Beyond Van Gogh – Immersive Experience

Beyond Van Gogh – Immersive Experience

Last summer I absolutely fell in love with Emily in Paris on Netflix and this amazing Van Gogh exhibit she visited in her travels. It was something that as soon as I saw it, knew that I had to go. I started researching the cities the exhibit was in, where I needed to go. Nothing (darn COVID). There was nothing in my area and so I put that on. My list of things to keep checking back on.

I’m glad I did. Beyond Van Gogh is now in Miami with other locations around the state and region too.

I will admit, I didn’t know too much about the artist. Other than the basics that I think everyone knows. I loved Starry, Starry Night when I was in high school and felt very grown up and artsy when I had that image on my first credit card.

When you first enter the exhibit there are rows and rows of artist back story and his history. This area can give a snapshot into the world of Van Gogh and some of his struggles and inspiration. Once inside, you can take as much time as you’d like to walk through and read. To be immersed in his life and feel a little more connected to him.

I was amazed to learn that he signed all of his artwork Vincent, because he thought his last name would be too difficult for people. That broke my heart.

There are only two rooms in the exhibit. The first hall that has the hanging frames about Van Gogh and then the larger main room. They average 20-25 minutes for the first room , and 35 minutes for the second. Although there is no one that actually makes you leave at an hour – it is up to you how long you want the experience to last.

A lot of times I venture out to experiences like this, other parents ask if it’s kid friendly. Absolutely. Although it is different, and something your kids might not have done before…it is an amazing experience for them to go, sit and pause. To take it all in. The colors, the art, the music.

There were plenty of families with kid (including strollers) and if a baby gets fussy, you could easily step out side for a moment. Honestly though, the music was loud enough that it could cover most fussy kid concerns. Once I was in there I was able to block most everything else out.

Both of my sons loved that the art work wasn’t just on the walls. It was everywhere. To watch the paint stretch across the walls and floors along with the music. The art was alive and they could be a part of it. There was something special about that.

There were certain areas that were more congested than others but they still have a limited admission (June 2021) to make sure not too many people are inside at once. I would recommend buying all of the tickets together, because once the time slot is sold out it is difficult to add anyone else one.

Once you exit the exhibit there are awesome picnic tables and hammocks to relax in and grab a snack or drink from the refreshment stand/ cafe. There were actually free range chickens roaming around and the boys loved being able to sit and relax. I loved being able to swing and talk about everything we had just seen instead of just getting in the car and heading home. It was something I wasn’t expecting

No matter what part of the country you are in, I highly recommend looking into the Beyond Van Gogh Experience. Either as a family day (special Sunday rates) or a romantic afternoon date. It’s something I’m glad we were able to experience together and honestly hope other artists can find a spotlight like this as well.

Know Your Numbers — The Best Way to Stay Heart Healthy

Know Your Numbers — The Best Way to Stay Heart Healthy

My family (both sides) has a terrible heart history. A majority of my family members have died from stroke and heart attack. It’s something that honestly, I have never paid attention to even though I have known it will be a problem I encounter in the future.

I know I’m not alone in that. Once we become parents our focus becomes primairly on day to day activities and events. Making sure our kids have what they need, planning vacations, working on homework. Heart health is not something I think about daily.

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jenna Hallquist BSN, RN – the Neuroscience Manager from St. Mary’s Medical Center to talk about my family heart history and go through a quick Stroke Screening with her.

The name is way more intense than what it actually is. You can see some of the questions we reviewed together (above picture). I must admit some of the questions she was asking I couldn’t answer, and I should be able to. It’s something that I know I need to pay more attention to. I’m sure if any mom was asked, we could tell you our weight numbers. It’s something that we are hyper focused on as we work on our health. But more importantly we should be focused on our blood pressure numbers and cholesterol.

I was slightly embarrassed I didn’t know mine. Couldn’t even begin to take a guess.

Jenna was also kind enough to answer a few questions about stroke while I was there.

How can busy moms and parents be aware of the signs of a stroke?

