Visitng Universal Orlando in December

Our family has been a Disney family since our first family visit in 2000. Walt Disney World was our vacation destination. Once we moved down here we were excited to give Universal Orlando a try. The family got season passes for Christmas last year and we have been enjoying the parks ever since.

I enjoy how Universal offers some nice seasonal activities taking place at the parks. In fact, on our last couple of visits, we hardly did any rides, we just enjoyed the holiday decorations and entertainment.

We came to check out the Macy's Holiday Parade at Universal. We had a great view of the parade while enjoying the beautiful backdrop of the park Christmas tree. It was a nice parade and it was fun watching the little ones light up as the characters, floats and Santa passed by.
Universal Studios Orlando Macy's Parade
You'll find various Macy balloons scattered about the park. These larger than life characters create a festive atmosphere inside the theme park.

Sanaa

I love the culinary experience at Sanaa; this Walt Disney World restaurant has become our celebratory dining spot. Located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidini Village; the Savannah setting is the perfect backdrop for this Indian inspired African restaurant. 
Sanaa Restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Walt Disney World
I had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday here with my family. I couldn't wait for my parents to see and experience what Disney has done. I’m one to embrace the Disney experience. They work hard to stay true to the theme. I find what they have done with the Animal Kingdom Lodge to be amazing.  All three resort restaurants are worth a visit for not only the food but the experience.

Henry B. Plant Museum at The University of Tampa

I am a bit of a historical junkie. I enjoy learning about the past and I'm fascinated with historic architecture. I love how when you tour places of historical significance it's like stepping back in time; you get a sense of what it may have been like back in the day.


Bryan and I made a day trip to Tampa. After our visit to Cigar City Brewery, I was ready to do some exploring of the old Tampa Bay Hotel which has now been transformed into the Henry B. Plant Museum.
Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa
Henry B Plant Museum
This 1891 National Historic landmark is a visual delight. This lavish hotel was a prime example of luxury that cost $2,500,000 to build and $500,000 to furnish; not chump change back then. 

The museum is conveniently located off of I-275.  The historic hotel has been part of The University of Tampa since 1933 when it was then transformed into the Henry B. Plant Museum. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday and costs $10 for adults. We got there close to 5:00 pm when the museums close, but we decided to see what we could in forty-five minutes.

The tour is self-led and you can begin with a short introductory video. Once you get a good understanding of how the hotel came to you are free to roam the hall and rooms. With your handheld audio device you can listen to various corresponding interviews and descriptions and such. Forty-five minutes was not enough time for me. I like to hear all that I can, so I was only able to pick and choose certain stories to listen to. I do think an hour and a half would be plenty of time to take in all the sights.

The architecture of the Henry B. Plant Museum with its turrets and domes is a true visual delight. One can envision enjoying an afternoon on the porch rocking in a chair and sip on some tea. Come step back and time and get a glimpse of what life was like for those fortunate to have the means to live an opulent lifestyle during the Gilded Age.
Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa


Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa


Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa


Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa


Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa


Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa
 Tuesday - Saturday 10am-5pm
 Sunday 12pm-5pm


*November 2013 Visit
Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa

~April 2015
Henry B. Plant Museum at The University of Tampa
Henry B. Plant Museum at The University of Tampa

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Schwab's Pharmacy Universal Orlando

There is a cute ice cream shop set up along Hollywood Boulevard in Universal Studios Orlando. Schwab's Pharmacy is reminiscent of a classic ice cream parlor. The decor transports you back in time. My kids thought it was cool that this is what an old fashion ice cream parlor was like.

You'll find some tables and a few barstools inside while outside there are a handful of tables. The tables outside aren't covered, but you'll have a nice view to checking out the scenery and characters that come to the Boulevard.
ice cream store, universal orlando

ice cream parlour, universal orlando, theme park
The decor inside has some candy on display just as it would have been back in the day. While black and white photos of Hollywood's classic starlets adorn the walls.

Ben and Jerry's are the flavors of ice cream here; while tasty on their own you'll find you can add the scoops of choice to the various sundaes offered.
ice cream menu, universal orlando

hot fudge sundae, universal orlando

ice cream shop, universal orlando

You can also quench your thirst here with a shake, malt or some soda.
milkshake, universal orlando
This ice cream shop is a nice place to take an afternoon break at the park. The atmosphere is cool and a bit more relaxed compared to the Ben & Jerry's in the New York section of the theme park.
ice cream shop, universal orlando

Thunder Falls Terrace Island's of Adventure

During a visit to Universal Orlando this spring I wandered around Islands of Adventure looking for some dining options. My kids and I decided to go with ThunderFalls Terrace based on the menu and the atmosphere.
Thunder Falls Terrace at Universal Orlando
This casual dining spot located in the Jurassic Park section has a nice selection of food. You'll find typical theme park fare such as burgers, but they also have salads, soups, wraps and beans as well.

