Steffee Landing Paddling Center on Shingle Creek

Steffee Landing Paddling Center on Shingle Creek
Recently, we had some time on our hands so we visited the Steffee Landing Paddling Center located on Shingle River.
Steffee Landing Paddling Center on Shingle Creek
They rent kayaks for a reasonable fee and were more than happy to give us instructions. The first pleasant surprise was that getting into a two-person kayak was easy and safe. It turns out that they very stable, even more so than canoes. Paddling is very easy, particularly if you ever used a canoe. Within minutes, we were enjoying a paddle down the river towards a Cypress Forest. We chose this direction because we wanted to see the forest, but we also could have gone upriver as well.
For a couple of hours, we were very relaxed and in harmony with the Florida wildlife. During that time, we saw osprey fishing, as well as turtles, sunbathing and swimming.
Also, we saw fish in the clear water, some over a foot long and not very afraid of the boat. There are also hiking and biking trails at the same landing as well as at other landings on the creek. Fortunately, for us, it was a slightly cool and overcast day. Between the weather and the shade of the trees, we were not sunburned or overheated from the paddling. Still, we would suggest you bring drinking water and suntan lotion with you. You might even want to pack a snack to eat on the way.
We paddled by other kayakers going in the opposite direction and shared our sightings with each other. At the furthest point from the landing, we were in the heart of a Cypress forest and the open waterway was becoming very narrow.
At that point, we opted to turn around and slowly head back. I must admit that Kayaking on Shingle Creek is an experience to savor while slowly cruising along and observing Florida’s nature at its finest.
As an interesting side note, the Steffee Landing is located just off the very busy highway US 192. You would never expect to find the very tranquil world there waiting for you to enjoy. All in all, it was an afternoon of pleasant surprises around each and every turn in the river.


Steffee Landing Paddling Center on Shingle Creek

Biking in Kissimmee

Biking in Kissimmee

Thinking about squeezing in a little Biking in Kissimmee while you are in the area………you won’t be disappointed!

Biking is a great way to get up close and personal with the Orlando area.  With the many bike trails in the area, there is sure to be one for you. You can even find places to rent the bikes, so don’t just think about squeezing a ride in, plan on it!

Read All about Biking in Kissimmee

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex


If anyone in your family is a space enthusiast, the Visitor Complex at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is a must see!  Here you can stand beside rockets that you have seen on TV or in history books from all the different NASA space programs.  If you are lucky enough to be in town at the right time you can even view a rocket launch at the Visitor Complex, close enough to actually feel the rumble of the engines!

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

All the attractions are grouped into five different Mission Zones. Each Zone corresponds to a different space era from the dawn of space flight right up to today.

Mission Zone: Heroes & Legends, Early Space Adventures

Learn about USA’s first space explorers at the US Astronaut Hall of Fame and walk among their chariots of fire in the Rocket Garden.  You might even meet a real astronaut at the Astronaut Encounter Presentations.

Graveyard at Kennedy Space center

Mission Zone: NASA Now, Exploring Space in Current and Future Missions

This zone deals with the current missions to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as upcoming deep space exploration.  You can look at earth the same way the astronauts see it in the 3D IMAX Theater or travel to the red planet in Journey to Mars.  During the Mission Status Briefing, you can learn about current NASA missions and operations.  You will also hear about launch activity from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.

Mission Zone: Shuttle: A Ship Like No Other

In this Mission Zone, you can visit the iconic Space Shuttle Atlantis in its permanent exhibit.  These shuttles took astronauts to space and back for thirty years.  You can practice landing and docking in simulators and then feel the lift off at the Shuttle Launch Experience.

Mission Zone: Race To The Moon, Apollo/Saturn V Center

There are few occasions in United States history that unified our country like the race to the moon did.  This Mission Zone explores some of the glory of that time period.  You can relive one of the launches in the old launch room.  Walk under the full length of a Saturn V rocket, the largest rockets ever were flown.  Finally, relive the last few minutes before those famous words “the Eagle has landed.”

Carrier at Kennedy Space Center

Mission Zone: Behind the Gates, Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour

Take the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour in order to get behind the gates of the restricted area.  This was the highlight of my visit to KSC.  See a historic launch site or even a rocket being prepped.  The bus drivers have tremendous knowledge of the whole site.  They share it with you as you slowly make your way through the various launch areas and buildings.