It is quick and easy to identify signs and symptoms of stroke if you remember BEFAST! And Call 911.  (see above image)

B- Balance

E – Eyes

F – Face

A- Arms

S- Speech

T- Time

As she was going over these, I honestly thought I had experienced all of these with the classic cloudy mom brain. Too much multitasking and memory loss. But the difference is huge. This would be something immediately noticeable. Not some one losing their keys, but having absolutely no idea where they are. Think of a dramatic change.

I will say, moms are the worst about putting off doctors appointments for themselves until it is the last minute. When it comes to strokes time matters. If something looks wrong or feels wrong, don’t wait.

What age or factors increase the risk of strokes? 

Anyone at any age can experience a stroke. People older than 65 years are at the highest risk of stroke.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, Smoking, poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle are some of the risk factors you can control as you age to reduce risk.

Moms of child baring age are at higher risk for stroke if they smoke, take birth control and even higher if they smoke and take birth control. Sedentary lifestyles put you at risk too.

If my family has a history of strokes… what are the chances I might have one? 

Your chances increase if you have a family history of stroke. If you have family history of stroke you should be diligent about diet, exercise and blood pressure control.

Because with me, I need to know my next steps. Simple ways to make changes that aren’t going to put too much strain on my mom brain.

I’m also hoping these will become the norm for my boys too.

  1. Limit my cheese (heartbreaking but doable)
  2. Know my blood pressure numbers – I’ll make sure to check every time I go to the grocery store.
  3. Alternate my caffeinated drinks with water. Hopefully this will help me cut back.
  4. More fresh fruits and veggies to meals — with the kids too. (maybe explore local farmers markets for this)
  5. Be brave with the foods we eat. Break out of the routine and try at least one new meal/ healthy choice each week.

Here are the ones I am working toward. Once these become routine, I can incorporate a few more.

I am also going to find my cholesterol numbers from the last time they were checked, and should probably just make an appointment to get updated numbers. The most important thing I can do for myself and my family right now is to KNOW MY NUMBERS. This is the number one way I can make sure I keep my heart in good working order for myself and my family.

For more information on how you can stay heart healthy, book a stroke screening or more ways to stay healthy please visit St. Mary’s Medical Center.

A Family Fun Day in Vero Beach, Florida

Sometimes I feel bad for smaller towns in Florida. The larger cities seem to get most of the attention and unless you’re a local there are tones of spots you may miss.

I actually worked in Vero for a brief time, and never really took the time to explore or get to know the area.

Now that Disney has its reservation system, there are weekends that we aren’t able to go to the parks. I’ve decided to use those weekends to get to know more about where we are.

As I started my research I discovered that the Vero Beach Museum of Art is free the last weekend of every month. As our family travels more and more, finding things that are fun and affordable has climbed high on my list.

Located in a beautiful part of town, this museum is very family friendly. Sometimes I get a little nervous taking young children to places known to be adult oriented, but this was very different. Unfortunately because of COVID their children’s area was not open when we visited (we will make sure to go back later on in the year). But there was a nice outdoor are that we could use relax a bit and get to know more of the art and structures.

Just like other museums, they have exhibits that rotate out seasonally. We were lucky enough to experience a light exhibit that the boys absolutely loved and still talk about.

After the museum, we grabbed our Treasure Coast Wine and Ale Trail and popped into the American Icon Brewery for lunch.

I have driven by here honestly hundreds of times, but never stopped. I’m so glad we added this to our day. It was open and airy with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. There was a large grassy area that the kids were able to run around and let out energy while we enjoyed drinks and large outdoor games to play.

We get asked ALL.THE.TIME. if we are comfortable taking our kids to breweries. Most of the time it is from people who don’t really understand that during the daylight hours…breweries are great for families. The staff is friendly, they know their menu and the pace is casual.

I highly recommend finding a local brewery with a restaurant and starting there.

American Icon Brewery had an extensive menu that the entire family was happy with. Anytime I can order local flights (variety of beers) I do. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to try out new drinks and maybe find a new favorite.

I always ask my server the most popular, as well as what their favorite selection is too. It let’s me add drinks that I might not choose otherwise and I have found some that were amazing.

