Discover a Secret Island in Grant, Florida

The Indian River Lagoon is the most bio-diverse lagoon in the Northern Hemisphere and an indispensable refuge to the nearly one million neighboring Central Florida residents. Today, we're going to explore the lagoon in a couple of kayaks.

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If you don't have your own kayak, I recommend checking out Island Paddle in Grant, FL. They're a Florida nonprofit Citizen Support Organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration and enhancement of the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve spoil islands and education of the importance of the spoil islands as valuable educational, recreational and conservation resources.

Island Paddle is located in Grant Station, which is right across the street from the main boat ramp in town. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards or try out one of their tours: Sunrise Paddle, Paddle Board Yoga, or Mullet Creek Paddle Tour.

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Once you're out on the water, you can paddle at your own pace to reach one of the many sandbars and islands on the lagoon. Be careful when you're swimming too far out from shore because the lagoon contains brackish water. That means it's a mix of both salt and freshwater, so you may find some bigger fish and alligators. Always watch out for boaters when you're in the channel.

The island we explored had so much plant life! I encourage you to download a plant identification app on your phone and see how many different types you can find. You're sure to encounter animal life as well. Frequently, there will be porpoises that swim right up to your kayak but we weren't so lucky today.

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Rule one of being out in nature: leave no trace! Explore as many islands as you wish, as long as you help preserve their natural beauty. I like to bring a trash bag with me to clean up any litter that I find.

Happy exploring!

 

 Tina Fleming is a partner at Townie Tourist and an Orlando-based travel and lifestyle blogger at Tina In The Sun. She's a cat mom, self-proclaimed foodie, and moonlight singer in an a cappella group called Geekapella.

Foxtail Coffee Is Spreading Like Wildfire

Foxtail Coffee has locations in Winter Park, Downtown Orlando, and Altamonte with several more on the way. Recently they celebrated their grand opening of the Hourglass District location and the first week of classes marks the grand opening for their UCF Campus location.

Foxtail - Hourglass District

2401 Curry Ford Rd, Orlando, FL 32806

If you haven't heard of the Hourglass District, it's one of Orlando's up-and-coming neighborhoods focusing on being pedestrian friendly, safe for cyclists, and supportive to local businesses.

At the Foxtail Coffee on Curry Ford Road, that sense of community is evident in the multi-vendor layout of the storefront (hey there, Social House and Leguminati...) and the spacious patio lounge in the back.

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Hourglass Social House is the glue holding these businesses together and is in the process of expanding to the rest of the spaces in the plaza. Leguminati is a new vegan eatery featuring the OG Crunch, which seems to be a vegan imitation of a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme. I don't know about you, but that's plenty of information to get me in the front door (not sure if I'll fit through on the way back out though).

 

Foxtail - UCF Bookstore

4000 Central Florida Blvd, Orlando, FL 32816

At the UCF Bookstore, Foxtail Coffee has begun branching out into licensing their product and brand. Though this is uncharted territory and the bookstore side of the venue is still under partial construction, it seems to be a popular dining choice among students, faculty, and staff at the university.

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Foxtail is conveniently located at the heart of campus right next to the student union and new library expansion, so expect crowds this week. And they're certainly equipped to handle a UCF-sized crowd! With the open layout and plenty of seating and table space for study, you can set up with a textbook and laptop and work without the worry of taking someone else's spot.

Along with the classic grab-n-go snacks you'd expect from a bookstore, Foxtail features mouth-watering Valkyrie Doughnuts and their famous cold brew Growlers that you can take back to your dorm room or office on campus.

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Tina Fleming is a partner at Townie Tourist and an Orlando-based travel and lifestyle blogger at Tina In The Sun. She's a cat mom, self-proclaimed foodie, and moonlight singer in an a cappella group called Geekapella.

Edible Education Experience

Say that five times fast and you've got a tongue twister.  The Edible Education Experience has a mission of "connecting students with seed-to-table learning experiences to build a healthy future."  And they do just that.  I took a walk with Garden Coordinator, Brad Jones who helped explain the mission further.  He really knows his stuff. 

