Tag: Florida

Swim with the Fishes

Posted by – August 9, 2011

Other than a trip to the beach, my nephew wanted to swim with dolphins while on his visit to my mom’s.  A quick search and mom found he could do that at the Miami Seaquarium.  She called to get more information and made reservations for him to “swim”.

There are actually two different “swims”:  Shallow water (where you’re able to touch, hug, and interact with the dolphin) and Deep water (where you’re able to do the same but can also hitch a ride on the dolphin’s dorsal fin).  I was glad my mother chose the shallow water experience for my nephew.  After all, regardless of their happy appearance, dolphins are still wild animals and are unpredictable.  Better the safer choice.

We got to the Seaquarium about 11am and had some time to kill so we watched a few dolphin and whale shows, checked out the manatee viewing tank, and grabbed a bite to eat.  Afterward, we checked in at Dolphin Harbor and moms filled out the necessary paperwork while we waited for the previous group of swimmers to finish up.  Finally, one of the trainers came in and directed the swimmers outside where they picked up their wetsuits, changed, and watched a short video before hitting the water.

They spent 30 minutes in the water with the dolphin during which time the trainer told them about the dolphins, their behaviors, and the hand signals they can use to get the dolphins do things.  While they do this, they have the dolphins swim back and forth so everyone can touch them and see the things the trainers are talking about.  Also during the half hour each participant is given the opportunity to hug and kiss the dolphin (photo op), play catch, and get into a splash fight.  (The dolphin wins that one.)  Quite an experience for my nephew and even I learned a few things.  Did you know that dolphins can be individually identified by their dorsal fins?  Like human fingerprints no two dorsal fins are the same.

After the swim we visited a few other areas in the park and then hit the gift shop just as the park closed at 5:30pm.  We were wiped out but it was a good day and I think my nephew really enjoyed his experience.   I did too.

(Miami Seaquarium photos)

Road Trip

Posted by – July 27, 2011

Since my late June visit from moms and my nephew, I’ve been keeping busy with online classes and working on a project for work.  Rather, for fellow staffers.  With the exception of 2 or 3 hours for some sun and pool time, I’ve had my nose stuck in my laptop screen so I’ve had little interest in being on any social media sites or otherwise, hence the lack of posts here.  (Okay, one reason anyway.)  That’s why when moms called and said another of my nephews, Billy, was coming to visit her I figured it was a good time for a road trip to south Florida.

I came down yesterday and, after riding around to a few of the local beaches, we stopped for dinner at Riggins Crabhouse.  On my last visit down here we visited Riggins twice.  Both times I had jumbo and large steamed blue crabs (of course) while moms and gma had soft crabs, crab cakes, and mussels, as well as some steamed crabs.  It was all very, very good.  My plan this visit… more big crabs.

Riggins claims to be “South Florida’s most authentic Maryland Style Crabhouse”.  I haven’t been to any other crabhouses in south Florida so I can’t attest to that but they do know how to steam crabs Maryland style.    I got them again and they did not disappoint.  Unfortunately, moms got the sautéed soft crab dinner and it did.  They looked burned and greasy.  (I got my love of food from my moms so if she couldn’t eat it, it wasn’t good.)  She sent them back and they returned with two more.  They weren’t burned but she said they didn’t taste right and you could see the oil dripping out of them.  She couldn’t eat them.  I guess any place can have a bad night but I was disappointed that they didn’t (at least) take moms soft crabs off the tab since she didn’t eat them.  The crabs were still excellent though so I will go back anytime for those and hopefully they won’t disappoint again.

You can check out Riggins’ menu and info here.

Gator Bait

Posted by – July 27, 2011

When I returned home from Alabama my nephew, Derek, was visiting my mom down in South Florida.  The two decided to make a road trip up to see me and go to Gatorland.  I hadn’t been there since my family took me 30 some years ago so I was game.   Especially since my neighbor had just told me there was a new Zip Line experience there.

