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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Experience Art in Central Florida

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

5 Places to Experience Art in Central Florida

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

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

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

5 Unique Ways to Celebrate Art in Central Florida

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

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

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

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!

National Yoga Month: 5 Ways to Celebrate in Central Florida

Can you believe it’s almost September? My birthday month is just around the corner, and yet it feels like just yesterday I was writing out New Year’s Resolutions and celebrating UCF’s Peach Bowl victory. September is a happy month for me for a lot of reasons, but here’s a lesser known one: it’s National Yoga Month!

Introducing: Wellness & Wanderlust

As someone whose mind races at a mile a minute, I enjoy practicing yoga to center myself, with the added benefit of strengthening my body. When it comes to yoga, there are countless health advantages, and in this day and age, there are many different ways to practice.

5 Ways to Observe National Yoga Month

For my readers in Central Florida, I’ve rounded up five different ways to celebrate National Yoga Month right here in your own backyard! Read below for some awesome local yoga events, and share your own suggestions in the comments.

  • Yoga in Lake Eola Park (Every Sunday)
    For just $5, enjoy a beautiful morning of yoga on the northeast lawn of Lake Eola! Every Sunday from 11-12, community yoga classes are hosted in the park with no registration required. It’s a great way to start your Sunday! Check out the official Facebook page for more information and regular updates.
  • Goat Yoga Classes (Various Dates)
    Goat Yoga has become all the rage, and it’s exactly what it sounds like — yoga with goats! The classes are incredibly therapeutic, and will add the cuteness factor to your day. A few local farms that host goat yoga classes include Wildflower Farm OrlandoPatty’s Parrot Palace in Deland, and Sawgrass Acres in Mims. If you haven’t tried goat yoga already, I highly recommend it!
  • Cabernet + Namaste at Quantum Leap Winery (September 21)
    Yoga and wine? Yes please! This event takes place monthly at Quantum Leap Winery. Your $21 registration gets you admission to the class, plus two drink tickets, and $8 of the registration is donated toward the non-profit of the month. For September, proceeds will be donated to A Gift for Teaching, an organization that provides free school supplies for local teachers. Pop over to the event’s Facebook page for information on how to purchase your tickets.
  • Rooftop Yoga at The Balcony Orlando (September 25)
    This is a class I’ve been dying to try! Taught by instructors from YogaMix, the classes cost just $7 and are available for ages 18 and older. Rooftop Yoga is a great way to take in views of the city from downtown! Check out the Facebook event for more info.
  • Yoga in the Sculpture Garden (September 30)
    If you’re a fan of art, this event is the one for you! The Mennello Museum hosts monthly yoga classes in their sculpture garden for $10 apiece ($5 for museum members), with their next class taking place September 30 at 9 a.m. The class registration also includes admission to the museum for the day. More information can be found here.

How are you observing National Yoga Month? Share your favorite events, studios, and other suggestions in the comments below!

Things I’m Loving Lately: Favorite Central Florida Brunch Spots

Happy Sunday Funday! If you’re anything like me, chances are you’ve spent a Sunday or two at brunch. As someone who enjoys scrambled eggs at any time of day, I rarely turn down a chance to enjoy brunch among friends, and here in Central Florida, we have no shortage of great brunch spots at our fingertips.

For my local readers, check out five of my favorite brunch restaurants in the Orlando metropolitan area, and sound off in the comments with your own recommendations!

Five Favorite Brunch Spots in Central Florida

The Glass Knife
This trendy new spot in Winter Park is beautifully designed, with food that tastes as good as it looks. The Glass Knife is known for its delicious baked goods, but brunch is conveniently served from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and includes quiches, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, avocado toasts, and more. My favorite? The smoothie bowl, a healthier option that is packed with fresh fruits and plenty of flavor. (If you’re not concerned with calories, the donuts are pretty fantastic as well.)

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Omelet Bar
Located in The Plaza across from UCF, Omelet Bar is the perfect stop for breakfast or brunch before a football game! From build-your-own omelets to their famous s’mores towers, Omelet Bar offers a multitude of both traditional and nontraditional breakfast options. If you’re not in the mood for breakfast, grab a burger or sandwich.

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Favorite Brunch Spots in Central Florida

Canvas Restaurant & Market
I’m always in favor of a trip to Lake Nona, and Canvas does not disappoint! With gorgeous views overlooking the water and a fun market filled with local goods, Canvas is a great choice at any time of day. Their brunch menu varies, with sweet choices like tiramisu French toast, and spicier options like the chilaquiles. For a healthier option, consider the Canvas Breakfast or the Summer Squash Hash. Don’t forget about their bottomless mimosas!

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Artisan’s Table
I have a soft spot for Artisan’s Table, which was the first place where my MBA class ever went to brunch, and immediately fell in love with their breakfast bowls. The menu changes regularly, as Artisan’s Table incorporates seasonal ingredients throughout the year. Whether you’re looking for a breakfast burrito, sandwich, salad or stuffed French toast, you will love Artisan’s Table’s fresh taste.

