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Thursday, December 4, 2014

ZOOm Air Adventure Park - A Bird's Eye View at the Central Florida Zoo

ZOOm Air Adventure Park - photos courtesy of zoomair.us
One of the most fun things to do at the zoo is watching the monkeys swing from tree to tree. "Why let the monkeys have all the fun?" says American Car Rental's Nariusky. Whenever she wants to let loose her wild, untamed side, she heads to ZOOm Air Adventure Park.

Located within the forest of the blackwater floodplain swamp at the Central Florida Zoo, ZOOm Air Adventure Park gives visitors an opportunity to test their strength, balance and resolve.

Treetop adventures of varying difficulty levels are available at ZOOm Air and are popular with individuals, families and companies who use the park for team building exercises. In addition to several zip lines, activities encountered during each adventure course may include swinging or rope bridges, tight wires, barrel crawls, T-bars, dancing logs and "spider web" crawls.

The Upland Course (54 inch minimum height requirement)

The Upland Course allows you to gradually accustom yourself to heights, eventually progressing to activities 35 feet above the ground. For folks who decide that is a bit too high, the course offers alternative routes that keep you closer to terra firma. With four different zip lines and 30 different activities, you're sure to use every muscle in your body to complete the course - often times with muscles you never knew you had!

At an estimated completion time of an hour and a half, the Upland Course certainly is a lengthy challenge. Fortunately, there is a zip line at the halfway point that takes you back to the ground, giving you a chance to visit the restroom or grab a drink of water before continuing on with the rest of the course.

The Rainforest Course (54 inch minimum height requirement)

Although "only" an hour in estimated duration, the Rainforest Course may be a shorter course than the Upland Course but it is is even more of a challenge. In fact, Zoom Air will not let you even attempt the course until you have established that you can cope with the upper heights and challenges of the Upland Course. You can only do the Rainforest Course the same day you have completed the Upland Course!

There are 30 different challenges within the Rainforest Course and a total of five zip lines, including two ultra long 500 foot ones at the beginning and end of the course. For folks who'd like to experience only the 500 foot zip lines after completing the Upland Course, a special Big Zips add-on can be purchased.

Kids' Course (ages 4 and up, 36-60 inches in height)

Really, two courses in one, ZOOm Air Adventure Park's Kids' Course allows children age 4 and above to participate in their own eco and fitness adventure. With their parent walking alongside them, below, children first progress through the kids' version of the Upland Course, challenging themselves with activities that are only four feet from the ground. The Kids' Upland Course finishes with a very low zip line.

After completing the Kids' Uplands course, they continue onto the Jungle portion of the course. There is a challenge waiting behind every tree on the Jungle Course, which features many ground games as well as tests that take place up to ten feet off the ground, finishing with a zip line swing.

All depending on a child's age, ability and determination, the entire Kids' Course takes from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to complete.


I should definitely point out that safety is a priority at ZOOm Air Adventure Park. Before being admitted to the course, all participants are given thorough instructions on how to safely proceed through each activity and use the equipment. At no time are individuals ever in any real danger; two slings are clipped to a "red life line" that ensure that you will never plummet to the earth in the event that you fall during your adventure.

In addition to the safety equipment provided, ZOOm Air staff on the ground are always monitoring the progress of each participant and are available to assist you in the event that you have any questions or concerns along the way. If at any point during their journey, an individual decides that they simply cannot go any further, specially trained ZOOm Air staff are at the ready to get that person safely to the ground.

Although by no means do you have to be an athlete to complete one of the courses, you do need to be in decent physical condition, free from injuries, have the use of both arms and legs and the ability to walk and balance reasonably well. You will need good vision and hearing and if you wear eyeglasses, you should definitely wear a strap that keeps them secured to your face.

Prices & Hours

ZOOm Air Adventure Park opens at 9:00 am every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas and their closing time varies by season, all depending when dusk is. Generally speaking, they stop admitting people about three hours before it gets dark so that everyone can complete both courses if they choose to.

Kid's Course: $18.25
     - second round on kids course: $11.95
Upland Course: $28.25
     - add Big Zips after Upland: $13.95
Upland & Rainforest Course: $48.25
Family Pack (Upland & Rainforest for 4 people): $149.95

Annual Pass: $175.00
Kids Course Annual Pass: $125.00

If you want additional information or would like to book a large group event, you can contact Zoom Air Adventure Park at 407-330-0767 or visit their website.

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves - in finding themselves." - Andre Gide

Monday, November 24, 2014

You Might Want to Think Twice About Declining The Collision Damage Waver When Driving in Florida!

head-on car crash
Florida car accidents happen far too frequently!
While driving through an unfamiliar city, some driver pulls out in front of you, or locks up his brakes for no apparent reason, or makes a sudden right turn from the left lane (not bothering to signal, of course), causing you to almost get into a car accident. "This city has the worst drivers on the entire planet!" you'll hear yourself screaming (perhaps, along with an expletive or two directed at the other driver).

I've lived and driven in plenty of places where I heard myself screaming a similar sentiment (although, admittedly, my outbursts may have been a little more colorful). Nowhere have I ever driven where I see as many death defying vehicular moves than in Florida, though. The reason is pretty simple - we have more people driving around this state that don't know where they are going than probably anywhere else in the world.

Basically, you have three types of drivers in Florida and those three different driver types combine to form a very deadly combination:
  • Senior citizens
  • Tourists
  • Regular everyday commuters
Senior Citizen Drivers

In case you haven't heard, the state of Florida is an excellent place to retire to. Every year, seniors flock to the warmer, no-hassle, low tax state and make it their new home (or they purchase a second home here to live during the winter months as "snowbirds"). Because of that, there are a TON of senior citizens driving cars in Florida.

Generally speaking, senior citizens tend to be overly cautious drivers (read that as "slow"). Maybe their reflexes aren't what they used to be or maybe their eyesight is poor. Needless to say, we've all been behind the slowly moving senior citizen driver roadblock.

Seniors are also known to pull into an intersection very slowly and accelerate very gradually - something that is annoying enough when making a turn from a traffic light but very dangerous when merging with traffic.

Worse, is the senior who suddenly makes a move with no apparent concern for any vehicle around them. Perhaps physical limitations keep them from being able to turn their heads to see if there is someone in their left or right blind spot. Maybe they have other things on their mind and simply forget to check.