Significant Trees in Orlando

I love trees and Orlando has some beautiful ones scattered about.  I came upon this local tour to find some of the most significant trees located in Orlando.

Here are trees in the tour of Orlando's Significant Trees.


*Mayor Carl T. Langford Park
Park, Orlando, Florida, Nature, Trees


*Dickson Azalea Park
Park, Orlando, Florida, Nature, Trees


Constitution Green Park
Park, Orlando, Florida, Nature, Trees


*Lake Eola Park
Park, Orlando, Florida, Nature, Trees


*Big Tree Park
Park, Orlando, Florida, Nature, Trees


*Harry P. Leu Gardens
Trees, Gardens, trails, orlando


*The "Mayor" in Loch Haven Park
trees, park, culture, orlando, nature

Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach

While Pier 60 isn't a boardwalk, there are a number of activities taking place on this beachfront attraction located in the heart of Clearwater Beach.

First you have the pier itself; you can take a nice stroll out over the water. If you'd like to go to the end of the pier it'll cost you .50; chump change for enjoying a nice view. It's a nice spot to watch those fishing or perhaps participate yourself.  My daughter had a great time fishing with her grandfather. The cost at the time was $8 adults & $5.25 for kids 5-15; while pole rentals were $8.
Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida


Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida


Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida


Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida
Right before everyone starts thinking about the evening sunset, a bunch of craft vendors set up tables along the pier showcasing their goods. There're some cool beachy items, useful goods and some of those tourists finds.
Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida
On the beach next to the pier, you have some entertainment options. During the day, the youngsters might enjoy the inflatable slides and bungee jumping. There's also a cool playground they're sure to enjoy; plus the playground is free. You may be able to catch a band playing in the pavilion. If you're there on the weekend you can enjoy a free movie on the lawn.
Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida


Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida
When the crafters start setting up for the early evening sale. You may find a busker or two performing next to the pier. We enjoyed watching some dancing and fire juggling.

There's a metered parking lot adjacent to the pier. You'll also find concessions, a small beach store and restrooms. This is the hub of Clearwater Beach. We've been during the down season and when it's filled with beach goers.  It's nice knowing whatever the season or crowds you've always got something going in at Pier 60
Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida


Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida


Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida

Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach Florida
*Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach Florida

Three Broomsticks & Hog's Head Pub

Our first visit to Three Broomsticks was for an impromptu breakfast.  This is the restaurant of choice while visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We didn't have breakfast vouchers the morning our visit, we just did a walk up and we had a minimal wait.  Three Broomsticks offered a handful of breakfast platters for $17.  The platter also included a drink as well.  Our family of five split a Pancake and American Breakfast.  Both meals had a croissant, bacon, sausage.  The Pancake platter had three pancakes while the American had scrambled eggs and potatoes. It was plenty of food for the five of us.  The taste was pretty bland, but my expectations weren't too high to begin with.  It served its purpose to fuel us up.

Honeydukes & Zonko's at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has a handful of shops located along the main st. in Hogsmeade. Zonko's is the first stop on your left. This novelty toy store is filled with unique trinkets sure to please kids.  Heads up; this store like many of the shops located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can become a bit crowded for browsing. I'm sure the shop breaks fire code a number of times throughout the day, but one cannot help but be drawn to the bright colors and fun packaging that entices little ones.

I would suggest making your way to the shops first thing when the park opens or near closing time when the crowds won't be as intrusive. The lines to the rides are bearable, but trying to deal with the crowds in these stores can be downright frustrating. I do think the stores are worth a visit, so plan accordingly!
Zonko's at Wizarding World of Harry Potter Islands of Adventure

Finnegan's Bar & Grill Universal Orlando

I enjoy my visit to theme parks, but for me, it's not so much about the rides.  I take pleasure in walking around taking in the scenery and exploring the different eateries at the parks. Finnegan's Bar and Grill is one of the eateries I enjoy hanging out in while I'm at Universal Orlando.
Finnegan's Bar & Grill Universal Orlando

Colorado Breweries Part One

When we were living in Denver is was a bit second nature that we'd go out to eat and end up at a brewpub. Our kids would come in tow to some of the first brewpubs in downtown Denver. Unlike bars, brewpubs have an atmosphere that is appealing to groups and families who enjoy getting some good eats while the parents can have some tasty beer to go with the meal.

During our visit back to Colorado we thought it would be fun to check out a number of local breweries. We hadn't been to most of these breweries, though a few of them did hold some special memories in other ways.  It was nice to visit them again or see how some of the places had transformed into local breweries.

*Avery Brewing
Avery Brewing Boulder Colorado
Avery Brewing
I loved my visit to Avery Brewing. We walked through the door and were immediately welcomed. We were told we could sit at a table or the bar, either way we'd get a server. We opted for the bar, and I am so glad we did. We had a fantastic bartender and met some cool folks from all over coming to Boulder to enjoy some great craft beer.

