Archive for August, 2012

See Jodini The Magician For Only $5

What are you doing on September 15th at 2 p.m.? For only $5, you can attend a magic show that's especially for young kids at the High Springs Community Theater. The magician is none other than Gainesville's JODINI.

This show is action packed and moves fast – your kids are going to love it! They'll be mesmerized by the magic tricks and with lots of audience participation, the gags are hilarious (be warned)!!!

Once again, tickets are only $5 and can be purchased on line now or bought in person at Pampered Paws (right next to the theater). For more information, call 386-462-9315.

Continue reading See Jodini The Magician For Only $5 »

Pigz in Z’hills BBQ and Blues Fest

There’s pigs in them thar’ hills! So you best come hungry – and bring your family. The friendly town of Zephyrhills (yes, the Town of Pure Water), invites you to go hog wild at their 3rd annual “Pigz in Z’Hills” BBQ & Blues Fest, Oct. 27, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This BBQ competition is sanctioned by the Florida Bar-B-Q Association so pro grillers come from all over the state to impress you and the judges with their smokin’, grillin’ and coleslaw-chillin plates of finger-licking perfection.

In addition to the world class BBQ and jammin’ blues by Coldiron and singer/songwriter, Julie Black, you’ll find:

  • Carz & Motorcyclez Show
  • Kidz Area
  • Artz & Craftz
  • Lotz of Friendly Vendorz

Admission is only $5 and kidz under 12 are free. Sorry, but no petz are permitted. For more info, log on the Zephyrhills’ Chamber website or give them a call at 813-782-1913.

Continue reading Pigz in Z’hills BBQ and Blues Fest »

Howl-O-Scream’s Unlucky 13th Year – Do You Dare?

Florida’s top-rated Halloween event is celebrating its unlucky 13th year – are you ready for Howl-O-Scream? Be forewarned – this blog and its event are for all of you brave adults out there – leave your kids at home, there is blood, gore, violence and adult content – no kidding. No kids.

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream's 13th season is expected to be the most horrifying yet. I’m talking 335 acres of fright. Can you handle it? Even as you walk between rides and haunted venues, you need to beware – devious creatures will pour forth from the shadows! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Here is one small, bloody, taste of what awaits, and I quote, “Blood Asylum – As lightning rages and thunder crashes outside, “The Creature” escapes from his holding cell in a high-security asylum for the criminally insane. Now this sadistic deviant is running rampant, skinning his former cellmates and turning the mental hospital into his own torture chamber. This serial killer’s bloody playground will drive you out of your mind with fear.”

If you still think you can handle it, the event runs Thursday through Saturday nights, Sept. 27-29, Oct. 4-6, 11-13, 18-20 and 25-27.  There’s also a Freaky Preview on Sept. 21-22. Hours are 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. during Freaky Preview and Thursday nights. Friday and Saturday hours are 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Admission is $79.99 (plus tax). It's a separate ticket for this nightime evernt. Log on to or call 1-888-800-5447 to find out about the VIP tickets, Front Line Fear Extreme pass and more.

Insider Tip: Save yourself $35 by visiting your local Publix or AAA officers. You can also find promo codes found at Taco Bell and Applebee's in Central Florida.

Sorry, but no costumes are allowed. Us chickens will wait right here for you. Eek!

Continue reading Howl-O-Scream’s Unlucky 13th Year – Do You Dare? »

Budgeting For a Family Fishing Adventure

Most kids love to fish and mine are no exception. So each summer before my boys head back to school, we book a half-day fishing trip with Captain Rob Modys of Soulmate Charters. He fishes out of FishTales Marina in Fort Myers Beach, a short drive from Sanibel where we spend our week’s vacation.

We literally save all year to fish with Capt. Rob. Not that he’s expensive, but fishing in general can leave scuffmarks on any family’s budget. That’s why we have a "shelling jar."

Technically, it should now be called a "fishing jar," but when I first started chartering Capt. Rob, it was for half-day shelling charters. He'd take us to the out-islands of Captiva to hunt for seashells on deserted beaches. But now that the boys are older, well, shelling morphed into fishing.

About the Shelling Jar

It’s just a tall, clear container (formerly home to pretzels) where we throw our coins, every day. When it gets full, we dump it into the coin counter at the bank. Come vacation time, we withdraw the money we’ve saved (about $500)! We even have money leftover to take Captain Rob to lunch. Another tradition.