Of the three driver types, senior citizens are probably the safest of the bunch, though. Because they do things slowly, other drivers have more time to react to their driving misdeeds. Nevertheless, they certainly contribute to the obstacles any driver has to be on the lookout for.

Tourist Drivers

Florida is the vacation capitol of the world for a very good reason. We have great weather year round, fantastic beaches and some of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. People come to Florida from all over the world to spend their vacations and holidays in "the Sunshine State."

Unfortunately, tourists often have no clue how to get to where they are driving and are looking more at the things around them than they are at the road. Whether reading a map or getting directions from a GPS navigation unit, the tourist has one eye on the road and another on how to get to where they want to go.

Of course, looking at maps or GPS devices isn't the only thing distracting the tourist driver. They are looking at all of the new sights, scoping out things to do, places to shop, restaurants to eat at. They miss speed limits signs while they are checking out gas prices, they miss exit signs while they are staring at theme park billboards, they miss stop signs and traffic lights while they are talking excitedly with their families.

Then, there is unfamiliarity with the roads. Far too often, you will see cars driving down the wrong side of the street in Florida or trying to enter a highway via the exit ramp. Some of this may have to do with so many international visitors who are used to driving on the opposite side of the road. In many cases, though, it is simply due to missing a sign that says "DO NOT ENTER" or "WRONG WAY."

And, let us not forget that many tourists are drivers from foreign countries who do not speak English as their native language (if at all). It's hard figuring out how to get somewhere and to obey traffic laws when you can't read the signs!

The tourist is definitely the most dangerous driver of them all. They are accidents waiting to happen and in heavy tourist areas (pick a Florida city), when you combine all of those distracted drivers navigating cars in an unfamiliar environment, you are bound to see a rise in traffic accidents and fatalities.

Regular Everyday Commuters

You would think that locals would be the safest drivers on the road. They know where they are going, after all. Unfortunately, when you live and work in a town, you have things to do, places to be, people to see. Driving is not a leisure activity; it is a means of getting from point A to point B in order to get the next thing on the list done.

Driving to and from work, dropping/picking the kids up from school or soccer practice, squeezing in an errand, stopping by the grocery store on the way home so that you can get dinner prepared quickly. There is always so much to do and there never seems to be enough time to everything.

We are always running late and need to make up that time somewhere. Unfortunately, those senior drivers and tourists are gumming up the works. They are in our way, we are scared of what frightful driving maneuver they might do next and naturally, we want to stay as far away from those people as possible.

Therefore, locals pull some of the dumbest driving moves of them all - shooting into small gaps between vehicles, zig-zagging through traffic, driving faster than the posted speed limits, failing to stop at traffic signals (not because we don't see them, but because they, too, are a hindrance). Not enough hours in the day combined with overconfidence make local drivers almost as scary as all of the tourists driving around town!

Does Florida Have the Worst Drivers?

Every city and state has probably had somebody exclaim at some point in time that it is the worst place in the world to drive. Unfortunately, there are very few actual, measurable statistics that can provide the definitive answer as to which city, state or country has the worst drivers.

A few months ago, Slate Magazine tried to sort through all of the data from insurance companies and various government statistical bureaus to come up with the definitive answer. Things like fatalities, drunk driving, pedestrian-involved accidents and the amount of miles driven per trip were factored in to arrive at their list of the most dangerous cities in which to drive. They published their findings in the article, "Which City has the Worst Drivers."

Although their article only lists the five worst cities, along with a brief description of what makes them so dangerous, they do include a downloadable file toward the end of the article that lists the 39 cities in the United States with the worst drivers. As you can see, Florida not only took the top spot (Miami has the worst drivers in the entire country), but Florida has the dubious honor of having 5 of the top 8 cities with the worst drivers:
  1. Miami, Florida
  2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  3. Hialeah, Florida
  4. Tampa, Florida
  5. Baltimore, Maryland
  6. New Orleans Louisiana
  7. Orlando, Florida
  8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Houston, Texas
  10. Providence, Rhode Island
It's no shock at all to me; when you put those three driver types on the road together, it's no wonder you see traffic accidents almost everywhere you drive in Florida. We'd really all be better off in bumper cars here!

Far too often in the car rental industry, when we ask people if they would like to purchase a Collision Damage Waiver, we hear people say "I've never been in an accident before, so I don't need it" or "my insurance covers me."

Before quickly dismissing the extra protection, do yourself a favor and call your insurance company and/or credit card company and see if they cover "loss of use" - a charge that could have you paying for a car rental every day (at the daily rate) that car is out of commission due to an accident you were in - regardless of who is at fault. (Those days often stretch into weeks as your insurance company, the other car's insurance company and both vehicles' credit card companies bicker back and forth about who has to pay for damages, incidentally. All the while, the car sits, unrepaired, racking up loss of use charges.)

What you'll almost always discover is that they WILL NOT pay for loss of use or will put something in the fine print that says they will only cover loss of use if the car rental company provides a fleet utilization report showing all of their vehicles on rent - something that the courts have already ruled that car rental companies DO NOT have to provide to collect loss of use.

Because the courts have already decided those utilization reports are not necessary, no car rental company will provide them. In other words, your insurance company/credit card company almost never covers you for loss of use and you will be paying out of your own pocket for charges that are always in the hundreds and sometimes in the thousands of dollars, depending on the vehicle and how long it is out of commission.

The next time you are renting a car in Florida (or anywhere), ask yourself if it is really worth saving a few bucks a day as you head out into the mayhem known as "Florida driving." If I'm renting a car in a town that I am unfamiliar with, I always take the collision damage waiver. The added peace of mind costs very little when I compare it to all of the other money I spend on a vacation!

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect those of American Car Rental. As is the case with all generalities, nothing in this article is meant to suggest that ALL tourists, or ALL seniors, or ALL locals drive in the manner suggested, above. Generalities exist for a reason; though, if they didn't, insurance companies wouldn't use them as the basis for determining insurance rates.

