Archive for September, 2012

CornFusion Corn Maze Mows into Lakeland

What do you get when you combine paintball, zombies and a field in Lakeland?

Utter CornFusion, of course.

If you’re looking for traditional Florida family fun, you can’t do better than the CornFusion Corn Maze in Lakeland (13444 Moore Rd, Lakeland, FL 33809, Phone: 863-859-6472).

It's open Fridays at 2, Saturdays at 9 and Sundays at noon, Oct. 19-Nov. 25, 2012. It closes each day at dusk.

The maze is just the tip of the stalk. The ranch features adventures that include:

  • Corn Box
  • Corn Cannon
  • Tractor Train
  • Mini Maze
  • Hayride
  • Jumping Pillow
  • Duck Race
  • Pumpkin Patch

And this definitely sounds like my cup of crazy: In the Zombie Paintball Hayride you mow down zombies with paintball guns on a hay ride through infected swamps, a scrapyard and a corn field. You can experience it Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 7 p.m., starting Oct. 12, 2012

Sounds like a bushel of fun to me.

Continue reading CornFusion Corn Maze Mows into Lakeland »

Flagler Beach – You'll Eat It Up

Yowling stomachs and yowling from the back seat signal meal time for most four-wheeled Florida travelers.

How lucky if the uprising coincides with a passage through Flagler County.

A three-mile detour east off Exit 284 (SR 100) of Interstate 95 leads straight to Flagler Beach, an unpretentious coastal community that serves everything from morning caffeine to evening sweets – all with a tinge of salt air.

"I think it's always a surprise to come off the interstate and see how close the ocean is and the variety of places that are available," said Georgia Turner, vice president, tourism, Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. "The old Florida and laid-back atmosphere is something you don't see everywhere."
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Troll for breakfast, lunch or dinner where Moody Boulevard (SR 100) dead-ends at Oceanshore Boulevard (A1A). Side streets off either also yield numerous choices.

For those yearning to pair coffee with an ocean-view sunrise, Maggie's European Bakery & Cafe touts European pastries; Java Joint, vegetarian fare. Both front A1A. Complete sit-and-eat breakfasts draw crowds at Friends Café, off South Flagler Avenue, and at Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill, where big windows capture the Atlantic sunrise.

Beachside Bakery, also on A1A, stocks cases with homemade breads, muffins and cinnamon rolls. Doughnuts nestled on a top shelf one recent morning – some fat and cakey, others glazed and studded with sprinkles.

Grab a dozen while they last, pair them with coffee, milk or juice then cross A1A, where any covered picnic table will do.

Those picnic tables, plunked in sand above the beach, line the commercial area of Flagler Beach's compact shoreline. The east shoulder of A1A offers enough room to park near most tables, meaning if lunch is your preferred detour, try ordering two slices and a drink from one of the town's handful of pizza parlors, and throw a beachside picnic.

Or request any local deli or grill to package your sandwiches, salads or burgers for the same purpose. You won't need the salt shaker; the brine is in the air.

Scout the New York City-style hot dog stand back outside Beachside Bakery, where the cook on duty will slather it up with all the usual condiments.

Then – yes – walk your dog to the beach.

"We've got everything from a fried fish sandwich to Blue, which is at a hotel and might not be what you expect, but still very good food at very good prices," Turner said.

If air conditioning beckons, Flagler Fish Company, off South Daytona Avenue, is a fish market and seafood kitchen wedged in the same space. A recent three-taco lunch special – one each of shrimp, portobello mushroom and steak – oozed spice, sauces and grilled vegetables.

Colorful metal sea life sculptures lining the walls can be purchased to-go. One refrigerated case contains all necessary decoration; the crème brulee and banana bread are homemade. Flagler Fish Company also sells its house seasoning.

At Johnny D's Beach Bar & Grill on A1A, claim a green-padded stool at the outdoor counter across from the beach and order through a window to the kitchen.

Further south, across from the Flagler Pier, Ocean Art & Books is a good browsing stop, with local artists (painters, photographers and glass sculptors) featured along with New York Times bestseller beach reads.

If a surfboard is handy, catch a few sets off the Pier. Many afternoons, youngsters not long off a school bus sprint across A1A, boards in tow, to join you.

