Tiny Tourist: Bok Tower Gardens

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The minute the sweltering summer heat started to let up, I began planning outdoor adventures for our family.  The fact is, Bok Tower Gardens has been on my list for years.  It always seemed too far and I wasn’t quite sure what was out there.  Rest assured, it’s worth the drive.  

A little history on the Gardens, Edward Bok came to the States from the Netherlands as a child.  His family spent their winters in Florida, in Lake Wales.  As he grew up he became a mega successful publisher, Pulitzer-Prize winning author, and humanitarian.  In 1929 he purchased the land that is now Bok Tower Gardens and made a beautiful sanctuary.   The Gardens, oh the gardens with lush tropical beauty and winding paths that felt like they stretched forever.  But it was really a quick walk from place to place, super important with the kiddos!  There’s also the Singing Tower Carillon, a huge bell tower that plays gorgeous music that echoes through all the gardens.  And you can buy a ticket to Pinewood Estate, a historic home on property with scheduled tours running throughout the day.

Aside from all this, there’s a special area just for the kids.  Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden was a little nature wonderland.  Nature wasn’t just the backdrop but the forefront for the kids to explore their curiosity and creativity.  There was a sandbox, giant spider web climbing structure, wooden instruments, arts and crafts tables, an outdoor dress-up theater, and a rustic pioneer kitchen play space.  I know what you’re thinking, I have all this stuff at home and at the park by my house.  And to that I say, yes you do.  But do you have it in a gorgeous nature sanctuary that you will swear transports you to Colorado or some other fabulous non-Florida feeling place?  No, no you don’t.   The kids spent hours exploring and running around.  They would’ve spent hours more but the adults were getting hungry.  Conveniently, there’s a restaurant on site, the Blue Palmetto Cafe that was quite delicious.

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We spent four hours at the Gardens and I know we only scratched the surface of what Bok Tower has to offer.  With kids or without this is an awesome place for a day trip.  

Note:  Bok Tower Gardens is part of the Reciprocal Member Program with Leu Gardens, Orange County Regional History Center, Polasek Sculpture Gardens, Central Florida Zoo, and Art & History Center Maitland so check and see what discount or free admission this provides you!  Be smart, don’t wait to learn this after the fact when you’re writing a blog post.

Tiny Tourist: Quick Trip to DeLand

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Parenting can lead you to some interesting paradoxes.  I’m terrified of taking my kids on long trips but I also cannot under any circumstance stay trapped in the house with my kids all day.  It leads to meltdowns.  Obviously theirs, but also mine.  So into the car we go.  But where?  We’ve always loved to go on road trips and explore Florida but just need the trips to be a little quicker.  And so we call them quick trips - anywhere we can travel in a day and back in time for the kids to sleep in their own beds.

Recently we took a trip to Volusia County to explore DeLand and just a little bit beyond.  You might not realize it but Volusia has awesome adventures waiting for you. Beautiful springs and a slice of Old Florida living. DeLand is an official main street district and just past DeLand you'll find beloved state parks and a few other curious attractions.  For Orlando locals this is the perfect staycation idea, grab your stuff and go!

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Don’t miss:

Barberville Pioneer Settlement  1776 Lightfoot Ln, Barberville, FL 32105

Take a trip back in time to this historic village.  Tucked away in western Volusia County, the settlement boasts restored buildings and historic artifacts of all kinds.  On site you'll find a traditional log cabin, post office, church, school house, railroad depot, country store, and much more!  

Blue Springs  2100 W. French Avenue, Orange City, FL 32763

This beautiful state park is one of the reminders of what makes Florida truly special.  The park has a large natural spring which keeps the water at 73 degrees during swimming season and is a manatee refuge.  You can see hundreds of manatees in the spring during manatee season (mid-November to mid-March).  If you plan to make this part of your trip, please plan accordingly.  This is a favorite destination for many and the park often reaches capacity.  Make this your first stop and get there early.

DeLand Wings  Pill Alley DeLand, FL 32720

A must-stop spot for photos and social media updates.  The wings, by artist Erica Group, are located behind the Dressed Boutique (108 S Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720)

To read more about Tiny Tourist's Quick Trip to DeLand and to download your own Quick Trip Guide, click here

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Dana Nichols is an exhausted mommy of two, but she’s enjoying every moment. Dana is the founder of Momlando which inspires and unites moms (And dads!) in Central Florida. Dana knows parenting is fun, extraordinary, hard, and exhausting all at once. Momlando captures ways to make it manageable and memorable.