The first thing we did when we arrived was take pictures (mom and Derek pictured) at the famous big gator mouth in front.  (FYI, the original gator burned down a few years ago when an overnight fire started in the gift shop.)  Next we headed to the ticket window to get our entry passes.  The person at the window rattled off the ticket prices and then proceeded to tell us that the train and the zip line were extra.  We purchased the extra train tickets but at $55 a pop we had to let the zip line go.  (FYI, we did entertain the idea but we were informed that since Derek was underage we needed written consent and we did not have it.)    Upon further questioning of said window person, we discovered we could get the Florida resident discount on our admission tickets.   Price of admission…  Adult $22   $15,  Child  $15  $10  Now that’s more like it!

Is it me or did this place shrink?  It took us only 4 hours to see everything (shows and exhibits) at our leisure, ride the train, and get a bite to eat.  Of course, the 3 shows were only 15 minutes each and the train ride around the grounds was approximately 15… at 2mph.  LOL!  (We weren’t even going fast enough for any kind of breeze to be generated.)  But there were plenty of gators, crocs, giant tortoises, spiders, snakes and other critters to see, and touch, and… sit on.  Derek even got to sit on one of the bigger gators after the Gator Wrastlin show.  The park also has Gator Cams set up along the marsh walkway that you can view in real time from their site.  I’ve checked them out before but, as of this posting, I have not been able to get them to work. 

If you’re interested in more information on the park you can go here.  Some things to remember:  It’s not a full day trip (unless you buy the extras ie… zip line, trainer for a day), no one thing lasts very long so it’s great for kids and those with ADD, take sunscreen (if you venture into the splash area to cool off you will have to reapply), wear comfortable shoes and clothing (should be a given for any park venture).   Overall, it was okay.  My nephew seemed to really enjoy himself and that’s what counted.  The high points for me… spending a few hours out with family, Florida resident discount, and my new hat.  (More Gatorland pics here)

Time Gone By…

Posted by – September 3, 2009

Nothing fun and exciting to report here.  I’m still packed up and ready for my next work assignment but who knows when that will be.  Most of my time has been taken up by job-hunting, doc appointments, studying, and exercising, with a few exceptions…

Two weeks ago I met my friend (and coworker) Jeff for lunch.  Although we do keep in touch via the internet  it’s been two years since we’ve seen each other.  Time flies.  Anyway, it was great to see him again and I had a very enjoyable lunch.  It was a real ”hoot”.

Last Friday I had about two and half hours to kill between doc appointments, so I decided to catch the 11:45am showing of The Final Destination 3D.  Yeah, I know I’ve complained about spending that much to sit in a movie theater but I was curious about this 3D thing and under the circumstances it seemed like best way to pass the time. 

There were about half a dozen or so people in line at the ticket window and I got a chuckle out of a few of the guys who brought their wives/girlfriends to see this movie as a “payback” for all the chick flicks they had been subjected to. 

My ticket cost me an extra $3.50 for the (less than fashionable) glasses.  Hmmm.  I wonder, and wish I would have asked, if you still pay the extra amount for a 3D movie if you’ve already purchased the glasses on a prior visit.  Anywho, before heading to theater #9, I hit the restroom, purchased my bucket of popcorn and soda, and grabbed a stack of napkins.  Ready to settle in.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Final Destination series, here it is in a nutshell (sort of)…  one of the main characters has a premonition of some disaster that kills a bunch of people including them.  This premonition plays out on screen, in detail, at the beginning of the film.  After the character realizes what he or she has just seen, they inadvertantly do something that results in them (and others) escaping the forseen tragedy and instead having a ringside seat.  The rest of the picture follows those characters as they get picked off one by one in freak accidents in the order they would have died in the tragedy had there been no intervention.  No one escapes death!