To give you an idea about charter boat pricing, smaller boats used mainly for backcountry fishing (2-4 anglers) range from $350-$500 for a half-day (4-hours). Expect to pay about $900-$1200 for an 8-hour fishing trip on the bigger boats that will take you deep-sea fishing. They're worth every penny, especially when you have a great guide who knows his or her stuff, and is good with kids. (Not every guide is, so be sure to seek recommendations.)

For more info about fishing in Florida, ask our VISIT FLORIDA Fishing Insiders, Terry Gibson on Florida’s east coast, and Terry Tomalin on the west. They’ll hook you up with all kinds of great advice.

Now, start that shelling jar! I mean fishing jar! And take your kids fishing – you’ll love every minute of it. And they will, too.

Continue reading Budgeting For a Family Fishing Adventure »

Premier Bridal Event at Fairchild Tropical Gardens

If the words, "I do" are in your future, you'll want to make reservations to attend a one-of-a-kind Bridal Event and Fashion Show at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables.

Talk about a spectacular venue, these botanical gardens are some of the world's finest - and you'll get a true “Garden Wedding Experience” by attending. Onsite will be several local vendors from caterers to photographers to help ease your planning.

A few highlights include Cocktail Hour on the Garden House lawn and a  fashion show featuring original bridal gowns and bridesmaid’s dresses by Ella Bella Rozio that will take place in the stunning "Bailey Palm Glade," Fairchild’s most popular location for wedding ceremonies.

Fairchild's Bridal Event and Fashion Show takes place on Thursday. Oct. 11, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Each ticket admits two guests and prices are $40 for advance general admission. Tickets at the door will be $50. You can also inquire about VIP tickets in advance for $60 that include reserved seating for the fashion show, a goody bag and more.

For tickets, call Anna Brickner at 305-663-8058.

Continue reading Premier Bridal Event at Fairchild Tropical Gardens »

Vacation Packages at Amelia Island

Amelia Island is one of those good-for-your-soul destinations. In fact, I bet that once you arrive, you’ll want to book your next vacation before you even leave. And now is the time to visit – with the weather cooling off and fantastic fall deals at many of the award-winning resorts, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and vacation rentals.

Here are my favorite fall vacation packages:

The Addison on Amelia is offering a “Dog Days of Summer Free Night” special, through Sept. 30. Get a free night with any four-night stay, plus breakfast and daily Happy Hour. Visit or call (800) 943-1604.

For families, I love the Amelia Island Hampton Inn at the Beach and their Fall Back Special rate of $89 (plus tax). This rate is valid Sept. 3 through January 31st. There are certain blackout dates and must book by calling the hotel at 904-321-1111 and mention the Fall Back Special.

The Amelia Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast has a really unique “Paint Autumn on Amelia Island” package. It includes a five-night stay, and three days of painting classes under the guidance of famous watercolor artist William (Bill) Maurer. The package starts at $1,500 for double occupancy and is available the weeks of November 19 and 26, with a Sunday arrival and Friday departure. Visit or call (904) 430-0026.

Beachside Motel has room rates starting at $89, depending on date and room type. Offer is valid through Oct. 25th and there are blackout dates. Visit or call 877-261-4236 for info.

ERA Fernandina Beach Realty is offering a 20 percent discount on their vacation rentals. Discount will be based on published rates and will be available August 19 through October 25, excluding Labor Day Weekend. Visit or call 800-741-4011.

The Residence Inn – Amelia Island has a deal just in time for Grandparents Month. It's a “Senior Living” deal, which includes a 20 percent discount on room, $25 dining certificate, and Amelia Island Value Card. The offer starts at $99 per night and is available September through October for guests 55 years and older. To book the offer, guests must use rate code SVJX. Visit their website or call 866- 245-6099.

Continue reading Vacation Packages at Amelia Island »

Downtown Disney Hotels: Crazy Good Fall Specials

It’s “Value Season” in Orlando – that means less crowds and more savings. And talk about a bargain, seven Downtown Disney® Resort Area Hotels are offering special rates through Sept. 30, 2012:

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort – from $79 per room, per night

Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa – from $99 per room, per night

DoubleTree Suites by Hilton – from $99 per suite, per night

Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – from $89 per room, per night

Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista Downtown – from $89 per room, per night

Royal Plaza Hotel – from $79 per room, per night

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort – from $74 per room, per night

Each of these properties are an easy walk to the shopping, dining and entertainment hot spots in the Downtown Disney Area and they provide free shuttle service every 30 minutes to every Disney theme park, water park, and to Downtown Disney. You’ll even get a “Downtown Disney Deals” booklet filled with exclusive discounts.