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Cozee Café
This scratch kitchen, based in Lake Mary, offers meal choices from a variety of cuisines around the world. Enjoy an order of Cozee Café‘s shakshuka, or lighten things up with their oatmeal berry crunch. In the afternoons, the tikka salad and the chicken kebabs are excellent lunch and dinner choices. Cozee Café also serves craft coffee and Tea Forte, in addition to a variety of juices and smoothies.

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What are your favorite Central Florida brunch spots? Share your recommendations in the comments section 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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27 at 27 Bucket List: Let the Adventures Begin!

Hey readers! For those who read last night’s post, you know that my 26 at 26 adventures have officially come to a close. 26 was an amazing year of self-discovery, travel, creativity, and the strengthening of old and new friendships. I have high expectations for age 27, beginning with my 27 at 27 bucket list. These experiences bring me so much joy, and I can’t wait to share my latest with you in the year ahead.

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Feel free to follow along here (under the 27 at 27 tab on my main menu), as I cross off each item and provide links to blog posts throughout the year. 🙂

Happy reading!

27 Things I’d Like to Do While I’m 27

  1. Travel to New Orleans for our annual mother-daughter trip.
  2. Visit the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Lake Nona.
  3. Take a class at Total Wine.
  4. Travel to St. Petersburg to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum.
  5. Visit a salt room to try halotherapy.
  6. Spend the day in Miami.
  7. Take a boat tour of Winter Park.
  8. Hang out with the flamingos at Flamingo Gardens.
  9. Graduate from my MBA program.
  10. Take a bioluminescence tour.
  11. Complete another round of Whole30.
  12. Go on a ghost tour through Downtown Sanford.
  13. Visit New York City.
  14. Host a tea party.
  15. Go kayaking in Wekiwa.
  16. Visit the Maitland Art Center.
  17. Take a post-graduation vacation.
  18. Attend a performing arts show.
  19. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
  20. Pursue public speaking opportunities.
  21. Take a limo cycle tour.
  22. Finish an old writing project.
  23. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  24. Take a DIY class.
  25. Stroll through the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens.
  26. Tour the Stetson Mansion in Deland.
  27. Visit the Orlando Eye.

What is on your list this year? Share in the comments below!

Central Florida on a Dime: 5 Adventures Under $20

As I mentioned last week, juggling grad school with a full-time job means that vacation days are often limited. Because of that, I love to take advantage of my weekends by playing tourist in my own backyard! Central Florida is well-known for its tourist activities — and I’m definitely a fan of the theme parks! — but there are so many other awesome ways to explore the area without standing in long lines or breaking the bank.

This weekend, I’m sharing five of my favorite (non Disney-themed) activities in Orlando and some of the surrounding cities, all of which you can enjoy for under $20. Check them out and share your own favorites in the comments!

Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $201. Take a marshmallow-making workshop at Wondermade.
Yes, you read that correctly! Wondermade is a locally-owned café that sells handcrafted marshmallows in a variety of flavors, along with hot chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and more. Any time I bring a friend to Downtown Sanford for the first time, we always have to stop at Wondermade. Throughout the year, they host Friday night workshops, where attendees can enjoy hot drinks and treats, learn about the marshmallow-making process, and make their own. The workshops are just $15 per person and perfect for a date night or a night out with friends.

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2. Gaze at the stars at Buehler Planetarium.
Also in the “Orlando North” region, Buehler Planetarium is located on the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus of Seminole State College, and hosts shows every weekend. I first visited the planetarium in December 2015 for the Star of Bethlehem show, and had such a great time that I returned for the Winter Sky Festival a few weeks later! The planetarium hosts interactive shows and presentations relating the night sky to mythology, upcoming holidays, scientific phenomena, and more. Admission is $6 for adults (only $4 for poor grad students like me!). You can access their calendar of events here.

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Central Florida On A Dime: 5 Adventures Under $203. Stroll through Leu Gardens.
Not far from Downtown Orlando, Leu Gardens is home to about 50 acres of beautiful plant life. Entry is only $10, unless you visit on a free “First Monday”. Leu Gardens also hosts classes and community events throughout the year.

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4. Visit the Morse Museum.
One of my favorite museums in Central Florida is the Morse Museum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s works. I’ve always been a fan of Tiffany glass, so my favorite area of the museum is the Chapel, which was constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair. Located on Park Avenue in Winter Park, the Morse Museum is ideally located for a day of good food and shopping, but is also a perfect destination on its own. Admission ranges from $1 to $6, but is occasionally free.

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Central Florida on a Dime | 5 Adventures Under $205. Pick berries at a U-Pick farm.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love visiting local farms and picking my own fruit! This activity is entirely dependent on the time of year, but it’s fun to come home with your own hand-selected produce. My favorite farm in the area is Tom West Blueberry Farm in Ocoee (check out last year’s recap here!). Admission is free — all you pay for are the berries you pick! During blueberry season, they have other free activities taking place on the farm as well. I’ve gone out to Tom West for the past two seasons and will be returning next year for some delicious Emeralds! A few other local U-Pick farms to consider include Pappy’s Patch in Oviedo and Sledd’s in Mims for strawberries.

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What are your favorite inexpensive activities in Central Florida? Share your suggestions in the comments section below!

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