We love traveling to places that are close to Orlando. One of our favorites is Tampa. We've been there a couple of times and we always have the best time. It's a little far but Drake gets us through the hour and a half car ride. It's a city with such a cool scene and unique spots. Here are a few of our favorites!
We discovered Armature Works on our first visit to Tampa. We loved that there was a place with so many unique food options. We have eaten at AVA (a pizza spot) and Ichicoro Ramen. Our favorite thing to get is the Frozen Kirin from Ichicoro. It's a frozen, light beer - a deadly combo for a lightweight like me but soooo good. Not going to lie, it can be a little on the pricey side so prepare to spend some dough.
The best part about this place is that it has a view of the river. They offer to-go cups for your alcoholic drinks that you can take with you while you stroll through the riverwalk. The second time we visited they had their first "Heights Night Market" which features artisans artists and makers selling handmade goods like jewelry, art, furniture, woodwork, and more. It's such a cool little spot and every time we go we talk about how badly Orlando needs something like this.
Definitely check it out if you're ever in Tampa. They recently added a rooftop and it just made this place more magical. Keep reading if you want a little more info.
Look at those tostones! M. Bird is a new restaurant at Armature Works. Its food is inspired by a Caribbean and Mediterranean fusion. They have entrees but their focus is more on small, shareable plates. We got the Vaca Frita Tostones and Jerk Chicken Eggrolls. Do yourself a favor and get the tostones, I promise you won't regret it.
The best part about this whole experience is the rooftop. You know Duncan and I love a good rooftop. The view of Tampa's waterfront and growing cityscape is the reason we came up here — the good food was just a bonus. We couldn't help but snap a few pics of the pretty scenery.
The restaurant is 21+ only so make sure to leave the kids at home. There is a covered patio just in case it rains (which is pretty much all the time). This restaurant is the perfect setting for a romantic date or a girls night out.
I know I say that everything here is my favorite spot but SERIOUSLY this is actually my favorite spot in Tampa. Sparkman Wharf has pretty much everything you need for a perfect day outside. There's a waterfront view, music, food, craft beer and a huge lawn for play or relaxation.
Duncan and I got some drinks from their bar, Fermented Reality Biergarten. A biergarten is the German word for an outdoor area in which beer and local food are served, typically at shared tables. This place provides you with great beer and a sense of community. I also love that they use reusable plastic beer cups.
We spent our time here playing giant checkers, relaxing on a swing and enjoying the calmness of the area. They hold events like movies on the lawn, game watching parties and often have live music. It's a great place to come to when the weather is perfect and you just want to relax, drink a cold one and eat good food.
Tampa Museum of Art
Duncan and I have been to a couple museums in different states but none of them have impressed us as much as the Tampa Museum of Art. Let's just be honest some museums can be a little boring and repetitive but this one wasn't like that at all. When we visited it had the prettiest art work we've seen so far. As soon as you walk up the stairs, you're immersed in art. The Aphordite Reimagined sculpture by Patricia Cronin is a beautiful mix of stone with translucent limbs. The exhibits are constantly changing so you can keep visiting and witness something new every time.
Like most things, the museum is right by the riverwalk. Students get in free if you show a school I.D. Regular adult tickets are $15.
Tampa has so much to offer but these are just a few of our favorite things. Its an ever-growing city with a lot of character. I love discovering something knew every time I visit. Let us know in the comments below what some of your favortie spots in Tampa are.
If you find yourself looking for something to do on a Saturday morning look no further. This historic downtown is the perfect place to spend your weekend off. The city of Winter Garden has a little bit of everything to make for a perfect day.
We started our day at the farmers market. They are only open Saturdays from 9am-2pm (830am-130pm during the summer). Like every farmers market, it's full of fresh produce and handmade products. We highly reccomend Tamale Co if your'e hungry. It was soooo hot that day so we decided to get a Mango Colada from Mango Kings. Their line was one of the longest ones and I can see why. It was the freshest frozen drink I've ever had. They have tons of options made from fresh mango and I'm sure they're all just as great. It was the perfect start to our day and fueled us enough to continue adventuring this cute town. It's also important to mention that parking is FREE at the parking garage right next to the market.