As Garden Coordinator of Edible Education Experience, Jones handles everything related to the 1,500 sq.ft. Culinary Garden, from planning the crops and coordinating edible lessons with teachers to providing hands-on experiences for garden visitors and harvesting the garden’s produce.

Edible Education Experience 

26 E. King Street, Orlando, FL 32804
info@EdibleEd.org
http://instagram.com/EdibleEdExp
http://edibleed.org

 

Want to help out?

Edible Education Experience is always looking for a few good volunteers.  If this mission appeals to you and you'd like to get involved, you can click here.  

LOOKING FOR:

  • Committed volunteer gardeners to help cultivate the Culinary Garden.

  • Committed volunteer kitchen helpers.

  • Volunteer Chefs to be involved, leading a variety of sessions for a range of programs.

  • Educational liaisons to help build the foundation for field trips; to connect interested educators with our Edible Schoolyard Teacher Academy.

 

Fill Your Life with Flair from Craft & Common

Craft & Common is a new coffee and retail combo in downtown Orlando filled with ferns, femininity, funky trinkets, and plenty of fabulous photo ops.

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Craft & Common lives up to its name with a full craft coffee and espresso bar, including pastries and other baked goods.  Pictured here is a very satisfying everything croissant that caught my eye.  They also make a cheddar jalapeno croissant and store a selection of vegan breakfast sandwiches in the cooler.

Shelves upon shelves of brightly colored gifts and dainty knick-knacks line the walls of Craft & Common's spacious layout.

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You can't have a storefront these days without a super cute backdrop to take fun photos with while you peruse the goods. Craft & Common does not disappoint with the Biggie Smalls reference, "It was all a dream."

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Parking is in the back of the building and there's plenty of seating and table space for bigger groups for hanging out with friends or holding meetings.

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Craft & Common

47 E Robinson Street, Ste 100
Orlando, FL 32801

www.craftandcommon.com
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Tina Fleming is a partner at Townie Tourist and an Orlando-based travel and lifestyle blogger at Tina In The Sun. She's a cat mom, self-proclaimed foodie, and moonlight singer in an a cappella group called Geekapella.

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Daytrip - Exploring Melbourne, Florida

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Melbourne is an easy hour and fifteen minutes from downtown Orlando, and tolls and highways make the trip simple.  (The alternative is a longer scenic route takes you through Fort Christmas which is another great stop on Hwy 50.)

Get to town and head first to the Historic Downtown area.  Drive slowly over the railroad tracks and park.  You won't want to miss the following:

Jacqueline's Bakery - 906 E. New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901 

This is a family-owned, French bakery and cafe. Chef Jacqueline uses European style butter, French traditional flour and American artisan flour (both non-GMO) and everything is baked from scratch.

Things to try:

  • Continental Breakfast - tartine, croissant, orange juice, coffee

  • Apple turnover

  • Quiche Duxelles

  • Vegetarian Baguette (ask for it with butter instead of hummus) Trust me.

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Russian House - 822 E. New Haven Ave, Melbourne, FL 32901

You might not realize this but there's a very large Russian population in Melbourne. Perhaps because of its proximity to the Space Coast.  Scientists maybe?  Who knows.  All I know is that a visit to the Russian House can take an hour just listening to stories from the old country and playing with nesting dolls.  The food, drink, trinkets, art, books, posters, and more are worth a visit.

Walking up and down this Main Street area is a good start. If you've got your fill of this first stop, hop back in the car and head a little closer to the coast.

EGAD - Eau Gallie Arts District - About a half-mile down the road is the Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) which is full of art, galleries, murals, and so much inspiration. Also...pie.

 

Joan's Perfect Pie - 1478B Highland Ave, Melbourne, FL 32935

Fresh pies, baked daily.  Joan runs a tight ship and her pies are hefty and delicious.  Choose savory or sweet and you won't be disappointed.  All of the fillings and dough are handmade and the crust is an all butter crust; brown and flakey. 

Outdoor Mural Installs - Be sure to check out all the public art murals around this district.  You can find a list here.

Foosaner Art Museum - 1463 Highland Ave. Melbourne, FL 32935

This free museum is a complex that contains three buildings: a 15,000sq ft gallery space; the Renee Foosaner Education Center with spaces for drawing, painting, pottery, and printmaking; and the Harris Community Auditorium for lectures, meetings, and performances. 