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Insurance: it's something you hope you never have to use but you are glad you have it when you need it." - Unknown 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Video of World's Tallest Roller Coaster - The Skyscraper, coming to Orlando in 2016

Artist's rendering of Skyplex Skyscraper Roller Coaster
When it comes to roller coasters, there are few people that are bigger fans than I am. I remember the first ones I ever saw - at Kennywood Park in Pennsylvania when I was 6 years old. No matter how much I stretched my neck, they wouldn't let me on any of the coasters there because I was just a few inches shorter than the finger that stuck out from the wooden cutout of a freckled face boy that depicted the minimum height requirements.

Those Kennywood Park roller coasters were not without incident in those days, either. Dozens of people died on those wooden coasters when they derailed - something that made them all the more enticing for me back in the day.

Nowadays, the smooth rolling all-metal roller coasters have wrap-around wheels that make roller coaster accidents a thing of the past. Really, the only way a coaster can come off the tracks now is if the track, itself, fails. So, as terrifying as they may seem, few amusement park rides are as safe as a roller coaster.

I've ridden a lot of roller coasters through the years at parks like Magic Mountain, Six Flags, Hershey Park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Tampa, and, of course, all of the coasters at the Orlando Disney, Universal and Sea World parks. It's tough to pick a favorite, but I'd say that The Incredible Hulk and Rockin' Roller Coaster are near the top of the list, for different reasons.

There's a new roller coaster coming to town, though, and for the first time ever, it looks like something that I might be a little fearful of riding. The Skyscraper, set to debut in the hub of the tourist district in Orlando in the new I-Drive Skyplex complex, is pretty intimidating for a number of reasons.

First, it's  R E A L L Y  tall! At 570 feet tall, the Skyscraper will be the world's tallest roller coaster by a long shot. Currently, the tallest roller coaster in the world is Colossos at Heide Park in Germany and it is only 197 feet tall. Folks who are too chicken to ride this beast will have the opportunity to take the 55 story glass elevator to the top observation deck and look down on Orlando in all her glory. At night, I'm sure you'll be able to see fireworks exploding all around as the various theme parks put on their end of the day spectaculars.

Then, there is the length of the ride. At three minutes, there are certainly longer duration coasters in other parts of the world - especially wooden ones - but a ride on the Skyplex Skyscraper will be more than a half minute longer than any roller coaster in the Orlando area.

What my nerves are having a little problem dealing with is this roller coaster's speed. It's not the 65 MPH top speed that has me grimacing; there are plenty of coasters doing that or something near that speed and I drive at least that fast on my way to work. The problem I am having is the very slow speed that the roller coaster is moving when it turns riders sideways and upside down as it circles around the towering structure. My mind tells me that centrifugal force cannot possibly hold riders in place before gravity takes over!

See for yourself the animated video that depicts the Skyscraper ride and maybe you'll agree with me!

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Worry is like a roller coaster ride that you think will take you somewhere, but it never does." - Shannon L. Alder

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mojitos Ultra Lounge - Dancing to the Latino Beat in Orlando

Dance the night away at Mojitos Ultra Lounge
Miami isn't the only town in Florida where you can dance the night away. Mojitos Ultra Lounge is one of Orlando's best nightclubs where you can groove to a Latino beat. American Car Rental's Stephanie says it is one of her favorite clubs in the area!

Featuring both indoor and outdoor bars, different music is played in different spots at this popular nightclub in the Hunter's Creek area. Salsa, bachata, merengue - even electronic, top 40, hip hop and reggae ton pulse through the sound systems at various times. With at least three DJs (sometimes four), if you don't like what's playing in one area of the club, move to another and you'll surely find something you dance to.

Drinks are a little on the pricey side but not outrageous and there is a $10.00 cover charge to enter. The mojitos drinks are made with fresh fruit and are quite tasty, packing a little more punch than you may initially think!

Located at 13526 Village Park Drive (on the corner of John Young Parkway), Mojitos Ultra Lounge is open until 2:00 AM every day except for Sunday and Tuesday when it it closed. If you go on the weekend, expect the place to get pretty crowded after 11:00 PM.

If Stephanie's recommendation isn't enough for you. Check out the video, below. These people sure seem to be having a great time!

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing." - James Brown

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Shopping, Restaurants, Art - Winter Park's Park Avenue Has It All!

Park Avenue in Winter Park (photo courtesy experienceparkavenue.com)
As hard as it may be to believe, many folks come to Orlando and spend half their time shopping instead of going to theme parks. Understandably, things are much less expensive for international visitors in Orlando than they are in most parts of the world. And, of course, the many factory outlet malls in Orlando offer bargains, regardless of where you are from.

Still, you aren't going to find much in the way of truly unique items or, as American Car Rental's Karen calls them, "rare finds." She says that if you really want to find that special something that nobody else has or the perfect gift for that hard to shop for person in your life, you HAVE TO head to Park Avenue in Winter Park.

Just a few miles North of Orlando, Park Avenue has some of the most unique stores and boutiques in all of Central Florida. Jewelry, art, antiques, knickknacks, porcelain vases, bowls & figurines, specialty kitchenware, gourmet food & spices - pretty much anything that is not everywhere else can be found here. Host to one of the most exclusive and highest rated art festivals in the country, Winter Park naturally has become the permanent home for many artists whose goods can be seen in many of the shops that line several blocks of Park Avenue. You might be surprised by some of the incredible bargains you can find if you have a keen eye.

Not just for shopping, Park Avenue has some excellent places to eat, too. More than 40 restaurants line the street where you can pop in for a casual yogurt, ice cream or bagel at a mom and pop shop or sit down to lavish meal at one of several award winning fine dining restaurants. Italian, Mexican, French, Tai, American, Turkish and everything in between await your palate.

Adjacent to a beautiful park that is host to various festivals throughout the year, the restaurants and shop-lined cobblestone streets of Park Avenue are just the beginning. Take a scenic boat tour and learn about the history of the area, explore nature and cruise by some of the most affluent homes in the Orlando area. Visit the Morse Museum and see one of the most extensive Tiffany collections in the world as well as classic American pottery and late 19th - early 20th century American paintings, graphics and other decorative art objects.

Nearby, you can visit the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden, which features more than 200 American representational sculptures, the Cornell Fine Arts museum, home to a collection of more than 5,000 fine art pieces and the Winter Park History Museum, which is not only chock full of history, but is home to the weekly Saturday farmers market as well as many social balls and parties. Also nearby, you can treat yourself to the beautiful Mead Botanical Garden or the Kraft Azalea Garden as well as the Orlando Science Center, which features four floors of interactive exhibits.

