Archive for October, 2009

Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens

October 31, 2009

Montessori Students Observing a Sculpture at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens

A wonderful place to visit during your trip to Orlando are the quaint towns of Winter Park and Maitland, located just north of Orlando.  Here you will find a wide variety of fantastic restaurants, beautiful shops, the Enzian Theatre, the Maitland Art Center and the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens.


Polasek's "Emily Fountain" In Front of the Entrance to the Museum

Today Number One Daughter’s Montessori School of Celebration took a field trip to the Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens and Mrs. LanceAround and I volunteered to drive.  Since we used to live on the border of Winter Park, we had driven by the museum many times, but never stopped for a visit.  The museum appeared nice, yet nothing enticed us to enter.  Today we discovered just what we were missing.


# 1 Daughter Sketches a Statue

The museum is housed in Albin Polasek’s retirement home.  He personally designed the home and moved there in 1950 at the age of 70 after a 30 year distinguished career as the head of the sculpture department at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago.

Museum Curator, Karen Louden, Gives a Brief Talk to the Montessori Students

Museum Curator, Karen Louden, Addresses the Montessori Students

Albin was born in Frenstat, Moravia (now Czech Republic) in 1879 and immigrated to the United States in 1901.  He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and became an American citizen.  In 1910 he won the distinguished Prix de Rome competition which gave him a three-year fellowship at the American Academy of Art in Rome.  By 1933 he received the honor of full academician status in the illustrious National Academy of Design.  This allowed him to place the coveted N.A. after his signature.


Montessori Students Bryana (foreground) and Kaitlin (background) Complete Their Sketches

In addition to housing the largest collection of Albin Polasek sculptures, the museum and sculpture gardens also feature beautiful gardens, exquisite landscapes, other prominent sculptures, travelling exhibitions, camps, lectures and much more.  For the lucky readers of my blog who are seeking “More Than a Mouse”™ this is one place you will enjoy visiting!


Montessori Student Amy Capturing a Work of Art

Philly Cheese Steak . . . In Orlando?!?

October 29, 2009

Karen Proudly Displays Her First Cheesesteak, Birch Beer and Tastykake Alongside Mrs. LanceAround in Front of the Mural of Philly's Citizen's Bank Park at Brianto's Restaurant in Orlando

I grew up in a predominately Mennonite community on the northern outskirts of Philadelphia.  Currently, it is one large metropolis from the center of Philly to my hometown of Souderton, PA.  When I was growing up, however, Souderton/Telford were two small communities surrounded by lush farmland with Philadelphia being the large city an hour’s train ride away.

Point is:  I know what a Philly Cheesesteak is.  Yes, I am now a vegetarian.  But I was a carnivore when I grew up and I know a good Philly Cheesesteak.  I have eaten at Geno’s and Pat’s.  I have dined (ha!) at the Melrose Diner.  I even know good Shoo Fly Pie, Funny Cake and what Pon Haus is (more commonly referred to as Scrapple!)  Alas, I digress.  Today we are focused on cheesesteak.

To begin, those of you unfamiliar with Philly lingo will need to know a few definitions.  (If you are from Philly, you can skip this part):

Hoagie–An un-initiated person will see a hoagie and refer to it as a sub, submarine, wedge, zep, torpedo, hero or grinder.  If you are from Philly, you will instantly recognize a hoagie as something beyond these inferior copycats.

Amoroso Roll–The first thing that makes a hoagie a hoagie is that it is made on an authentic, hearth baked Amoroso roll.  These soft, moist, Italian hoagie rolls with a brushing of grainy cornmeal are what set any hoagie or cheesesteak apart from an ordinary “sandwich.”  They are made in Philadelphia.  Don’t bother to look for them anywhere else.


Authentic Philly Cheesesteak

Cheesesteak–A specific kind of hoagie made with chopped steak and whiz.  Okay, you can add onions, mushrooms, even tomatoes and lettuce if you like, but you can’t have an authentic cheesesteak with something as coarse as cheddar cheese.  Remember, we’re talking authentic Philly here, “Yo!”

