Guest Post: Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens

In last week’s Hidden Gems blog post, local fashionista Courtney of @_myownmelody_ shared a snippet of her experience with the Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens in Kissimmee. Read below for more from Courtney about the winery and why it should be on your bucket list for 2019.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

By Courtney Dias, @_myownmelody_

You don’t need to travel around the world to be adventurous. Sometimes the best traveling you can do is right in your hometown. A short drive from home, I found a place I would love to share with you. Island Grove Wine Company has such a classic countryside feel with Parisian accent. Once inside, everything seemed so effortlessly placed to intrigue their guests, whether drinking around the bar located in the center or just wandering around finding the cutest trinkets, merchandise, and endless amounts of wine. You also could feel the warmth of the staff, which made them feel more like friends than strangers.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

I was greeted by Chris, who served me a delicious sweet chilled white sangria. It was so smooth that to this day, I’m itching to have it once again for one of my day date adventures. I was taken around the venue by Haley, who is so charismatic I could definitely see why she is a wedding planner for the winery.

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

We started outside where you could watch the sun touch the earth during any special occasion. We made our way to the bright and spacious bridal suite accompanied with vintage pieces, followed by the rustic groom suite which Haley and I both agreed is a great space to work in as well. The reception hall can be fitted for any occasion of any size, which I love because the space is so versatile! What better way to end the tour, than by having a delicious pastry to complement my amazing French vanilla latte?

Your Guide to Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

If you’re ever in Florida and want to explore something new or simply want to enjoy great hospitality, stop by Island Grove Winery Formosa Garden winery for a date night. You can do anything from dinner (side note: the food is so good), wine tasting with the girls, or a paint and sip event. Trust me when I say, this truly is a hidden gem that makes being away from home a bit more sweeter.


For more hidden gems in the Central Florida area, be sure to check out our recap!

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida To Visit in the New Year

What’s on your travel bucket list for 2019? Each year, I love to explore new places, both near and far. (There’s a reason my blog has the word “wanderlust” in its name!) Living in Central Florida for nearly 10 years, I find myself constantly falling in love with different neighborhoods, botanical gardens, museums, and restaurants, and just as I start to think I’ve seen it all, the adventure begins again and I wind up someplace new.

There’s something magical about playing tourist in your own home, and here in Central Florida, we’re fortunate to have so many unique places to discover. We are surrounded by theme parks and other attractions that visitors travel thousands of miles to see. But we also have our share of hidden gemsboth in Orlando and in its surrounding areas.

I’ve teamed up with some amazing local bloggers and influencers to bring you 10 hidden gems worth exploring in 2019. From restaurants and events to historic homes and gardens, this list really has it all. These spots are all within about two hours (or less) of Orlando, perfect for a weekend afternoon outing! Check out their features below, and be sure to pop over to their sites for more great content. (Photos are credited to the bloggers below!)

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: TheOrlandoDuo.com

1. Revolution Off Road (Clermont, FL) — The Orlando Duo
One of our favorite aspects of living in Central Florida is being able to experience the outdoors year round. For us, Revolution Off Road is the perfect way to see Florida’s natural beauty in a fun and unique way. There is something inherently cool about driving a ATV and taking it around to see lakes, trees and wildlife. Plus, you go through mud puddles so you will get dirty too! If ATVs aren’t your speed, Revolution Off Road also features fishing, clay shooting and other activities. We break down our experience and give you some tips and tricks on our blog!
{ Blog: The Orlando Duo; Instagram: @theorlandoduo; Facebook: @theorlandoduoTwitter: @theorlandoduoPinterest: @theorlandoduo }

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2. Wat Thai Temple (Brandon, FL) — Pursuing Happiness // Kiva Williams
If you are ever in the Tampa area on a Sunday, it’s a must that you check out this hidden local gem in the Palm River area of town. Wat Mongkolratanaram, or Wat Thai Temple as it is also commonly known, is a foodie’s dream! This beautiful outdoor market is sure to get your tastebuds tap dancing around. Be sure to bring your appetite and cash only! Check out my vlog’s recap about all of the yummy goodness.
Blog: Pursuing HappinessInstagram: @pursuit_of_true_happinessFacebook: @pursuinghappiness4ever }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: ChristopherCupcakes.com

