Universal Citywalk

Part of the Universal Orlando development – Citywalk has restaurants, snack bars, shops, a 20 screen cineplex and nightclubs.  After 6pm you  can park  in the  multi-storey for only $3 too.

The restaurants we have tried are the Hard Rock Cafe and NBA City.

NBA City is a 2 storey lagoon front restaurant/shop – there is an interactive playground area and a club lounge where you can watch live and classic games.  We visited for lunch which was quieter than dinner.  I had a relatively healthy turkey burger.  Service was good, surroundings were fun and the price was reasonable.

Hard Rock Cafe is our favourite venue at Citywalk.  Ideally situated between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios (you can access direct from Universal Studios theme park) we find it a good break from the heat of the day.  This Hard Rock is the largest in the world and has an amazing collection of rock and roll memorabilia including a pink 1959 Cadillac.  The menu is regular American cafe fare – burgers, awesome BLTs, fries etc – they also do cocktails, a good selection of beers and great milkshakes.

It can get very busy at Citywalk in the evening – if you find it too crowded and the restaurants too busy you can jump on one of the boats and go to the Hard Rock Hotel or Portofino Bay Hotel instead where you can usually dine without a wait.


Posner Park

Posner Park is on the US27 near to the I4 exit 55.  It’s about 7 miles from our villa on Tuscan Hills and we really love it.

What of the key loves about Posner Park is there is loads of free parking.  The stores are really spread out so you do actually need to drive between each one, but you won’t have to carry any purchases too far.

There are many different stores here including Dollar Tree, Ross, JC Penney, Super Target, Pet Smart, Books a Million, Best Buy and Staples.  Our favourite and most visited store is Dick’s Sporting Goods – it sells everything for all kinds of sports and often has good sales. 

The Super Target store is great and sells most items such as clothes, toys, household goods, sports equipment, stationery, and they also have a groceries department and a garden centre.   We recently found it very useful when visiting with our god-daughter who was 8 months at the time, Super Target had the best stock of Ella’s Organic baby food!  I always get lost in the make-up aisle taking home more nail polishes and have also been known to stock up on Bumble and Bumble hair products while there.  They have a vast array of candy including an aisle of Jelly Bellys at prices much reduced to what we pay in the UK.  We find that Target is usually quite quiet, much less hectic than the Walmart in the other direction down the US27. 

JC Penney is a medium sized department store, which has a Sephora inside.  I usually stock up on linens, towels and bedding which again are a better quality and cheaper than at home.  I have also had some great bargains from here including pool/beach towels and t-shirts to take home as souvenirs. 

Books a Million – has lots of books but more besides.  There is an on site coffee shop, loads of magazines, lots of stationery and cards plus games and nik naks.

Dick’s Sporting Goods is a massive sports shop, stocking goods for all ages and interests.  There are camping/hunting goods, canoeing and kayaking goods, swimming accessories, clothing for running, walking, hiking, tennis, golf, biking.  Loads of shoes/trainers/socks.  Cycling accessories, boxing accessories, exercise machines, golf equipment etc etc.  We have also found it is a good place to buy memorabilia for the local sports teams e.g. UCF Knights, Gators, Orlando Magic.  Highly recommended, you can easily lose an hour in here so it is a good job they also have restrooms at the back of the store.

There are some eateries at Posner Park too.  We have used the Subway and also visited Cici’s Pizza – where they offer a 20 item pizza spread (all made fresh every hour) plus salad, pasta and a couple of desserts.  Great service and quality at a great price.

We love Posner Park – it is easy and usually a lot quieter than the other shopping outlets, it has lots to offer and is definitely worth a visit.



Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens

As you’ve probably guessed from reading my blogs by now, I’m not keen to pay for additional ‘tours’ at the theme parks as I feel you already spend quite enough once you’ve paid for your parking, tickets and refreshments.  There are a couple of exceptions to my rule and one of these is the Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens.

A few years ago now, myself and a friend  paid the extra to take this safari – I think it is currently about $34 – and it was the best day of my holiday.  It is a 30 minute excursion where you board the back of a flat-bed truck and go out onto the Serengeti Plains to meet and feed some of the residents. 

The tours can sell our very quickly so it is definitely worth booking in advance.  We did but as it was off-peak we were lucky that there were only about 3 other people on our tour.  On the day we went we met Dolly the giraffe and she stole my heart – she is still the screen saver on my pc – I loved her.  We were able to feed her and other giraffes with lettuce and got a good close up of her face – what gorgeous long eyelashes she had.  We were also really fortunate in getting to feed the Bongos – apparently they are very shy and don’t like the heat but it was February and a bit overcast so they came out to our truck to socialise. 

As well as feeding the animals we also got to drive round the savannah and were shown and taught about the other animals and their habitat/diet etc.  It was really fascinating.  There were baby rhino and zebras too.

Still Dolly for me was the star of the show.  I would not hesitate in recommending this tour or it taking it again myself.  Children must be at least 5 and 5-15s have to be accompanied by an adult.

To find out more go to www.buschgardens.com

Disney’s Boardwalk

I took the girls to Disney’s Boardwalk one evening – much to their delight.  They found it to be very different to Downtown Disney, better for a more relaxing promenade after dinner.

We ate before we arrived but could have eaten there as there are lots of restaurants – I have eaten at ESPN before – a favourite with the boys, apparently there are even sports tv screens in the restrooms!  We walked right round the lake – taking in a spectacular lightning show going on in the night clouds.  We hoped to go into Jellyrolls to see the dualling pianos but unfortunately it was closed for a private event.  As an alternative we stopped at the Big River Grille and Brewing Works for a cocktail instead – sitting outside overlooking the lake and people watching as others strolled by.

There is a good Disney shop which has quite a large selection of goods and is much quieter than Downtown Disney – so we bought a few more souvenirs to bring home to our loved ones.