For dinner, go early or late to Flagler Fish Company, which isn't large. Or return to the beach, where restaurants serve up the ocean with cocktails.

The Golden Lion Café, also open-air on A1A, and Finn's Beachside Pub, at the corner of Moody Boulevard (SR 100) and A1A, both offer the beach-bar vibe and elevated views of the Atlantic.

"So many of the restaurants are starting to put decks on their businesses, so you can enjoy your food with a view of the ocean," Turner said.

A Flagler Beach stop on the first Friday of each month means additional fun from 6-9 p.m. First Friday festivals offer live music, car cruises, children's games and pet-themed activities and more at the tiny Veterans Park where A1A and Moody Boulevard intersect. Shops and galleries also stay open late.

Who leaves the beach without ice cream? Don't.

Sally's Ice Cream on A1A provides traditional soft-serve. Both Sally's and The Waffle Cone, on South 4th Street, feature hard-packed flavors from the Working Cow Creamery in St. Petersburg – small-batch, pure-ingredient stuff that tastes like it.

"I always get a big, 'Wow,' when I bring people off the interstate," Turner said.

All you must do is stop.

If You Go

Note: A complete list of Flagler Beach restaurants, shops and galleries can be found at visitflagler.org.

Directions from Interstate 95: Take Exit 284 and head east on State Road 100 (which becomes Moody Boulevard). Go approximately three miles to Flagler Beach. State Road 100 ends at A1A (also Oceanshore Boulevard in Flagler Beach).

Flagler Fish Company
180 S. Daytona Avenue
Flagler Beach
386-439-0000

Golden Lion Café
500 N. Scenic Highway A1A
Flagler Beach
386-439-3004

Finn's Beachside Pub
101 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-439-7755

Beachside Bakery & Café
509 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-693-4819

Johnny D's Beach Bar & Grill
1005 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-693-4814

Blue at the Topaz
1224 S. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-439-4322

Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill

1848 S. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-439-6345

Maggie's European Bakery & Café
909 North Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-439-9990

Java Joint
2201 North Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-439-1013

Sally's Ice Cream

410 North Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach
386-439-4408

The Waffle Cone
South 4th Street
Flagler Beach
386-569-3153

Continue reading Flagler Beach – You'll Eat It Up »

Must-See Video of the Ultimate Piggyback Ride: The Space Shuttle Endeavour

You can watch Space Shuttle Endeavour take flight – for the last time in history – thanks to my friend Melody’s fabulous video. Melody filmed Endeavour soaring away from Kennedy Space Center atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft on Sept. 19, 2012 from her home in Merritt Island. Endeavor was on her way to the California Science Center where she will be permanently displayed.

Take a peek at that beautiful bird appearing out of the clouds and see if the sight doesn't give you chills.

Fun Facts: You might say Space Shuttle Endeavour is a well-traveled lady—if you wanted to make an epic understatement. She flew a whopping 25 missions with 148 crew members; she spent 296 days in space; she orbited Earth 4,671 times.  And she covered 122,883,151 miles in the process. Another epic understatement? We’re going to miss her.

Continue reading Must-See Video of the Ultimate Piggyback Ride: The Space Shuttle Endeavour »

Photo: Launch Platform at Ski Rixen, Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach

The launch platform at Ski Rixen, South Florida’s only cable skiing park, located in Deerfield Beach.

Continue reading Photo: Launch Platform at Ski Rixen, Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach »

Photo: Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach

There’s plenty of room to relax on the decks after a day of cable skiing at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach where Ski Rixen operates.

Continue reading Photo: Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach »

Photo: Ski Rixen Cable Skiing, Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach

Ski Rixen cable skiing is located in Quiet Waters Park in the heart of Deerfield Beach.

Continue reading Photo: Ski Rixen Cable Skiing, Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach »

Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a… Water-Ski Cable?

Picture yourself on a ramp close to the water, skis on your feet, a tow-rope in your hand. Suddenly, you're jerked into the water by an overhead cable circling a small lake at 20 miles an hour. You wobble a bit until you get the hang of it – so to speak – but, pretty soon, you're bouncing along the surface and looking forward to your first trick or jump.