3. Leu Gardens (Orlando, FL) — Christopher Cupcakes
We recently decided to tour the beautiful Leu Gardens here in Orlando, Florida. The Harry P. Leu Gardens are a semi-tropical and tropical garden here in Orlando. Well, isn’t any garden in Florida tropical? The gardens are divided into different themes across the 50 acres and Leu Gardens is bordered on one side by a lake. The grounds are shaded by 200 year old oaks dripping in Spanish Moss giving off that Old Southern charm we all know and love when living here in the South. Leu Gardens holds special events and classes throughout the year so check out their site to see what is going on. If you are ever in the area, make sure to go tour these beautiful gardens.
For more from Christopher about Leu Gardens, check out his full article at Christopher Cupcakes by clicking here.
Blog: Christopher CupcakesInstagram: @christopher.cupcakes; Facebook: Christopher Cupcakes; Twitter: @chris_cupcakes1 }

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4. General Public House (Winter Springs, FL) — Tel Wallace
We are all creatures of habit, and when we get used to doing the same thing in the same area, it can be difficult to try something new. I’m extremely guilty of this. My husband and I lived downtown for 3 years and anything outside of a five mile radius seemed too far to travel. So wouldn’t you know it, we ended up closing on a home TWENTY miles outside of downtown (shocker)! And as you can guess, we had to change our “only hang out downtown” mentality. It was honestly a blessing in disguise. With this newfound freedom to venture the outskirts of Orlando, I was thrilled to try a new restaurant in Winter Springs. My friend Dana, had been raving about General Public House, and it was about time I try it. First, can I just tell you how absolutely cute this place is, it’s like a farmhouse meets modern dream! I not only loved the aesthetics but the service was phenomenal too, and we even got a free appetizer! The kitchen demos food daily and the manager, CJ, sweetly decided Dana and I deserved it that day. I’ve only been there for lunch (the Hand Held Salmon BLT was amazing) but they offer a killer brunch that I fully intend to come back for. If you’re looking for a cute and tasty place to check out, this hidden gem is the place to go!
Instagram: @tel_wallace }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: JIsForJourney.com

5. Downtown Winter Garden — J Is For Journey // Jessica Ortega
Central Floridians have a lot of options when choosing between cute historic downtowns: there’s idyllic Mount Dora, or up-and-coming Sanford, and then there is the mainstay Winter Park. However, there is one downtown scene that I absolutely love that is not on this list: Winter Garden. My dad is a train aficionado so I’m totally a sucker for a cute train depot, and Winter Garden can check that off your list with the Central Florida Railroad Museum. They also have an incredibly lively Heritage Museum filled with historic items, memorabilia, and interesting local lore. During you can wander in and out of cute boutique shops, a brewery (a requirement for day tripping), cozy coffee shops, and swinging benches down a flower-lined median. Yep, this place has it all! And if you are still downtown in the evening, the Garden Theatre often has vintage movies or live theater shows.
Blog: J Is For Journey; Instagram: @jisforjourney }

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6. Orange Tree Antiques Mall (Winter Park, FL) — So Damn Local // Sarah Bolandi
A few years ago, I became a voracious record collector. Part of the fun, or I’d say most of it, has been not just the hunt for records but for shops. There’s something about the smell of old, dusty record sleeves and the faint sound of a slightly obscure but familiar song at vinyl shops that sends me into record nirvana. This summer, I was shown quite possibly the most dive-y of all record spots I’ve been to (excluding flea markets). The Orange Tree Antiques Mall in Winter Park has a bit of a hidden gem in the back. Past the retro pez dispensers and random knick knacks is small space filled with hundreds of completely disorganized records. During the rainy season, a soothing drip came from somewhere in the ceiling as I got lost in hours of vinyl hunting. While alphabetical order is typically helpful, the disarray adds to the charm. Of all the Central Florida spots, this on is my go-to shop for the old and extra smelly, super cheap records, quietly tucked inside an antique store.
Instagram: @sodamnlocalFacebook: @sodamnlocal }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: @_myownmelody_

7. Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens (Kissimmee, FL) — My Own Melody // Courtney Dias
You don’t need to travel around the world to be adventurous. Sometimes the best traveling you can do is right in your hometown. A short drive from home, I found a place I would love to share with you. Island Grove Wine Company has such a classic countryside feel with Parisian accent. Once inside, everything seemed so effortlessly placed to intrigue their guests, whether drinking around the bar located in the center or just wandering around finding the cutest trinkets, merchandise, and endless amounts of wine. You also could feel the warmth of the staff, which makes them feel more like friends rather than strangers. If you’re ever in Florida and want to explore something new or simply want to enjoy great hospitality, definitely stop by Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens for a date night. You can do anything from dinner (side note: the food is so good), wine tasting with the girls, or a paint and sip event. Trust me when I say, this truly is a hidden gem that makes being away from home a bit more sweeter.
Want to read more from Courtney’s experience? Stay tuned for her upcoming guest blog here at Wellness & Wanderlust!
Instagram: @_myownmelody_ }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: NatureCoaster.com


8. Chinsegut Hill Manor Museum and Retreat Center (Brooksville, FL) — NatureCoaster // Diane Bedard
High atop a hill in Brooksville Florida, about an hour north of Tampa and two hours west of Orlando is an historically significant home that offers tours, nature trails, comfortable retreat cabins, and a spirit where lost things are regained; Chinsegut Manor Museum. Originally homesteaded in in the 1800s, this three story gem has two wrap-around porches – on the first and second stories – and views to make North Carolina proud. Chinsegut Hill’s last private owners were dedicated to human rights and moved in powerful political circles, with Raymond Robins being an advisor to 7 U.S. Presidents. Their clothing, artwork, furniture and spirits are still on “the Hill,” which they named “Chinsegut,” an Alaskan Inuit word meaning “the spirit of things lost and regained.” Visitors such as Helen Keller, J.C. Penney, Thomas Edison came to Chinsegut to visit Raymond Robins, Margaret Drier Robins and Elizabeth Robins.

Visitors can tour the grounds, opt for a self-guided tour or a guided tour, rent the cabins overnight, discover the WPA-built outbuildings, visit the tiny cemetery where some of the previous residents are resting or plan an event. The museum features a second story room where visitors can read letters of the day and explore the people that made history here.
You can read more about this beautiful manor and the families who have lived there on NatureCoaster!
Blog: NatureCoaster; Instagram: @nature.coasterFacebook: @naturecoaster }

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Photo Credit: CityWhit.com

9. Historic St. Augustine — CityWhit // Whitney Gonzalez
Hike just over an hour from Orlando to explore the oldest city in the U.S.–St. Augustine. The walkable historical destination is packed with interesting things to do, including climbing 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and exploring Castillo San Marcos for an artillery demonstration. The city also has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities. Catch a ghost tour while you’re in town and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Blog: CityWhitInstagram: @city.whit; Facebook: @city.whit }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: KimKonnection.com

10. Taste Events — Kim Konnection // Kimberly Thevenin
Although it is known for sunshine, Disney World, and its hometown team (go Knights), Central Florida is also home to something usually reserved for the likes of NYC – delicious eats. From local chains to small, family-owned restaurants, Central Florida is home to a variety of tasty places to grab a bite. It can be hard to test out all the foods Central Florida has to offer but luckily a few cities are making that task a little easier with their Taste events, which allow people to try food and drink samples from nearby restaurants. For pricing, these events either charge a ticket for entry and allow you to eat anything available, or have free entry and you only pay for the food you try. Taste of Winter Park (April), Taste of Oviedo (March) and Taste Central Florida (September) are a few of my favorite local taste events and I highly recommend them if you’re looking for something
unique to do while you’re in town.
Blog: Kim Konnection; Instagram: @kimkonnectionTwitter: @kimkonnection }

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Thank you to all of our local bloggers who contributed! I can’t wait to check out your hidden gem locations in 2019. 

Readers, what parts of Central Florida are you most excited to explore this year? Sound off in the comments!

