Seaworld

Welcome Homes USA can not recommend Seaworld highly enough! It is one of our favorite parks and has something for everyone! If you need a break from running between rides at other parks, you can spend a whole day sitting and resting your feet in all the incredible shows they put on. If you are concerned about having to explain to teachers about going a couple of days over school vacation – this park offers an education your children will never experience behind a desk! They can’t fail to come away with a profound compassion for the sea life on our planet and a deep respect for the experts who take care of the beautiful creatures they will see in the parks. This brings us on to the amazing work Seaworld does in using their experience and knowledge to save our beautiful and unique wildlife in Florida. When they are called upon to help animals who have encountered problems in the wild they do not fail. Take a look here when The Seaworld Rescue Team were integral to saving 19 manatee from Satellite Beach. There are numerous articles like this one where wild animals would have had a less favorable outcome with the help Seaworld provided.

There is an array of behind the scenes tours to take your budding animal experts on. You will see Beluga Whales, walruses, stingray, dolphins, penguins, sealions, turtles, manatee and so much more!

For the adrenaline junkies this park offers arguably some of the best rides in Orlando. Mako, Kraken and Manta are not to be missed, there truly is nothing else like them nearby. For the little ones Shamus Happy Harbor provides hours of fun. 

Not to be outdone on the gourmet front, as well as plenty of quick serve establishments to eat in,  if you feel like treating yourselves, Sharks Underwater is a must – beautiful food while your scenery of the creatures of the deep are constantly changing and going about their business!

All in all, a must for visitors of all ages….. and we haven’t begun to sing the praises of Seaworld Christmas spectacular! 

Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf – Disney

Fantasia gardens is home to two (there is a pun there somewhere!!) miniature golf courses.  The first a more traditional ‘crazy golf’ course, complete with tutu wearing hippos, sorcerer Mickey and even a few squirting broomsticks!  The second is a more conventional looking golf course but on a miniature scale. This course features bunkers, sloping greens  and even sand traps on it’s 18 holes which range in length from 63 to 109 feet!

It is important when visiting Fantasia Gardens not to expect a crazy golf version of Magic Kingdom.  If you want loud colorful excitement you may be disappointed.  This is more of a peaceful meander through lakes and streams while you putt into 18 holes to unwind from the thrills and spills of the theme parks. Gentle music from the film ‘Fantasia’ plays while you aim past the odd moving obstacle and a couple of the holes even treat you to a tune when you succeed in putting through a tunnel or into the hole!

Here at Welcome Homes USA we want you to enjoy your time in this wonderful State of Florida.  We thoroughly recommend a visit to this attraction for those in need of a little chill out time.  Those who expect vibrant excitement may prefer alternative attractions.

Florida’s Wildlife

Here at Welcome Homes USA we want your stay to be a safe stay! This is information worth knowing whilst in Central Florida and staying at one of our lovely Condos or Homes.

INSECTS
Florida is notorious for its prolific insect life, and for this reason your holiday home with Welcome Homes USA is treated both inside and outside on a regular basis. Therefore, to make your stay more comfortable, please do not leave food or drink on counter tops, in wash baskets and specially on the pool deck, and avoid leaving dirty or damp clothes laying around. If you are not doing these recommendations, you are inviting these “uninvited guests” to come into your home. Please do not leave doors and windows open this increases insect infestation and prevent the A/C from working efficiently.

WATCH OUT
There are different animals that you have to be aware of: Snakes, Alligators and Spiders.

Snakes
There are 45 species of snakes found in florida, but there are only 6 venomous. Here are some that are venomous and non-venomous that you may encounter.

Coral Snake-VENOMOUS
They are quite secretive and are usually found under debris and in the ground but occasionally they are found in the open and have even been seen climbing the trunks of live Oaks. Good numbers of them are exposed when pine flat wood are bulldozed, particularly in south Florida

If you see what you think is a coral snake, remember this saying “if red touches yellow, it can kill a fellow (coral snake): if red touches black, it is a friend of Jack (Scarlet kingsnake, or scarlet snake).

coral snake

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake-VENOMOUS
Diamondbacks are often found in pine flat woods, longleaf pine and turkey oak and sand pine scrub areas. These habitats contain palmetto thickets and gopher tortoise burrows in which the diamondback may seek refuge. Humans had invaded many of the florida’s pine flat woods and scrub areas which now contain farms, homes and shopping plazas. As a result, the displaced diamondbacks sometimes turn up in backyards, golf courses, and even parking lots.