Temptation then proved to much and we ventured into the Icecream Parlour for an Edy’s Icecream to eat while we watched the fireworks from Epcot.  My friend tried the Peanut Butter Crunch which she tells me was delicious.

We had a lovely evening out in a safe and family friendly environment.  Parking is free but remember to bring some photo id as you are required to show it on entry to the parking lot.

St Petes and St Pete’s Beach

The girls wanted a day at the beach and they had a vision in their minds of white sand and cabanas.  The weather was a bit temperamental so we started by stopping off at St Petersburg (St Petes).  We parked on a meter on 2nd Avenue and then walked down to the Pier.   It was a really hot day and we were already feeling the heat.  There are a couple of small beaches here but the girls were disappointed as they were being frequented by the local tramps.

The Pier was very quiet as it was mid week.  We browsed the shops on the ground floor and had a walk out the back to view the Pelicans and boats, watched some fishermen and then passed the pelican feeding station.

The Pier is open 365 days a year. Hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Attraction and restaurant hours vary. Parking is available at special parking lots – the Dolphin and Pelican Parking Lots for $3 ($5 for special events). Trolleys will transport you from the parking areas. Valet parking is available for a nominal charge of $4 per car ($6 for special events).

The girls weren’t very impressed and were very hot and thirsty so we stopped for a drink at the bar at the end of the Pier  – Frescos Waterfront Bistro where the bar man took pity on us and directed some fans directly onto us.

Back along 2nd Avenue to the car we passed some impressive sculptures – my personal favourite was the O Wave outside the American Brasserie.

Next I drove the girls to St Pete’s Beach – first tip make sure you have plenty of change for the street meters – you can park right next to the beach.  It was very hot and sunny and the sight of the white shell beach with the ubiquitous royal blue cabanas made the girls smile.  There were lots of birds, pelicans and gulls and also a heron paddling in the waves.  We enjoyed a beach snack and a quick hour in the sun/shade watching the beach guys rake the beach before we headed back to the villa.

Another great day out

Longhorn Steakhouse

As hubby is a vegetarian I have never been able to experience a good Florida steak, until I visited with the girls.

A friend (another frequent visitor) recommended the Longhorn Steakhouse saying it was a bit fancier than the usual Texas steakhouse and suggesting we try either the Salmon or the Ribs.

Given that we were at the Steakhouse we ignored her advice and all chose to have a Sirloin Steak which you could order to your taste with a side and a salad or you could change your salad to an alternative side – excellent.    The menu was highly informative with details of the different cuts of steak available, the different sizes and the recommended level of cooking for each cut. 

As we waited for our mains, lovely fresh herby bread kept us going.  We also chose to have the signature steak sauce made at the table with delicious aromas of orange and rosemary – highly recommended.   There was also a good wine and beer selection – we chose a beautiful Californian Zinfandel.

Overall the girls said it was ‘a must for all steak lovers, with great service and a good ambience’.  They loved the theming and the fact that there was loads of choice and they also gave a thumbs up to the very clean restrooms (a must for all ladies). 


Premium Outlets – Vineland Avenue

The Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue – exit 68 of the I4 are easier to navigate than the ones on International Drive and have many of the same well-known brands.

There is copious parking available at these outlets – we prefer to park in the garage (no charge) as it keeps the car in the shade or out of the rain if you get caught in one of the daily summer thunderstorms – handy covered walkways take you across to the shops.

The favourite retailers for the girls were Nine West – great buy 2 offer, Levis, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, DKNY and Gap.  If you go to the Information Desk in the Food Court you can also buy a further voucher book for additional savings – or if you follow the Premium Outlets on Twitter they often have a ‘Twitter Tuesday’ offer where you can take your phone and show it at the desk to get a free voucher booklet.  They also have a 50 plus shopper perk on Tuesday, if you are at least 50 years of age you can take advantage of an added 10% savings on Tuesdays by simply presenting a photo identification with your proof of age to the cashier at participating stores

Other things to watch – not just at the outlets – in Florida they don’t add the tax onto the advertised prices so you need to allow 6-7% to be added at the tills.  Also – you may well be asked for photo id if paying by credit card so take your photo card from your driving licence or passport with you.

Finally – the shops are open much later than at home – we find it is nice to browse in the evening when the temperatures have cooled and the shops are less busy.

Regular Hours
Mon-Sat: 10am-11pm, Sun: 10am-9pm


The Osborne Christmas Lights – Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is my least favourite Disney park, despite having 3 fantastic rides – Aerosmith rollercoaster, Tower of Terror and Toy Story.  However, once a year it becomes my most favourite Disney park for one reason and one reason only – the Osborne Christmas Lights or as Disney call them – The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!!

This year they start next week on November 9th.  They take place on the Streets of America from dusk.  If you love Christmas and you love bling – you need to witness it – truly spectacular. The light show is choreographed to traditional Christmas music and at the end of the show there is even a snow flurry (in Florida!!)

Disney photographers are positioned along the Street and many, many visitors queue to have photos taken for personalised Christmas cards.

The good news is that the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is included with standard admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park!  Highly recommended by me – I have even been known to park hop across just to see the lights – AWESOME


From November to March, the manatees migrate into the warmer waters of the Florida freshwater estuaries, rivers and springs. To my mind, they are absolutely adorable – so peaceful and gentle, I love nothing more than watching them glide along – it is just so calming.  They can reach 13ft and 3000lb, they don’t do much, they spend most of their day resting and eating.

Manatees are protected animals so you should never touch or disturb them – there are heavy fines which are strictly enforced for harassing them.

Our favourite place to see the manatees is Blue Spring State Park.  The best time to see them is before 1am – there is a viewing platform and it costs just $6 to take your car in.