There was a fun atmosphere here too. So many new things to see and the boys weren’t in a rush to leave. I call that a win.

Of course we wanted to finish out our day with a drive by the beach and fun dessert treat. A local friend of mine recommended Countryside Ice Cream located on Ocean Drive. It’s actually located inside El Sid Taqueria and has a very limited menu — but it was exactly what we were looking for.

I had to order the popular orange and vanilla swirl, it’s their most popular and for good reason. The boys went with classic chocolate sugar cones. There is outdoor seating beside the shop but for the best view…

Make sure to walk behind the building to the beach to enjoy your treats and people watch. This was the perfect way to end the day and would recommend this small spot to anyone in the area.

As we were out exploring there were tons of other small businesses I want to add to our next adventure and can’t wait to get to know Vero Beach a little bit better. Do you have any favorite places in Indian River County?

Out of this World Adventure on the Space Coast

I’ve lived in Florida for 20 years, and honestly still can’t believe this was our first trip to Kennedy Space Center. Every time a rocket launch happens (that luckily we can watch from our yard) I tell myself we need to head up. It’s less than a two hour drive from the Treasure Coast.

I knew with a birthday celebration weekend (and no Covid birthday party) it was the perfect time for my five year old who is currently obsessed with planets.

The first question I get about most places we visit is now about social distancing guidelines and if they are enforced. I have found with most larger places or companies, there are more guidelines.

There were plenty of outdoor spaces and distance markers throughout buildings. Masks were required while we were there and I honestly didn’t see too many people trying to get around that. People did remove their masks for pictures, but that can be said for most places.

Because we had never been there I wasn’t sure what to expect. Something I didn’t realize is that the entire complex is made up of different buildings. It’s not just one big place. Make sure you grab a map when you get there so you know where everything is located. There are also different showtimes that you will need to pay attention to, so you don’t miss a program you might be interested in.

I recommend planning your day or a general idea of your day before you get there.

As you can see there are still a lot of different hands on interactive activities, completely up to you if you are comfortable toughing them…but there are sanitizing stations very close to all of them.

One of the kids favorite places was the Planet Play playground. Before we went I wasn’t sure if I would even show it to the kids because of germs, but once we were there and saw the cleaning procedures in place and was able to chat with the staff members about when and how they clean, I was fine letting the boys play. They could have stayed in that location all day if I would have let them.

While there we of course saw the huge rocket booster leading the way to the Atlantis exhibit. Whatever you do, don’t miss this one. Hands down this was my favorite. Before you get to the actual shuttle, there is a short movie to give a backstory, so even if you don’t have much back story — or any — you can get caught up quickly and feel how awesome this moment is.

Spoiler: once the movie is over the screen lifts up to reveal the actual Atlantis shuttle. It’s there and massive. I stood there imagining its journey and the fact that it had been to OUTER SPACE. I might have “nerded” out but I loved every minute of it.

In typical Florida fashion, it started raining while we were there. Just plan on that. But unlike other parks you may visit…a majority of the exhibits and experiences are inside minus a few. The weather didn’t impact the events of the day. In face when we walked out of Atlantis we honestly didn’t realize it had stormed as much as it did.

There are even some fun pop up experiences — like a photo op with an astronaut — keep your eyes open.

There are a few places to eat, if your kids start to get hangry, but pay attention to the times they are open. When we were there, one location wasn’t open and the other closed before the park did. There are also plenty of places to sit outside and eat if that’s something you enjoy doing. We always make sure to take a selection of snacks and bottled water for when we need to take a little break.

Forever Remembered was beautiful tribute to the Challenger and Columbia crews. Each member that was lost has a tribute to them and who they were outside of the space program. Even the boys were drawn in and wanted to learn more about each crew member.

If you haven’t visited Kennedy Space center recently, whether you live in Florida or are just coming in for a getaway, make sure to plan a day here.