This is a large impressive and potentially dangerous snake, it can strike up to 2/3 its body length: a 6 foot specimen may strike 4 foot. These factors, as well as others, make this snake that should be left alone.
diamondback

Cottonmouth Water Moccasin-VENOMOUS
Cottonmouths are found in any wetland or waterways, although they occasionally wander far from water, and have been found in bushes and trees. Their bites can be quite dangerous. The victim should seek immediate medical care from a physician or hospital experienced in treating snakebite. The dangerous semi-aquatic snake is truly an aggressive reptile that will stand its ground or even approach an intruder.

cotonmouth

Alligators
Alligators our found in freshwater swamps and marshes, rivers, lakes and small bodies of water. Alligators near human habitation are often seen crossing roads, entering suburbs and finding shelter in swimming pools during the drier months. In some areas, increasing alligator population creates problems with humans on the edge of alligator habitat, and “nuisance alligator” programs are required to deal with them. These involve catching and roaming animals which have roamed too far into human habitation, or which pose a potential threat to people.

Alligator

FEEDING ALLIGATORS IS ILLEGAL IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA!

Spiders
Brown Widow-VENOMOUS
It is primarily found in Florida, it is Venomous and has a neurotoxin like the black widow, although it injects less venom than the black widow. All widows can be identified by the red-hor glass shape on their abdomen.

brown widow

Black Widow-VENOMOUS
Black widow bites are sharp, painful and venomous; the victim should go to the doctorimmediately for treatment. To control the black widow, carefully remove all materials where they might hise. This can be cleaned out of an area simply by knocking down the webs, spiders and round tan egg sacs with a stick and crushing them underfoot.

black widow

Brown recluse spider-VENOMOUS
The most recognized feature of the Brown Recluse Spider is its violin pattern on the cephalothorax or in other words te location of the top side of the spider near the head. the Recluse Spider’s bite has the effect of creating a scar around the portion of the bite as venom destroys the tissue and attacks the muscle, also called the flesh-eating spider. Immediate medical attention is required when bitten.

Top 10(+1) Things to do in Central Florida

If you are here for a week or a lifetime, there are many things to do in Orlando, The City Beautiful. Look below and see the Top 10 Things to do in Central Florida. Whether it is the first time visiting or not, there’s always something new. If you need a little help planning out your vacation, Please Click here.

1. Walt Disney World: It’s still king of the hill: or rather, of the very, very flat land. Spread over an area the size of Boston are: 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, best place with little kids; EPCOT; Disney Hollywood Studios; and Animal Kingdom); two water-parks (see below); 14 themed resorts that are fun in themselves; and more. Make sure you have a game plan, before you enter the World!

2. Seaworld is one of Central Florida’s gems that shouldn’t be missed! It offers a fantastic variety of unique thrill rides (in our opinion the best Central Florida has to offer!), inspiring shows which combine humorous entertainment with a fundamental message about caring for our planet and the animals that inhabit it, as well as remarkable interactive opportunities with beautiful sea creatures including stingray and dolphin. If you would like to find out more, check out our blog under the Florida Guide/Theme Park tab.

3. WDW Character Meals: They sing, they dance, they pose for pix…Yes, dining with Disney characters is expensive, but all food is costly at WDW, and a Character Meal gives you much for your bucks– for ex., a giant buffet with kids’ section, at the Crystal Palace (left.) A late breakfast can serve as lunch, late lunch as early dinner. Read all about Character Meals at Disneys Information Guide. Cinderella’s Royal Table is a favorite breakfast spot

4. WDW Water Parks: Wacky in their theming, and Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are both (a) tons of fun, and (b) lovely tropical places to spend a day. Arrive early; stake out a shady bower; then enjoy the lazy rivers, giant water slides, and family raft rides each park offers. Blizzard Beach is known for a crazily steep waterslide “ski jump” on “Mt. Gushmore”. Highlights at Typhoon Lagoon are a giant surf pool, and a snorkel over a (usually crowded) coral reef. Admission to both waterparks is included in a Park Hopper pass.

