Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Chinsegut (noun): The Inuit word for “the spirit of things lost and regained.”

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

For all of my Orlando readers who want to make a quick road trip getaway, look no further than Brooksville, Florida. Located in Hernando County in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, Brooksville is hardly more than a hop, skip, and a jump away — about two hours west. I was introduced to the area by the lovely Diane of NatureCoaster, a fellow blogger who had contributed to my Hidden Gems of Central Florida post back in January, and couldn’t wait to visit Florida’s Nature Coast.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Our first stop was the Chinsegut Hill Manor, a historic home last owned by social activists Raymond Robins and Margaret Dreier Robins until the mid-1900s. In fact, who better to lead our tour than Margaret herself? 🙂 Visitors can receive tours from costumed guides and reenactors, adding even more magic to the Chinsegut grounds. With two wraparound porches, beautiful original furnishings, and a gorgeous landscape, history enthusiasts will love touring the manor house. Tours are just $5 and are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

After our tour, our group congregated on the porch to sample some of the best wines the Nature Coast has to offer from the Sparacia Witherell Family Winery. Each bottle tells a different story about the family who owns this winery, and in addition to your traditional reds and whites, they also offer blueberry and currant wines. My favorites were the Honeymoon Wine, a muscadine honey wine (not to be confused with mead) infused with grapefruit and apricots, and the Sicilian Punch, a peach/orange sangria and overall crowd pleaser. Take a trip to their tasting room to try all of these delicious flavors! As an added bonus, the winery often houses food trucks and local bands for a fun day or night out.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatIn the evening, we trekked over to the Chinsegut Conservation Center just down the road for a guided night hike with Gina, the center’s director. During our tour, we learned about the various native wildlife, and had the opportunity to learn about the area’s bat population. Bat houses are located on site, and are home to roughly 250 bats per home. At dusk, we watched the bats fly out of their houses and into the night sky. I had never seen so many bats in my life! The conservation center hosts tour groups almost monthly, as well as various classes and events throughout the year.

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If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your time in Brooksville, check out the charming cottages at Chinsegut Hill Retreat, on the same grounds as the historic manor house. Each cottage has four bedrooms with two twin beds each, along with their own private bathrooms, a kitchen, and communal living room area. Our group stayed in the cottages and enjoyed s’mores and popcorn by the campfire just outside on the grounds. Take time on the porch in the morning to enjoy the breeze, relax, and restore.Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatI truly can’t wait for my next trip to Chinsegut and to explore more of the Nature Coast!

What’s on your Florida travel bucket list? Share your adventures in the comments section below!

Link Love February: Cookie Monster, Mr. Darcy, and the Florida Everglades

Does anyone else feel like February came and went in the blink of an eye? This month has been an especially busy one for me, with a weekend vacation to Tampa and St. Pete, a day of park-hopping at Disney, a Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed dinner, the Orlando Apollos launch game, and a trip to Wonderworks, along with a two-week bout of laryngitis. My happiness project is still going strong, and I’m excited to share my recap of Month 2 on tomorrow’s blog. 🙂

What links are you loving this month? Check out my latest favorite reads below and share your own in the comments!

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What links are you loving lately? Sound off in the comments!

Rainy Day Adventures: The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

A few weeks ago, I took a trip back out to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area to see Yayoi Kusama’s LOVE IS CALLING exhibit (check out the recap here!) and enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. During this visit, I planned to visit the Sunken Gardens in St. Pete, but the unpredictable Florida weather had other plans for me.