Hospital or Walk In Clinic…What Has More Germs? – 10 Questions with a Pediatric Infectious Diseases Doctor – Palm Beach Children’s Hospital

The first week the country went into lockdown in 2020, my husband announced (quite dramatically) to the kids that we were not going to the hospital if one of them fell and broke their arm while running around in the backyard…

Guess what happened…

You guessed it. My youngest son tripped over the play set ladder and fell on his arm. Wouldn’t you know…day one of staying at home really meant heading to the emergency room. As a mom things are scary enough, but add the unknown on top of it and I was not in a great place. I had a million questions and a year ago, no one had answers.

Time and experience has shed light on some of those questions other parents are still having.

Here are some of the questions I wish I had answers to then, from Pediatric Infectious Diseases Doctor, Chad R. Sanborn, MD — Palm Beach Children’s Hospital at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, FL.

Chad R. Sanborn, MD — Palm Beach Children’s Hospital

1) If I need to –  is it better to take my child to a walk in clinic or hospital? Do hospitals have more germs than clinics? Where is there less risk for exposure? 

 Well, I wouldn’t actually make that decision based upon exposure to germs. While the patients at the hospital are generally sicker, that doesn’t mean they are more contagious or that they even have an infection at all. At a busy walk in center you may be exposed to more germs than at a not so busy hospital emergency department, and vice versa. Both are cleaned regularly after each patient and should have COVID protocols in place to keep potentially contagious patients away from non-contagious ones. Everyone in the medical profession these days is paying extra attention to the possibility of transmitting infections. I would make the decision on where to take your child more on the acuity of the illness – in general, moderate to very sick children should be brought to the Emergency Department and minor illness should be brought to a walk in clinic or to the primary care doctor if possible.

The 138-bed Palm Beach Children’s Hospital is the largest between Fort Lauderdale and
Orlando.

2) Are you limiting people at the hospital? How have visitations changed? 

 Yes. So we allow one parent or caretaker with the child while they are in the Emergency Department or are admitted to the floor. We attempt to limit the number of “change outs” of that caretaker as well.  While visitors are great for patient and family morale, this whole pandemic has made us realize that now is not a great time for friends and extended family to visit a child once hospitalized. For that reason we don’t allow visitors at the moment. The whole point is that while we can control what is happening in the hospital and know the potential exposures/risk of exposure for our patients and their immediate family, we are less sure about those extended visitors. We want to minimize the amount of outside germs from people we are not caring for that get brought in. 

Palm Beach Children’s Hospital has four dedicated units including a 14-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and an
entire floor dedicated to pediatric oncology.

3) What are the wait times usually like at the emergency room? Should only one parent come with their child, or are both parents OK? 

 It varies by the day and time of day, but right now wait times are generally down to a few minutes. we recommend that only one parent come with their child for the same reasons as above. We want to limit the amount of crowding in any particular unit and try to keep as much “outside” germs from entering the hospital as we can.

4) What COVID safety measures are in place in the hospital/ emergency room? 

All of our staff at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital have appropriate and sufficient PPE while caring for patients with diagnosed or suspected COVID related infection. We clean all areas of the hospital frequently, and the housekeeping staff is doing a terrific job of keeping hallways, patient rooms, and common areas as spotless and sanitized as possible. We limit the number of caretakers accompanying a child in the ER and on the Pediatric units. Patients with COVID are put under the appropriate isolation measures and we try to limit the entry/exit of individuals from those rooms. Additionally, all staff are reminded to screen for symptoms daily and avoid work and get tested if feeling ill.  Finally, we have offered vaccination to our hospital staff so those who have gotten vaccinated are much less likely to spread infection ourselves.

5) Is the hospital busier now than this time last year, or less? What are you seeing more of than usual? 

Similar to most medical centers, the hospital is less busy than this time last year. We do see some signs of this changing over the last few weeks, however. I think what we have found is that social distancing and wearing masks REALLY works well at keeping the number of “typical” infections to a minimum. We are seeing almost no influenza, for example. We certainly are seeing COVID and the post infectious Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) cases, but that is by no means the main thing we are seeing at the Children’s Hospital. What we are seeing a lot of are suspected and confirmed appendicitis cases, injuries, and for whatever reason, more newly diagnosed diabetics. For the last two weeks we have been seeing two common seasonal respiratory viruses, Adenovirus and Rhinovirus, which may mean that people are going out and about a bit more.

