A Weekend in Old Florida

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My best friend Sarah spent all of last year teaching English in China, so she knew she wanted to do something extra special for her birthday. Our first plan was to go glamping (glam+camping), those plans fell through and we went with the back up…spend a weekend at her family lake cabin. She warned all of us that this would not be a 5 Star Weekend, and that it might be closer to camping. Her description in the facebook event was my favorite…

We will be spending the weekend in my family’s lake house in Keystone Heights. When you hear “lake house,” you may think of Clooney’s pad at Lake Como or perhaps something like the Catskills in Dirty Dancing.

It is not like that.

This will be a rustic weekend. So prepare for a camping-like atmosphere, just in a home. There is no central air and the facilities are pretty basic, but again we will be drinking through this so it will be fine.

She was very accurate in her description. I beat everyone to the small town of Keystone Heights, and got to spend about an hour exploring the small town while I waited. Screen shot 2015-12-30 at 3.06.31 PM

I spent some quality time in the local CVS. Sarah and her friend Alyssa arrived and we began the journey to finding this lake house. Sarah had directions from her father, but this house is not on any map. We ended up down a dirt road at a rustic house. The key wouldn’t work and Alyssa and I were convinced this was where we would die. Thankfully, it was the right house and we made it inside. The inside of the cabin was definitely rustic. The fridge had to be from the 1950’s…but it was perfect for an old Florida weekend.

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In the morning we woke up and spent some quality time on the quaint little porch of the house. Sitting out there with the breeze blowing really transported you back in time. It was the perfect start to the day. We made a coffee run, and resumed our porch swinging.

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Thankfully we still had cell service, while it would have been nice to disconnect for a weekend, it would have made planning our day a little more challenging. We found a state park nearby and hopped in the car for a short hike. Gold Head Branch State Park had several trails to choose from, and we went on the main trail. It wasn’t that exciting of a hike, but it was nice to get outside.

Screen shot 2015-12-30 at 3.06.13 PMThe hike wasn’t too far, just under 3 miles…but when we finished we all agreed we needed to find food. Sarah (the birthday girl) loves BBQ, and lucky for her there was a GREAT BBQ place we had found when we got lost the night before. After BBQ, we headed back and hung by the lake with some beers. We strung the ENO up and enjoyed the PERFECT Florida weather.

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We had several plans for dinner that night. The big two were driving into either Gainesville or St. Augustine for dinner. We decided on St. Augustine. Getting there took FOREVER…or so it felt. I hadn’t been to St. Augustine since college and I always forget how much I love it.

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We wanted to eat a restaurant called The Floridian, but the wait was OVER an hour. We put our name down and decided to wander around for a bit. Luckily, they text you when your table is ready so you don’t have to stay put. We explored St. Augustine in hopes of finding somewhere that would seat us faster, but we ended up back at The Floridian. I am SO glad we waited…my dinner was AMAZING. The interior of the restaurant was also beautiful. If you find yourself in St. Augustine I definitely recommend eating here. (I promise it is worth the wait) .

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How perfect is that wallpaper?! I need it everywhere in my house! The drive back to Keystone Heights was much quicker. We woke up the next morning, cleaned and packed the car and drove into Gainesville for breakfast. Again, it was fun to visit our college town and to share it with Sarah’s friends that didn’t go to UF. I loved getting to spend a weekend with one of my best friends, to celebrate her birthday. and to unwind in such a relaxing place.

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Florida Hikes: Spring Hammock Preserve

Are you ready for the next adventure in Florida hiking? Well this next one was definitely exciting. My coworker Shannon and I decided to use our day off(President’s Day) for hiking. I visited my favorite website Florida Hikes to look for some nearby hikes. We found Spring Hammock preserve. It looked beautiful on the website and offered a 3 mile hike.

Video of our day

It took us a while to get there due to a little directions mishap. When we arrived we somehow missed the turn off for the environmental center as well as the trail head…so for about the first twenty minutes Shannon and I just made our own hike following tiny little trails . Each trail somehow ended and we were forced to turn around. We FINALLY found the trail (which honestly wasn’t that hard to find, we were just struggling his day)

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We picked the Osprey Trail and also did the Hydrick Loop. The trail itself is very large and wide. We were treated to lush green growth and the trail followed along a creek. Shannon and I decided to be adventurous and attempt to cross fallen trees over the creek (this resulted in me landing in the mud…serves me right for wandering off the trail)!

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The trail brings you to a beautiful aqua blue pond called the Question Pond. It was such a surprise because the pond literally jumps right out at you. It is the most spectacular blue color.

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The trail ends at a boardwalk that leads out to Lake Jesup,  it unfortunately was boarded off and closed. We continued a little farther down the trail and ended up in some SERIOUSLY muddy trails. We eventually had to turn around because the trail turned into straight up muddy water.