You've just been introduced to cable skiing, a hybrid of surfing, skiing and wakeboarding that's the newest wave on the water.

Accomplished cable-skiers can do spins, flips and twists, and they can soar 10 feet above the water while rotating a wakeboard over their heads in a thrilling maneuver called a front roll.
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One of the best places to try cable skiing is at Ski Rixen USA, in Deerfield Beach's Quiet Waters Park. The 2,700-foot oval course is said to be the longest of any of the 10 cable ski operations in the United States. Riders get a full minute and a half of ski-time as they complete one circuit.

"We don't have this in Seattle," said Mike Gelb, a professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, who made a stop at Ski Rixen during a recent business trip. "It's a thing I like to do that I can't do at home."

Cable-skiing equipment is adapted from snow ski lifts. The cable turns on giant horizontal wheels suspended on towers 20 feet over the water at each turn in the oval. Attached to the cable are eight to 10 leads, fastened to tow bars that skiers grab.

Gelb first tried cable skiing in Germany, where the sport was born 50 years ago. The inventor, engineer Bruno Rixen, opened the first course in the United States at the park in Deerfield Beach.

There are also courses in Fort Myers, Tampa and Orlando, making Florida the premier destination for both novice and pro participants.

The appeal of cable-skiing will not be lost on parents trying to plan a family trip that includes hard-to-satisfy teens. And while riders must wear helmets and life vests, many find cable-skiing a more relaxed alternative to boat skiing.

"When you do it behind a boat out on the ocean, it's kind of scary," said Autumn Tust, 13, "But here it's fun because you're on a lake with all of your friends." Tust took up cable skiing after she turned 12, the minimum age at Ski Rixen.

When it comes to cost, cable-towing eliminates the need for a boat, a driver and a spotter, as well as the expense of fuel, said Brita Schipner, who runs Ski Rixen USA. "With $25 in your pocket, you can go and ride."

Safety inspections are held regularly by state regulators and SkiRixen's insurance underwriter. 

"They've had a good record with us," said Allan Harrison, chief of the Florida Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection.

Beginners watch a short video and must make their first circuit on a kneeboard before strapping on a wakeboard.

"You don't have to be a super athlete," Schipner said. "Basically to go out and learn in one lesson, or two hours."

Paola Oliveira tried cable skiing for the first time at SkiRixen. She fell on her first circuit, but soon was back in line to give it another go.

"I've done wakeboarding behind a boat before, but it's different," said Oliveira, an account executive for an advertising agency in Sao Paulo, Brazil. "You just have to get used to it."

If You Go

Ski Rixen USA is about a 20-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale, located at 401 S. Powerline Road, inside a county park. It is open every day, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., except Monday. Call 954-429-0215.

Other Florida cable skiing courses can be found at:

Revolution Cable is located at 17590 East Street, North Fort Myers. The hours are Wednesday through Friday, 1 – 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon – 8 p.m. Call 239-656-3000.

McCormick's Waterski Wakeboard and Cable Park is located at 2020 McCormick Lakes Way, Seffner (near Tampa). It's open seven days a week, noon – 7 p.m. Call 813-681-4441.

Wet N' Wild is located at 6200 International Drive, Orlando. Hours vary by season. Call 407-351-1800.

Orlando Water Sports Complex is located at 8615 Florida Rock Road, Orlando. Hours vary by season. Call 407-251-3100.

Continue reading Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a… Water-Ski Cable? »

Photo: Wake Boarding Jump, Ski Rixen in Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach

Robert Burkholder flies over a jump at Ski Rixen in Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach.

Continue reading Photo: Wake Boarding Jump, Ski Rixen in Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach »

Photo: Kneeboarding at Ski Rixen in Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach

Ski Rixen in Deerfield Beach is not restricted to wakeboarding and water skiing. People of all ages can slalom, trick ski, kneeboard and even surf.

Continue reading Photo: Kneeboarding at Ski Rixen in Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach »

Photo: Ski Rixen, Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach

There are several exit stairs around Ski Rixen’s lake should you take a fall while cable skiing.

Continue reading Photo: Ski Rixen, Quiet Waters Park, Deerfield Beach »