Palm Beach Children’s Hospital has a 12 bed dedicated pediatric emergency department and a 45-
bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. There is also a DinoSOAR secret garden within the hospital. (pictured above)

6) What do you wish more parents knew about coming to the hospital with their child? 

The hospital IS NOT full of COVID infected children nor is it overcrowded at all. We have safety protocols in place and all staff members are taking great care to ensure that there is no spread of infections throughout the hospital.  The hospital is a safe place for your child to get treated and cared for, and I would not put off an ER visit or doctor visit over fear of you or your child getting infected with Coronavirus as we are all working to care for your family in the safest way possible. 

7) What is the best advice you give to parents about their kids returning back to the classroom? (mask wearing, clothes washing, hand washing) 

All of the above, along with social distancing. I think what we are seeing is that schools do not seem to be “hotspots” of COVID infection, although certainly transmission can occur. I strongly encourage mask wearing as we have found that this works quite well at stopping the spread of infection both in and out of the classroom. To our surprise, what we have seen in many schools and in hospitals/doctor offices is that children, even little ones over age two, are actually quite good at following rules and keeping their masks on! 

I would teach and encourage hand washing as well. While we have found that contact with fomites is not an efficient way to spread COVID, contaminated little hands do find their way to their faces frequently and that may put them higher at risk. I would change and wash the your child’s clothing immediately upon return to the home as well. Finally, it is just as important to monitor what your children are doing after school, be it with friends, in afterschool activities or in sports, particularly if your children are older. We can control what happens within the school and the youngest ones will come home straight away,  but we have to take just as much care with what happens after class and on weekends to prevent the spread of infection. Remember – what you and your children are exposed to affects the entire classroom/school,  not just your immediate family!

DinoSOAR secret garden – a wonderful place for patients and parents to enjoy while undergoing treatment at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital.

8) Most sports and kids activities do not require masks for the children — is this safe? Or would you advise parents to wait to join activities? 

It depends. For outdoor activities, wearing masks may be less important as there is more opportunity for distancing and the virus is being diluted in the air, and there is more airflow in general. For indoor activities, most can be done safely, although this is somewhat higher risk. I would recommend mask wearing when feasible for most indoor activities. I would say whether or not to have your child participate depends on comfort level, developmental stage of the child (i.e. can they follow directions? How self aware are they?) and the home risk factors  (does a high risk unvaccinated individual live with you? Is your child medically fragile or have underlying medical conditions?). So, while there is no “right” answer for everyone, I do think that many activities can be done safely. As with most things, when in doubt, always consult your pediatric provider to see what advice they may have for your particular situation.

9) Is COVID worse in children?

Actually, what we are seeing is the opposite. Children, in general, seem to do quite well with coronavirus infection. While we do care for children acutely sick with COVID in the hospital, that number is surprisingly low. Additionally, we are seeing some incidentally positive children – e.g. patient is admitted for a bad urinary tract infection or an injury and we find that they are COVID positive, but are not sick from COVID. For the children we see with a more serious condition known Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a severe illness that can occur 1-2 months after a coronavirus infection, we often find that the child was infected several weeks prior with minimal if any symptoms. Thankfully this condition is treatable and only a small percentage of infected children go on to develop MIS-C, but we have learned that symptoms from the initial infection in children are often minimal. 

Palm Beach Children’s Hospital provides
resources for the entire family. Child Life Specialists are caring, non-medical professionals who
provide play and diversion therapy to help reduce the stress and anxiety of pediatric patients.

10) What about vaccines for children? When my time comes, should I get one?

So yes, vaccines for children are on the way. There are studies already underway in the 12-18 yr old age group for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and both manufacturers as well as Johnson and Johnson will soon be studying these vaccines in even younger children in a stepwise fashion. While children do get less sick from infection, it will be very important to have them vaccinated to stop the spread in the community and to keep them from being in that small percentage of children who do get very ill from COVID. 

