Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gatorland - Orlando, FL

If you live in Florida, you have to go explore Gatorland at least once.  It is an jaw dropping experience just to see that many gators in one place at one time.  One of Duane's customers gave us tickets to go, but they are always having Florida resident specials which making going here a resonably priced adventure.  This is their link to check out what specials you can find.

I took what seems like a million pictures while we were here.  We watched them feed the gators, got to see the Albino gator, Gator wrestling and walked around and explored everything that we could.  I was also shocked at the amount of birds that were everywhere.  There seemed to be millions of them, all different types and just hanging out around the gators.  It was also the first time I had ever seen a flamingo that wasn't on a postcard or on tv.  They are so beautiful.

Kennedy Space Center - Titusville, FL

I have always wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center ( from the time I was a small child and decided that I wanted to go and see what it was all about.  Duane, the kids, his brother in law Dan and daughter Harleigh and I all planned to go down for the day.  The prices were pretty reasonable $38/adults and $28/kids.

I was in awe of all the items here.  It was truly remarkable that most of the items we viewed had been used in explorations to space, and their sheer size was amazing.  We really enjoyed the day and I would suggest that everyone go at least once in their lives to explore this amazing place.

Duane and the kids in front of the Shuttle Explorer.

The rocket garden
The launch pad with a shuttle getting ready to go up.

The engines for the Saturn V.  The largest shuttle to ever go up in space.  The pic does not do justice to it's acutual size.

The newest additions to the space program.  Lord help us all.

Duane and the kids hanging out on the moon.

All of the areas you get to explore while at the Space Center.

Camping - Lake Louisa State Park - Clermont, FL

For Cody's 10th birthday he wanted to go camping because he had never been, so Duane suggested Lake Louisa State Park (  The prices were very affordable and from the research that I did it looked like there was much to do and see.  Saturday we left and arrived at the park.  There were many options for us to choose from.   They had tent sites that were close to the facilities, with electric and fire rings and then they also had more primative areas that were completely in the forest.  We choose the one close to the facilites as we had not prepared for a completely solitary camping adventure.  After we set up the site, we decided to look around the park.  We drove towards the water and found a spot to pull off onto and went hiking through the woods.  There were tons of wildlife and different types of flora around.  We ended up walking for about an hour and a half and went back to the car.  By then the sun was setting so we went back to our site and grilled out some burgers and mac n cheeze and of course we made smores for dinner. 

The next day we went to the swimming hole and there were not to many people around. It was very relaxing and peaceful.  Cody swam and Duane and I relaxed on the beach and watched.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Camping - Inverness, FL - Withlacoochee River

Duane's cousin and his family invited us to go camping in Inverness, FL on the Withlacoochee River at the Riverside Lodge (  Duane had to work, but the kids and I went and had a fabulous time.  Our tent site was right on the river, right outside the River Circle (on the map).  It was so peaceful there.  We were able to sign out canoes so that we could explore the river, while Joe Kelly and the kids had kayaks. This was during Cody's birthday, which is in May, so it was warm out but not so hot that we melted.  The tent area was really well shaded.  They also have RV spots, cabins and another area (not on the water) called Discover Island.  It is more in the woods and has raised platforms for the tents so that they are not on the ground.  There is also a large covered building with tables, cooking areas, tv's, etc for anyone to use.  The pricing was pretty reasonable, and the area was well maintained.

Fernandina Beach & St. Mary's, GA

Each year we try to take 4 mini vacations and everyone gets to choose were they would like to go.  Cody wanted to go to Jacksonville so Duane brought up Fernindina beach and Fort Clinch.  So we were off.  I always do research before we go anywhere so I can find cool things for us to do.  We decided not to purchase a hotel in advance, but instead we would find something driving around.  We found us a Comfort Suites that was about a block away from the beach.  Very reasonably priced and very nice.  (see pic below, view from the hotel)

By the time we got there we were starving, but decided it would be best to drive down to downtown Fernandina, walk around and then decide what we wanted to do.  We decided to go to the Mexican restaurant, Pablos.  It had a good ambience and was reasonably priced.  ( see pic below, we dressed Cody up in their props)

After lunch we decided to walk around a little more and they have statues on the streets everywhere that made for great photos.  Fernandina was once home to many pirates and they really celebrate their heritage.  You can see the pirate memorablia everwhere and they have an area that you can read all about their history.