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It was definitely a perfect short hike. I think kids would love this. The local schools actually come on a field trip here for a mud walk. Can’t wait to figure out which hike will be next!

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my shoes will never be the same

Hometown Highlights: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

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The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts 

One week ago tonight I was treated to an amazing night with my dad. We headed to downtown Orlando to see the Broadway musical Newsies. The tour was stopping at the brand new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. My parents had both gone to see Phantom of the Opera and could not stop raving about how fabulous this new theater was.Now, I have seen shows in NYC and LA, so my expectations really weren’t that high for this new theater. I mean it couldn’t be more impressive than the theaters in New York right?

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WRONG! I think my dad thoroughly enjoyed watching my jaw hit the floor as we walked up to the outside of the Performing Arts Center. My jaw stayed on the ground pretty much the rest of the night. They definitely went above and beyond any typical theater. After visiting, I would pick the Dr. Phillips Center over any NYC theater! You can even host private events here…it would be the PERFECT spot for a wedding reception…image9

How stinking cute was this grandpa and grandson dressed as Newsies?

Walking inside was breathtaking. You are greeted by a giant staircase, adorned with white hydrangeas. The theater wall is tall with a soft glow of changing colors. The performance we were seeing was inside the Walt Disney Theater. IT WAS SPECTACULAR. I feel like I could devote entire post rambling about how much I loved The Newsies! The dancing, the singing, EVERYTHING was INCREDIBLE. 

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The sound was perfect. I have been listening to the soundtrack non-stop since we saw the show, and I honestly think it sounded better live than the recording! Honestly, the Newsies is my NUMBER ONE favorite show I have ever seen!

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The view from our seats! 

Another perk to the new Dr. Phillips Center? It is huge! In the old theater in Orlando you always felt claustrophobic and you couldn’t turn a corner without bumping into someone. That is not the case here, there are multiple levels to explore with bars and food options on each. There is so much space!

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looking down from the third level

The best part of the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts? The spacious and beautiful women’s restroom. According to my dad, some Winter Park Socialite donated a TON of money to ensure the women of Orlando has a nice bathroom. WOW! There were marble countertops AND chandeliers!

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Total Creeper shot of the bathroom…but Dad wanted to see if it lived up to the hype!

I am already trying to convince my mom to give me some more tickets! The parents only have two…so I only get to go when someone doesn’t want to go! Luckily we have a family set of tickets for Beauty and the Beast. Check out the upcoming shows HERE. 

Oh! They also have kids plays in a side theater…I am definitely thinking second grade needs to take a field trip to check it out!

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: Florida Hiking

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It is crazy what you find when you do a little research. Dad and I have been on the hunt for good Florida hikes to help get ourselves ready for Yosemite this summer. Our first Florida hike was at Wekiwa Springs. Dad found a 5 mile loop inside Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

IMG_0596Entering the Park is simple, and you pay $5 per car on a honor system. Driving to the trail was beautiful. Water is on both sides of the narrow dirt road and birds and other wildlife are abundant. Catching a glimpse of pink in the water caused me to squeal with delight thinking I had discovered FLAMINGOS in Florida, sad to report they were not Flamingos…

DSCN2305but these little guys were super cute, and all over the place. We constantly saw them flying across the sky. It was incredible to see their bright pink feathers in contrast to the bright blue sky. I do not think this picture does it justice.

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Birds were not the only wildlife we spotted. We spotted TWO alligators. One along the trail and one on our drive out of the park. Both gators were just sunning and enjoying the beautiful Florida day.

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So now onto our hike. We did the Cruickshank Trail which is about a 5 mile loop. The best part of this trail is that you are constantly surrounded by water. This provided many opportunities for fun wildlife sightings. The majority of the wildlife we saw was birds. If you are into bird watching this trail is for you! Another perk to this trail was that there was NO ONE hiking. We maybe passed three other groups. There is nothing like having the entire trail to yourself.

DSCN2312The morning was quite chilly when we started, so we layered in the morning. It is a good thing we did because by mile 2 we were shedding layers. The trail itself was pretty easy and flat. If you find yourself heading out to do this hike I definitely recommend doing it in the cooler months. I can only imagine this hike as MISERABLE in the summer heat.

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Mom and I trekking along the trail. We have been using these little day hikes as an opportunity to break in our new hiking boots. So far I love mine, well minus the one blister I keep getting on my left heel. The trail ended with a tiny overlook treating you to a glimpse of the beautiful scenery.

IMG_0025Brother Ryan and I at the top of the observation deck.

During our hike I tried my hand at shooting video. When we go to Yosemite I plan on creating an EPIC video. This was my practice. Check out the short video below!

Stay tuned to see where our next Florida hiking adventure will be!