Plant Street Market
After the farmers market we walked over to our favorite place. If you like to support local businesses then come to Plant Street Market. It's a local community market with 20 vendors selling natural, organic, and handmade products. You can get mini donuts, fresh pressed juice, bbq food, and so much more. We love the donuts at Sir Benji's and fresh juice from Press'd. There's so much here that you have to take multiple trips to try everything out. Crooked Can Brewery is also here and is always packed with people having a good time. Their hand crafted beers and overall fun atmosphere keeps it full on Saturday mornings. The beer options are endless (Mr.Tractor is one of our favorites). There aren't a lot of food halls like this in Orlando so this place is a must if you're in town
The Whole Enchilada
We walked from Plant Street Market to this cute taco spot a couple of blocks away. Who doesn't love a good rooftop? The Whole Enchilada rooftop is a taco lovers heaven. The antique, colorful wooden furniture and full bar made me want to stay there forever. We ordered some burritos downstairs that they brought up to us and had a refreshing mango margarita from the bar(I guess mango was the theme that day). Their drinks were pretty inexpensive which is always a plus in my book. If I can spend every morning like this I would. If you decide to go on a weekday they have Taco Tuesday deals that you can check out here. It's the perfect place to wind down. These pictures don't do it justice so if you want to check out more of this place make sure to look at our Winter Garden highlight on Instagram.
I love that everything is within walking distance here. It allows you to admire the pretty brick buildings and cobblestone streets as you stroll to the next location. Winter Garden has the charm of a small town but convenience of a big city. I love spending Saturday mornings here with Duncan. There's so much to try that it's impossible to ever get bored of it. Let us know in the comments what your favorite thing to do here is!
We found our little piece of paradise in this hot summer weather. Epperson Lagoon encompasses the Florida lifestyle. It's a huge seven acre pool with sandy beaches, a bar, music, and activities for everyone. It's located about 2 hours north of Orlando (in the Tampa Bay area) which is a bit of a drive but I'd definitely do it again.
We bought our tickets early online because space is limited. It's $20 per person for the entrance. All of the activities are sold separately but it's all still cheaper than going to a water park. We paid $10 extra each for all-day access to the big slide. They have a deal that if you decided to do the rock wall, slide, and floating obstacle course you just pay another $20 per person. So for $40 you get access to the lagoon and all of its activities. Kayak and paddle boarding are separate from this and will be an additional $10 each.
The first thing we did when we got in was go to the bar (duh). I suggest you do this before you find your seat. We got a bucket of beer so we didn't have to keep coming back to the bar. It was about $32 for six beers. We then went straight to the beach area, easily found two seats, and just drank and relaxed for a couple of hours. You're not allowed to bring in your own food or drinks but they have a couple of spots to eat on site. We had a turkey sandwich on cuban bread that hit the spot.
We weren't able to do the floating obstacle course because there was a bit of a wait (again, get your tickets early) but we did the slide a handful of times. It added some excitement to our otherwise relaxing day. I'm not a huge fan of the beach because the ocean scares me and community pools can get a bit overcrowded. I love being able to come here and float without worrying about running into someone or worse, a hungry shark. It's a hidden tropical paradise.
Click here to get your tickets!
I boarded the Titanic as a first class passenger ready to see what all the talk around this unsinkable ship was about. Duncan embarked on this journey as Mr. Charles Edward Dahl, a third class passenger who was traveling alone. It was our real life Jack and Rose moment (with a happier ending of course).
You enter the exhibit as passengers on the ship. Room after room you journey through this historical but tragic event. Artifacts recovered from the ship give you a glimpse into the lives of the passengers onboard. There are hairbrushes, bottles, mirrors, pots, and so much more that belonged to the people who were apart of this horrific moment in history. It makes you feel as if you're in the 1900's and makes the story of the Titanic more personal.
We all know about the sinking of the ship but it's these details that the museum adds that make it seem more real. There's a part of the museum where you can hear the signal the Titanic released giving its coordinates along with the message "sinking". There's a replica of grand staircase which was used by first class passengers to move through the upper decks. It's the most beautiful feature on the ship and getting to see it in person didn't disappoint. There's also a room where you can feel an iceberg as cold as those in the water that night.
I don't want to give away too much because I'll spoil the fun of going to see it yourself. Give yourself about 2-3 hours to walk through the entire exhibit. Admission is $21.95 per adult and you can do an audio guide for $5 more.
By the end of the walk through the exhibit you enter a room and find out if your character lived or died. Luckily, Duncan and I both lived. The number of people who died outnumbered the people who lived by hundreds. Over 1500 people lost their lives that night. This exhibit does an excellent job at honoring these people and showing visitors what it was like to be in their shoes.
I've always struggled with my feelings towards zoos. It always felt like these animals were trapped for our entertainment but I realized this is not always the case. I recently educated myself more on what they do for the conservation of animals. It's not easy for some of these animals in the wild. They are losing their habitats and being killed by humans for a number of reasons. So many of these beautiful creatures we share this earth with go extinct because of us. Zoos help to conserve these animals and take them off of endangered species lists.