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours

To all of my readers who celebrate, I hope you had a very merry Christmas! I began my holiday vacation over the weekend, when I made the trip down to my hometown in South Florida to spend time with family. Although I grew up and spent 16 years of my life down here, I rarely get a chance to explore the area. Surprisingly enough, I actually know my way around Orlando and its surrounding areas a lot better than my own hometown! This past weekend, however, I decided to change some of that with an Art Deco Walking Tour in Miami Beach.

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

These tours, which are run by the Miami Design Preservation League, leave from the Art Deco Welcome Center every day at 10:30 a.m. and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Although our tour group was a larger one, December was the perfect time to go — thanks to our Florida winters, we were there on a sunny day with temperatures in the low to mid 70s. With a two-hour walking tour ahead of us, beautiful weather was crucial!

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

Our guided tour took us through Miami Beach’s historical district, giving our group an introduction to the city’s colorful buildings and architectural styles. Exploring historic sites like the Congress Hotel and the Breakwater, we learned about how the French art nouveau styles, Hollywood, cruise ships, and the ancient Egyptians inspired Miami’s architecture from the Great Depression and on. Did you know that the sidewalks are red to symbolize a red carpet?

Welcome to Miami: Art Deco Walking Tours | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

The tour also explores several interiors, which encompass different uses of light and nod to Miami Beach’s past dealings with the mafia. Although the tour mainly focuses on the Art Deco architectural style, groups also have the chance to learn about and identify the Mediterranean Revival style (a lot rarer to Miami but still present) and Miami Modern (MiMo). The tour also grants admission to the on-site Art Deco Museum on 10th Street and Ocean Drive.

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The verdict? I absolutely loved it! This tour combines the perfect mix of architecture, history, and pop culture, leaving room for plenty of photo ops and questions along the way. Whether you’re planning a vacation in Miami or you happen to live close by, I highly recommend an Art Deco Walking Tour. 🙂

What are your favorite ways to explore Miami? Sound off in the comments section below!

 

Bok Tower Gardens Part 2: Pinewood Estate Holiday Home Tour

It may be snowing across the country, but here in Central Florida, ’tis the season to visit the botanical gardens. Did you know that Bok Tower Gardens is the perfect place to ring in the holiday season? Nestled in Lake Wales between Orlando and Tampa, Bok Tower Gardens is an idyllic garden and bird sanctuary that knows how to bring the holiday spirit. I’ve visited Bok Towers before (check out my guide and recap here!), but over the weekend, I decided to take another trip to the gardens for their Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

Located on the grounds of Bok Tower Gardens, Pinewood Estate is a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion that was once the winter home of Charles Austin Buck, an executive from Bethlehem Steel. From November 26 through January 6, Pinewood Estate is completely decked out for Christmas, and guests can enjoy the Holiday Home Tour.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

Each year, the house is decorated in a different theme for the holidays (with this year’s theme focusing on Christmas in the 1940s, post-World War II). No two years are alike, and hidden throughout the home are several Pinewood Estate squirrels. Learn about the history of the home, as well as the family who lived there, and take time to appreciate each room and its elegant decorations.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

I loved all of the details laid out in each room, especially in Lucy Buck Fox’s bedroom upstairs (and her bright pink bathroom). With Christmas trees in nearly every room and beautiful glass ornaments, the house is well worth taking the time to explore.

In addition to the Christmas tours, Pinewood Estate offers musical afternoons throughout the Christmas season on select dates throughout December and January.

Bok Tower Gardens: A Guide to the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate

The house is a beautiful place to visit year-round, open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning January 29, you can take one of the regularly scheduled historical tours of the home, learning more about its architecture and interior design.

Visiting Pinewood Estate for the Holiday Home Tour was a fun holiday experience, and I look forward to seeing how Bok Towers continues the festivities in 2019!

What are your favorite holiday homes and traditions in Florida? Sound off in the comments below!

Rainy Day Adventures: Downtown DeLand & Museum of Art

Why let a rainy day stop us from having a good time? For months, my friend and I have been looking forward to visiting Bok Towers for the Christmas tour of Pinewood Estates (read about our summer visit here), but when we checked the forecast this morning, we realized that a nearly 2-hour drive to a botanical garden was probably not the best idea for the day. Instead, we decided to stick a little closer to home with a trip to Downtown DeLand.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

I’m a huge fan of historic downtowns, and DeLand’s historic district does not disappoint. From fun shopping to local eateries, Downtown DeLand is the perfect stop for a weekend adventure.