You will not be disappointed when you visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.  It is well worth the price of admission.


Celebration, FL

Looking for an evening of quiet? No large crowds- no lines. Then spend an evening in Celebration, Florida. Let me warn you there are NO McDonalds or strip malls here. Just small-town American quiet time.

What is Celebration?

Celebration, FL Market Street
Market Street looking down to Lake Rianhard

The Walt Disney Company wanted to develop a community that mirrored the Disney brand and legacy. Disney-owned a 16-acre parcel of land south of World Drive. The executives at Disney Development Company oversaw its planning and architecture, as well as the town’s education and health policies. The rule book is said to be large, and it outlines all the rules set for the community.  Among the items are: no two adjacent homes can look the same, all blinds or curtains must have a white back that faces the street, and any outdoor plants or decorations must meet the specifications.

The architecture is planned in an early 20th-century and Victorian style, with a Caribbean flare. One of the master architects, Robert A.M. Stern, is known for his New Urbanist and Postmodernist style. He served on The Walt Disney Company Board of Directors from 1992 to 2003 and is dean of the Yale School of Architecture, serving since 1998. His other Disney works include the Disney Beach Club Resort, the Disney Yacht Club Resort, the Disney Boardwalk Resort, and the Disney Casting Center.

Although Disney sold its stake in the town in 2004, they remain the largest landowner and they continue to occupy space in the towns office buildings as well as ownership of the two utility companies that provide services to the town.

In the summer of 1996, the first residents moved into the town. Celebration continues to be an unincorporated town, therefore falling under the same zip-code as Kissimmee, FL. The 2010 census shows approx 7500 people reside in Celebration and its population is overwhelmingly white, middle class and affluent. The median income is $92000 per family.

Visiting Celebration Town Center

The town center consists of two main roads; Market Street and Front Street. We find the best parking to be behind the Suntrust bank accessed by Sycamore St.

There are a lot of options for dining and shopping. Choose from pizza to Japanese, from quick to upscale. Browse through the shops for fancy clothes, jewelry, gift items, and even a treat for the dog at Wolf Gang Bakery. A must stop is Le Macaron for a delish dessert.

Click on the links for a full list of dining and shopping choices.

celebration, FL Lake Rianhard
Lake Rianhard looking at the Bohemian Hotel

Not interested in shopping?

There are other options besides shopping and dining. Maybe one of these would interest you.
  • Take a stroll around the Lake Rianhard and look for alligators, birds, and nature
  • Rent a bike and cycle around town
  • Visit the Farmer’s Market, held every Sunday morning
  • Attend a church service at one of the six churches
  • Play in the water fountain on Front Street near the entrance to Celebration Lakeside Park
  • Sit in the rocking chairs by the lake and converse with others
  • Get a manicure and haircut at a nearby salon
  • Take in a round of golf at the Celebration Golf Club
  • Attend an event

Celebration hosts many events throughout the year. Some of them are resident only- so be sure to check the website before heading out.  Popular events include art shows, exotic car festivals, Oktoberfest, and Now Snowing Nightly.

Click here for a full list of events and dates

Celebration, Fl Now snowing Nightly
Now Snowing Nightly is a popular event taking place on Market Street every evening in December.

Now Snowing Nightly

Now Snowing Nightly happens every night during the month of December. Town Center transforms into a winter wonderland, tropical style, with snow falling hourly on Market Street. Ice skating, horse and buggy rides, and train rides add to the festivities. Be sure to stop by and tell Mr. & Mrs. Santa Clause what you want for Christmas!
Celebration is a must do stop for us when we are visiting the area. It is a pleasant break from the parks, crowds and noise.

#Disney #Universalstudios #orlando #

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Discovering Florida’s Manatees

Discovering Florida’s Manatees

Discovering Florida's Manatees

Discovering Florida’s Manatees

Your winter trip to Florida will be more exciting if you take the time to experience the manatees in their natural habitat. These gentle giants are fascinating to watch and you may learn something about them along the way. We were happy to learn about Crystal River and how to find the manatees.

Where Do I Find Them?

