Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida

Happy Earth Day, fellow earthlings! With cooler temperatures gracing our area since the weekend, it feels like a crime to spend Earth Day working indoors. Here in Central Florida, we are blessed to live in such a diverse environment, with a variety of wildlife and terrain in every direction. The longer I live here, the more beautiful places I discover and fall in love with, and I consider myself lucky to call this weird and wonderful place my home.

In honor of Earth Day, I’m sharing five unique places to experience nature and wildlife right in your own backyard. Please feel free to share your own local favorites in the comments section below!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Ways to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net1. Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (Maitland, FL)
Nestled just off the main roads in Maitland, the Audubon Center for Birds and Prey is a rehabilitation facility for raptors. The organization brings in hundreds (if not thousands) of hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey who are sick or injured each year. For $8 per adult and $5 per child, guests can visit about 50 of the center’s permanent residents and learn about each individual bird. Don’t forget to visit the tiny raptors on the back porch, including my favorite: Tony, the eastern screech owl! You can also watch a video inside to learn more about rehabilitation and release efforts, and how the center does its part to protect these amazing species. The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey also hosts various events throughout the year.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

2. Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park to Gemini Springs Park (DeBary, FL)
Whether you prefer to hike or bike, the Spring-to-Spring Trail is a must-visit on a beautiful day. The trail will eventually span 26 miles out to DeLeon Springs, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a more leisurely stroll from Lake Monroe to Gemini Springs. The route is paved and goes 3.15 miles one way.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

3. Green Springs Park (Enterprise, FL)
True to its name, Green Springs Park is home to one of Florida’s few sulphur springs. The color has to be seen in person to be believed — and yes, it really is that ethereal. You can access Green Springs Park via the Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park if you’re looking for a longer hike, or simply drive up to the outside of the park and take a walk around to explore the 31 acres of paved and natural trails that comprise Green Springs.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

4. The CARE Foundation (Apopka, FL)
I fell in love with The CARE Foundation a few years back, when the Apopka-based wildlife sanctuary took in Lucious, a sweet young lion who suffered from hypovitamiosis. Although Lucious ultimately passed away from this condition, his story went viral and introduced many to The CARE Foundation, which rescues both exotic and domestic animals. Home to lemurs, foxes, big cats, a bear, blonde raccoons, reptiles, and many other critters, The CARE Foundation offers private tours, as well as open houses throughout the year to welcome the public. I have visited The CARE Foundation for their open houses, but a private tour with a small group is on my list for the future!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

5. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour (Winter Park, FL)
Just off Park Avenue, hop on a boat to explore the chain of lakes and canals that make up Winter Park. For just $14 per adult and $7 per child, Scenic Boat Tours take place every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are the perfect way to cool down as the weather heats up. Throughout your tour, you’ll visit three lakes and two canals, and the guide will share the history of Winter Park while introducing you to the local flora and fauna.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy nature in Central Florida? Sound off in the comments section 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!

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!

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!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Happy 3rd of July! I’m excited to celebrate tomorrow in the best way I know how: poolside with a burger. 🙂 How are you guys celebrating your 4th?

Now that I’m done with grad school, I’ve been working hard to get my health back on track, and I’m proud to say that I’ve made some great strides. From hitting the gym to eating cleaner (less inflammatory) foods, I feel stronger and healthier than I have in a long time. I completed a round of Whole30 shortly after graduation, and am now working toward a higher goal of balance and eating intuitively. Knowing what works well for me (protein, veggies) versus what doesn’t (gluten, sweeteners, legumes) has changed the way I fill my plate or look at a menu, and I’m excited to continue down this path.

Of course, in keeping up with the theme of balance, I have been especially excited to discover healthier restaurants in the Orlando area that cater to different dietary needs and restrictions. In today’s post, I’ll share some of my favorite finds for all of you local foodies (and visitors, too!). 🙂

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida
Fresh Kitchen
I discovered Fresh Kitchen in Waterford Lakes after a UCF event last year, and was so impressed with their bowls that I kept coming back for more! Fresh Kitchen’s concept is similar to that of Chipotle: You walk up to the counter, choose your bases, pick your vegetables and proteins, and add sauces as needed. The difference? Their entire menu is gluten free, most of their food is free from dairy and processed sugars, and their meats are antibiotic free. (They also sell paleo cookies and zucchini brownies if you’re looking to splurge!) My favorite menu items are the coconut rice, the pesto chicken, and the broccoli, but they have fresh seasonal veggies and other proteins worth a taste as well. They recently opened a location in Downtown Orlando, and are also located in South Florida and in the Tampa/St. Pete area.

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BOCA
Located on Park Avenue across from the Morse Museum (check out my recap here), BOCA is a farm-to-table restaurant that sources its food locally and offers seasonal menus. I loved their Smoked Cachaca Chicken, but they offer a variety of market specials, including many menu items that are gluten-free or vegetarian. I’m excited to go back for brunch!

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Olea Mediterranean Grill
I’m a big fan of Greek food, so I was especially excited when Olea Mediterranean Grill opened up in Sanford. Much like Fresh Kitchen, Olea offers a variety of options — customers can go up to the counter and choose a pita, lettuce, or grains, and add in their favorite spreads, toppings, and proteins. I’ve had to cut back from hummus, but their lemon herb tahini and their tzatziki are absolutely addictive. Each food item is labeled for those who have food restrictions, and if you’re gluten-free or vegan, there are tons of delicious options for you. Olea has locations in Sanford, Maitland, and Orlando.

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Farm & Haus
In the back corner of the East End Market in Orlando is Farm & Haus, which doubles as a café and meal delivery service. Farm & Haus has a menu that changes regularly, but offers healthy meals created from scratch. Farm & Haus delivers meals near its Audubon Park location in the East End Market, so when I took classes downtown, I often ordered dinner from there! Their café, which serves breakfast and lunch, is also home to Orlando’s best avocado toast (I swear–you can Google it).

Things I'm Loving Lately: Healthy Restaurants in Central Florida

Infusion Tea
Although not exclusively vegetarian, Infusion Tea offers some amazing meatless options, and is known as Orlando’s “organic tea café.” I am absolutely in love with their roasted pear salad, and the space is also great for parties and events. The restaurant also has its own Arts Co-Op inside, where you can pick up some fun gifts, and when you visit on a Saturday, you can also enjoy the College Park Farmers Market outside. If you love tea, try the pineapple bliss tea — I promise you will not be sorry!

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Orlando foodies, what are your favorite healthy options in the area? Sound off in the comments below!

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