We kicked off our visit with brunch at a little bistro called Byte. The breakfast sandwich was a delicious pick-me-up to start the day. The restaurant also offers a bottomless bloody Mary and mimosa bar for those wanting to experience a more boozy brunch. After our meal, we wandered over to the Museum of Art.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

For just $5 each, we received admission to the museum’s downtown campus, as well as access to their main campus within the next three days. Exhibits change every three months, but we arrived just in time for the Barbara Neijna Full Circle: Considering Infinity exhibit. Spanning across three galleries, Neijna’s art utilizes mixed media and explores the idea of infinity through its many circles. Although the museum was small, the galleries were well worth the visit.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

After exploring the museum, it was time to do a little shopping. Downtown DeLand is known for its antique shops, so a must-visit for any shopper on a rainy day is Marketplace at Rivertown. This three-story, multi-dealer antique market sells a variety of antique and vintage products, from furniture to artwork to jewelry to clothing. I’ve purchased a few unique gifts here before, and you can find some great stuff if you’re willing to look around.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

We also stopped by The Muse Book Shop next door, where I ended up purchasing a book of poetry. On the second Wednesday of the month, they host a Wine, Women, and Chocolate event, which I’ll definitely need to attend in the future. The shop offers used books in just about every genre, and includes an entire room dedicated to Florida.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

The day ended with a trip to Pat & Toni’s Sweet Things for a sugar fix. (Hey, I’m not starting my Whole30 until after the holidays, right?) 🙂 I indulged in a chocolate-covered s’more (yum!), while my friend Carrie enjoyed a classic butter pecan ice cream cone. The shop is filled with chocolate, fudge, ice cream, and other candies – perfect gift items for anyone in your life with a sweet tooth!

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

The weather may have toggled between overcast and rainy, but we still ended up having a great time exploring Downtown DeLand while sticking to mainly indoor activities. If you’re looking for a fun new neighborhood to explore, take the trip to DeLand and see it for yourself!

For other art museums and galleries in Central Florida to explore on a rainy day, check out my local art guide here!

Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

 Well, readers, it’s official: the holiday season is here. My fall seasonal décor has been stowed away in exchange for reindeer, mini-trees, and an electronic menorah. My next few weekends are packed with Christmas parties and Secret Santa exchanges. And in just a few hours, I’ll pop a few latkes on the stove in celebration of the first night of Hanukkah.

As someone who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, I usually have my hands full when it comes to holiday shopping. Luckily, there are a lot of great places right here in Central Florida where you can pick up unique gifts while supporting local businesses. Check out a few of my suggested shops and markets, and please share yours in the comments below. (For additional guidance on gift giving, check out a couple of my previous guides here and here.)

Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

1. Magpies Modern General Store (Sanford, FL)
Located on 1st Street in Historic Downtown Sanford, Magpies Modern General Store is the perfect place to begin your holiday shopping. From artisan soaps to housewares and more, Magpies is filled with fun stocking stuffers that are often locally sourced and eclectic. I love to pick up birthday presents here as well!

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2. AntiquiTEAs (Winter Garden, FL)
If you’re a tea lover like me, you’ll fall in love with AntiquiTEAs, a loose tea shop in Winter Garden’s Plant Street Market. As I mentioned in last year’s holiday post, the watermelon oolong is a flavor not to be missed. The shop also hosts private tea parties for special occasions (including my 27th birthday party!), working with other Plant Street Market vendors to create the perfect celebration.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

3. Rifle Paper Co. (Winter Park, FL)
Rifle Paper Co. is known for its fun and vibrant prints, from stationery to tea towels to home décor. This Winter Park shop is located not far from Park Avenue, and hosts seasonal sidewalk sales that will be sure to draw you in. For the ladies in your life, consider purchasing a Jardin de Paris candle — the scent is absolutely dreamy. It will be hard to walk in and not buy a little something for yourself as well!

