provide Airboat rides, but they do not compare to the real deal.

Being in the real Florida swampland is the only way to take an airboat tour. So many Orlando attractions offering airboat rides always end up with people looking at the back of another barge type airboat. In order to experience a true connection to the endangered species in the Florida swamplands, Orlando attractions should include the Kissimmee area.

A loud airboat tour motor, with the wind blowing in your face, while the Captain makes sure you catch a glimpse of all the endangered wildlife there is to see, is the only way to go. Let your Orlando attraction include Airboat Tours in Kissimmee, you will not be sorry.