Because of this, I decided to shift my itinerary and visit one of the area’s hidden gems: the Imagine Museum, located just outside of downtown St. Pete. Home to more than 500 pieces of American Studio Glass, the Imagine Museum is well worth the visit for any art enthusiasts who are visiting the area.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that I’m a huge fan of glass art, and that Chihuly Gardens & Glass was one of my favorite parts of my trip to Seattle last year. (And yes, I did visit Chihuly’s exhibit in St. Pete during my visit in September!) The Imagine Museum contains works by Chihuly as well, but also features a number of other artists and styles that are sure to inspire those who visit.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum has exhibits on two floors, with the first floor consisting of the permanent collection. Adorned with quotes by Deepak Chopra, Nelson Mandela, and other great thought leaders and pioneers, the Imagine Museum seeks to inspire creativity and kindness in those who visit. In fact, there are handouts available throughout the museum that list the Ten Commandments of Human Relations, which visitors can bring home with them.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The pieces throughout the Imagine Museum’s collection vary by color, technique, and cultural context. From the ikebana at the front entrance to the 1,000 Buddhas to the glass-made Vitruvian Man, no two pieces are exactly alike, and each room is sure to awe.

On the second floor, visit Floating World, an exhibition by Karen LaMonte. Her kimono sculptures take on a life of their own, and you can learn more about her techniques through the documentaries playing throughout the exhibition.

The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg, FL

The Imagine Museum is new to St. Pete, but one that I definitely plan to revisit in the future. For more tips on how to spend your trip to the Tampa/St. Pete area, click here.

 

Love is Calling: Your Guide to the Tampa Museum of Art

“Dots are symbols of the world, the cosmos. The Earth is a dot, the moon, the sun, the stars are all made up of dots. You and me, we are dots.” – Yayoi Kusama

Love is Calling: Your Guide to the Tampa Museum of Art

If you live in Central Florida and spend any time on social media, chances are you’ve seen the glowing neon tentacle-like sculptures that form the LOVE IS CALLING exhibition at the Tampa Museum of Art. As someone who spends her fair share of time in art museums, I was especially drawn to this colorful mirrored exhibit, and knew that I had to make the trip across the state to see it in person.

LOVE IS CALLING, an infinity room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, was well worth the visit. The exhibition, which first came to Tampa in September, will be leaving the museum on February 14, so if Kusama’s works strike your fancy, be sure to plan your trip ASAP.

Here’s what you should know before you go:

  • Buy a timed ticket ahead of time. The ticket you purchase online will guarantee you access to LOVE IS CALLING at a set time, and will also grant admission to the museum as a whole. Entry to LOVE IS CALLING does not require the timed ticket, but because of the exhibition’s popularity, you may not be able to get in otherwise.
  • Go early, especially if you’re going on the weekend. I visited on Sunday and set my entry time for 10:30 a.m. to avoid the crowds.
  • Space in Kusama’s infinity room is limited, and visitors only get two minutes to enjoy the exhibition. However, you’ll have unlimited time to enjoy the other exhibits.
  • You’ll hear a recording of Kusama reading her poem Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears in Japanese. When you exit the room, you can read the poem in English. The poem has different meanings if you read it from top to bottom vs. bottom to top.
  • If you’re uncomfortable with dark enclosed spaces, this exhibit may not be for you.

Love is Calling: Your Guide to the Tampa Museum of Art

I would be remiss not to share my experience with another exhibition at the museum, Robert Indiana: A Sculpture Retrospective. Known for his LOVE series, Robert Indiana was an artist who created sculptures, mixed media, pop art, and other works over the course of more than 50 years. His exhibition is on display though March 17, and I enjoyed it as much as (if not more than!) LOVE IS CALLING.

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Be sure to spend some time exploring the galleries to learn about other artists and even enjoy the classical antiquities. Afterward, pop over to Anise Global Gastrobar across the street for a delicious lunch, or take a stroll along the water through Curtis Waterfront Park and take in the beautiful views of the University of Tampa (which houses the Henry B. Plant Museum from my previous St. Pete/Tampa post).

What’s next on your art-themed bucket list? Share your favorites in the comments!

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!

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!

27 at 27 Bucket List: The Year in Review

Happy Saturday, readers! With a busy start to the month of September, I’ve been enjoying a quiet weekend to relax, reorganize, and regroup. We’re in the midst of Virgo season, and next weekend will be a lot less low-key as I celebrate my birthday!

For those who are new to the blog, every year I create a new bucket list of things I’d like to do before my next birthday. I think it’s a great way to prioritize the things you want to see and do, and having the list always gives me something new to look forward to. I’m in the process of creating my 28 at 28 bucket list, which will be posted soon on the blog (please comment with your suggestions!), but I also love to recap the previous year and all of the adventures that took place.