For more active folks, tee it up at Central Florida's second oldest golf course, the Winter Park Country Club (one of the few golf courses you can still walk instead of riding in a golf cart), or visit Dinky Dock on beautiful Lake Virginia and go on a Venetian Paddleboard Canal Tour. Extreme action junkies will definitely want to check out Flyboard Rentals - also on Lake Virginia - and strap on an Iron Man-like jet pack and fly above the water or jump through waves headfirst like a dolphin.

It's no wonder that people say that it would take you more than a month to see and do everything in Orlando. Just the Park Avenue area has more than a week's worth of fun activities!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pedal Your Party - Pub Crawling in Sanford Florida with Limo Cycle Tours

Pub Crawling with Limo Cycle - photo courtesy of LimoCycle.com
Are you looking to do a pub crawl with a group of friends but want to do it responsibly? Head on up to Sanford, just 20 minutes North of Orlando, and do your bar hopping with Limo Cycle Tours!

Great for bachelor/bachelorette parties, birthday parties and corporate team building, groups pedal their way around the historic Sanford area in unique 15 passenger vehicles powered entirely by their feet. Limo Cycle Tours will supply the driver who will take care of the steering; you supply the pedaling.

Folks looking to do a pub crawl will make their way to five or six different Sanford bars during a day or night of fun. You can even bring your own drinks and snacks and party hardy as you make your way from place to place. There are two large coolers on board stocked with plenty of ice.

Not just for pub crawling, Limo Cycle offers ghost tours and scenic/historical pedaling tours of the Sanford area as well as scavenger hunts, too. You can even customize your tour and do all of the above and include a meal at a restaurant if you like. Your Limo Cycle guide comes prepared with a variety of group games to keep everyone laughing and having a great time.

All of the Limo vehicles are equipped with padded seats and misting fans so that you don't get too hot. You can select from various music mixes or bring your own and crank it up on the six speaker sound system.

Got some lazy people in your group? That's okay; only ten of the seats have pedals, so they can kick back and relax or you can switch off pedaling duties. Although it only takes three people to power the vehicle, you'll need a group of at least six people to book a tour.

On "Sunday Fun Day" you can book as little as one seat and make new friends as the Limo Cycle makes its way through historic downtown Sanford and the scenic RiverWalk, making three stops at restaurants and pubs along the way.

Orlando Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold." - Joseph Parry

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Scavenger Quest in Loch Haven Park - Have Fun Solving Clues While Learning About Orlando

Loch Haven Park - Site of Scavenger Quest
Loch Haven Park near downtown Orlando
Do you live in the Orlando area and think you've done it all? Are you a frequent vacationer here and tired of the same old theme park scene? If so, the Loch Haven Park Scavenger Quest may be the perfect way to spend a few hours.

Perfect for couples or families, the Scavenger Quest in Loch Haven Park is a 1½ to 2 hour game where you solve puzzles, moving from clue to clue throughout the Loch Haven area (between downtown and Winter Park). Solve each clue at your leisure or split up into multiple teams and compete with each other in your own mini Amazing Race.

Not just a fun game, you'll learn a lot about the area as you uncover information that each clue leads you to. Located between three lakes on 45 acres of lush, green grass, Loch Haven Park is a great place to get away from it all even if you aren't on a scavenger hunt. When you reach the end of your adventure, you can enjoy a picnic in the beautiful park or you can opt for a "mystery restaurant" as the final clue of your game.

Folks who choose the mystery restaurant option when reserving their Scavenger Quest will be given one final clue at the end of the game, which will lead them to their celebratory meal (cost of the meal at the restaurant is extra). Don't worry, if you select the restaurant option, you will be allowed to choose from restaurant types when making your Scavenger Quest reservation.

Bring your walking shoes and a map of Orlando; you'll be walking 1½-2 miles as you hop from location to location, solving puzzles about the area. The cost of Scavenger Quest in Loch Haven is under $20 which is a flat fee for any number of people in your group (you can get your tickets here). The clue solving adventure game is best done during the daytime, so make sure to choose a start time that allows you up to two hours to complete your adventure during daylight hours.

Orlando Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party." - Jimmy Buffett

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Laid Back Fish on Fire - A Great Local Orlando Bar and Restaurant

Exterior of Fish on Fire bar and restaurant
Tired of the tourist scene or the same old chain restaurants you can find all over the United States? Head over to Fish on Fire and get a taste of what a real local Orlando bar and grill is.

Located just a half block East of our Orlando Airport area car rental office, Fish on Fire is a place that one of our service agents - Andres - stops by frequently after work. He loves the laid back, easy going vibe of the place. Pop in, and you're bound to easily strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.

If you're looking for a high class restaurant and gourmet food, this isn't the place. It's more of a bar that happens to serve really good food - nothing exotic, just good old home style meals. The service is fast, but not too fast, and the wait staff is super friendly.

Obviously there are plenty of seafood dishes and, if you've just finished a successful day of fishing on the nearby Conway chain of lakes, they'll even prepare anything you catch. There are burgers, wings, pulled pork, salads and plenty of tasty appetizers to choose from, too. For a true taste of Florida, give the "Allie's Gator" (gator nuggets) a try!

If you're a seafood lover, try the fish tacos, bacon wrapped shrimp, fried catfish or the grilled mahi-mahi sandwich. All of the burgers are great but the prize goes to their "Fatty Melt" - three burgers smothered in bacon, topped with a fried egg, onion straws and sliced cheddar cheese, all trapped within two grilled cheese sandwiches - ridiculous!!!

There are only three desserts to choose from but they are excellent. Try the Plant City Moon Pie - an explosion of chocolate and cherry goodness - or the key lime pie, which is real homemade key lime pie with a fabulous, flaky crust.

Again, the restaurant is sort of a "side dish" at Fish on Fire. People really go there for the environment and friendly people. During the day, a TouchTunes box pumps out classic rock and on many nights, live bands draw a huge crowd. It can get pretty loud when there are live bands, so eat outside if you want to have a conversation while you eat.