Once we had seen all that downtown Fernandina had to offer we decided to go over to Fort Clinch.  It was only $5.00 to park and then $2.00 per person to tour the fort. We were in Fernandina during the time that they were having the reinactments.  I believe it was the south that was there.  This link is the link to all of the events at the fort. ( They walk around and act like they are living during the times that they inhabitated the fort.  It was very interesting and neat seeing them doing their firing drills. 
The next day we woke up early and decided to take a ferry from Fernandina over to St. Mary's, GA.  We took the Cumberland Sound Ferry ( over and it took about an hour.  It was very relaxing and there was narration about the area, such as Cumberland Island.  It is an undeveloped island that you can go camping and hiking on.  Apparently back in the day one of the gentleman that lived on the island took horses to it.  The horses escaped and were not captured.  Since then they have lived wild on the island, with no one feeding or taking care of them.  We happened to view one from the boat. The captain let Cody drive the entire way over to St. Mary's.  He said that after that he wanted to be a captain of a boat. 

Once over at St. Mary's we decided to rent a golf cart at one of the small establishments so we could view the area without killing ourselves walking.  I will have to say that was an event in itself.  Every 20 minutes it seemed like we would have to go back to the place to recharge the golf cart and Jasmine wanted to help push it so bad one of the times it was running out of juice that she jumped from it while it was driving.  We even went to a non busy area and let both of the kids drive the golf cart.  We had lunch on the island and took the ferry back to Fernandina.

Sunday on our way home we decided to take the a quick trip to the beach and do a little metal detecting and just to check it out.

On our way home we wanted to do something else to end our trip on a cool note so we decided to take the St. John's ferry across the St. John's river and have lunch at Singleton's Seafood Shack.  (  The ferry was really neat as we got to drive the car on it and cross the river.  The kids and I had never been on anything like that before so it was a new experience.
Singleton's Seafood Shack  - Mayport, FL is not much to look at, but the food here is great.  The price point is very reasonable and the kids loved it. If you are ever in the area, I would suggest you check it out.

St Augustine - Trip 2 - Fun in the Sun

Our previous trip to St. Augustine was during December which was a little chilly out so we choose to do the educational aspect of this beautiful historic city.  Our second trip was during the summer months, so this time we decided we were going to have "fun in the sun".  Once again we stayed at the Howard Johnson - home to the "Old Senator".  We love staying here because it is extremely affordable and close to everything that we want to do.  This time though we spotted a family riding around on scooters and decided that we wanted to see all of St. Augustine and that was going to be the best way to go about it.  We walked down the street and found a place that was renting out not only scooters but also scooter cars. Jasmine and I wanted the scooter car because it looked like a happy yellow bug, and the boys got the regular scooters because Duane barely fit in the car.  They had a special where you could rent the scooters for 24 hours for a little more than the same price as the 4 hour charge.  We had a blast.  We were able to tour the entire area of St. Augustine and even went over the Lions bridge to the Anastasia side and checked out the lighthouse, state park and took a pit stop at the beach.

For dinner we ate at the Conch House which is right on the water.  The food here was incredible and it had a fabulous vibe to the restaurant.  The outside tables looked like little huts and they had an area where gators hung out.

At the lighthouse we went all the way to the very top and it was such a hike, but what a beautiful view from the top.  At the state park we checked out the coquina that seem to pop out of everywhere (pic of Cody below is standing on a piece of the coquina) and at the beach we walked around and just enjoyed the breeze.