Whiz–Yes, this refers to a variation of cheese whiz and is (believe it or not) the only acceptable alternative for adding cheese to your cheesesteak.  Okay, okay, you can get provolone (only if it is particularly sharp) or some other provincial variation, but you should get whiz.  I’m telling mom if you don’t.  Don’t make the mistake John Kerry made during his presidential campaign in 2003.  He asked for swiss cheese on his cheesesteak order.  Said one local Philadelphia food critic, “In Philadelphia, that’s an alternative lifestyle!”

Birch Beer–This unique soda can only be found in or near Southeastern Pennsylvania or perhaps imported into the finest (ha!) dinning establishments or corner stores around the world.  It is similar to root beer, but with a slightly sweeter and more eloquent taste.  In Mennonite communities, alcohol was forboden so the local beverage distributor had kegs of birch beer for sale.  When Mrs. LanceAround and I got married near her hometown of Roanoke, VA, my mother and father brought a keg of birch beer to serve guests at the wedding.  I thought we were providing our guests with a delicious and serendipitously unique libation experience that they would fondly recall for years to come.  I later discovered that when the keg would spout out a soda pop, most of our guests (from Virginia, that is) felt cheated.  My family members and friends from SE Pennsylvania understood!

soft pretzel

REAL Soft Pretzels Look Like This

Soft Pretzels–Sorry, if you have ever eaten a “soft pretzel” from Aunt So-and-So’s booth at your local mall, you have never had a REAL soft pretzel.  An authentic Philly soft pretzel can only be purchased on a street corner in Philly, served by an un-bathed Filth-a-delphian who doesn’t use a glove (or any other kind of sanitary activity) and who grabs a stack of at least four pretzels squished together from a brown paper bag on the side of the road where they have had ample time to accumulate the peculiar dust and grime of back Philly roads that enhances their unique flavor. Feel free to smother them with yellow mustard.  Forget the dijon and if anyone asks for Grey Poupon I believe the correct response is to hit them.


TastyKake, Birch Beer and Herr's Potato Chips

Tastykake–Another Philly tradition that will look surprisingly similar to a “Hostess” or “Little Debbie” to the un-initiated.  Yet, as their ad says, “Nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake!”

Shoo Fly Pie, Funny Cake, Pon Haus, Scrapple, Fausnaught–Well, these have more to do with my Anabaptist (i.e. Mennonite)/Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and less to do with Philly.  We’ll talk about this in a different blog…

Anyway, when I read an article in the Orlando Weekly suggesting that there is a restaurant in Orlando that provides an authentic Philly Cheesesteak experience, I was (to say the least) skeptical.  I have been disappointed many times before by places claiming to have authentic Philly Cheesesteaks.  So Number One Son and I made the hour long trip from my home near Disney World to the Avalon Park community on the eastern end of Orlando to Brianto’s Original Hoagies Restaurant.


Even Brianto's Signs Look Like Philly

Upon entering the establishment, we noticed a sign proclaiming that they served genuine Amoroso rolls.  Wow!  Good start.  As mentioned above, there is no such thing as a hoagie or cheesesteak that is served on something other than an Amoroso roll.  I asked the owner if he would mind cleaning his grill and then frying me some mushrooms and onions and putting them in a roll for me.  He did so (after giving me a quizzical look) and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted.  I also ordered a soft pretzel and was dismayed to discover that these were not authentic Philly pretzels.  Don’t buy them.  (They didn’t have any grime on them.)

The following week, I took my carnivorous friend, Karen, (who also happens to be our Number One Daughter’s Montessori Teacher) and Mrs. LanceAround back to Brianto’s to get their opinion of the cheesesteak.  This was Karen’s first cheesesteak.  This time I brought along some vegetarian meat alternative.  The owner was nice enough to clean the grill again and make a vegetarian cheesesteak for Mrs. LanceAround and I.  I became slightly inattentive when Karen ordered the “provolone” option for her cheesesteak, but I quickly caught her error and insisted that she switch to “whiz.”  The result:  Karen proclaims that the cheesesteak was delicious!  In addition, Karen experienced her first Butterscotch Krimpet Tastykake and her first Hank’s Birch Beer.  What a treat!  All this at low Philly Hoagie prices.