This movie…  Well, don’t waste your time and (extra) money unless you’re just interested in the effects.  The setting is different but the premise and the results are the same as with the previous ones.  It was definitely made to for the 3D audience.  (And, Yes, I did duck out of the way of flying objects a few times.)  Sadly, it seemed as though they put together the opening tragedy and each individual’s blood and guts sequences, then sprinkled some character interaction and a little story (very little) throughout to make it a full 82 minutes.  Again, it was all about the 3D and the blood and guts because, besides that, it was a snooze-fest.  What a shame.

KSC and More

Posted by – July 29, 2009

Last week two of my nephews came to Florida to visit my mother during their summer vacation.  On Friday she called to ask if I wanted to meet them out at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Saturday morning.  The last time I visited KSC was back in 1981 and, although I remember the visit, I’m sure there’s much more to see now.  Also, since I recently visited the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, I was eager to visit KSC again to compare the two.

Mom arrived to the KSC parking area just after 11am and by that time the ticket windows were each about 20 people deep including the “Will Call” where we were headed for our prepaid tickets.  We waited over 30 minutes in that line.  Not much of an incentive to use the “Will Call”.

When we got our tickets, we went through the security checkpoint and metal detectors and, finally, we were in.  Time for food.  We were all starving so we headed for the Orbit Cafe for some nourishment and a chance to plan the afternoon.  Since we got a late start, our options were limited as most everything had time schedules.  For instance, the bus tour was approximately 3 hours with the last tour leaving at 3:45pm.  That meant we would have to get in line earlier than that to ensure we made it and would also mean by the time we returned we’d only be able to (quickly) check out a few walk-thru exhibits before the park closed at 7pm.

We decided to get in (at least) what the boys wanted to see and the bus tour and anything else we’d fit in between.  Since most of what we wanted to see was on the right-hand side of the park, I suggested we take a quick walk around the left side to check out the Rocket Garden and Early Space Exploration exhibit first.  The Rocket Garden consisted of a collection of different rocket models, as well as, a few model capsules the kids could sit in (for photo ops).  There was also a fountain in the rocket garden.  We had only just begun our day here but were already sweaty piles of goo so the cool water of the fountain was an invitation we could not ignore.

Now nearly (or completely) soaked, we walked through the Early Space Exploration exhibit, then headed off to the Robot Scouts attraction, and finally to the Shuttle Launch Experience (launch simulator).  I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy the simulator since most of them jerk you around so much that when they’re finished, you end up with whiplash and you’re ready to heave.  But, I took the plunge anyway.  Turns out it wasn’t that bad at all.  Certainly not as bad as they made it sound.  As a matter of fact, they scared quite a few folks away unnecessarily.

Next, the bus tour.  The tour makes 3 stops.  At each stop you can mill around at your leisure and then, when ready, take another bus to the next stop or back to the main complex.  During the bus ride there are little screens throughout that display informational videos and, occasionally, the bus drivers break in to give you tidbits of information as well.  Also, at the first two stops (LC-39 Observation Gantry and Apollo/Saturn V Center) there are gift shops, food places and restrooms available.  

Our first stop was at the LC-39 Observation Gantry.  A 4-story, open air decking where you can look out over the property and see the launchpads.  There are viewers on a few levels which help you get a closer look.  Of course, this would have been much cooler had there been a shuttle or rocket on one of the pads.  Anyway, there’s also an intro film here, as well as, display and interactive exhibits.

Second stop was the Apollo/Saturn V Center.  Like JSC, you could view a life-size rocket but they also had a smaller model on display here with clear plastic on one side so you could see what was inside each section of the rocket.  There were also a couple of short films to view and a lunar module on display here.

Next we boarded the bus for our last stop (The International Space Station Center).  Unfortunately, our driver didn’t get that memo and took us back to the main complex.  Oh well.  Go with the flow, right?  Instead, we purchased a few cold beverages and checked out the T-38 training jet and shuttle replica.  Afterward, we headed over to the astronaut memorial and by then it was time to go.  Sort of.   The Astronaut Hall of Fame was open until 8pm so we decided to head down the road and check that out before calling it a day.  Like the KSC Visitor Complex, the Hall of Fame included short films, artifacts, displays, interactive exhibits, and a simulator ride.  The difference here, obviously, was that it’s all about the astronauts.  In no time at all they were running us out of the place.