 

 

 

 

Playalinda Brewing Co. Titusville Florida

IMG_0140One of my favorite things is discovering hidden gems right in your own backyard. This entire weekend was full of exploring Titusville, which is about an hour drive from Orlando. We started the day with a hike in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (stay tuned for that post tomorrow). After the hike we rewarded ourselves with a DELICIOUS beer at the Playalinda Brewing Co. 

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This little brewing company is located in an old hardware store in the heart of historic downtown Titusville. As we were walking out we overheard a woman state “This is exactly what Titusville needs” and she is right! I just wish this Brewing Company was a little closer to home. If you find yourself in Titusville, Florida this is a MUST stop.

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The Brewmaster at Playalinda came from Cask and Larder in Winter Park, which if you follow my instagram, you know it is a weekly stop for the family. We knew any beer made by Ron would be incredible. Playalinda Brewing Co. offers a variety of home brewed beers as well as several “Guest Taps” from other local Florida breweries.

IMG_8354I recommend starting with a flight, which will give you a chance to sample some of the classic Playalinda beers. My favorite was the Bottomless Blonde Ale (I think I like this even more than the Lone Palm from Cask!). The rest of the family LOVED the Simcoe Pale Ale and the Bring It IPA. After sampling all the beers in the flight we enjoyed a few more.

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Playalinda does not serve real food, but does offer simple snacks like hummus and pita chips. If you are hungry for a little bit of a heavier meal just ask the bartender for the delivery menu and you can order whatever you want to be delivered to the bar! (We got sandwiches from Cafe Chocolat across the street).

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Some perks of this great brewing company??? Well above you can see our Playalinda Brewing Co. loyalty card! Buy 10 beers get 1 free? Sounds like a good plan to me! Plus if you find yourself really loving the beer you can get Crowlers to go!

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Titusville may be an hour drive from Orlando, but honestly taking a trip to this Brewing Company was worth the drive! I definitely recommend checking it out if you are a fan of unique beers!

Hometown Saturdays: Winter Park Farmer’s Market

 

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hometown charm

If you have ever been to my hometown of Winter Park, there is a good chance you have seen the Winter Park Farmer’s Market (or at least heard about it). When the weather finally starts to cool off (which it has not)there is nothing better than strolling down Park Avenue with a BIG bag of fresh kettle corn. This morning was also the Fall Art Festival so the street was blocked off. I love when they close Park Avenue because you are able to walk RIGHT in the middle of the beautiful brick roads.

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farmers market

Dad and I walked up to Park Ave from my parents house. We did a big loop by Rollin’s College and past the new Alfond Inn. We treated ourselves (well he treated me) to a delicious breakfast at Barnies Cafe. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of my meal. They have the most incredible Energy Bowl. Smoothie, Acai, Granola and Greek Yogurt…it is the greatest morning treat (especially after a long walk).

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dads art

Then dad and I walked around the Art Festival and side walk sales for a little and stumbled upon a flash mob! So Cool! I met up with Daisy and her daughter Stella at the Farmer’s Market where we made the rounds.

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the cutest kid ever

I think little Miss Stella tried a little bit of everything! Bagels, Kettle Corn and a popsicle made for some yummy treats.

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little succulents 

It is little mornings like these that make me remember why I LOVE my hometown! Yes, I love to travel and I always imagine what life would be like living somewhere else…but I know I would miss the little Winter Park charm that makes my hometown so special!

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Hometown Highlights: The Porch

IMG_5808A few weeks ago I was driving home and I spotted a new restaurant called The Porch. From the outside it looked like a really cool place to grab a bite to eat. I figured it would be a fun new place to go!

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the view from the street 

I found their Facebook page and discovered their menu full of delicious sounding choices, at extremely reasonable prices. The reviews on the Facebook page were all great, so I knew I had to try this new place! I went with my dad and brother for dinner Thursday night.

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When you first walk in you go down this long walkway with twinkling lights strung above. The restaurant is split into two sections with a bar in the middle. One side is indoor the other is patio (but still covered). The menu boast a variety of different choices, there is something for everybody. The environment of the restaurant is very upbeat but also laid back. The crowd is very young, I think it will be a great place for the Rollins crowd.

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I chose their Power Hour Salad, a mixture of spinach, kale, seasonal fruits (strawberries and blueberries), sunflower seeds, chicken, and acai balsamic dressing. It was a great salad! Honestly, I didn’t even use the dressing, the fruit added just enough sweetness to the salad. My brother and dad split the Big Dipper (their take on the French Dip)…another good choice. Watching the food come out from the kitchen I have to say my next trip will include a burger!

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So if you find yourself in the Winter Park area looking for a low key (not too expensive) place to eat dinner I definitely recommend The Porch! Like I said, they have something for everyone, including lots of sports on many tvs for the guys, and the outside atmosphere is always good for kids. Check out their menu on their Facebook Page!