Fantasy of Flight

This is no ordinary museum. It is a display of working historic aircraft and those that are being restored to working conditions. It is very hands-on. Great for the whole family!  The museum takes you through early aviation, into World War I, and then into World War II. We all loved going through the B-17 bomber.

The North and South hangars have quite a collection of historic aircraft that are kept in flying condition (if possible). Amongst those, they have a number of hands on exihibits (mostly cockpits to play around in and experience) They have a kids room with hang gliding and hot air balloon simulators, though we all enjoyed them. They have naval aviation room with a corsair and static simulator.

The tram tour takes you out to their maintenance shop with the planes that are currently being maintained. You get to get out and learn about all of those planes and can find out a bit about how they’re maintained. You also go to their engine room and see all their aircraft engines that are being kept for future use in planes. They explain, with their examples, the history of aircraft engines.

The restoration tour takes you through their restoration shop and shows and tells you all about their aircraft restoration process. They are very meticulous in this as they want the aircraft to actually fly (not just look good enough to sit their) and are very into authenticity. They are masters of their craft.

They have an aircraft demonstration after lunch time. It’s great to see a historic plane actually out and flying around, just for you to see. Very cool.

The Compass Rose restaurant was nice. They have good ambiance, service, and food. They aren’t afraid to feed you. Even the kids portions were good size, which is nice with growing boys.

At the same location, they also have bi-plane flights you can take, as well a rope course/ zip-line.

If you like aircraft, this place is not to be missed!  http://www.fantasyofflight.com/

House of Blues, Gospel Brunch

When visiting the villa with our friend and her two boys she said that one thing she really fancied doing was to go to the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues, Downtown Disney.  We hadn’t heard too much about it, and it sounded like something different, so we agreed to give it a go.

I don’t really know what I expected but I do know that it wasn’t what I expected. At all.

First of all, it’s a 90-minute brunch, 45 minutes to eat, 45 minutes of show. We went for the 10.30 seating,  the doors for the 10:30 brunch open at… 10:30. So unless you’re in the front of the line, you don’t get seated (it’s reserved seating) for maybe 10-15 minutes. Which means that you have a lot of people in front of you in the food line and you might not actually start  eating until 30 minutes later.  That leaves you with about 15 minutes to eat your brunch.

Now, this probably would not matter too much if the gospel group (in our case, it was Reverend Chambers and the New Inspiration, a family group) didn’t make you stand up and start clapping your hands at the very first song. But they did.  Now we are Brits and Brits are infamously conservative and not used to ‘forced’ audience participation.  So while I stood and clapped, the boys just wanted to eat their breakfast and my hubby was looking very embarrassed and uncomfortable.  My friend’s view was that she had paid to be entertained, not  to be the entertainment.  I really tried to get into the spirit of it but I can’t say that I found The New Inspiration very inspirational.

In addition, the food was, in my opinion, average. There was a mix of breakfast and lunch foods, from scrambled eggs, bacon, grits and home fries, to roast beef, shrimp jambalaya, bbq chicken and ribs.   Ultimately, the focus at the Gospel Brunch is not on dining and unless you are first through the door, the food will not be piping hot.

So… would I go again?   I wouldn’t but it was probably worth going once.  It is definitely fair to say that it’s not for everyone!

Current Prices:

Free – Child (under 3)
$17.25 – Child (3-9)
$33.50 – Adult (10+)
Seating Times are 10.30am and 1.00pm.  Advanced reservations recommended.

Lake Eola Park – Farmer’s Market

The Orlando Farmer’s Market is located downtown at Lake Eola Park.  The market is open on Sundays from 10:00-4:00.  There is a great vibe going on at the market.  Walking around the market you will see people of all ages enjoying  food, drinks and various goodies.  There is weekly entertainment in the centre court in the Beer & Wine Garden – which is a lovely shaded spot providing respite from the sun and plenty of seating to enjoy the live music.  Children get a chance to win a bag of candy floss (cotton candy) during the weekly game of musical chairs.  For the adults there is local beer, wine and mimosas on offer.

