Link Love January: Rom Com Dialogue & Millennial Burnout

Now that we’re halfway through January, how are everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions holding up? Normally by now, I’d be back to my usual deviant habits, but so far my 2019 Happiness Project is going strong! My focus for the month has been to boost my physical health, and I’ve been doing that in a few different ways: embarking on a round of Whole30 (it’s getting easier!), tackling those nagging tasks to clear up “brain clutter” (we’ll talk about that in a future post), and even by simply acting more energetic when I may not feel that way. I’ve been more successful in some areas than others, but I’m happy to share that I am starting to feel a lot healthier than I have in a long time.

Of course, in the midst of all of these changes, I’ve been doing a lot of reading! Check out my latest link love below and be sure to drop your own favorites (along with a resolution you’re working toward!) in the comments section below.

Photo Credit: NatureCoaster.com

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!

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?

Adventures in the Garden City: How to Spend Your Day Trip to Victoria, BC

During last month’s trip to Seattle, I crossed an extra travel destination off my list: British Columbia! As much as I love to travel, this was actually my first visit to Canada, and Victoria, BC, was the perfect place to start. From Seattle, we hopped aboard the Clipper Ferry to embark on our three-hour cruise to Canada.

For those interested in traveling from Seattle to Victoria, I cannot recommend the Clipper Ferry enough. From safe and reliable transportation to friendly service, Clipper Vacations truly outdid themselves. (As an added bonus, we even passed by a few whales on our return trip!) We arrived in the city around 10 a.m. with an evening departure around 7.

Disclaimer: As much as I loved our day trip to Victoria, I wish we had booked a hotel to stay the night and spend a little more time in the city. There are a lot of exciting things to see and do in the Garden City, and because of my injuries on the trip, my mobility was somewhat limited and I wasn’t able to cover as much ground as I would have liked in one day. Therefore, this recap post will not only include the sightseeing we did and the restaurants we visited, but also a short wish list of suggested places I’d like to see when I return.

How to Spend Your Day Trip to Victoria, BC

What We Did

  • Beacon Hill Park
    Just a mile from the port, we began our day wandering around Beacon Hill. This 200-acre park features beautiful gardens, one of the world’s tallest totem poles (the tallest at the time it was built), playgrounds, and a farm (but we’ll get to that later). The views at Beacon Hill were absolutely breathtaking. Our path ultimately led us to the rocky Spiral Beach, where I quickly remembered that we were not in Florida anymore. Spiral Beach is not the most friendly for injured walkers, but it’s certainly worth a quick trip to the waterfront.
  • Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
    British Columbia offers free parliamentary tours at the Legislative Assembly, which are well worth the trip. Our tour featured a cameo from the late Queen Victoria, along with British Columbia’s rich history and some background into Canada’s constitutional monarchy structure. Tours are only an hour, but they provide great insight, especially for first-time visitors like myself.

How To Spend Your Day Trip to Victoria, BC

  • Beacon Hill Children’s Farm
    This part of the trip was a highlight for me as an animal lover! For a small donation, you can visit the many animals at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm from 10-5 p.m. in the summer. I was especially excited to visit the goats! Twice a day, the farm hosts the daily “goat stampede,” which is exactly what it sounds like — about 40 goats running out in a stampede across the farm! It is an absolute must-see, and as expected, the goats are incredibly sweet. 🙂

Where We Ate

  • Sam’s Deli & Bistro
    Conveniently located on Government Street, Sam’s Deli & Bistro was our first stop off the ferry. We were able to grab quick breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee and tea to start our day, all while enjoying the beautiful weather and people-watching from the outdoor seating. They also serve soups and salads, and the food is made-to-order.
  • The Sticky Wicket Pub
    This restaurant is a cricket-themed pub and a part of the Strathcona Hotel. It was the perfect spot for a quiet, late lunch in between activities. I ordered the chicken strips and salad with a delicious plum sauce, and now wish I could pour that plum sauce on everything I eat.

Future Visits

The next time I’m in Victoria, I plan to do the following (and suggest these activities for those of you who have enough time to see it all!):

  • Victoria Afternoon Tea at The Empress
    As a tea enthusiast, I would love to book an afternoon tea service at The Empress, located in the iconic Fairmont Hotel. The Empress offers its own special tea blends, as well as signature scones and pastries, and has been serving tea since 1908.
  • Butchart Gardens
    When I told friends and family that I was visiting Victoria, nearly everyone who had been there suggested visiting Butchart Gardens. The trip would have required some planning in terms of transportation and we ultimately didn’t make it out there, but those who have visited said there is nothing like it. With 900 plant varieties, the Sunken Garden, fountains and other sights to be seen, Butchart Gardens will be the perfect place to explore on a summer day.
  • Craigdarroch Castle
    This castle, a National Historic Site, is a Victorian mansion known as a “bonanza castle.” They offer extended summer hours and provide self-guided tours for visitors. I love visiting historic mansions, and look forward to returning to Victoria to tour this castle!
  • Hop On/Hop Off Tour
    As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think hop on/hop off tours are a great way to explore a new city for the first time. Next time I visit, I look forward to embarking on one of these tours! Not only will the transportation be helpful if I’m experiencing any injuries next time, but the tours often provide valuable insights and a unique twist depending on the guide.

Have you been to Victoria? What are your upcoming travel plans? Share in the comments section below!

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Let the Good Times Roll: Things to Do in New Orleans

Things To Do in New OrleansIf you’re wondering why New Orleans keeps popping up on your newsfeed, I promise you’re not alone. It turns out NOLA is the number one travel destination of 2018, and has topped all the major lists for where to visit this year. I was unaware of this when I ventured out to New Orleans this January (an unlikely place for a mother/daughter vacation that turned out to be one of the best yet).