Is Fish on Fire going to be the type of place that you recommend solely for the food? Probably not. There is nothing that truly stands out (except, maybe, the Fatty Melt) but everything is good, the portions are large and the prices are reasonable. It's a real, neighborhood joint that the locals love, though, and a great escape from the plastic establishments in the tourist corridor.

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Never be a food snob. Learn from everyone you meet - the fish guy at your market, the lady at the local diner, farmers, cheese makers. Ask questions, try everything and eat up!" - Rachael Ray

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Austin's Coffee Shop - This Hipster Hangout Has A Little Bit Of Everything

Exterior of Austin's Coffeee Shop in Winter Park, FL
Exterior of Austin's Coffee Shop
If you're tired of the same old Starbucks scene and looking for a truly unique environment, head to Austin's Coffee Shop in Winter Park, just North of Orlando.

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Austin's Coffee Shop is a place that many people head to for a cup of coffee and to get work or studying done (it's located near Valencia College, Rollins College and Winter Park Tech).

You'll see all kinds of people banging away on their laptops or reading books while those that have come to socialize are more than happy to strike up conversations with friends or even complete strangers. There's a whole shelf filled with board games that patrons can bring over to their tables and play - classics like Clue, Life, Battleship, Yahtzee, Sorry, Operation, etc.

Truly a hipster hangout, you'll see some pretty interesting characters, ranging in age from their early 20s to 50s, hanging out here. Half the patrons don't even where shoes! Local artists have their creations displayed proudly all over the walls and the whole place has a dark, musky vibe with mismatched furniture.

At night, there is always something going on at Austin's Coffee Shop. Live hip hop bands, jazz bands, poetry readings, comedy acts - the entertainment is as eclectic as the atmosphere and people who flock to this favorite neighborhood hangout.

There are quite a few varieties of coffee and tea to choose from - hot, chilled or frozen. The beans are ground there on the spot, so you know your coffee is always going to be fresh. Austin's is not just for coffee and tea; though, they also have a decent selection of beers and wines. If you're hungry, they have plenty of sandwiches, wraps, salads, munchies and desserts to choose from. Vegetarians will definitely appreciate their wide selection of vegan dishes and everything on the menu is very reasonably priced.

If your idea of a perfect atmosphere is bright, fresh and new, Austin's Coffee Shop is probably not for you. If you define an ideal atmosphere by the people, sounds and vibe of a place, Austin's is definitely a hip little hangout you should check out!

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "I force people to have coffee with me, just because I don't trust that a friendship can be maintained without any other senses besides a computer or cellphone screen." - John Cusack

Ski Resorts You Can Drive To From Florida

Snow skiing is just a short drive from Florida
Snow Skiing From Florida is just a short day trip!
You could spend an entire day walking around Florida, talking to people and asking if any of them was born here and never find a single Florida native above the age of 30. Practically everybody who lives in Florida is from somewhere else, it seems.

A large percentage of Florida transplants are from up North and, although most will tell you they headed to the Sunshine State to escape the brutal winters, a great number of those people will tell you that one of the things they miss most about living up north is snow skiing.

Sure, you can jump on an airplane and head West to Aspen, Colorado or fly North and get to Stowe, Vermont but sometimes the hassle and expense of air travel just isn't worth it. If you don't mind a fairly long day of driving, you can reach a number of excellent ski resorts in as little as seven or eight hours – all depending what part of Florida you are traveling from.

What may be more surprising is that all of these southern ski resorts have an average season of about 130 days and some open for skiing as early as late October. That's more than four months available to get your ski fix!

Here are the five closest ski resorts to Florida, arranged in order of drive time:

Wolf Ridge Ski Resort

Travel Time:
  • Jacksonville: 7 hours, 10 minutes
  • Tallahassee: 8 hours, 17 minutes
  • Orlando: 9 hours, 12 minutes
  • Miami: 12 hours, 11 minutes
Elevation: 4,700 ft.

Vertical Drop: 700 ft.

Longest Run: 1,800 ft.

Number of Runs: 22

Snowmaking Machine: Yes

Lighted Slopes: Yes

Cataloochee Ski Area

Travel Time:
  • Jacksonville: 7 hours, 16 minutes
  • Tallahassee: 7 hours, 36 minutes
  • Orlando: 9 hours, 17 minutes
  • Miami: 12 hours, 29 minutes
Elevation: 5,400 ft.

Vertical Drop: 740 ft.

Longest Run: 3,500 ft.

Number of Runs: 17

Snowmaking Machine: Yes

Lighted Slopes: Yes

Appalachian Ski Mountain

Travel Time:
  • Jacksonville: 7 hours, 18 minutes
  • Tallahassee: 9 hours, 8 minutes
  • Orlando: 9 hours, 20 minutes
  • Miami: 12 hours, 19 minutes
Elevation: 4,000 ft.

Vertical Drop: 365 ft.

Longest Run: 2,640 ft.

Number of Runs: 12

Snowmaking Machine: Yes

Lighted Slopes: Yes

Sugar Mountain

Travel Time:
  • Jacksonville: 7 hours, 51 minutes
  • Tallahassee: 9 hours, 10 minutes
  • Orlando: 9 hours, 52 minutes
  • Miami: 12 hours, 52 minutes
Elevation: 5,300 ft.

Vertical Drop: 1,200 ft.

Longest Run: 7,920 ft.

Number of Runs: 20

Snowmaking Machine: Yes

Lighted Slopes: Yes

Beech Mountain

Travel Time:
  • Jacksonville: 7 hours, 55 minutes
  • Tallahassee: 9 hours, 28 minutes
  • Orlando: 9 hours, 56 minutes
  • Miami: 12 hours, 55 minutes
Elevation: 4,675 ft.

Vertical Drop: 830 ft.

Longest Run: 5,280 ft.

Number of Runs: 15

Snowmaking Machine: Yes

Lighted Slopes: Yes

Want More Skiing?

Those are just the closest ski destinations to Florida and they are all located in North Carolina. If you're willing to stay in the car for another hour or so, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia offer ten more ski resorts for you to choose from. That's 15 different ski resorts – all within a day's drive!

While nobody will ever say that any of these runs match some of the ones that you'll find in the Northeast or Western United States, they'll definitely provide a fun, challenging day for the great majority of skiers and will give you a chance to experience the fun side of snow – not the unpleasant kind you have to shovel!