Fresh Steak Chopped and Grilled to Order

The bottom line–A huge thumbs up for Brianto’s Original Hoagies Restaurant.  In addition to the cheesesteaks, Hank’s soda and Tastykake, they also serve salads, hoagies, grilled cheese, hot dogs, hot hoagies, tortellini salads, fruit cup, garlic bread and Herr’s potato chips (another Philly tradition.)  Hoagies can be 6, 12 or a man-sized 18 inches.  Prices range from $4.49 for some of the 6″ (which will fill you up) to $12.99 for some of the 18″ (which will fill you up till Tuesday.)

Get an 18″ and take the extra home for a next day treat.

Brianto’s Original Hoagies
12001 Avalon Lake Drive
Orlando, FL 32828
Open 11:00am to 10:00pm


October 25, 2009
How Did That Building Get There?

How Did That Building Get There?

Driving down International Drive in Orlando, you casually glance out your window and…Oh No!…There’s a building that is upside down and appears to have crashed on top of another building.  Was it a hurricane?  An earthquake?

Naw, you pull into the parking lot to get a better look and suddenly realize you are at WonderWorks, Orlando’s Upside Down Attraction!

This creative, fun-filled place is what is known as a “half day attraction.”  Orlando is filled with wonderful places to explore.  The big places, like the major theme parks, are known as “full day attractions.”  The smaller places are known as “half day attractions.”  Your family can have a lot of fun in Orlando without ever setting foot in a theme park by going to attractions like WonderWorks.

WonderWorks consists of three main areas:  The WonderWorks featuring over 100 exhibits, a Lazer Tag game and the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show.  As a reward for all their hard work, we treated our cleaners to a trip to WonderWorks and The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show.  Since they are the best vacation rental home cleaners in the world, well, it was the least we could do!

3500 Pointy, Sharp Nails

3500 Pointy, Sharp Nails

The fictitious backstory of WonderWorks states that it was once a top secret laboratory in the Bermuda Triangle.  One day, a horrific tornado carried it thousands of miles and plopped it upside down in the middle of Orlando.  The tornado was created by scientists inside the lab who were trying to find answers to the unexplainable.  Their experiment went awry, causing the tornado, but all of the other experiments remained intact and are what is on display inside WonderWorks.  They give no explanation for how the building turned upside down but all the experiments inside are now right side up!

You begin the journey into WonderWorks by walking through a tunnel with a psychedelic, round revolving wall that creates the sensation that the bridge you are on is spinning.  Once inside, you’ll find creative exhibits that allow you to experience an earthquake, land the space shuttle, lie on a bed of sharp nails, play virtual sports, pilot a fighter jet and ride a virtual roller coaster.  There are also numerous exhibits that feature optical illusions, musical experiments, sound effects, light and shadows and so forth.  All-in-all, it is both amusing and enjoyable–Well worth a look see!

Another component of WonderWorks is a Lazer Tag game.  For this game, you strap on a vest and attempt to shoot members of the opposing team with lazers while traversing through a 10,000 square foot maze.  A computer tabulates the “hits” and gives you a score at the end of the game.  It’s a lot of fun.  After the lazer tag game, there is a video arcade area.

The World's Best Vacation Home Cleaner Explores How Pulleys Work

The World's Best Vacation Home Cleaner Explores How Pulleys Work

Last, but not least, is the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show.  This wonderful show is my favorite live dinner theatre in all of Orlando.  I have written a separate blog post about it that you can read here.

The individual cost for adults/children (4-12) or Seniors (65+) is $19.95/$14.95 for WonderWorks, $4.95/$4.95 for Lazer Tag and $24.95/$16.95 for The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show.  There are also combo tickets available for any combination of these attractions that will save you a couple of bucks.  The WonderWorks website also offers a printable coupon for $1.50 off and you can also find coupons in the many tourist advertising books that are littered throughout the Orlando area.

Even if you decide you don’t have time to enjoy WonderWorks while you are in Orlando, take a spin down International Drive just to show your family the upside down building.  They’ll get a real kick out of it.

Best Orlando Dinner Show with Magic

October 20, 2009
The World's Best Cleaners Pose with the Best Dinner Show Performer in Orlando
The World’s Best Cleaners Pose with the Best Dinner Show Act in Orlando

In addition to theme parks and water parks, a popular form of entertainment in the Orlando area is the dinner shows.  There are many varieties; from small, intimate shows in the corner of a restaurant to large extravaganzas with thundering horses or swashbuckling pirates on huge ships.  I have seen most of these and some day I will blog about them all.