Had we arrived earlier in the day we may have been able to see (and do) everything in both places but having the option of a second day really takes the stress out of the visit.  That, coupled with the beautiful weather (no storms), made it a great day and all of us really enjoyed ourselves.

Below are a few comparisons I made between KSC and JSC:

#1:  The price for admission at KSC is double that of JSC, however, with that you get to come back a second day plus you gain entrance to the Astronaut Hall of Fame 6 miles away.  Good deal.

#2:  While the Visitor Center at JSC houses all available exhibits minus what you see on the tram tours, the Visitor Center Complex at KSC is comprised of many different buildings and outdoor displays minus those buildings you visit via the bus tours.

#3:  The tours at JSC are separated into three different trips.  In other words, you have to wait in a separate line back at the visitor’s center for whichever tour you’d like to take.  Also, the tours take place on trams which are extremely uncomfortable and not very inviting in extreme or bad weather.

The tour at KSC is ONE trip with three different stops so you stand in line only once for your entire tour experience (unless the bus driver forgets where he’s suppose to go).   Also, the transportation for your tour is a bus complete with video screens and (in our case) air conditioning.  Ahhh.

#4:  While (in my opinion) JSC seemed to be geared more for kids, KSC definitly had something for all ages. 

#5:  Something I did not completely know…..  KSC is in charge until the shuttle takes off and reaches orbit.  At that point, the control room at JSC takes over until it lands.  Then KSC takes it again.  Interesting.

If you’d like to see more of my pics from KSC click here.  If you’d like more information click here to get to KSC’s webiste and interactive park maps.

Lakeridge Winery

Posted by – July 9, 2009

The day after our Bok Tower trip, my mother and I decided to visit the Lakeridge Winery in Clermont.  We got a later start than we did the day before (still a little warn out from the sun and heat) so we decided to stop for breakfast on the way.  We ended up at Mimi’s Cafe where I had my favorite, eggs Benedict and freshly squeezed orange juice.  Good stuff!  After  we fueled our bodies with delicious nourishment, we headed down the road. 

Not far from the winery, we passed the President’s Hall of Fame and the Citrus Tower.  We decided to check those out before continuing to the winery.  Outside the President’s Museum were scaled down versions of Mt. Rushmore and the Lincoln Memorial.  It’s unfortunate that they seem to have been both weather-beaten and vandalized, without repair.  Inside there is a (of course) a gift shop and beyond that, the museum.  The woman behind the counter suggested we allow about an hour to walk through, and if we were interested, she also had a DVD of a White House tour that would run about an hour.  The price of the “self tour” was $10.63 per person.  Neither one of us wanted to pay any more than 2 or 3 bucks for that tour so we left.

The next lot over was the Citrus Tower.  $4 to ride to the top and look out the glass enclosed observation deck.  Back in the day the tower overlooked miles of orange groves but today overlooks the city and surrounding counties in every direction.  Wasn’t worth the trip up, to me. 

We finally arrived at the Lakeridge Winery, around 1pm, just in time for the 15-minute introductory movie.  When it ended, our guide took us on a quick 15 minute tour of the winery and explained how their wines are made.  Next, we moved on to the wine tasting.  We walked around the second floor sampling 6 different wines: 2 dry, 2 semi-sweet, and 2 sweet.  I’m not really a wine drinker.  I have indulged on occasion but I do know (if not until now) I don’t like dry wines at all.

When the tasting was over, we went downstairs where the winery’s products are for sale (including the wines we sampled) and did a bit of shopping.  Then, armed with a box of wine bottles, we headed outdoors.  It was July 4th and the winery had live music playing outside on an open stage.  Beer, wine, and sodas were available from a beverage tent nearby.  For us, though, the heat was unbearable so we opted to leave.