 

3 Locations for Getting Hygge in Orlando

It's not spring yet and the cold weather isn't quite over. Get hygge in front of a city bonfire or make one of your own just out of town.

Hygge: Pronounced hewgah, this Danish concept is all about achieving comfort, coziness, and a warm glow.

The Alfond Inn This Winter Park jewel has posh lawns for strolling. Grab a craft cocktail or creative mocktail at the bar and step out onto the open patio. There are comfy rocking chairs, benches, cusion-filled seats and a concrete fire-pit to warm you during the slightest chill or deep in the middle of a cold snap. The best is the people watching. Don't miss a stroll inside around the gorgeous art-hotel. You'll find extraordinary pieces from the Cornell Fine Arts Museum Collection.

If you're looking for a creative libation, try the MBA: Woodford Reserve bourbon, blackberry, and oranges topped with ginger ale. You know, a fancy bourbon and ginger. It's my all-time favorite drink. Everything For Love sounds warming too with Ron Za capa Aged Rum, chocolate mole bitters, orange bitters, and grapefruit peel. You just have to throw in some of our winter citrus.

The Taproom at Dubsdread Golf Course The only brunch in town that hands-down makes a perfect cathead biscuit with sausage gravy also sports a fire-pit. A chilly night under the stars calls for a warm fire and snacks under twinkling market lights. Just far enough away from the porch to have a private conversation, this fire-pit is one of my favorite places in the cooler months. Deep comfy chairs and just enough table space for drinks and small bites. Servers come right to the fireand you get the same great attention al fresco. My choice off the cocktail menu? The grapefruit and basil martini with fresh basil and Deep Eddy's Grapefruit Vodka.

Volusia County Beaches About 40 minutes from Orlando on the East Coast you can reserve your own bonfire ring on the beach. Only available during non-turtle nesting seasons (November through April), you can build your own pyre by the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to click on this link for a permit and to reserve your space. They don't provide wood, so bring your own and make sure it's unprocessed.

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Grandma Party Bazaar 2017

Another Grandma Party Bazaar has come and gone. If you missed it in December then you REALLY missed it. There was the coolest selection of makers and creatives. Brendan and I took a walk around the tents and spoke with a slew of talented people. Take a look here: 

Interested in being a vendor? Follow Grandma Party Bazaar on Facebook which is where they announce when application is open. Of course I have my faves, but I discovered so many new makers and met some really cool people. Word of warning, the drinks at Stardust are deceptively delicious and STRONG as hell. The lemonade was the best ever, from what I remember. 

There are some killer photos of the day by Tipso Photo...Mike Lothrop. You can check them out here. In short, mark your calendars now for mid-December in Orlando. The market scene is HAWT and this one is one you should NEVER miss. Have I yelled at you enough? 

Reyes Mezcaleria: Orlando, Florida

I kicked it with my new friend Anna Christmas at Reyes Mezcaleria on Monday night and was blown away by their dishes on the happy hour menu. We decided on light bites for dinner and sat at the bar. First off, the bartenders at Reyes are some of the kindest and most informative people I've met. They have unique knowledge on tequilas, mezcal, and how to make the perfect cocktail with either. (BTW their house margarita with salt is one of my faves.) 

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The thing about mezcal is that it can be made from over 30 varieties of agave while tequila is only made from Blue Agave. The pinas of the agave plants are cooked in the ground on hot volcanic rocks. WHAT?! Yep. Like they do pigs in Mexico, people. That gives the mezcal that smokey flavor. Not peppery...smokey. You have to try one, or several. There are over fifty on the list and that's just mezcal. The tequila offerings exceed that number by far. 

Fun fact, mezcal is made in 9 regions of Mexico: Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacan, and Puebla. Oaxaca is pretty much the center of the mezcal world since 85% of all mezcal is produced there. To learn more, I'll have to travel there in person. (Adding that to the Townie calendar.)

We dug into three small dishes that I highly recommend. The ceviche. Just get it. The yuca Llenados was incredible. Fried yuca with salsa roja, pork carnitas, quesco fresco, serano chile, and guava-arbol sauce. The sweet heat and crunch of the yuca with the smooth pork was mouth-wateringly good. Then, just for fun, we ordered the chicharrones, pork rinds with lime aioli, cotija, chili powder. 

Needless to say, we had a blast learning about each other, the food we were eating, and talking about travel. Chilling in the lounge area that looks like an amazing dreamscape of a living room only inspired dreams of future meetups. "How can we get more people to discover this place?" 

Figured I'd start by telling you all about it. Go! There's parking all around on the street or garage but with all that mezcal, I'd say best to Lyft or Uber. See you there!