This past week, we were fortunate to discover a little known dinner show featuring magic and comedy called The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show.  It immediately became our favorite dinner show to recommend for anyone coming to Orlando. 

Here’s what happened.

One of the challenges of running a vacation rental home company is finding quality cleaners who consistently clean every home with great attention to detail.  In the ten years we have been in business, we tried everything from hiring and training our own cleaners to using large cleaning companies.  Even with the close supervision we provide, we could not find a solution that gave us the meticulous results upon which we insist.  That is, until about one year ago when Office Manager Anne discovered Katya, Alexander and Cristian.

These hard working, honest folk had to escape from Columbia, fearing for their lives, during a social upheaval.  Upon arriving in America and unfamiliar with the language, they had to find a way to earn a living.  We were lucky to run into each other.  Ever since we hired them, our homes have gotten rave reviews for cleanliness.

We were so happy, we wanted to do something special for our new friends.  But what to do?  Especially with the language barrier?  That’s when I suddenly recalled a dinner show featuring magic at WonderWorks.  Billed as “Central Florida’s only upside down attraction,” you know you’ve reached someplace unique when you drive up to WonderWorks and discover a building that appears to have been ripped from its foundation and landed upside down on another building!  Inside you’ll find some amazing exhibits–that I will blog about in a future post–and the best dinner show in all of Central Florida!

Since our cleaners struggle with English, we thought they could enjoy a magic show.  None of us were disappointed.

The Food--And Laughs--Kept on Coming

The Food--And Laughs--Kept on Coming

In addition to the show, there is unlimited salad, pizza, soda and even wine and beer.  The food itself wasn’t fantastic.  The elongated tables were pre-set with large bowls of mixed salad, containers of creamy Italian dressing and top hats filled with popcorn.  The plastic plates and forks were a bit of a disappointment.  After enjoying some salad, large pizzas were placed down the table.  They were half cheese, half pepperoni.  Since we are vegetarian, we requested an all cheese pizza and it appeared within minutes.

Plastic cups were filled to the brim with soda, wine or beer.  Throughout the evening the servers were attentive and refilled your glass whenever it emptied.  During the last portion of the show, trays of white cake with white icing replaced the pizza trays.

While the food was adequate, and there was all-you-care-to-eat-and-drink, the entertainment was top notch.  It took a few minutes to warm up to the comic prestidigitator, but after a while it became impossible to not laugh at his quirky sense of humor.  Unlike many one-man performers, Tony Brent has the unique ability to play in perfect harmony to his audience.  He is not threatened by the crowd nor does he have a need to be the center of the universe as he utilizes audience interaction during his comedic magic show.  If an audience member provides a moment of entertainment, Tony is happy to let him have the spotlight.

While Tony’s magic is top notch, it is his ability to introduce humor as well as his spot-on timing that makes it the best dinner show in Orlando.  He utilizes different costumes and voices to create or parody characters that make you laugh until your side hurts.  His magic enhances the characterizations.  His tricks are not overly sophisticated, but when combined with the characters and music, it creates a comprehensive evening of entertainment.

"Sonny and Cher" Lip Sync "Babe"

"Sonny and Cher" Lip Sync "Babe"

The show ends with an unsuspecting male audience member put into a wig and fake mouth and forced to lip sync the song “Babe” with Tony playing Sonny.  It is impossible to convey in words how hilarious it was to watch that bit.

His website advertises that his show is “funny enough for the comedy club, smart enough for the boardroom and clean enough for the church.”  That is very accurate and pretty much sums up the Outta Control Magic Show at WonderWorks.

It was so rewarding to watch the world’s best cleaners–Alexander and Katya–Smiling and laughing during the show.  We were so sorry that Cristian could not attend.  After the show, we gave them a gift certificate for a restaurant and told them how much they meant to us and to our business.  We were so happy that we could provide them an evening of exquisite entertainment as our way of saying thanks for all the hard work they do for us and our guests.