The Brevard Zoo supports international conservation programs. Some of their initiatives include scrub-jay translocation efforts, Sea Turtle Healing Centers, and Restore our Shore programs. They work towards making environmentally friendly changes that protect wildlife. It is apparent that everyone working here really cares for these animals. Every where we went there was a staff member eager to tell us about the animals that live there. It's one of the best experiences I've had at a zoo and taught me a lot about all of the different species that call Brevard Zoo their home.
This was the first thing we did when we got to the zoo. It was about 2:15 p.m. and they told us that giraffes are easiest to see between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm so we ran. We had the amazing opportunity to feed Johari, their newest giraffe. He was born on October 19th which happens to be my birthday! He was so sweet and loved sticking his 18-inch tongue out for the lettuce pieces we were giving him. The feeding platform is leveled with these tall animals so you get to be really close to them as they eat off of your hand. Each feeding is $2, a small price for such an unforgettable encounter.
Johari isn't the only giraffe living here, there are eight of them at the zoo. They are free to roam in their spacious habitat that resembles their home in the wild. Most of them are Masai giraffes. This species has declined by 50 percent in the past three decades due to habitat loss, human hunting, and droughts. The Brevard Zoo is a proud partner with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation which is an organization on the front line of giraffe research and protection. They work together to save the world's tallest animal from extinction.
Lorikeet & Cockatiel Feeding
This is my second favorite part of the zoo. You get to interact with all types of birds by feeding them. You are given two choices — on one side the birds are gentle and will just eat off of the stick you're giving to them and on the other they are more aggressive and will climb all over you. We decided to do both sides so that we can experience the difference. If you have a fear of birds I recommend doing the more tame side. I personally loved having the birds lands on my arms. It was fun getting to interact with them that way and watch them bicker over who gets to dig their beaks into the small nectar cups.
The nectar cups and seed sticks are available for $1 each outside the aviary. Once inside you will see rainbow lorikeet, roseate spoonbill, cockatiel, scarlet ibis, and kookaburra. There was also a duck who somehow snuck in and acted like he was one of the birds so that he can get in on the feast. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to feed him but some people snuck him a few bites anyway. It's such a cool experience to get to be so close to these flying creatures and watch them take food right from your hand. I highly recommend this as well if you come to the Brevard Zoo.
I haven't been to many zoos that have kangaroos here in Florida so to get to see them so close was exciting for us. They paid no mind to us and were just lounging around eating their corn leaves. The ones pictured above are the Red Kangaroos. They come from Australia and feed off of grass and leaves. They don't like to be touched so just admire them from afar. The fence is open and at any moment one of them could walk right through but they stayed away. It is the largest of the kangaroo species but they didn't seem intimidating. They looked peaceful sleeping together and sharing their dinner.
My favorite part about this zoo is that they created a home for the animals that resembles their natural habitat. The animals look happy and free to roam. Aside from exploring the animal habitats, there's zip-lining and a kayak ride through the zoo. Duncan and I opted for the package that included a giraffe feeding, bird feeding, and train ride for only $23.95. There are a lot of packages to choose from. Click here for the website to get more information. Let us know if you decide to go and tag us in your pictures #roamsick
Sometimes we ignore the small towns around us because they don't seem like they have much to offer. Williston has a population of about 2,000 people. It's not somewhere I would typically visit or even be interested in. What drew us to this city are the unique spots we heard about. It's about two hours away from Orlando but you can do all of these in a day.
Florida has so many springs but this one is definitely the most unique due to its location. To get to it you have to walk down a flight of stairs into a cave. The cave is illuminated by a hole at the very top that lets in natural light. The water is so clear that you can almost see the bottom right as you enter. While you're swimming around exploring the cave, there are small fish swimming right next to you. In order to get access to this spring you must either snorkel or scuba dive. There's an option to rent snorkeling gear for $10 and scuba gear for $40.
Make sure to get there early so that you don't have to wait too long for your time in the cave. You can only be down there for two hours max so make the most out of it. The water is freezing cold (72 degrees year round) so if you're expecting something sunny and tropical then this isn't for you. It's definitely a spot to go to for those who crave adventure and something new. Admission is $15 person ($20 on weekends and holidays). For more information visit their website www.devilsden.com/home.html
Two Tails Ranch
As soon as I heard that there were elephants close by that I can interact with, I had to visit. Two Tails Ranch was built to board Asian and African elephants in need of temporary or permanent housing due to medical reasons, behavioral problems or even emergencies after hurricanes destroyed their homes. At the moment there are about seven Asian elephants housed there. Luke was the first one we got to meet. He painted a picture for us with his trunk and showed us how he cools off in this brutal Florida heat. The ranch keeper explained to us that Asian elephants are endangered and will probably be gone in the next decade. It makes me sad to think we may soon be living in a world without them and that this may be my last interaction with one.