The permanent collection is over 5,000 works on paper, paintings, sculpture, and industrial design of the Modern and Contemporary periods.  Click here for the hours and installation details.

Hungry for more?

Chez Quan's - 1470 Aurora Road, Melbourne, FL. (321) 622-6979

This place has to top your list for what to eat for lunch or dinner.  What happens when you mix Thai and American and Latin all together?  Chef Adam can show you.  And you want him to.  A simple cement floor and bowls full of love.  It's always a good idea to show up for Wu Tang Wednesday. 

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There's so much more to explore so look for a second installment happening Fall 2018.

Have you been to Bronze Kingdom?

Probably one of Orlando's best kept secrets is Bronze Kingdom.  It's located in the Fashion Square Mall and is one of the most unique finds I've come across.  Over 16,000 square feet of space has been converted into a gallery-museum with 2,000 pieces of African art. 

The bronze, beaded, and wooden sculptures, some of which date back thousands of years, are truly impressive.  This is the largest collection of rare African bronze sculpture in the world and represents so many countries from across the continent like Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Along with a historic collection rivaling the British Museum, are local and international contemporary artists.  This is a tour you won't want to miss!

Bronze Kingdom 

Bronze Kingdom
3201 E. Colonia Drive, Suite M16
Orlando, Florida 32803
407-203-8864
http://bronzekingdom.com

Greenwood Cemetery: An Orlando History Lesson

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Greenwood Cemetery is one of the most unique places to visit in Orlando.  It's close to downtown and in a neighborhood full of brick streets and historic residential homes.  The area is loaded with trees and wetlands and the air here is thick and humid.  Bring bug spray and sunscreen.  (I should just add that in my bio since I say it all the time.)

If you're looking for history and a tour like no other, then add Greenwood to your list of places to visit in Central Florida.  Never have I experienced a more informative, unique, and humorous walk through a city's history. 

Don Price is Orlando's Sexton.  Historically, a sexton is someone who looked after a church graveyard.  The meaning has changed a bit and this cemetery isn't affiliated with one specific church.  Don is a record-keeper, a historian, the story-saver of our region. 

His tour covers Orlando history from the beginning up to modern day.  We got him out on a Saturday morning to share an abbreviated tour with us. You can walk along with us at the bottom of this post. 

History of Greenwood Cemetery Up until the 1880s, the people of Orlando had no permanent burial location, leading to many lost graves and confusion. After a heady newspaper campaign, by publisher Mahlon Gore, eight Orlando residents pulled together $1,800 to buy 26 acres of land and the cemetery was created. 

The original layout of Greenwood Cemetery was designed by Samuel A. Robinson and is laid out in a unique circular pattern. It's true that you can't get lost. Just keep going left and you'll end up at the beginning. 

There are free walking tours available throughout the year, but your best bet is to send an email or call Don's office at the number below to be sure you can secure a date/time. In October he hosts night time haunted tours that are a hoot! Also kind of creepy. Be ready to walk about a mile and wear sturdy shoes. Maybe consider bringing a flashlight to that one.

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Greenwood Cemetery 

Greenwood Cemetery
1603 Greenwood St.
Orlando, Florida 32801
407-246-2616
greenwood@cityoforlando.net

For information in Spanish: Click Here!

 

Directions to Greenwood Cemetery

Coming from 408 East (Oviedo/UCF area):

  • Travel west on 408

  • Exit on 11B toward East South Street

  • Merge onto East South Street

  • Turn left on Mills Avenue

  • Take 3rd left onto Greenwood Street

Coming from 408 West (I-4/Downtown):

  • Travel east on 408 to exit 11B toward Mills Avenue

  • Merge onto East Anderson Street

  • Turn right on Mills Avenue

  • Take 3rd left onto Greenwood Street

 
 

Watch the Townie Tourist tour with Brendan from Bungalower and Don Price.👇

Visit Mini Animals at Lil' Bit of Life Farm

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Lil’ Bit of Life Farm’s message is "Healing with a little help from our friends".  Owner Tracey Rinehart has poured her heart and soul into developing her mission to provide healing with four-legged friends.  "Horses train us to have balance, feelings of strength, coordination, confidence, grace, and peace." Tracey’s first horse, Bailey, taught her these very things, and she wants to share.

