Orlando, FL: More than just Disney World

Photo by karl.simpson on Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by karl.simpson on Flickr Creative Commons

While Orlando is known mainly for a famous mouse and dreams coming true, there’s more to it than that. Yes, the Disney parks are magical and everyone should go at least once in their lifetime, but most people already know about that. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses in regards to Disney as a worker was just killed during a Lamborghini driving ride, but these are extremely rare occasions. Orlando is home to a wider range of attractions such as sports, wildlife, beaches and more.

As far as the sporting world goes, Orlando’s teams can vary from a rising American conference power in the University of Central Florida, an expansion MLS team, and for die-hard football fans there is a powerhouse arena football team that shares the Amway Center with the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Whatever the season, you can guarantee that Orlando will provide the entertainment.

Bright House Networks Stadium. Home of the UCF Knights

Bright House Networks Stadium. Home of the UCF Knights

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Amway Center. Home of the Predators (AFL) and Magic (NBA)

For a big metropolitan city, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to people that the city and surrounding areas are a hotbed for some exotic creatures. Take an airboat ride through the swamps to find alligators, bottle-nosed dolphins, manatees or a sea turtle or two. If you want to stay on the comfort of dry land, black bears, coyotes, armadillos and bobcats are what you could encounter. However, if you decide you’re feeling too lazy to search for the animals, the Central Florida Zoo has you covered.

Photo by: Maurice Raymond on Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by: Maurice Raymond on Flickr Creative Commons

Since this is Florida, there’s always a beach within a short driving distance away. The closest to the city is Cocoa Beach, only an hour and five minutes away. Cocoa Beach is a popular place to go among Floridians as on lucky occasions, the beach dwellers get to witness a space launch from nearby Cape Canaveral. Daytona Beach is well-known for the famous Daytona International Speedway that resides there which hosts NASCAR’s Daytona 500. Lastly, Melbourne Beach is geared towards a more family-friendly outing. On calm, clear days, one can look out into the water and spot the coral reefs that sank Spanish ships almost 300 years ago.

Cocoa Beach. Photo by: Garth Beatty from Flickr Creative Commons

Cocoa Beach. Photo by: Garth Beatty from Flickr Creative Commons

So next time someone tells you that all Orlando has to offer are  a bunch of theme parks, send them to this post so they can see the error of their words.

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Tabor City, NC: A Quiet Backwoods Paradise

When discussing places to go in North Carolina, I’m betting Tabor City is not on anybody’s short list. In fact, there are probably a good amount of people who live in the state that couldn’t tell you where it was located. Does that mean it has nothing to offer or isn’t worth your time? Of course not!

This out-of-the-way town of just under 4,000 provides a beautiful and wide-open view of the lush forests teeming with wildlife. Between snakes, turkeys, coyotes, tree frogs and even the occasional alligator, any nature enthusiast can find what they are looking for here. 11149028_10153016292788381_1964261783_n

While the homes are spread out from each other, they provide a sense of southern comfort and hospitality that can only be found south of the Mason-Dixon Line. They are the friendliest of people and will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. IMG_4618[1]

You know that a town is safe when the biggest crime that’s happened there is an llegal electronic gambling sweepstakes by the local Internet café. Electronic gambling is illegal in the state of North Carolina and the owner and manager knowingly violated the state’s ban on such matters.

While trying to find things to do in these sleepy little town can be difficult, they are far from impossible. If camping is your way of travel, look no further than Carroll Woods RV Park or Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s. Park your RV or pitch up a tent and enjoy the soothing sounds that the Carolina forests have to offer, but if you get tired of making fires or getting eaten by mosquitoes, there are numerous beaches within a short drive from there. With Myrtle Beach only 52 minutes away, avoid the expensive hotels and enjoy a cheap adventure in Tabor City.

For the more classy travelers, Grapefull Sisters Vineyard provides sauna steam showers, a bed & breakfast, and wine tasting. The vineyard’s wine specializes in muscadine grapes and the sweet taste can relax the body.

Photo by readerwalker on flickr creative commons

Photo by readerwalker on flickr creative commons

So whenever you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the chaotic city life, take a trip down to Tabor City, NC. The people will make you feel at home and the charm of this backwoods southern town can make you forget about the busy city streets you left behind.

Preparing for the Ultimate East Road Trip with your Family

Family prepares for vacation. Photo by Florida Memory  https://www.flickr.com/photos/floridamemory/9950688495/in/photolist-gaiT1K-r4JXB1-fftheM-cAth6U-6E8ar3-gz5unm-7LGgNo-d1Xanw-6rJhgY-6EJMAG-7hKwqw-9fqFEu-6HsTrx-e57DLg-6xoUws-9hAmjG-qdo1CE-g8c7rD-bx21oo-pN5JCG-6L2pWz-mbNdH-6jizhN-6Ffjma-9ciLYi-gS8zuW-dnJBSt-7xsFFY-85zPDn-2C2TGq-89HdSy-p5nCdR-gHk4KL-6WEgec-exgoWN-7bFYVs-6jvRUh-8azGs5-8UgWF-drYmXY-33EUfN-5mJfXm-9XDcFT-6dt3ji-6GZ7Mc-fPYC62-7q6f4H-9ibGVd-3hyJU7-7zxHqL

Family prepares for vacation. Photo by Florida Memory on Flickr Creative Commons

Before you set out on your adventure, there are  certain precautions that need to be met so that you don’t feel the need to strangle your family members halfway into the trip. First of all, you need to know the personalities of both yourself as well as your travel partners. If your little brother is impatient, whines all the time or listens to loud movies on the ride down, it would probably be best to put in your earphones and delve into the music for a good portion of the trip or it could turn ugly. If you are on the driving end of the spectrum, there are 2 keys to success. 1) Doing whatever it takes to stay focused behind the wheel and 2) knowing when the time to either stop for the night or let another driver take over. If you do not have another capable driver, it may be necessary to stop a few times at rest stops or hotels to ensure that you make it to the destination safely. One of the more useful tactics for a road trip is to set up a couple of designated areas of interest along the route that will keep the excitement from wearing off and let’s you enjoy the journey along the way. The benefit of driving over flying is that tourist traps spark intrigue for travelers all across the United states and can provide some unique experiences that you wouldn’t find at the more well-known attractions. An example of this would be Bear Country USA in Rapid City, SD. Only 18 minutes away in the shadow of Mount Rushmore lives a wildlife sanctuary drive-through where animals such as bighorn sheep, buffalo and of course bears, come right up to the car and sometimes even poke their head through the window to say hello. Places like these may not get the national attention of a Mt. Rushmore, but they can provide just as much fun. The last thing that is essential is to bring a boatload of snacks that can last for the ride up, and then again for the ride back. Riding down the interstate, fast food restaurants and local eateries call out to hungry travelers who are looking to spend a pretty penny for something to eat. While this is okay every now and then, it could start to put a dent in your wallet before you even make it to your final destination. By stocking up on food such as cookies, chips, granola bars, and sandwiches, it will save travel time and money that could be used for a souvenir instead. Going on a trip with your family is worth the money if you plan accordingly, so enjoy the time you spend together, before you know it, it could be gone.