The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show is only $24.95 for adults and $16.95 for children ages 4 to 12 and seniors.  It is at 6pm seven days a week and occasionally at 8pm on some Saturday evenings.  For an additional $14 for adults and $12 for children and seniors, you can also enjoy all the exhibits at WonderWorks–But I’ll blog about that later.

For now, I just want you to know that if you are planning to enjoy a dinner show while in the Orlando Area, this is the one to see!

Character Breakfast Dining at Disney World

October 17, 2009
Minnie joins Mrs. LanceAround, # 1 Daughter and Office Manager Anne for breakfast
Minnie Mouse joins Mrs. LanceAround, # 1 Daughter and Office Manager Anne for breakfast

Something relatively new and gaining immensely in popularity is the character dining at Disney World.

It’s a relatively simple idea.  Take an ordinary Disney restaurant, parade some “tier one” Disney characters around during mealtime and BAM–you can charge guests a lot more for their meal!

Perhaps that viewpoint is a bit too cynical.  In reality, watching young children interact with the characters during a meal can’t help but bring a smile to your face.  Even Office Manager Anne and Mrs. LanceAround were giggling while watching Minnie Mouse scamper with a lot of energy through the restaurant.

Goofy sign points the way for # 1 Daughter

Goofy sign points the way for # 1 Daughter

We discovered a wonderful place to have a character breakfast in Disney World.  It is at the Regal Sun Resort located on Hotel Plaza right next to Downtown Disney. 

Since the Regal Sun is a little set apart from other Disney venues, it is easier to enter and exit.  It is often less crowded, which means you get a lot of attention from the characters.  Usually Goofy and Pluto are on hand.  However, when I treated Mrs. LanceAround, # 1 Daughter and Office Manager Anne to breakfast on Tuesday, Minnie and Goofy were the ones to great us.

Fresh omlettes made to order

Omelet made to order

Although various restaurants throughout Disney World offer character dining, and you can find characters at different restaurants for every meal of the day, the most popular one is breakfast.  And while there are table service character meals, most of them, like the one at Regal Sun, is a buffet.  Regal Sun has a character breakfast every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7:30am to 10:30am at the Lakeview Restaurant on the mezzanine floor of the hotel. 

The venue itself is very nice.  There are large windows overlooking the resort pool and lake area.  The decor is warm and inviting.  The staff is very friendly.  They often take photos of the entire family enjoying breakfast with a character stopping by for a visit.
Wait staff helps take your photo

Helpful staff

The food is scrumptious and there is plenty of it.  In addition to a hot buffet with eggs, hash browns, pancakes, sausage, bacon and other fare, there is an extensive array of fresh fruit and a cereal bar.  Best of all is the fresh omelet station where a chef is ready to make your omelet to order.  Delicious.

Orange juice, coffee, tea and other libations are continually refilled by the wait team as you continually refill your plate at the buffet.

Throughout the course of the meal, at least one and sometimes two characters make the rounds.  They spend time at every table interacting with the guests, signing autographs and posing for photos.  At the table next to ours, a little girl squealed with delight as she exclaimed, “Mommy, he kissed me!” when Goofy bent over and nuzzled his muzzle to her head.
Lots of good food!

Lots of good food!

Normally, the character breakfast at the Regal Sun is $22 for adults 12 and over and $11 for children ages 3 to 11.  My office established a contract with them to sell the breakfast for $19.95 for adults and $9.95 for children.  You can make reservations by calling us at 407.396.2233.

In addition to the character breakfast at the Regal Sun, character dining is abundant throughout Disney World; from having a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table at the castle in Magic Kingdom to a Backyard BBQ with Mickey Mouse in Fort Wilderness Campground.  There’s character dining at the Grand Floridian, Beach Club, Contemporary, Swan and Polynesian hotels as well as in all four theme parks.  Each one has a different theme and provides different characters.  Each has a different cost, with breakfast being the least expensive.  Some are buffets and some are sit down meals.  Choose the one that meets your budget and provides a chance for your child (and you!) to interact with their favorite character.

It’s best to make a reservation for character dining.  Some venues, like the Cinderella’s Royal Table in the castle at Magic Kingdom, require advance reservations with a credit card.  Other venues, like the Lakeview Restaurant at the Regal Sun, can provide walk-in service.