In the meantime, yes, I wholeheartedly recommend vaccine for parents and their loved ones if and when they qualify to receive the vaccine in their community. What we are finding is that they are safe and are highly effective at keeping you from getting very sick from COVID. Additionally, we are beginning to get data that suggest these vaccines stop the spread of asymptomatic infection, which is truly wonderful news. This is our way out of this mess- even us doctors and nurses want to be able to stop wearing masks, see our friends and family, travel, and have a return to “normal.” We are sick of all this just like you are! So I do urge people to get vaccinated, and ask questions of their medical professionals if they have any doubts. The internet can be a great source of information, but it’s no substitute to talking to a trained professional who knows you and your family’s particular situation. 

Although I would love to never have to visit a hospital, as a mom of two very active boys, I know that I more than likely will. I promise it will be at the worst time too…because that’s when things happen.

Knowing that there are such wonderful state of the art resources and medical personnel in South Florida at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital takes a huge weight off of my shoulders as a parent.

Now for the million other things I still have to worry about……

Find out more about all of the services found at Palm Beach Children’s Hospital and how you too can take some of the worry away from your family medical care choices.

Turn Your Space Coast Day Trip into a STAYCATION at Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

We don’t live far from Cocoa Beach — probably about 90 minutes. Far enough that it’s not just a quick pop in place to go during the day, but close enough we could drive up and back the same day if we wanted to.

I didn’t want to.

We planned on visiting Kennedy Space Center for my youngest’s 5th birthday — and instead of a bunch of gifts, we decided to stay the night at Beachside Hotel and Suites. We have become big on gifting experiences and not just “stuff”.

It would be the perfect #staycation location…especially after a long day of exploring, it would be nice to go back to the hotel and hang out at the lazy river. That’s just what we did. I mean… look at it… it’s adorable!

Lazy River at Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

I’m not sure what my boys love more… staying at a hotel, or lazy rivers at a hotel. Either way, this was the perfect way to end our day at Kennedy Space Center and start our stay. Since I knew we were making it a staycation weekend, I made sure to find a location that was pet friendly too. That way we could take our furry family member with us. We requested an early check in, so we could drop off all of our things, let Zero walk around the property a bit and then be on our way.

It was also nice knowing that if we needed to pop in and check on him during the day exploring we could, and he wasn’t far.

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, FL

There was plenty of room at Beachside Hotel… and two separate rooms in case we wanted to put the boys to bed a little earlier. My favorite was that we could sit on the porch right outside of our room and enjoy a few adult beverages, while the boys were relaxing inside. It was a mini date night overlooking the pool on a nice Florida evening.

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

We were also able to take a walk over to the beach, and I made a mental note to book a stay there the next time there was a weekend rocket launch. It is the perfect location. It’s very near the cruise ship ports too… we were able to see a few Disney cruise ships waiting for us (fingers crossed for 2023???) on our drive to Kennedy from the hotel.

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

There was a fun retro “throwback” feel to the property. With their on-site bar and restaurant right next to the sand play area for the boys. We felt right at home, and plenty of room for being socially distant. We had planned on going out for dinner, but once we were there and enjoying the lazy river and sand area… the boys didn’t want to leave. Neither did we. 🙂

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

It occurred to me a few times that evening that we could be driving back home… or we could already be home… but I was so happy that we stayed. It was something we needed and something that felt special. The boys were elated that we were somewhere that felt like a vacation, but it wasn’t too far from home.

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach, Florida

Because of Florida weather, you never know what you are going to get. Locals understand this and always have a backup plan. Even if there are afternoon rain showers, stick around… it will change in a matter of minutes. Something I didn’t know until we got there, and I thought was awesome were the complementary bikes to use around the area.

They also had anything else you might want to take for a weekend away at the beach… one less thing to worry about. We hadn’t planned on popping over to the beach because the forecast hadn’t looked all that favorable, but there was a clear spot in the morning we were able to walk over and grabbed boogie boards for the boys. It was a complete surprise for them but made it look like a was a superhero.