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face." - Dave Barry

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Painting With A Twist In Orlando - Set Your Creative Side Free!

One of the great things about working for a small car rental company is that you really get to know a lot of your customers - especially the ones who come back year after year.

While every theme park does its best to add new rides and update the shows, once you've been to all of the theme parks a few times apiece, they lose their magic and many people aren't willing to fork out more than $100 per person to see pretty much the same things again.

When our perpetual customers return to us, they frequently ask our advice on something new and different to experience. Fortunately, there are so many fun things to do in the Central Florida area, you could never do them all, so we haven't run  out of suggestions yet!

One thing that most folks would never think of doing is taking a class while on vacation. Although I'd tend to agree that anything that sounds like "school" is in direct opposition to what I'd ever think of when it comes to something to do on a vacation, it's a little bit different when that class teaches you something fun to do that you can use when you get home, too.

Painting with a Twist is just such a place. Whether you are an individual, couple or family it doesn't matter; everyone can have a great time learning how to paint at Painting with a Twist. Experience doesn't matter. In fact, novices are both welcomed and encouraged to sign up. Classes are taught by various local artists who love showing newbies how easy it is to create a masterpiece they can be proud of!

All supplies are included in your two or three hour class - paint, brushes, canvass - even a smock to cover your clothes. In case you need a little "creativity boost," there is a wine, beer and soda bar available with drinks at very modest prices. If you'd like to eat while you paint, you are more than welcome to bring your own snacks.

Every day or night, a different painting project is taught, so make sure you select the right class if there is a particular painting scene you'd like to master. Most classes are evening ones between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., and day classes are available on the weekends, as well. The cost is $35 per person for two hour classes and $45 per person for three hour classes.

Painting with a Twist is located at 6700 Conroy Windermere Rd., just a few miles North of the Universal Orlando theme park. Reservations are a MUST; virtually all classes sell out. You can reserve your class online or call 407-601-7800.

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do." - Edgar Degas

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CSI: The Experience - Have Fun Solving Crimes During Your Orlando Vacation

CSI - the Experience on International Drive in Orlando
CSI: The Experience - on International Drive in Orlando
There are few television shows as popular as CSI: Crime Series Investigation. It has been recognized internationally by the Festival de Télévision de Monte-Carlo as the most popular worldwide drama series and has an estimated 73.8 million viewers.

Originally set in Las Vegas, the show has spawned two spinoffs, CSI NY and CSI Miami as well as the upcoming CSI Cyber, which will star Patricia Arquette and Luke Perry. When you add in the viewers from all of the various Law and Order crime drama series, it is clear that people really love trying to solve crimes.

Why watch television to get your detective fix? You can become a CSI agent and solve crimes all on your own at CSI: The Experience - a new attraction on International Drive in Orlando. Set in the location of the original CSI series, Las Vegas, you'll get to go through everything the detectives on the show do to solve a crime.

When you enter CSI: The Experience, you'll be offered CSI vests and lab coats so that you can look the part and you'll watch a short film where you are given instructions by Gil Grissom, your supervisor. Next, you can choose one of three crime scenes to investigate. If you want to do the other two, they charge you half price and you can do those other crime scenes the same day or come back on another day to try and solve them.

At the crime scene, you are instructed to take notes on everything you see and not to make any assumptions until all of the evidence is collected. Next, you'll head to the lab and use forensic technology to analyze the evidence before making your way to the autopsy room to get the last set of clues.

Finally, it's time to report to Grissom. You'll assemble and submit your evidence along with your determination of who the killer was. If you get it right, there's a CSI certificate waiting for you!

While this is a fun frolic for the family, it only takes an hour or two. You are permitted to take as long as you like and kids definitely like to play with the lab equipment longer than adults do. The cases are not difficult to solve and while older visitors would probably appreciate a bit more of a challenge, children love to get it right and earn their detective wings.

It should be noted that cameras are prohibited within the attraction and that you must turn your cell phone off while inside. Professionally taken photographs are offered to you at the end of the experience showing you in various stages of your crime investigation.

CSI: The Experience is located at 7220 International Drive and is open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sundays. Cost of admission is $19.99 for adults and $12.99 for children (ages 5-12).

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Every man at the bottom of his heart believes that he is a born detective." -John Buchan

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fun at the Florida Beaches - How To Build A Sand Sculpture

Elephant Sand Sculpture
Dumbo Sand Sculpture on the Beach
Have you ever been to the beach and seen those people that create huge, amazing sand sculptures and wondered how they do it? I know I have!

Contrary to oft-repeated rumors, they aren't using "special sand," glue, sugar water or hairspray to make those magnificent sand creations. It's just plain old beach sand and water and it's something anyone can do. Anyone with a little bit of creativity, that is.

The key is LOTS of water. The more water you mix with the sand, the more compact and sturdy your sculpture will be. It's also important to note that the bottom has to be wider than anything on the top; otherwise, the whole thing could come a-tumblin' down!

Below, is a video that shows how one sand artist creates a dolphin in the sand. Matt Long explains the tools that he uses - many of which you probably already have lying around the house - and shows you exactly how it is done.

After watching the video, I can't wait to give it a try! I'm thinking a car sculpture, maybe ...


Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Even Castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually." - Jimi Hendrix

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Exciting Changes Coming To Walt Disney World

EPCOT Center's future world at night
What does Disney's future have in store for us?
It's got to be tough to be Disney. They set the bar very high nearly 60 years ago when they opened Disneyland in California and improved upon that theme park when they opened the doors to Walt Disney World in 1972. Because of those huge successes, people expect them to always be the best.

Both of the Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando are more than giving Disney a run for their money when it comes to ride innovation and even Sea World has come up with a few attractions in the past few years that many would argue are as good as many things at Walt Disney World.

Of course, Disney didn't build their reputation on having the fastest or most hair raising rides. They set the standard by building their amusement parks around a theme and then used never before seen technology to create "Disney Magic." Although they may not seem to have the technological edge they once had, it doesn't mean that they aren't working on some really exciting things that are guaranteed to bring families new and old to their parks in record numbers.