Admission to the ranch is $20 and any activities with the elephants will cost extra. We chose to just feed them for $5 more. You aren't given much food and feeding them one carrot will leave you wanting to spend a little more time with these gentle animals. It was such a cute experience though and I highly recommend it if you want to get up close with an elephant. You can also get a photo with them for $25 but honestly we got pretty good pictures just feeding them. There's also an option to ride the elephants for $40 but it didn't really interest us. You have to schedule a tour in order to go. Make sure to schedule it well in advance because they sell out pretty quickly. Here is their website for more information: https://allaboutelephants.com
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens
This was a random stop on our little day trip. I saw a couple of reviews about this place and it's literally right next to Devil's Den so we decided to check it out. Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens is a botanical garden full of waterfalls, koi fish, and over 50 gardens. It began as an abandoned limestone quarry but over the course of 27 years the founder, Dr. Raymond Webber, continued to build until it became this unique botanical creation. He donated it in 2014 and since then it's been open to the public.
I didn't expect there to be so much to see. There are so many levels. You can get a good view of the gardens from the top or get up close to them be staying low. There's a Japanese-inspired section with koi fish and a couple of waterfalls that fall into ponds. There's a lot of greenery sprinkled with color here and there. It's such an "Instagrammable" spot if you're looking to take cute pictures with beautiful backdrops. Admission is $12 per person and it's open seven days a week.
All of these places are a max of 10 minutes away from each other. If you plan it, you can do all of them in one day. I recommend going to the garden last because the other two require appointments and waiting times. All of these places are unlike anything else here in Florida. It's well worth the two hour drive from Orlando.
I know we already made a post about farms but we recently visited this one and it became our favorite one. We love that it doesn't just focus on one thing. There's a lot to do here and you go home with so much fresh produce.
The peaches were actually very hard to pick. There weren't a lot of ripe ones by the time we got there, so we really had to search. It was scorching hot walking though field but we managed to get a handful of good ones. The peaches are a lot tinier than I expected but still tasty. Even if you end up not finding any ripe ones, it's still cool to see these juicy fruits hanging on trees. The peaches are $4 per pound. Although this field was still developing, the blueberry field had plenty of options.
I loved seeing all the colors of the different stages of blueberries. Some were green, some were a light purple and some were a deep blue. We chose the darkest ones and the taste was something you can't buy in stores. The field goes on forever so there's so much to choose from. If you end up at this farm you have to try the frozen blueberry lemonade. It's sold in the store under the pavilion and it's so refreshing on a hot day. We took home an entire case of blueberries ($4 a pound) and enjoyed them with our waffles the next morning.
Across the peach field is a beautiful flower field. There are sunflowers and zinnias you can pick from. I chose some bright pink, red and orange ones that looked perfect in our rustic styled room. I'm not sure how much the sunflowers are but the zinnias $1 each. They provide you with scissors to make it easier to pick them.
There's so much to do here that we had to make a separate post for it. Southern Hill Farms holds events like yoga, festivals and 5k's. There's truly something for everyone to do. You can pick so much produce, enjoy a rooftop view of the fields and grab some food at the eatery. It's more than just a farm and we'll definitely be coming back now that we know all it has to offer.
Sometimes we live in a city for so long that we forget to do the tourist-y things. Orlando is basically built on tourism so it's not hard to find something to do here. We decided on our day off to finally go to the Kennedy Space Center. We always see signs for it on our way to the beach but never gave it a second look until now. It's definitely somewhere you have to check out if you're into things that are out of this world.
This is what they call the Rocket Garden. It's so impressive when you first walk through it and see how massive these things are. NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs are all represented in this garden. It's a tribute to all of the scientists and engineers who turned their dreams of flying people into space to reality. There's a part of the garden where you can get into the top half of a rocket and see what it feels like to be an astronaut looking up at the boundless sky you're about to be launched into. It blows my mind how gigantic these rockets are but even more to think that it was all created by human minds.