Crystal River is located along the gulf coast about 90 miles from Orlando. The city is situated around Kings Bay.  Kings Bay is the headwater to the Crystal River. There are about 30 known springs in the bay.   These springs provide a consistent water temp of about 70-72 degrees, making the area ideal for the manatee. Manatees can be found year round in the bay. However, the population rises dramatically during the cold, winter months of  December-February.

A cow and her calf escaping the cold by swimming in the spring at Three Sisters Springs
A cow and her calf escaping the cold by swimming in the spring at Three Sisters Springs

About the Manatees

The manatees found in Florida are of the West Indian Species. Manatees are generally salt water animals. However, recent studies have shown that manatees need to have access to fresh water. This helps them to regulate the salts within their bodies.

Manatees, cannot survive in water temps below 68 degrees. They like to spend as much as 50% of their day submerged sleeping, rising about every 20 minutes for air.

Manatees are herbivores and are plant eaters, sometimes known a Sea Cows.  When eating they resemble cows grazing on land.  They are peaceful in nature.

Female manatees generally tend to be heavier than their male counterparts. They can weigh as much as 2000 lbs.

Calves can come to the surface on their own for their first breath.  Gestation is 12 months and weaning is usually complete in 12-18 months.

What We Learned

  1. First of all, you must decide if you want to see them by water or by land. Federal law requires there is no interaction between the land and the water. Meaning if you arrive by water (kayak or snorkeling tour boat) you must leave by water. You cannot go onto land at any time. If you go by land you cannot enter the water at any time.

2. The Endangered Species Act provides protection for the manatees.  You must follow the federal laws at all times.

 Some of these include:

You cannot initiate any interaction with the manatees. Look but do not touch!

You cannot access certain areas.

Avoid excessive noise around the manatees.


  1. According to The City of Crystal River’s website, Crystal river is “ is the only place in the United States where people can legally interact with them in their natural conditions without that interaction being viewed as harassment by law enforcement agencies. ”  Follow the instructions of the manatee volunteers and local/federal officials. They are looking out for the best interest of the manatees.
Kayakers and boaters near the entrance of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River.
Kayakers and boaters near the entrance of Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River.

Access By Water


Kayak rentals are very popular in Crystal River. There are several businesses in Crystal River who rent them. Prices and launch locations vary by company.

Snorkeling in Three Sisters Spring, Crystal River
Snorkelers are enjoying themselves with the manatees in Three Sisters Springs, Cyrstal River.


Crystal River is the only place in the US where you can snorkel with the manatees. Several businesses offer tours. Most provide wetsuits, snorkels, and a training session. depending on the business, full or half-day tours are available.

I have been told this is quite the experience and I may consider this next year.

Here is a YouTube video of one family’s experience.


Access By Land

The only spring in Kings Bay that is accessible by land is the Three Sisters Springs with the  Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge managing the area.  We chose the land entry and our experience with the manatees was incredible. The boardwalk provided us ample to time walk the springs and view the manatees.  Grassy trails also took us to other areas to view manatees in the canals.  The only entry into the refuge is by trolley. To purchase tickets for the trolly, click here.

It was a perfect break for us from the theme parks and we learned a lot from the manatee volunteers about these gentle sea creatures.

#mantees #floridawildlife #crystalriver

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Have you ever wanted to see a real-live rocket launch?

Have you ever wanted to see a real-live rocket launch?
Rocket Launch Cape Canaveral
Rocket Launch Cape Canaveral

Have you ever wanted to see a real-live rocket launch?  Luckily, just over an hour drive, you can experience the thrill of seeing a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.  And the best part is- it is totally FREE.

Getting NASA passes can be expensive and they are limited. If the launch is scrapped, you lose out on both the experience and your money. By going to the viewing area frequented by the locals, and on a clear day, you can view the rocket launch for approximately four minutes into flight.  If you bring binoculars, sometimes you can see it for longer.

Space View Park

Space View Park in Titusville is located along the Indian River, directly across from NASA’s Launch Complex 39. The park is small and parking is free.   Plan to arrive about one hour before the scheduled launch. If the park parking is full, park across the street behind the Well’s Fargo Bank.

This park has a long pier you can explore or, if you choose, to sit on during the launch. A word of caution- portions of the pier do not have railings so be sure to hold onto little ones.  Also as an added bonus, the manatees sometimes frequent this area and you can see them in their natural habitat.