Goofy acting, well, goofy with # 1 Daughter

Goofy acting, well, goofy with # 1 Daughter

Whichever character meal you select, plan to give yourself (and your children) plenty of time to enjoy the meal and characters.  By contract, Disney characters can only appear for a half hour out of every hour and they spend a lot of time at every table each meal.  You want to make sure you have allotted enough time for your family to get the most out of your character dining.

Don’t schedule your character meal at a time when you will want to rush out to go to a theme park!

Bon Appetite!

Howl-O-Scream Alternative to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

October 13, 2009
A Fashion Show Turns Ghoulish at the House of Vayne

A Fashion Show Turns Ghoulish at the House of Vayne

This time of year the Orlando Area comes alive with Halloween activities.

The most popular is Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.  Every year it gets bigger and better.

Not to be out done, Busch Gardens in Tampa has their Howl-O-Scream.  Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in October, Busch Gardens closes their park at 6:00pm to prepare for the 7:30pm opening of Howl-O-Scream.  It ends at 1:00am on Thursdays and 2:00am on Fridays and Saturdays.

# 1 Daughter and Best Friend Bryana Are Enticed by a Vampire in the Mist

# 1 Daughter and Best Friend Bryana Are Enticed by a Vampire in the Mist

General Admission is advertised at $69.95 but advance web tickets only cost $39.95 on Thu/Fri and $49.95 on Saturday.  In addition, there are upgrades such as the “Viewing Tour,” “Funeral Tour,” and “Embalming Tour.”  There’s also a “Club enVy Happy Hour” and “Fright Feast” buffet upgrade available.

Mrs. LanceAround and I took Number One and Two Sons and Number One Daughter with Best Friend Bryana to experience Howl-O-Scream for this post.

Scares Abound Around Every Corner

Scares Abound Around Every Corner

In many ways, Howl-O-Scream is similar to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Orlando (as reported in this blog post and another blog post by Office Manager Anne from last year.)  There is a “theme” to the evening.  In this case, it is the vain vampires from the House of Vayne who turn evil in the middle of a fashion show. 

# 1 Daughter Opts Out of this Haunted House

# 1 Daughter Opts Out of this Haunted House

There are several “haunted houses.”  There are “scare zones” where various creatures of the night attempt to startle you as you walk down the sidewalk.  And there are a couple of shows.

One thing that sets it apart from HHN, however, are the many roller coasters at Busch Gardens.  The combination of scary thrill rides with the ghoulish Halloween activities makes for a night of fun-filled fright!

The Macabre Magic of Jason Byrne

The Macabre Magic of Jason Byrne

This year’s Howl-O-Scream features an excellent, though macabre, magic show by Jason Byrne.  Be sure not to miss it.

The general consensus of our party is that Howl-O-Scream, although it did not provide the intense level of scare you get at HHN, does provides an acceptable alternative to the crowds at Universal Studios.  It is especially convenient if you are staying on the gulf coast.  From the Orlando area, your ticket also includes a free shuttle that departs from the Orlando Premium Outlets at 3pm and then departs Busch Gardens at midnight for the ride back to Orlando.

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival are all good reasons to plan your trip to Orlando during the month of October–If you dare!

Orlando Japan Festival 2009 at Hunters Creek

October 8, 2009
"Feel Japan"

"Feel Japan"

The Orlando Japan Festival is only a month away!  It will be held on Sunday November 8th, 2009 from Noon to 5pm.  This year’s festival is again held at the Village of Hunter’s Creek–On John Young Parkway just south of hwy. 417 about 10 minutes east of Disney World.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the festival, here is a link to a post I wrote about last year’s festival:

For more information, here is a link to this year’s festival website:

If you have a child who loves anime, pocky sticks and/or all things Japan, they will get a real kick out of this festival.  Attendance is free.  There are lots of vendors, games, music, dance and more.  It takes less than an hour to walk through all the vendors.  Don’t miss the Japanese Taiko (drumming) presentation.  It’s fantastic!  (And I’m not just saying that because my daughter will be performing with her friends from the Montessori School.)

See you there!

Florida Eco-Safaris and More at Forever Florida

October 4, 2009


Some of Florida's "Not-So-Wildlife" Enjoys a Nap on a Barrel
Some of Florida’s “Not-So-Wildlife” Enjoys a Nap on a Barrel

By now, regular readers of my blog understand that Forever Florida is a very special place.