The stall holders were really friendly and approachable, and we found a real array of delicious prepared and unprepared foods, creative art pieces on offer. As my hubby is a vegetarian we loved the fresh bread, homemade pastas, and all the fresh veggies!  We tried local honey and homemade jams – hubby’s favourite was the Jalepenos honey jelly.

Lots of locals brought their dogs which made us a little bit homesick, but was lovely to see.  We were so pleased that we had chosen to visit Lake Eola Park specifically when the Farmer’s Market was on – it’s the best we’ve been to and we would recommend it to anyone who wants a break from the theme parks and a touch of local flavour.

This market is definitely one of the best I’ve ever been to, and I loved Lake Eola Park too.  If you want to sample some local culture, this is the place.

Visit http://www.orlandofarmersmarket.com/ for more information.

Old Town Kissimmee, Saturday Nite Cruise

Recommended to us by a local, the Saturday Nite Cruise at Old Town, a free event which is suitable for all the family but especially for car enthusiasts. 

Saturday night at Old Town is when all the pre-1975 hot rods, street rods, and antiques cruise. The cars start arriving at 1p.m, a live band takes the Main Stage starting at 7p.m and then the cars cruise down Old Town’s brick streets at 8:30p.m.

There are also shops, rides and places to grab a bite or drink so you can make a night of it.  Visit http://myoldtownusa.com/car-cruises/saturday-nite-cruise/ for more info.

Fin Expeditions, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Recommended by Lonely Planet and by many reviewers on Trip Advisor – Fin Expeditions in Cocoa Beach is a fantastic way to experience Floridan mangroves and wildlife from a kayak on the Indian River Lagoon.

The expedition is in one of the few key Manatee habitats in North America.  You may see Manatee, Dolphins, Osprey, Egret, Herons and I’m told even River Otters on rare occasions.  The knowledge and enthusiasm of the guides is outstanding – they clearly love their jobs and also know the area thoroughly, making recommendations for other activities after the tour had ended.

I was pleased to hear that no previous experience is required.  There are single and 2 person kayaks available. The  equipment is great quality and clean, you are supplied with paddles, life vests, bottled water and water tight camera bags.

The tours last approx 2 hours for $30 (cash) per person.  Reservations are required and I would advise making them a while in advance as the tour parties are not large.

http://www.finexpeditions.com

Grape stomping!

We have visited the Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards located in Clermont, Florida.  It sits on a 127-acre estate in gently rolling countryside some 25 miles west of downtown Orlando.  Lakeridge now ranks as Florida’s largest premium winery, reported as a pioneer in the development of table and sparkling wines from muscadine and hybrid grapes. Vintage-dated varietals from hybrids such as Stover and Blanc Du Bois are produced and marketed along with blended and sparkling wines from native Muscadine grapes.

Complimentary Winery tours and wine tasting are offered 7 days a week; Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This June brings the 22nd Annual Harvest Festival and with it the opportunity to give some money to charity and do some grape stomping!  The small entry donation of $2 will benefit Cornerstone Hospice of Lake & Sumter .  As well as the grape stomping there are lots of other activities for all ages plus over 80 local Artists and Crafters displaying their work.  There is also live music over the whole weekend and you can buy wine, beer, soft drinks and a variety of food.

Sounds like a great way to spend a half day for very little money and for a lovely break from the hectic theme parks.

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715
1-800-768-WINE


Swim with a movie star

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to Winter – a tailess dolphin – the star of the movie Dolphin Tale.  The movie was filmed on location with Winter, Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd.

The true story tells how Winter’s tail was caught in a crab trap and she was so badly injured that her tail flukes died and fell off – but she survived (it’s a great film – I cried buckets!)

You can meet Winter every day of the week and even get in the water with her – the wade encounter costs $249 – so we haven’t done it – just visiting was special.

Many other interactions, tours, feeding encounters and opportunities are on offer.  Visit http://www.seewinter.com/ to find out more.