The winery is definitely not an all day affair but a pleasant way to pass a few hours.  Moreso if you’re a wine lover.  To top it off, the admission is FREE.  How can you beat that?  You can view a few other photos I took here.  If you’d like more information about the winery, check out their website here.

We took the long way home and ended up in Mt. Dora at Renninger’s Flea/Farmers/Antiques Market.  Renninger’s is touted as being “World Famous” but in my humble opinion….What a crap hole!  These flea markets all generally carry the same stuff but the Osceola and Sanford flea markets are at least as big and bigger (respectively).  And Sanford has a Funworld area that includes go-karts and arcade games.  A place where kids and adults both can have a little fun and break up the row-by-row monotony of shopping.  But again, that’s only my humble opinion.

Spook Hill

Posted by – July 8, 2009

My mother and I decided to check out Spook Hill on the way back from the Bok Tower.  I’d seen something about it on the television a while ago and thought it might be cool to experience.  There is a legend attached to Spook Hill (as seen on the sign above), although I’m not sure I understand the story.   Anyway, the attraction is, that when you pull up to the white line painted on the road and put your car in neutral, it supposedly rolls backwards… uphill.

Sounds cool, right?  I thought so.  I couldn’t wait to try it.  But then we got there and something seemed (to me) to be wrong.   We pulled up to read the sign and, as my mother got out to take a picture of it, I scoped out the road ahead for the white line.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw the white line several feet up on the road incline.  (I know it’s difficult to see in this picture but I put red lines on either side of the road indicating the location of the white line.)

When my mother got back in the car, I told her what I’d noticed but we decided to try it out anyway.  We thought maybe we were confused (or facing the wrong direction) and that we would actually be rolling up the hill you see at the top of the picture above.  That wasn’t the case.  We pulled forward to the white line, put the car in neutral, and started rolling backwards towards the bottom of the above picture.  Well, of course we’d roll backwards.  That’s downhill from where the white line is.

We agreed that we had done it right since the sign is facing this direction and the road is one way only.  But at my mother’s urging, I did it again.  And again. Just checkin.  I don’t know why one would believe they were rolling uphill here.  It’s obvious to me (to us) that we were rolling downhill.  Oh well, everyone sees things a little different.  Some people are more suggestible than other also.  At least we tried it.

 To make up for our disappointment, we stopped off a little further down the road at Webb’s Candy Factory.  We each bought a little something to satisfy our sweet tooth but also realized we were ready for a meal.  I asked the girl behind the counter if there was a place to eat nearby and she suggested Manny’s Chophouse.  She said the place was usually busy and often had a line of people waiting outside but it was well worth it.  So off we went.

We arrived at Manny’s a few minutes before 4pm and there was a line outside waiting for the place to open.  At 4pm the doors opened and we were seated within a few minutes.  We were really hungry by this time so, rather than wade through the menu selections, we asked our server (Destiny) for a suggestion.  She said Manny’s is well-known for their steaks so, at her suggestion, mom and I got Manny’s 12oz. Sirloin Steak.  It came with all-you-can-eat house salad, one of many sides, and melt-in-your-mouth yeast rolls with a whipped cinnamon butter.  It was DELICIOUS! 

The house salad was more like a chef’s salad, sans the meat, and there was plenty of it.  No need to say any more about the rolls.  Mmm.  I ordered my steak medium-well and it was cooked to perfection.  It melted in my mouth.  And the flavor… O-M-G!  As if that wasn’t enough, they topped the steak with a special sauce, Manny’s “secret recipe”.  According to Destiny, only Manny knows the recipe for the sauce they call “Pimp Juice”.  Actually, that’s a little scary but it does seem to enhance the flavor of the steak.  The best part?  After enjoying all of that great food, the bill was only $23 and change for the both of us. 

I highly recommend Manny’s to anyone.  Great food and great service.


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