In an article recently published on Theme Park Insider, Robert Niles wrote an excellent piece about the things we can all look forward to at the Disney parks - PEP TALK: Why it's like Christmas Eve for Disney theme park fans. Not only is it a great sneak peek at what to expect in the coming years, it truly is a great, fun read!

Star Wars

Disney already has the very popular Star Tours Ride at Hollywood Studios and features Star Wars Weekends at the park, as well. Disney owns the rights to the Star Wars movies and with three new movies in the works, Robert points out that Disney already has plans to create an entire Star Wars themed land in Hollywood Studios.


The movie, Avatar, was, by far, the highest grossing film all-time and Disney owns the rights to that, too. Plans are in the works to build a "real world" version of that with "World of Pandora" Land in the Animal Kingdom. Rumor has it that this section of the park will have a 3D simulator ride similar to EPCOT's "Soarin" ride.


The most popular Disney animated film of all time was Frozen and Disney sure hasn't forgotten that fact. Plans for a ride based upon the popular animated movie are in the works but no firm decision has been announced about which park it will end up being placed in.

Is There More?

Robert speculates that Disney sure can't let a movie as popular as Guardians of the Galaxy go to waste. Since Universal owns the rights to all of the other Marvel character rides, Disney definitely might want to cash in on its own highly successful Marvel comics movie.

He also points out that Disney has a few Pixar movies it could be building attractions for, as well. Upcoming Pixar movies Inside Out, Finding Dory and The Good Dinosaur could all end up with an attraction at one of Disney's theme parks.

Robert also discusses "Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush!" which just started last month in Disneyland. Who knows what the future holds for this massive, multi-player role playing game, but it could be a revolutionary knew innovation that spreads to Disney's other parks.

Give Robert's Article a Read!

Admittedly, I don't praise other authors nearly as often as I should; there's definitely some great stuff being written out there. I literally read over 300 articles a week on a variety of subjects from some very good writers.

Robert's article was one of those rare ones that really hits the mark on every count. It's very informative, written from a perspective that everyone can relate to and, I'll say it, it has that special "magic" that makes you hopeful and eager for the future - especially if you're a Disney theme park fan. Give his article a read. I think you'll agree!

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Haunted Florida - A Haven For Ghosts!

a mob of ghouls
Florida allegedly has more ghosts than you can count!
When people think of Florida, they undoubtedly conjure up images of theme parks, beaches and, of course, lots of sunshine. The last thing in the world people would think of is ghosts. They'd be wrong!

According to those who hunt ghosts, Florida is one of the most haunted states in America. Maybe ghosts like the warm weather; maybe they like the sand and swamps. More than likely, it is because some of the oldest cities in the country are in Florida and it is also a place where many people come to retire and live out their final years.

HauntedPlaces.org lists more than 500 places in Florida where ghosts allegedly have been sighted. Now, you could certainly visit each place one by one and check them out for yourself. Ghosts don't tend to keep a regular schedule; though, so you may have to wait days or weeks at each place, hoping to see one (until you give up).

Instead of taking a hit or miss approach, why not go on a ghost tour? There are plenty of tours throughout Florida where you are much more likely to encounter a presence from the afterworld. Even if you don't meet up with a spirit, your ghoul guide will tell you hair raising stories surrounding the various places you'll be visiting that will make you glad you didn't!

Here are the most popular tours, arranged by geographic location:

Ghost Tours in Central Florida
  • Downtown Orlando Ghost Tour: On this very popular ghost tour, guests learn of some of the scandals, unsolved mysteries and eerie ghost sightings in downtown Orlando. Various tales surrounding the old Church Street Station complex are revealed as well as a particularly eerie tale of the ghosts that now haunt a building built on the land of what was once Orlando's first cemetery. One of the more interactive ghost tours in Florida, you actually get to go inside of most of the haunted buildings and guests are given special ghost hunting equipment to aid them in their ghost quest.
  • Kissimmee Ghost Tour: Historic downtown Kissimmee is a quaint little place that is as "Main Street USA" as it gets. That is, until you learn of some of the truly bizarre and horrific events that have occurred in the town's history. On this ghost tour, learn of a headless horseman who has been spotted on many occasions, of a little girl who died who still swings invisibly on the swing set, of a man who died in the lake while looking for the dock (his ghost is still looking) and of the many tortured spirits that linger around the "hanging tree."
  • Haunts of Daytona: Scary stories, scientific facts and gruesome history all combine to make this nighttime Daytona walking tour a frightfully fun frolic. Owned and operated by a certified ghost hunter and paranormal investigator who has authored several books about paranormal activity and had ghost cases featured on the Discovery Channel, this ghost tour is all about real, documented hauntings, not silly folklore. The highlight of the tour is Pinewood Cemetery. Pretty creepy stuff!
Ghost Tours in Southern Florida
  • Discover Haunted Coconut Grove: On the south side of Miami sits Coconut Grove - a chic area known for its dining, unique shopping, museums and art. It also is home to a ghost tour that is fun for the whole family that includes tales of smugglers, pirates, mobsters, soldiers and more. Learn about some of the haunted places in the area, the celebrities who have frequented "the Grove" and some of the unique history of the area. Tour highlights include stops outside of a haunted playhouse and the Mutiny Grove Hotel.
  • Ft Lauderdale Ghost Tour: This 2 hour walking tour covers 10 city blocks, exploring some of the most haunted places in all of Florida. The Stranahan house, for instance, is home to 6 ghosts and is ranked as the 4th most haunted house in all of Florida. The paranormal researchers who put together this tour also play EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) that they have recorded at various times. Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes, or, if the eerie tales become too much to bear, perhaps a pair of running shoes would serve you better!
  • Ghosts of Palm Beach: Rich people have ghosts, too! This hour and a half walking tour recounts many of the mysterious happenings, scandals, glamor and, of course, ghosts in the Palm Beach area. Be forewarned; the Ghost of Palm Beach tour operators say that they will not be held responsible for any haunting, supernatural event, soul-possession or poltergeist activity you experience during or after participation on the tour!
  • Wicked Delray Ghost Tours: Described by Rand McNally as "the most fun town," Delray Beach is such a great place, many people have apparently refused to leave - long after they have been buried. With a lantern lighting your way, your tour guide will tell you the stories of some of Atlantic Avenue's most famous haunts. You'll hear of the ghosts of shipwrecked passengers, the tales of many sightings of ghosts at the Colony motel (a luxury hotel that is still open for business) and of a British pub where the spirits aren't just in the bottles.
  • The Original Ghost Tours of Key West: Featured on the TV shows "America's Most Haunted Places" and "Weird Travels" this is one of the more famous ghost tours in Florida. Featured tales include one of Robert - a possessed doll formerly owned by renowned artist and author, Robert Eugene Otto, a well as the story of Count Carl Von Cosel - a disturbing tale of embalming, necrophilia and communicating with the dead. The walking tour ends inside of the only haunted Hard Rock Cafe in the world.
Ghost Tours on Florida's Gulf Coast
  • Tampa, St. Petersburg & St. John's Pass Ghost Tours: Expertly told ghost stories is what these tours are all about. Learn the spooky stories surrounding the deaths of the ghosts that haunt these two cities and visit the sites of the numerous ghost sitings.
  • Ybor City Ghost Tour: Rated the #1 ghost tour by US City Traveler, this two hour walking tour through the Tampa Ybor City neighborhod takes you to numerous places where ghosts have been spotted. Your ghost guide will tell you spine tingling tales of the people who once made Ybor City their home and who have refused to leave.
Ghost Tours in Northeastern Florida
Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "I'm pretty sure my house in Florida is haunted! He's a nice ghost though." - Ariana Grande