We covered a lot of the French Quarter on this trip, sampling some great food and learning about the diverse New Orleans culture along the way. We visited during Carnival Season, so it was an especially exciting time to see the city as it prepared for Mardi Gras.

If you’re among the many planning to visit New Orleans in the near future, check out my suggested itinerary items below! Please note: This was a mother/daughter trip, so even though we stayed in the French Quarter, we did not spend much time on Bourbon Street (especially after watching the streets get cleaned in the mornings!).

Things to Do in New Orleans

What We Did: The Highlights

  • City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off Tour
    Longtime readers of my blog are probably aware that these tours are my favorite way to begin exploring a new city! We hopped on and off the trolley at different popular stops throughout New Orleans, and because the weather was unseasonably cold, we ended up extending to a three-day pass. Our tour guides were excellent and each provided their own unique flavor.
  • Mardi Gras World
    You can’t go to New Orleans and not experience Mardi Gras in some way! At Mardi Gras World (which happened to also be a convenient stop on our bus tour), we watched artists and craftsmen as they built and designed Mardi Gras floats for this year’s parades. We learned about the holiday’s history, as well as the work that goes into building the floats. On our way out, we were invited to try on costumes and have a piece of King Cake. Mardi Gras World is a must-visit for anyone traveling to New Orleans for the first time, and only takes about an hour and a half.
  • Ghost Tour
    Any time I visit a city with a lot of history, I like to take a ghost/cemetery tour. The Haunted History Ghost Tour did not disappoint! The tour gave a lot of background into the city’s history (including Katrina-era), and fully reaffirmed my belief in ghosts!
  • Gallier House and Herman-Grima House
    I grouped these two historic homes together because you can purchase a discounted ticket that grants admission to both houses and they are located within a few blocks of each other. Learn about the families who inhabited these homes, the architectural styles they used, and the historic context.
  • Garden District Walking Tour
    No trip to the Big Easy is complete without a trip to the Garden District, a quieter neighborhood of New Orleans lined with oak trees, historic homes, and adorable shops and cafés. Our hop on/hop off tour included a walking tour of the Garden District, but if you don’t have time for that, it is still a beautiful place to wander.

Things to Do in New Orleans

Where We Ate

  • Café du Monde
    Forget your diet — beignets are a must on any New Orleans trip! We visited the iconic Café du Monde around 7 a.m. on a weekend and managed to arrive before the crowds lined up. A few tricks to get in quickly: Be sure to grab a table as soon as one becomes available. Get there early if possible to avoid the wait; otherwise, you can get your food relatively quickly if you grab it to-go from the window. Know what you want as soon as you sit down — the restaurant is so busy that it’s likely your server will collect the bill as soon as your food arrives. Luckily, the menu is straightforward and limited, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble deciding what to order. My suggestion: a plate of three beignets and a cup of hot chocolate! Make sure you bring cash.
  • The District
    This restaurant in the Garden District was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. New Orleans is known for its cuisine, but of all the food we ate on this trip, the sliders and waffle fries at The District were my absolute favorite meal. Grab a donut to go on your way out! To stay in theme with Mardi Gras, we ordered the King Cake donut.
  • Remoulade
    Located in the French Quarter, Remoulade is the more casual, budget-friendly sister restaurant of Arnaud’s. I ordered a delicious lemon marinated grilled chicken, but the restaurant also serves po boys, seafood, burgers, franks and more.
  • Deanie’s Seafood
    I’m not much for seafood, but I did break out of my shell at Deanie’s Seafood, trying out the fried catfish and charbroiled oysters. While I struggled with the texture, I actually really liked the lemon butter flavor! The restaurant also serves a variety of gumbos, salads, sandwiches and other seafood.
  • PJ’s Coffee
    I saw more of this coffee shop than Starbucks!

Have you traveled to NOLA recently? Share your favorite spots in the comments section below!

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Adventures in Florida: Bok Tower Gardens

“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.” – The grandmother of Edward W. Bok

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A few weeks ago, I took a long-awaited mini road trip to Lake Wales. A little more than an hour from Orlando, Lake Wales is home to Bok Tower Gardens, a national historic landmark and one of my 26 at 26 bucket list items.

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For those unfamiliar with Bok Tower Gardens, they are named in honor of their founder, Edward W. Bok, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and the editor of Ladies Home Journal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He commissioned a landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., to design a “spot of beauty second to none in the country,” and the gardens were even visited by President Calvin Coolidge.

Bok Tower GardensOne of the coolest areas to visit at Bok Tower Gardens was the Singing Tower itself. The tower stands at more than 200 feet and houses carillon bells, which play concerts twice a day. During our visit, we sat in the garden and listened to the bells, all while admiring the intricate Gothic design and the nearby reflecting pool. (I also happened to make friends with many of the koi who were swimming around out there!)

Strolling through the gardens, even in the Florida heat, was a breathtaking experience. Spending the day among nature was tranquil and meditative, and the perfect way to separate oneself from the hustle-and-bustle craziness that we constantly face.

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We also visited the Pinewood Estate, a Mediterranean Revival mansion on the property once owned by the Vice President of Bethlehem Steel. As an architecture enthusiast, I loved touring through the home and learning about the estate’s unique fixtures and furnishings. No two doors in the mansion are exactly alike, and the tiles (while well-coordinated) differ by room. The docents were helpful and extremely knowledgeable about Pinewood, and they shared that the estate is at its very best when decorated for Christmas. I know I’ll be returning in December! 🙂

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I was so in awe of Bok Tower Gardens and all of its natural beauty, but I was also drawn to the gardens’ spirit of kindness and making the world a better place. Edward Bok put it best: “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” It is a beautiful sentiment, one that will keep me coming back to the gardens in the years to come. 🙂

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