Space X Park

What to Bring

Bring your own beach chairs and a cooler with dinner, snacks and beverages. There is plenty of space to sit along the edge of the water or further back in the park.   The  fantastic view and the camaraderie among the locals adds to the experience. The locals are very eager to share their experiences with past rocket launches.  Many were willing to share their binoculars to get a better view of the rocket on the Launchpad.

You can monitor the control room action from your mobile device.  Many times launches get delayed or scrapped even in the countdown. We tuned into, but there are other websites such as that have regular updates. Be sure to bring an external battery in case there is a delay. For the Pokemon Go players, this park is a Pokestop and there were plenty of catches to be had!

Going to the space launch was a highlight for us in our last trip to Florida.  I highly recommend seeing at least one if the timing works for your visit. Be sure to see our video of the event.


Click on the links for more information on the Launch schedule from NASA and Kennedy Space Center


Directions from Kissimmee to Titusville (google Maps)

Space View Park, 17 Orange St, Titusville, FL 32796

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Discover Orlando

Download your FREE copy of Discover Orlando Today.

Find out what to see and do in Orlando with this Discover Orlando guide.  Explore theme parks, attractions, golf, day trips, biking, fishing and more in this comprehensive guide.  Added bonus is a 2017 Walt Disney World Crowd calendar and the refurbishment schedule.



The Rain Survival Guide; 5 Ways To Enjoy The Rain In Orlando

oh boy its raining
Oh no! You’ve arrived in Sunny Florida to find out there is a rainy day in the forecast.   Although the Florida sun does shine an average of 300 days per year,  there are also many rainy days.  During the summer months,  from June to September, the heat can spawn daily afternoon showers.  These showers are usually short and intermittent. Here are several ideas to help you enjoy the rain.
raining poncho

Be Adventurous and Go To the Parks Anyway

Break out that rain poncho you brought with you  (What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You; 12 Must Haves For The Parks) and enjoy the smaller crowds in the parks.  Most queues are covered and there are plenty of indoor attractions:  It’s Tough To Be A Bug! at Animal Kingdom, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom, Muppet Vision 3-D show at Hollywood Studios are all indoor attractions to enjoy during the heavier rains.  If you are playing the Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure at EPCOT game, head for the Mexican Pavilion and play entirely indoors.
Photo Credit: mcchots   Creative Commons License

Go To I-360 Drive

There are numerous places to visit in this area for indoor activities. Madame Tussauds, Skeletons: Animals Unveiled, WonderWorks Orlando, iFly Orlando and the SeaLife Aquarium are all indoor activities in the I-360 drive area. There are plenty of entertainment and learning venues to be found.  See our Insider’s Guide: I-360 Drive for more details.


Shop Until You Drop

Orlando is known for its theme parks but it  also known has great shopping centers and malls that cater to all preferences and budgets. In addition, Highway 192 is lined with numerous gift shops to bring back that special Florida souvenir.  See our Insider’s guide: Shopping page for information about several of the area malls.
day trip

Take a Day Trip 

Check the weather radar often because the rain can be local to certain areas.  Just an hour drive may bring you back to the Florida sun that you are seeking. If you travel west, explore the gulf coast beaches.  Our favorite is watching the pelicans dive into the water on Anna Maria Island’s Holmes Beach.  Traveling east will take you to Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach.  The Kennedy Space Center is located on Cape Canaveral. If you drive north to Ocala, you can see some of the finest horse farms in the country.  The nationally renowned horseman, Pat Parelli, has a ranch in the Ocala area that we visit when we are up there.
reading wine

Plan for Some Down Time

A trip to Orlando and its theme parks can often times leave you feeling like you haven’t had time to rest and relax. Instead of rushing off to do more, enjoy a day at your vacation rental home. You will be glad you didn’t rent a cramped hotel room.  Let the kids play in the home’s game room, curl up with your favorite book and a cup of tea or rent a Disney movie that features your favorite attraction from the parks; our favorite is Monsters Inc.  Making a special family meal together in the fully-equipped kitchen is a great way to connect and make memories.

No matter what your family decides to do on a rainy day in Orlando, you are sure to find something for everyone. Have fun playing in the rain!

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