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fun with a Little Education on the Side - The Florida Museum of Natural History

Dinosaurs at the FloridaMuseum of Natural History
Dinosaur Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History
While Gainesville, Florida may be best known as the home of the Florida Gators, there are much older reptiles to be found at the University of Florida - Dinosaurs! Well, technically they are dinosaur skeletons, but they are just as cool to look at!

Obviously, dinosaur fossils are not the only thing you will encounter at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Various permanent and temporary exhibits exist that delve into the state of Florida's historical inhabitants - both animal and human. The museum includes permanent exhibits on Florida fossils, waterways and animals of Florida, a Florida people and cultures exhibit as well as an area devoted entirely to energy and the environment - something very important to the Florida region.

Perhaps the most popular thing at the Florida Museum of Natural History is the rainforest and butterfly garden. Children and adults, alike, love seeing all of the beautiful butterflies flitting about
Butterfly at the Florida Museum of Natural History
Butterflies at the Museum's Rainforest
and letting them land on them. The kids are absolutely thrilled by the resource room, too. It has all sorts of interactive exhibits that children can touch, play and interact with.

Quite often on the weekends, local science teachers and university professors give free guided tours of the place. If you're lucky enough to visit when that happens, definitely take advantage of it - and don't be shy about asking questions; they love to answer them!

A little under a two hour drive from Orlando, The Florida Museum of Natural History is housed in three different buildings on the campus of Florida University with an additional research facility in Pine Island, Florida - near Fort Myers. Only two of the museum's buildings are open to the public in Gainesville - Powell Hall, which houses the main exhibits and McGuire Hall, which is the world’s largest center devoted to Lepidoptera collections-based research and education, as well as a living butterfly vivarium.

Admission to the public is free for the museum but there is an extra charge to visit the butterflies in the rainforest and various temporary exhibits, such as the one currently appearing - "Wolf to Woof," the evolution of dogs from wolves - sometimes charge a little extra for admission, as well.

If you've done all there is to do in the Orlando area or just happen to be heading up to Gainesville for a Gators game, it's definitely worth your while to stop by the Florida Museum of Natural History. Not huge, most folks cover it in 2-3 hours but some say they could spend all day there. Few things in Florida have a better rating from Trip Advisor and why not? The museum has a little bit of something for everyone and you sure can't beat the price!

You may not believe it, but you'll likely have to drag your kids out of this place. Who knew education could be so fun?

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years." - Will Durant

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Defy Gravity at Spook Hill - Just Outside of Orlando, FL

Spook Hill sign - nearl Orlando, FL in Lake Wles
The Legend of Spook Hill near Orlando Florida
If you're visiting Orlando and need to kill some time, lots of families get a kick out of Spook Hill - a street in Lake Wales, FL where cars seem to defy gravity by rolling uphill.

You won't even have to get out of your car to experience this Florida oddity. Just park your car on the white line at the bottom of the hill, put it into neutral and experience the eerie sensation of your car mysteriously moving backward up Spook Hill.

There are various legends about Spook Hill. The most popular story - and the one the city of Lake Wales officially endorses - is one of an Indian chief's great battle with a 17 foot gator. After rising triumphant from a battle in the lake that lasted for days, another smaller lake mysteriously appeared. Some say the ghost of the alligator is seeking some sort of revenge while others claim the chief's spirit is protecting the land.

Many locals say that the Indian story is a completely fabricated politically correct story that replaced the real story that used to be on the sign. In the original version of the story, an "old darky" had parked his car on the hill and when it started rolling uphill, he ran all over town, screaming about a "spook" that had moved his car.

There is no cost to experience Spook Hill - something you cannot say about many things in the Orlando area. Although the kids sure think it's cool - especially when they think it may involve ghosts - I'm not sure it is worth an hour and a half round trip drive just to experience this two minute phenomenon. There are definitely other things to do in the Lake Wales area while you are there, though.

LEGOLAND is a very short 20 minute drive from Lake Wales and is super popular with kids aged 2-12. It features more than 50 rides, shows, attractions, restaurants and shops as well as the LEGOLAND water park. With its stately mansion, beautifully landscaped gardens and singing tower, Bok Tower Gardens is certainly at the top of the list of other things to do in the Lake Wales area, too.

Also nearby, Kissimmee State Park is alive with all kinds of natural Florida wildlife and features an 1836 "living history" demonstration of early cow hunters and a cow camp. Historic downtown Lake Wales is also a favorite stop, due to its quaint antique and specialty shops.

The legend of Spook Hill appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in 1990 and that same year, it was featured in a segment on the CBS Morning News show. Here's a short video of what you'll experience at Spook Hill, filmed by local ABC affiliate, WFTV. Decide for yourself whether or not there are mysterious spirits at play here:

Florida Travel Sleuth Quote of the Day: "I wouldn't describe myself as lacking in confidence, but I would just say that the ghosts you chase you never catch." -John Malkovich