To make reservations, visit www.Down Specifically, this link.

Upcoming special events at Walt Disney World include:

  • Night of Joy – September 7-8, 2012 at Magic Kingdom
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party  – select nights from Sept. 1 – Nov. 2, 2012 at Magic Kingdom
  • Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival – Sept. 28 – Nov. 12, 2012 at Epcot

Continue reading Downtown Disney Hotels: Crazy Good Fall Specials »

Fall Deals, Free Night and Fab Events at Sandestin

I’m probably not supposed to ‘play favorites’ but I have to tell you, I honestly love Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort (with and without my kids). There are just so many things to do here – and they always have a deal happening.

Like this one – enjoy a free night at Sandestin with the purchase of two (just in time for Labor Day weekend) when they’re having the great Baytowne Art Walk festival.

Here are more deals and steals:

  • Free golf for kids after 12 noon on our Baytowne Golf Club, with a paying adult
  • Get an hour of free tennis on their beautiful courts

Mom and dad may want to escape in October to attend the Baytowne Wharf Beer Festival. (I know I would!) Just to walk around this charming village is good for your soul, especially in the fall when the weather is glorious!

Enjoy fall in Florida – it's special on all kinds of levels.

Continue reading Fall Deals, Free Night and Fab Events at Sandestin »

Tweens And Teens Will Love Vue

Many times, tweens and teens get left out when it comes to kids clubs because they’re older than the cutoff age, typically 12. Well, not at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

Check out vue (virtual user experience). This place is the ultimate entertainment lounge with every popular, interactive virtual-reality game you can think of hooked up to 40-inch flat screens with remote touch controls. Play XBox 360, Sony Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii. Keep looking and you’ll find a 63-inch LCD with Blu-ray, a Bang and Olufsen surround sound system, a Mac station with several computers.

The atmosphere of vue is cool, or "chill" as my 14-year old says. White leather furniture, lime green accents, bamboo floors, mood lights. There are even secret loungers behind curtains of steel beads.

Kids 8 and up are welcome to vue, and as tempted as you might be to stay, you might want to give your kid some space. At least that’s what my spouse told me as he led me out the door.

Of course, parents can find fun, too. After all, this is the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. They boast a 50,000-square-foot spa, fantastic restaurants, gulf-front beach, adults-only pool, and a beachfront bar and restaurant.

It’s easy to see why this resort was named to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2011 "Gold List" and was voted as one of the top 10 hotels in the U.S. by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine in August 2011. It gets my vote.

There is something for every age at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Check out their specials. Bring the kids. I’ve never seen so many families on vacation in one place outside of a theme park.

Continue reading Tweens And Teens Will Love Vue »

Presidential Trail Launched in Time for GOP Convention

With the Republicans holding their convention in Tampa in late August, VISIT FLORIDA is looking to remind the GOP faithful and political buffs that the Sunshine State has its own important role in presidential history even though none of the chief executives called the state home.

VISIT FLORIDA recently launched the Presidential Trail, highlighting sites around the Sunshine State with connections to various presidents.

“The Sunshine State is no stranger to presidents,” insisted Pam Forrester from VISIT FLORIDA on Friday. “From north to south and on each coast, Florida has welcomed presidents for centuries. Museums, attractions, hotels and restaurants tell the story of Florida through presidents who have visited, convalesced or even held state summits.”

The president with the most ties to Florida may be Andrew Jackson. One of the nation’s most decorated heroes from the War of 1812, Jackson led American forces that invaded Spanish Florida in a campaign against the Seminoles in 1817 and 1818. Jackson’s actions, which had the ambiguous blessing of President James Monroe, led to America purchasing Florida from Spain in 1819 after negotiations conducted by then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Jackson would serve as military governor of Florida in 1821 before running for the White House in 1824. While Jackson would lose to Adams in that election, he would crush the incumbent in a rematch in 1828. VISIT FLORIDA includes the Plaza Ferdinand VII in Pensacola, where Jackson was sworn in as governor in 1821, in the Presidential Trail.