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4. Light Up UCF Holiday Market (Orlando, FL)
On December 8 and December 21, Light Up UCF will host its Holiday Market Under the Stars, sponsored by CFE Federal Credit Union. Local vendors will set up, farmers market style, outside the holiday-themed event at the CFE Arena at UCF. It will be the perfect opportunity to shop for locally-crafted gifts, while enjoying ice skating, a Ferris wheel, carriage rides, and more.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

5. Wondermade (Sanford, FL)
Handcrafted marshmallows? Yes, please! Sanford’s Wondermade is home to a variety of marshmallow flavors, s’mores, and other themed gifts. In addition to purchasing a box, why not schedule a marshmallow-making class for you and your gift recipient? If you live in Central Florida, these classes are an awesome way to spend a Friday night or Saturday afternoon!

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6. Porch Therapy (Orlando, FL)
When shopping for the plant lover in your life, be sure to check out Porch Therapy at the East End Market in Orlando. The shop offers a multitude of plant varieties, but my favorites by far are their succulents. Be sure to check them out, then grab a smoothie at the neighboring Skyebird Juice Bar.

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Shop Local: 8 Places to Shop for Holiday Gifts in Central Florida

7. Orchid Rain (DeLand, FL)
My family and I stumbled upon this little shop in Downtown DeLand on my birthday this year, and were immediately drawn in. With a Volkswagen beetle right in the front of the store, Orchid Rain has a fun retro feel. From jewelry and sunglasses to furniture and housewares, this store is the perfect place to shop for your creative friends. My favorite find? The pocket-sized Buddhas, each representing a different intention (mine is “happiness”). Afterward, take a walk down Woodland Boulevard for some antique-shopping and a bite to eat.

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8. Antidote Apothecary & Spa (Sanford, FL)
When in doubt, give the gift of a pampering session! Antidote Apothecary & Spa in Downtown Sanford offers holistic, cruelty-free spa services that your friends and family will love. Check out my recap on their salt therapy appointments here, or consider one of their massages, facials, energy work, or other services.

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Where are you shopping locally for holiday gifts this year? Sound off in the comments!

Art Comes Alive: 5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

Those of you who follow my Instagram or have been reading my blog for a while know that I’ve always been passionate about the arts. While I never studied art formally in school (aside from an art history class or two), I’ve always loved diving into the mind of the artist and exploring new styles and perspectives.

When we imagine great artwork and museums, we often think of places like New York, Paris, and Florence — all of which have a rich history in the world of art. However, we often forget about some of the treasures right here in our own backyard! Orlando may not immediately jump to mind when we think about art, but the city and its surrounding neighborhoods have their own hidden gems worth exploring. From Mayan Revival architecture to the chapel built for the 1893 World’s Fair, Central Florida is home to a variety of art experiences that everyone should experience.

For those Central Floridians looking to experience art right in your own backyard, check out some of my top local picks!

5 Ways to Experience Art in Central Florida

1. Maitland Art Center
Tucked away on Packwood Avenue, just off the main road, the Maitland Art Center‘s campus once served as a colony for visiting artists to practice their craft. The museum itself features eclectic collections, but to me, the grounds are the main attraction not to be missed. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Maitland Art Center is an example of Mayan Revival architecture, featuring a beautiful chapel with both Mayan and Judeo-Christian imagery. The museum has multiple buildings and campuses, so after your tour of the grounds, be sure to check out the Telephone Museum.

5 Places to Experience Art in Central Florida

2. Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
What do Winter Park and the Czech Republic have in common? Albin Polasek, the Czech sculptor! The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park feature hundreds of Albin’s sculptures, paintings, and other works. In his seventies, Albin suffered a major stroke and became paralyzed on one side, but still continued to sculpt some of his most well-known pieces in that time. From Man Carving His Own Destiny to Mother Crying Over The World, the artist’s works reflect his own life as well as the current events of that time. His representation of Radegast, a Moravian god from his village, even became the mascot for a Czech brewery and beer. The museum features docent-led tours that will give you more insight on Albin’s life and the impact of his works on the world.

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

3. Bronze Kingdom
Located in the Orlando Fashion Square Mall, Bronze Kingdom features more than 2,000 African art pieces from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other parts of the continent. From bronze to beaded works, the gallery spans 16,000 square feet and also includes pieces from local artists. An added bonus? You can even sit on a real throne! Bronze Kingdom provides tours for visitors and hosts events regularly.