The menu was a bit overwhelming at first and after I had a minute to take it all in I decided on a handful of samples priced at $1.50. Bryan opted for the regular pour of The Hand of Buddha. I tasted some great flavors and my favorites were the White Rascal and The Reverend; though all the beers I tried were tasty. I enjoy drinking white ales for the summer and White Rascal nailed it. The Reverend had a great cherry taste to it, but with 10% ABV you got to watch out!

We stopped by Avery Brewing on a Sunday afternoon and the place was packed.  There was a great vibe going on as people were coming in for the 2:00pm tour of the day. I love breweries; everyone is so happy and eager to share info. I even got folks offering me their beer to sample! When you see that the patrons are happy and having a good time you know the business is doing something right. Avery was a highlight on our craft beer tour; a fun day with great beer, good eats and wonderful service; hard to top that!
Avery Brewing flight & taps
Avery Brewing



*Dad & Dudes Breweria
Dad & Dudes Breweria
Dads & Dudes Breweris
Dad & Dudes is a Brewery located in the suburbs of Denver. While I usually try to stay clear of shopping centers, Dads & Dudes is a great local spot mixed among chain stores. This brewery serves tasty food alongside their handcrafted beer. While Dad's & Dudes makes a handful of beers the feel here is more of a restaurant than a brewery.You'll find a seating in the bar area, dining room and a number of patio tables.

We opted to sit in the bar area since this visit was about taking an afternoon break; and were just interested in getting some drinks and a snack. This family-friendly establishment has a great menu. The pizzas and sandwiches sound delicious. My daughter & I shared an order of the Brewery Wings. The hot sauce was a bit too hot for my daughter so they let us split the wings up with half hot and half spicy teriyaki. 

While the food was good the main reason for our visit was to check out some of the beer.  I decided to go with the Oatmeal Porter. I'm a fan of porters and this one did not disappoint. I had hoped to sample more beers, but the afternoon doldrums got the best of me. 

We had wonderful service, and I enjoyed the food and beer. I think Dad & Dude's is a great place to hang with some friends and enjoy a bite and a beer. In an area that is lacking breweries and can feel overrun with chains, Dad & Dude's Breweria is a nice alternative to the suburban lifestyle.
Dad & Dudes Breweria restaurant
Dads & Dudes Breweria

Dad & Dudes Breweria craft beer
Oatmeal Porter

*Dry Dock Brewing Co
Dry Dock Brewing Company
Dry Dock Brewing Co. appears to be a local favorite, which is a saving grace to this section of Aurora. We weren't too far from the neighborhood, so we thought we'd stop by for a Friday Happy Hour. We got there around 3:00pm and the crowds were already starting to form.

Bryan went with the HMS Victory Amber while I got the Firkin Friday Kona Coffee Milk Stout since this was a special tapping. I enjoyed my husband's Amber better than my Stout.  The Stout was tasty, but it was like drinking an iced coffee rather than a stout.   hope to come back and try their Vanilla Porter; the description sounds delicious.

While there are a few picnic tables outside, the view isn't much so we opted to sit at a high top. There are a couple of TV's playing some sports. Dry Dock does not serve food; a server told us it allows them to brew more beer. You are allowed to bring in some eats or you can munch on some complimentary popcorn.

One thing I noticed about Dry Dock Brewing was the mixed crowd on our Friday afternoon. It was cool to see some grey hairs, along with some young-ins in tow with the family and couples young and old.  It wasn't just a bunch of young guys taking advantage of the good beer.

Dry Dock Brewery offers award winning brews in a casual atmosphere.  Grab a pint or take home a keg & enjoy.
Dry Dock Brewing Company tasting room
Dry Dock Brewing Co.

Dry Dock Brewing Company craft beer
HNS Victory Amber
Golden City Brewery vat
Golden City Brewery
 Golden City Brewery has a homey feel about it; it's tucked within the neighborhood and is basically in someone's back yard. There is a small building with the bar, kitchen and a few seats where you can place your order, or you can enjoy the patio and grab some brews and eats from the walk up window.

Bryan and I ordered a couple of the wraps and I went with the recommended beer, Clear Creek Gold. Both the Veggie & T.B.A.W wraps were tasty, and it was a nice change to get some grapes as a side. The Clear Creek Gold had a nice floral touch and was great for a summer day.

I really enjoyed the laid back vibe here. We saw a steady stream of folks coming in while we were there; lots of bicyclists, some families, locals and other beer aficionados.

The service was friendly, the food tasty and the beer refreshing.  Make a day out of visiting Golden City Brewery; the brewery in Golden that has personality.


Golden City Brewery taps
Golden City Brewery
Golden City Brewery craft beer
Clear Creek Gold