Beachside Hotel and Suites – Cocoa Beach Florida

No matter where you might be in Florida… Beachside Hotel and Suites really does offer the perfect weekend away. Wether you are up the street or a few hours away, it feels like you are on vacation. That’s something we could all use right now… a socially distanced get away with your family. Making memories one weekend at a time.

Stay Where You Play – Wyndham Orlando Resort

I get asked a lot where we stay when we visit Orlando. I always like trying different properties around the city, to see what they offer families, to check their amenities and see what other fun activities might be in the area.

Most of the time Orlando is associated with the larger theme parks, which is absolutely true…but there are plenty of other family activities that aren’t at the parks. Actually at certain times of the year, we AVOID the parks… when everyone else is there. This was the perfect weekend to explore a new area.

We recently stayed at Wyndham Orlando Resort (located on International Drive). International Drive is a main tourist location in Orlando with plenty of restaurants and activities. It is always quite busy and is close to the Orange County Convention Center. Honestly, whatever you might like or want to do… you could find it on International Drive. You can stay where you play.

As you drive on I-4, you see The Wheel at ICON Park. It has become a landmark in Orlando for residents and visitors alike. If you have seen The Wheel, you know exactly where the hotel is located. One amazing feature of the property is its super close location to ICON Park.

Wyndham Orlando Resort has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation to their 613 rooms. With all of the amenities families need while staying for the weekend or longer.

Each room door opens to the outside, which is great when you are traveling with you furry family. I love finding properties that are family and pet friendly. Each room also includes a mini fridge, a 40 inch flat screen tv and Wi-Fi. Can’t leave home without it. I was able to get some work done when we returned from our daily adventures while the boys could rest.

There are also connecting rooms if you are traveling with friends or a larger family. I selected to stay in the new Family Bunk Rooms that have a separate area for the kids (with their own TV). The boys absolutely loved having their own area, and I enjoyed that they weren’t hopping from bed to bed all night. It’s located across from the bathroom, so they were able to leave that light on and feel completely comfortable and a little more independent in their new space at night.

Each morning we took a short drive (totally walkable) to ICON Park for breakfast. Free parking garage by the way!

There was an adorable French inspired cafe – iCafe de Paris – with great coffee and crepes. Along with plenty of outdoor and socially distance seating for the family. we honestly had the place almost completely to ourselves around 9:30am, something to keep in mind.

They call ICON Park a walkable neighborhood because there is so much to do and see. Plenty of restaurants and shops as well as Madam Tussauds Orlando, Sea LIFE Aquarium Orlando, Orlando Starflyer, SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology as well as The Wheel. If you have any hesitations – don’t worry…it goes incredibly slow with no jerking or fast movements. It is relaxing with great views from 400 feet above Orlando.

There are honestly so many options, you could spend the whole day there or depending on the Florida weather you could head back to Wyndham Orlando Resort and enjoy the pool. I have found when we stay at a property so close to all of the activities, it is much easier to take those much needed breaks in the middle of the day that everyone needs. That way we are ready to find new adventures in the afternoon.

Orlando doesn’t have to feel rushed, or busy. If you stay where you play it takes the stress of the roads and traffic away. Slow down…enjoy the moments and create memories.

I Love Christmas Movies – Gaylord Palms 2020

Christmas tradition.

Quite a few things have changed for us this year, I’m sure in your family too. One thing that was have made a habit of doing each and every year was ICE at Gaylord Palms. (see last year’s post here)

Missing it was actually something that I was worried about as the summer rolled around and things were canceled or postponed.

Once I saw Gaylord Palms announce it’s holiday lineup I knew we had to go.

Continue reading “I Love Christmas Movies – Gaylord Palms 2020”

Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf at Walt Disney World – A Disney day without going to the parks…

While in Orlando last month, we wanted to experience a little of the Disney magic but without going to a park. With the new reservation system currently in place, we were not able to just pop on over. I get it, no worries… it gave us time to discover new areas of Disney that we don’t get to see.

Continue reading “Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf at Walt Disney World – A Disney day without going to the parks…”