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

4. Morse Museum
The Morse Museum is ideally situated on Park Avenue in Winter Park, and home to the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass. Louis Comfort Tiffany (whose father founded Tiffany & Co) is well known for his stained glass works, but also designed the 1893 World’s Fair Tiffany Chapel. The Chapel has been restored and is now on display at the Morse Museum. The museum also features other American sculptures and paintings, and visitors can learn about the history of art in Winter Park and Tiffany’s restoration efforts in the introductory video when they first arrive.

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5. Casa Feliz Historic Home & Venue
Designed by architect James Gamble Rogers II, Casa Feliz (Happy House) is a historic home with Spanish influence that is now open to the public. The house was nearly torn down in 2000, but was ultimately saved and moved across the street to its new home on Park Avenue in Winter Park. On Sundays, they host Music at the Casa, featuring live performances with free admission. You can tour the home and learn about its history, as well as the efforts taken to save it. Check out Casa Feliz after grabbing brunch on Park Avenue!

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What are your favorite ways to experience art in Central Florida? Share yours in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: Your Guide to a Weekend in St. Pete

On Saturday, I packed my bags and hit the road for St. Petersburg on my very first completely solo vacation. Although I’ve roamed around cities like New York and Seattle on my own before, those trips were ultimately part of planned visits to see old friends. Aside from a conference in Jacksonville earlier this year, I have always traveled with friends and family, so planning a trip on my own was an adventure completely outside of my comfort zone.

The verdict? I absolutely loved it! The trip was a short one, not even lasting 48 hours, but I enjoyed fun tourist activities, combined with much-needed rest and relaxation. The drive from my apartment (just north of Orlando) to St. Petersburg took roughly two hours, with plenty of sightseeing along the way.

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It was Smithsonian’s Free Museum Day, so I first made a stop in Tampa at the Henry B. Plant Museum. Originally the Tampa Bay Hotel, this museum is a National Historic Landmark and served as a luxury resort in Victorian times. The hotel features a collection of porcelain, faberge eggs, and other items that once belonged to the Habsburg family and the Russian tzars. The byzantine architecture alone is enough to make you stop in your tracks. The hotel is now home to the University of Tampa’s admissions building, but you can still wander around and learn more of its history.

Your Guide to a Weekend in St. Pete

After the Plant Museum, I headed into St. Pete to continue my adventure. I stayed at the Cordova Inn downtown, a charming little hotel with its own history in the city. The hotel had a beautiful veranda where I enjoyed my breakfast the next morning, along with complimentary wine and cheese in the evenings. The rooms are a little older, but with Turner Classic Movies playing as soon as I walked in, I knew I made the right choice. 🙂

Your Guide to a Weekend in St. Pete

After checking in at the Cordova, I strolled over to the Morean Arts Center and the Chihuly Collection across the street to enjoy some of the art. My trip to Seattle this summer really solidified my love for Dale Chihuly and his glass works, so I was especially excited to visit his collection. Meanwhile, the Morean Arts Center featured a unique array of exhibitions by staff members and by their members.

Your Guide to a Weekend in St. Pete

In the evening, I ventured over to A Taste for Wine for a glass of grapefruit rosé and dinner (a personal margherita pizza on naan bread). On a cooler night, I would have enjoyed my meal on the balcony for some people-watching, but I ultimately had a great time indoors getting to know the bartenders and other patrons. A Taste for Wine is a quieter wine bar that serves charcuterie, artisan pizzas, and various appetizers.

The next morning, after checking out of the hotel, I ended up fulfilling a longtime goal of visiting The Dalí Museum. I’ve always loved the surreal works of Salvador Dalí (Persistence of Memory is a favorite of mine!), so learning more about his life and art was a dream come true for me.