The last five blogs have focused on the main activities at Forever Florida:

–The Allen Broussard Conservancy, a 4700 acre tract of land forever preserved in memory of the young man who passed on too early and is forever loved.

Montessori Student Explores the Florida Landscape

Montessori Student Explores the Florida Landscape

–The Zipline Safari, an opportunity to see the REAL Florida by zipping up to 55 feet in the air and walking across two sky bridges.  A definite must-do!

–The Coach Safari, a gentle way to experience the wilderness and diverse ecosystems of Florida while riding five feet in the air on a monster coach.

The Horseback Safari, giddy-up and ride ’em cow hunter (don’t say “cowboy” unless you’re lookin’ fer trouble) through the wilderness of Forever Florida.

The “City Slicker” Dude Ranch experience at the Crescent J ranch, a real, hands-on adventure in ridin’, ropin’ and drivin’ cattle across the pristine Florida wilderness.

Yet, with all that, we have barely scratched the surface of what Forever Florida has to offer. 

Look Closely

Look Closely

Camp Illahaw in Forever Florida offers campers of all ages the chance to experience everything that’s great about Florida.  The diverse ecosystems, wildlife, rich heritage, a working cattle ranch and more are part of the experience.  Each summer Camp Illahaw provides weekly Summer Adventure Camps for children ages 10 to 15.  Throughout the year church, civic, school or scout groups can reserve the campground for a true Florida outdoor adventure.

A low ropes course is available for corporate or private group retreats.  Teach your organization the value of team building, leadership and determination as you master the challenges presented on the course.

Montessori Students Find Delight at Every Corner

Montessori Students Find Delight at Every Corner

Camping is a large part of Forever Florida.  There is a small, primitive one-troop Scout Camp on the Crescent J Ranch that has been used by Girl and Boy Scouts for over thirty years.  There is a remote but up-scale campground way back in the wilderness of Forever Florida for individuals, couples or small groups.  Also, a large area “up front” can comfortably handle a Camporee of up to twenty Scout troops.  Plus there are two more campsites in-between.  What’s more, in the fall of 2009, Forever Florida will add six person cabins.

Education is a large part of the Forever Florida mission.  They provide Educator Resources designed to be compatible with Florida educational standards.  They host student classrooms, such as my daughter’s Montessori School, who spent a day at Forever Florida learning about the wildlife, taking a coach tour, and learning teamwork with the ropes course.  There is a Teacher In-Service Accrual program for teachers searching for non-traditional in-service point accrual.  They are also in the process of developing an On-line Interactive Eco Classroom.  It will focus on the various Florida ecosystems and their relationships to each other and to us.

Breath Deep

Breath Deep

If bringing your class or group to Forever Florida is not possible, the Forever Florida Mobile Classroom can come to you!

Hungry?  The Cypress Restaurant provides a daily BBQ special with all the fixin’s fer just $10 per person.  They even serve beef that was raised on the Crescent J Ranch.  It’s also a wonderful place to host a birthday, anniversary, wedding or other special event party.

Right beside the rustic tables in the restaurant is the gift shop which features artwork by local Florida artists along with suitable souvenirs of all kinds that help remind you of your time in the Florida wilderness.

Want more?  Okay, there are nighttime zipline adventures, Howling Halloween scare nights, the Owl Room provides a multi-media space for corporate or group meetings, the Panther Pavillion is a popular venue for informal events, special parties and BBQ’s with all the fixin’s brought over from the Cypress Restaurant.  A Harvest Music Jam takes place in October.  This year will feature the 10th annual Patrick Smith day, which honors the acclaimed Floridian author with a day of storytelling, arts and crafts, vendors, animal interactions and a special kid zone.  (Just $10 per carload.)

Look Closely

Abundant Wildlife of All Sizes

More?  How about celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas at the Cypress Restaurant; ringing in the New Year; or celebrating the season of renewal and new life by having your Easter Dinner at Forever Florida.

You want even more?  Tell you what, give the folks at Forever Florida a call.  They will work with you to create any kind of special event.

After all, this is a very special place.

Forever Florida
4755 N. Kenansville Road
St. Cloud, FL 34773