27 at 27 Bucket List Recap

You’ll notice that I didn’t check off everything on my list this past year. During that time, I was juggling work with a challenging second year of grad school, so time for myself was limited. I did experience other exciting adventures, such as throwing the first pitch at a UCF baseball game, attending the most adorable goat stampede, getting splashed by the penguins at SeaWorld (my first visit to the park since childhood), hosting a volunteer meal-packing event, taking an impromptu trip through St. Augustine, and much more.

Below is my recap of my 27 at 27 bucket list. (Check out my older posts recapping 25 and 26 as well.) Stay tuned for 28 at 28, and share your own suggestions in the comments below!

27 at 27 Bucket List Recap

  1. Travel to New Orleans for our annual mother-daughter tripMy mom and I traveled to New Orleans from 1/12 to 1/15/18. Check out the recap and travel tips here!
  2. Visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Lake NonaI didn’t make it out there this year, but it will be on the list for 28.
  3. Take a class at Total WineSee above. 
  4. Travel to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí MuseumA trip is in the works very soon! Stay tuned.
  5. Visit a salt room for halotherapy. Tried halotherapy for the first time at Antidote Apothecary & Spa on 11/18/17 and felt amazing! I have since been back for other visits. Check out my recap of the experience here.
  6. Spend the day in MiamiThis was another one that was hard to schedule this year because of school and limited time in South Florida.
  7. Take a boat tour of Winter Park. Took a tour on 8/26/18 and had a great time. I learned a lot about the area’s flora, fauna, and history.
  8. Hang out with the flamingos at Flamingo GardensVisited Flamingo Gardens with family on 3/31/18. 🙂 I also was nearly attacked by a peacock.
  9. Graduate from my MBA programGraduated from UCF on 5/5/18 – we did it!
  10. Take a bioluminescence tourSomeday!
  11. Complete another round of Whole30Accomplished this! I started my Whole30 on 5/14/18 and have been living a more healthy post-graduate lifestyle ever since.
  12. Go on a ghost tour through Downtown SanfordThis one is in the works!
  13. Visit New York City. Visited NYC from 10/6 to 10/9/17. Check out the recap here!
  14. Host a tea partyHosted a birthday tea party for my 27th birthday at AntiquiTEAs in Winter Garden on 9/17/17. What an amazing way to celebrate!
  15. Go kayaking in WekiwaOutdoor adventures were limited because of allergies and other concerns.
  16. Visit the Maitland Art CenterVisited the Art Center, History Center, chapel and grounds on 6/3/18.
  17. Take a post-graduation vacationTook a trip to Seattle and Victoria, BC, from 7/11 to 7/15/18. See my recap of Seattle here and my recap of Victoria here!
  18. Attend a performing arts showAttended Godspell and saw my friend, Danielle, perform on 7/22/18.
  19. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. Stay tuned!
  20. Pursue public speaking opportunitiesI did a lot of public speaking this year, but a few highlights include serving as a panelist at UCF Career Fest, speaking at the Graduation Reception for the Burnett Honors College, serving as a panelist for new PMBA students at their orientation, and being a guest speaker for Athena Women Empowered at UCF.
  21. Take a limo cycle tour. Went on a pedal pub adventure around Downtown Sanford with my MBA class on 10/21/17.
  22. Finish an old writing projectThis was hard to embark on in the midst of graduate school, but I did begin dedicating a lot more time to writing this year, especially on my blog.
  23. Get my writing published somewhere newI wrote two articles for STRIVE Magazine on financial wellness.
  24. Take a DIY classMaybe next year!
  25. Stroll through the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens. Visited on 11/10/17. Recap coming soon!
  26. Tour the Stetson Mansion in DeLand. Visited on 11/19/17 for the Christmas tour — so beautiful! 
  27. Visit the Orlando EyeComing soon!

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What suggestions do you have for 28 at 28? Sound off in the comments below!