Your Guide to a Weekend in St. Pete

My visit began with the Clyde Butcher exhibit, which featured Visions of Dalí’s Spain. Clyde Butcher is a black-and-white landscape photographer who primarily shoots in Florida, but was commissioned by the museum to photograph the areas that had the most meaning to Dalí throughout his life. The jagged rock formations and twisted trees in Cadaques and in Dalí’s Port Villat home have a whimsy to them that clearly inspired him in his art. In fact, one of the rock formations reminded Dalí of his own profile, and he used it to represent himself in his paintings thereafter! The exhibit gave me a fresh perspective on Dalí before I headed over to the artist’s permanent collection.

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I joined a docent-led tour at noon, learning the nuances of a few of Dalí’s most famous works and about the artist’s own life. Even after the tour was over, I used the headsets to embark on my own self-guided tour through the exhibit, taking time to appreciate his works and learn as much as I could about the hidden meaning in his paintings.

Your Guide to a Weekend in St. Pete

I ended the trip with a late lunch from the museum’s Café Gala, where I enjoyed the Ensalada Pear & Cabrales along with bread and manchego almond pesto in the garden overlooking the water. Throughout the garden, other interesting works (such as a melted clock bench) were available to explore and snap photos of.

After the museum, it was time to return to reality, but I can’t recommend St. Pete enough for a dreamy vacation!

What are some of your favorite spots in Tampa and St. Pete? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

Celebrating Curiosity: How to Participate in Smithsonian’s Free Museum Day

Happy Hump Day! It may only be mid-week, but it’s never too early to start making weekend plans. This Saturday, September 22, is Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Free Museum Day, a day when museums all across the United States offer (you guessed it) free admission.

Celebrating Curiosity: How to Participate in Smithsonian Free Museum Day

In order to participate, you can click here to search for participating museums and claim your admission voucher for two. As someone who loves to explore various museums, I first participated in Free Museum Day a few years ago, when I had the pleasure of visiting the Orange County Regional History Center. The museum featured a traveling Gone With The Wind exhibit, and I had the opportunity to see costumes, awards, and letters from the film, all while learning about the history of my very own city.

Celebrating Curiosity: How to Participate in Smithsonian's Free Museum Day

For those in Orlando and the surrounding areas, a few favorite attractions of mine that will be participating this year include:

  • Cornell Museum of Fine Arts
  • Art & History Museum of Maitland
  • Orlando Museum of Art
  • Orange County Regional History Center
  • Mennello Museum of American Art

I can’t wait to share my own Museum Day 2018 adventures on the blog soon! How are you celebrating?

28 at 28: Let the Good Times Roll

Hey readers! With my birthday just around the corner, it’s time to close the books on my 27 at 27 bucket list adventures and make way for a new year. (For anyone asking, I’m turning 21 again.) Every year, my birthday bucket lists expose me to so many new experiences, and I’m excited to see what the next year brings. 🙂

IMG_2335.jpegFeel free to follow along here or by tapping that 28 at 28 link on the main menu. I’ll also share links as I blog about my experiences!

Things I’d Like to Do While I’m 28

  1. Visit the Casa Feliz in Winter Park.
  2. Tour the Oak Haven Winery in Sorrento and go strawberry picking.
  3. Take our annual mother/daughter trip.
  4. Go to Top Golf.
  5. Take a coding class.
  6. See a movie at the Enzian.
  7. Tour the Howey Mansion.
  8. Tailgate at a UCF football game.
  9. Take a class at Total Wine.
  10. Visit the Avian Reconditioning Center in Maitland.
  11. Travel to a new state.
  12. Attend a performing arts show.
  13. Take the Mr. Rogers Walking Tour at Rollins.
  14. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  15. Complete another round of Whole30.
  16. Take a Christmas tour of the Pinewood Estate at Bok Towers.
  17. Attend a non-UCF sporting event.
  18. Finish an old writing project.
  19. Hike the Shingle Creek Trail to Pioneer Village.
  20. Take a Downtown Sanford Ghost Tour.
  21. Celebrate Smithsonian Museum Day.
  22. Visit the Bronze Kingdom art gallery.
  23. Take a weekend trip to St. Petersburg.
  24. Visit the Back to Nature wildlife refuge.
  25. Take an Art Deco tour in Miami.
  26. Visit one of the local springs.
  27. Go out for Magical Dining Month.
  28. Do the annual grape stomp at Lakeridge Winery.

What are you looking forward to this year? Share in the comments section below!