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.

5 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do at Seminole County Libraries

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Libraries are full of valuable resources available to everyone, but are often underutilized or overlooked. I decided to visit my local Seminole County Library branch and learn about the services offered. Here are five, to name a few!

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1. Enjoy a growing collection of eBooks and audiobooks when you download the Libby App.

I'm an audiobook fan myself and have often looked to free trials of Audible.com to get my fix every now and then, but you can access thousands of titles for free on the library's mobile app.

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2. Attend a small business workshop and learn how to be your own boss.

Not everyone has access to a four-year degree or inherent knowledge about entrepreneurship, taxes, etc.. If you're a small business owner and want to make sure you start off on the right foot or want to improve what you've already been building, check out one the free workshops and network with other entrepreneurs to put yourself in the right direction.

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3. Drop in a program and learn about plants, genealogy, and even how to become a citizen.

Writers—You can participate in in-group writing exercises, share written work and receive feedback on every third Thursday. Crafters—Attend the Sewing 101 or Intermediate Sewing series to expand your skillset. The possibilities are endless with a full calendar of creative, informational events on seminolelibrary.org.

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4. Access Lynda.com online learning and tutorial videos about software, technology, and creative skills.

Technology is constantly changing and sometimes your industry requires you to use a certain software that you may not be familiar with. If you haven't heard of Lynda.com yet, you need to get acquainted. You can learn just about anything with a click of a button. Even if you're not accessing Lynda.com from the physical library, you can login using your library card number from the comfort of your home, or anywhere really.

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5. 3D print your own unique designs.

So, this is the coolest thing. You can design 3D models and watch the printer do its magic onsite. The library provides a list of programs and sites that you can use to find and create your own models and then you simply upload your file to be printed. It takes about two weeks to have the finished product in hand and most designs will cost between $1-5. Try it yourself!

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Seminole County Public Library System - Central Branch

215 N. Oxford Road, Casselberry, FL 32707
407-665-1500

 

 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.

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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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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Why you need to start hanging out at The Heavy in Winter Park

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The space is filled with inspired plant combinations, floral arrangements, and home decor by Porch Therapy (Sound familiar? You've probably seen them in East End Market).

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The Heavy

SHOP. DRINK. EAT.
1152 Harmon Avenue
Winter Park, FL
@theheavywp
http://theheavywp.com

Last week, we visited The Heavy for a sneak preview of the very Instagrammable chill space opening this July in the old Lombardi's Seafood building in Winter Park.

The Heavy is bringing your favorite local vendors together, featuring a Downtown CREDO coffee bar and rotating pop-up restaurants. Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen will be popping up three times per week with their traditional Thai food and (great news for me!) an expanded menu to include more vegetarian and vegan options.

Long farmhouse table, perfect for dinner parties.

Long farmhouse table, perfect for dinner parties.

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The Heavy will have regular open hours to the public starting in July and will be the perfect place to setup and work, study, or hang out and take creative photos with your friends. 

The best part is all of the cute plants and decor are for sale! See something you like? Let one of the employees know and you can bring what you love home with you. 

 

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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