When you go to Kennedy Space Center make sure you take the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V center. That's where all of the cool stuff will be. This room holds a lot of artifacts from the Apollo moon missions. There's a display of space suits from different missions and the actual capsule from Apollo 14 that delivered three crew members back to earth from the moon. Seeing all of this in person makes you realize how much work is put into ensuring people were being flown into space safely. It took 14,000 people to create the capsule! In this gallery you will also find Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's hand casts as well as some lunar samples and other interesting space artifacts.
This is also part of the bus tour. Walking into this is so surreal. You're literally directly under a rocket that launched humans to the moon. It is 363 feet long (taller than the Statue of Liberty) so imagine how small you feel next to it! It basically takes up the entire room and is a must-see if you visit the space center. 13 Saturn V rockets were launched into space from 1967 to 1972 but this is one of the three remaining in the United States. You almost can't wrap your head around the fact that this giant was built by people AND traveled to space.
The space center actually has a ride that simulates what an actual rocket launch feels like for astronauts. I was terrified to ride it at first but all it does is tilts you upwards and shakes viciously. I guess it's a mild version of what it would actually feel like to be launched into space. In the same building you can see Space Shuttle Atlantis, a rocket that transported astronauts to space and back for 30 years. This is the closest you'll get to seeing the inside of a spaceship.
Tickets to Kennedy Space Center are $57 for adults and $47 for kids. Kennedy Space Center is one of 10 NASA field centers in the US. You can spend all day here exploring the amazing things that space exploration has done for humankind. It's definitely worth a visit if you're in Florida.
We have been taking advantage of our days off lately and visiting places around us we've never been to before. We've been loving going to farms recently. Here is some information about a few we have been to. They're all currently in season and definitely worth going to if you find yourself bored on a beautiful day.
Sledd's U-Pick Farm
This day was perfect. Duncan FINALLY got a Saturday off so we decided to drive to a sunflower field about an hour away. It did not disappoint. There were so many flowers and little bees flying around pollinating them. I never thought of a sunflower as being my favorite flower until that day. They're just so pretty and a reminder that this Earth can create some beautiful things. We walked around admiring the view and picked the biggest, brightest ones to take home with us. You have to bring your own scissors or knife because the stem is so thick and they're pretty hard to pick out with just your hands. The entrance fee is $5 a person and if you want to buy the sunflowers it's $2 for one flower, $3 for two and $5 for three. We decided to get three and they look so pretty in our home. You can check their Facebook page to see what their hours are!
Pappy's Strawberry Patch
Everyone has that one memory that encapsulates your entire childhood, one memory that makes you think of "the good old days". For me, that was strawberry picking with my family. My parents used to take us to this field in Miami that had the biggest, juiciest berries. I remember eating them right off the vine (which I know now you shouldn't do) and running around with my siblings feeling the sun make its mark on me. It seems so mundane but my parents had a way of making everything exciting. There's something so organic about picking your food right off of Earth's soil. These fruits were nurtured, watered and grown to be put out into the world. So, when Duncan and I decided to go to a strawberry patch a couple miles from where we live, I was so happy. Although the berries seem a little smaller through adult eyes, the feeling of pure joy was still there. We went to a farm in Oviedo called "Pappy's Strawberry Patch". They give you a little basket to fill with berries and they come out to $3.00 a pound. When we went home we ate them right away. Hands down the best strawberries I've ever had! Their times vary so check out their Facebook page before you go.
Showcase of Citrus
Florida is known for its orange groves so of course we had to visit one. As soon as you drive up to Showcase of Citrus you're immersed in Florida's culture. There's a buoy like the one they have in the Southernmost point in Key West, a farm fresh store serving different types of wine and orange creamsicles. It gives you a taste (literally) of what we're all about. We opted for the tour of the orange groves. It's $2 a person and you get to choose from different sized bags to put your oranges in. The small one costs $11, medium one is $18 and a large one for $30. We got the small bag and were able to fit about eight oranges in there. It's such a different experience when you pick your own oranges right off the tree. They're not as polished as the ones in the store and a lot harder to get to. They provide you with a fruit picker to make it easier to reach the oranges that are up high. We picked the ones that were the brightest and had a strong orange juice smell. If you don't want to just pick oranges there's other options. You can feed farm animals, take a tour on the world's largest 4x4 or do some wine tasting. There's definitely something for everyone. Here's a link to their website so you can plan your adventure!
U-Pick farms are seriously so much fun. It makes you appreciate the process your produce goes through before hitting the store. It's the perfect thing to do with family and friends on a nice day. Maybe it's just us but the fruits are also 10 times sweeter when you hand pick them yourself. Let us know if you visit any of these and have fun roaming!
"LOCAL SPOTS ARE BETTER