Jackson was not the only future president who led military forces in Florida. VISIT FLORIDA is encouraging the Republicans convening in Tampa to head over to the Henry Plant Museum at the University of Tampa. Back in 1898, as America prepared to invade Cuba in the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders stayed there when it was the Tampa Bay Hotel. {pullquote}

While Jackson may have been the president with the most links to Florida, other commanders in chief also had connections to the Sunshine State. In 1933, Joseph P. Kennedy would purchase beachfront property in Palm Beach — and his second son, John F. Kennedy, the nation’s 35th president, would return to the family home there to relax and hold important meetings. JFK was in Palm Beach when he mulled over whom to name to his Cabinet and one of his closest allies in the Senate was Florida's own George Smathers.

Off Palm Beach is Peanut Island. VISIT FLORIDA includes it as part of the Presidential Trail because a nuclear bunker was constructed on it. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Peanut Island bunker was where Kennedy would have evacuated in the event of a nuclear strike. Recently declassified, the bunker is now open to the public.

There are two stops on the Presidential Trail associated with Warren G. Harding. While he did not approve of his daughter’s marriage to Ohio businessman Amos Kling, Harding let his son-in-law vacation in his winter home in Daytona Beach. Kling built the house in 1907 and the Hardings would leave Ohio to vacation there in the winters as Harding rose the political ladder until he was elected president in 1920. The old Kling home is now the Cellar, a restaurant in Daytona Beach.

Also included on the Presidential Trail are the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in Fort Myers. Harding visited both locations as did his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. Hoover, who would go on to be president after winning the 1928 presidential election, would also come to the Sunshine State in his more than three decades post-presidency when he would pursue his passion for fishing.

Hoover was not the only president who enjoyed fishing in Florida. Despite his feuds with Claude Pepper, Harry Truman loved heading to Florida, setting up the “Little White House” in Key West. VISIT FLORIDA includes the site as part of the Presidential Trail. Truman would spend half a year during his two terms in office at Key West, heading down to Florida during the late fall and late winter. Truman would keep returning to Key West during his years after the presidency.

Farther out in the Gulf is Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas. VISIT FLORIDA listed Fort Jefferson as part of the Presidential Trail since Dr. Samuel Mudd was imprisoned there. Mudd attended John Wilkes Booth who broke his leg after shooting Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater in 1865 — which led to the doctor being convicted. Andrew Johnson, who became president after Lincoln’s death, pardoned Mudd in 1869 during the dying days of his term since the doctor had helped a yellow fever outbreak at Fort Jefferson.

Other sites included on the Presidential Trail are the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World and the Presidents Hall of Fame in Clermont.

But there are other presidents who left their imprint on the Sunshine State even if there are little traces of them today.

Zachary Taylor would prove one of the more successful American commanders in the Second Seminole War, serving in Florida in the late 1830s. A grateful Florida would back Taylor in 1848 when he ran for the White House as a Whig, making him the first presidential candidate to carry the state. James Garfield, then an up-and-coming congressman in uniform, was penciled in to command Union forces in Florida in the Civil War before he was ordered elsewhere. President Richard Nixon would buy a home in Key Biscayne from Smathers in 1969 which became the Florida White House. Not too far from the home of his close friend, Florida banker Bebe Rebozo, Nixon would visit the Florida White House more than 50 times during his presidency.

Other presidents would head to Florida to vacation. Ulysses S. Grant would vacation in Florida, traveling on riverboats after his years in office. Trying to cope with Bright’s disease, Chester A. Arthur escaped the White House and headed to Florida in 1883, only to worsen his condition, which would lead to his death in 1886. Both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft would vacation in White Springs in the northern part of the state. Before he contracted polio in 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would sail off the Atlantic coast, keeping a boat docked in Jacksonville. FDR would also barely escape an assassination attempt in Miami in February 1933, less than a month before he took the oath of office.

Presidents also had familial connections to Florida. Jeb Bush, son of one president and brother of another, served two terms as governor of the Sunshine State. Hugh Rodham, Bill Clinton’s brother-in-law, ran against U.S. Sen. Connie Mack in 1994 and was utterly routed at the polls. Banker Rutherford Platt Hayes, son of Rutherford B. Hayes, lived in both Umatilla and Clearwater and was active with Republicans across Florida.

This story was republished with permission of the Sunshine State News.

Continue reading Presidential Trail Launched in Time for GOP Convention »