Also home to the G.R.I.T.S. 4-H Club, the organization is service oriented assisting living facilities and businesses in the Lake County area.  Our visit to Lil Bit of Life Farm was timed with a few events in mind.  Tracey had just gotten some ducks, there were new baby pigs, and the goats were about to give birth.  We saw it all in our tour.

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Check out these activities held at the farm:

  • Horsemanship - No riding involved. The experience is a hands-on course in learning how to care for your mini friend. You will bathe, groom, hoof care, and walk them while building a friendship relationship. Memory, fine motor skills, judgment, and focus are improved.

  • Obstacle Course - No riding involved. Designed with obstacles and patterns with you and your mini leading the way. Build relationship and trust. Learn positive leadership skills, team building skills, and build self-confidence.

  • Teaching Kindness - This program focuses on teaching empathy and compassion through interaction with small animals. The lesson plans are based not the principles of Humane Education. You will work with small farm animals, including goats, bunnies, and minis.

“There is something good about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.”

The benefit to Lil Bit of Life Farm is so much more than just the experience of meeting Tracey and her animals.  It’s the difference that they make in Mount Dora and Lake County. 

Schedule a visit to the farm:

Groups large and small are welcome!  There’s plenty of parking and the farm is easy to navigate. 

  • Birthday Party entertainment

  • Day Camps for Youth (5-13) on scheduled days

  • Photos for daycare and pre-school with a miniature horse

  • Schedule an hour of quality family time with a mini

Lil' Bit of Life 

(407) 461-3091
Mount Dora, FL
@lil_bit_of_life
http://lilbitoflife.com

Escape the Florida Heat in Winter Park's Indoor Ski Park

We can all agree that being outside during summer in Florida is pretty much the worst. What if I told you there is a place you can go that would place you right in the middle of the Swiss Alps, skiing down the slopes like a total pro? That place is real and its name is WinterClub Indoor Ski & Snowboard.

The facilities at WinterClub include two different ways you can participate in winter sports in a region like Central Florida where there are absolutely no mountains to be found.

  • The ski simulator

  • The infinite slopes

The ski simulator combines virtual reality and movement to make you feel the real physical forces you would experience when skiing or snowboarding. I decided to try out one of the infinite slopes, which is basically a giant treadmill covered in white, spongy turf and made to look like snow. Up to three skiers or snowboarders can ride the slope at once and the instructors control how steep the slope is and how quickly it moves.

I spoke with the owner, Michelle Farah, about the origin story of WinterClub and she explained that they brought the infinite slope technology from overseas when they saw there was nothing similar in Florida. Farah clarified, "No one in Europe learns on the real slopes. They all start out on one of these."

I have to warn you—snowboarding is no joke. It's a pretty intense workout if you have no experience with it. Luckily, the instructors know this so they split the hour up into alternating segments of 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off the slope. You'll learn the basics slowly and gradually move up into more complicated moves based on how quickly you catch on.

Farah says, "it's much easier to learn this way rather than on a mountain."

This was my first time ever trying to snowboard and my instructor Austin was completely comfortable working with beginners. "I've taught skiing to a two-year-old and snowboarding to a four-year-old. We even have people over 80 come in here and do just fine," he said.

Bonus: WinterClub has a $10 off promotion for introductory hour-long lessons, making them only $39.

If getting out of the heat and into the slopes isn't enough to convince you to check out WinterClub, they also have 24 flavors of gelato made in-house at their cafe. They worked with an Italian chef to engineer the flavors and the multi-talented ski instructors make it themselves. I tried the birthday cake flavor and it was both colorful and tasted amazing.

Their multi-hall venue and catering kitchen allows for hosting birthday parties, conferences and even weddings.

Their multi-hall venue and catering kitchen allows for hosting birthday parties, conferences and even weddings.

WinterClub Indoor Ski & Snowboard
2950 Aloma Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32792
407-618-1123

Tina Fleming is a partner at Townie Tourist and an Orlando-based travel and lifestyle blogger at Tina In The Sun. She's a cat mom, self-proclaimed foodie, and moonlight singer in an a cappella group called Geekapella.

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