5. Universal Studios: Orlando’s other multi-park destination is Universal Florida, and its Islands of Adventure theme park has a top zone for little kids: the 10-acre Seuss Landing, based on the beloved books of Dr. Seuss. It’s a bit odd to see The Lorax (with its distinctly anti-commerical message) in a theme park, but now’s not the time to care: kids will love the Seuss characters, The Cat in the Hat ride, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish ride, and more.

6. Islands of Adventure for Thrill Seekers: Universals’ Islands of Adventure theme park is also great for teens and ‘tweens who want to scream. The Hulk and Dueling Dragon coasters are guaranteed to thrill. Also not to be missed: The Spiderman “ride”, not a coaster but an amazing 3-D simulator experience plus a 4th dimension of surprise sensations. Sister park, Universal Florida likewise has great rides based on Men in Black, ET, and Back to the Future, to name a few faves.

7. Spend a Day at your Vacation Villa: The pace at theme parks can be grueling, especially for little kids. Many a parent has said, “All they (the children) wanted to do was play in the pool at the home.” So give the kids a day to do just that. All of our homes have private pools and many other properties in Orlando are in the fun-for-kids biz.

8. Visit Disney Springs: So you’ve spent a day relaxing at your resort… evening comes and you want to go somewhere fun, with no admission price. Downtown Disney is a shopping/entertainment zone that takes up 120 acres in Disney World. Eat at the Rainforest Cafe, stroll past full-size lego figures outside the Lego Imagination store, buy chocolate at Ghiradelli’s (free samples!) Money burning a hole in your pocket? Head to DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, or to the acclaimed Cirque de Soleil show.

9. Enjoy a Meal at City Walk: You’ll also find a shopping/ entertainment zone at Universal Florida: CityWalk, which has the advantage of actually adjoining its two theme parks. Much of CityWalk is geared to party-ers but kids will get a kick out of the theme restaurants, such as Nascar Cafe with game area; Hard Rock Cafe, with giant desserts, music videos, and rock memorabilia; and NBA City Orlando, with videogames and a giant screen showing basketball..

10. Discovery Cove: Want a quick trip to the Caribbean? Here in land-locked Orlando, Discovery Cove is a deluxe simulation of a Caribbean isle. Snorkel at the Coral Reef, and see not only colorful fish but giant (harmless) stingrays. The river float is beautiful: swim under a waterfall, and through the aviary. Take a break on the white sand beach: don’t worry about crowds, as attendance is limited to 1000 a day. The highlight for many is a Swim With Dolphins. Not surprisingly, Discovery Cove is pricey; but at least the price is all-inclusive– even drinks and meals. Which makes it even more like being at a Caribbean resort!

11. LegoLand Florida: LEGOLAND® Florida, Central Florida’s newest theme park, is a 150-acre, full two-day interactive family theme park specifically designed for families with children ages 2 to 12. The largest LEGOLAND Park in the world, it features more than 50 rides, shows, and attractions, restaurants, shopping, a breathtaking botanical garden and the all-new LEGOLAND Water Park. Just 45 minutes from Orlando and downtown Tampa, LEGOLAND Florida rests along the shores of Lake Eloise in the city of Winter Haven. Here guests can enjoy 10 easy-to-navigate and highly-themed zones that include pink-knuckle roller coasters, Miniland USA, the Imagination Zone and LEGO City where youngsters can learn how to drive by freely navigating their own boats and LEGO cars. The all-new LEGOLAND Water Park is a “park within a park” and provides splish-splashin’ fun for the whole family. Main attractions include the Build-A-Raft River where guests can build their own LEGO raft and float down the 1,000-foot lazy river or play for hours at the Joker Soaker water playground. Other attractions include the LEGO Wave Pool, five slippery-fast water slides and the DUPLO® Splash Safari, a toddler-haven with perfectly-sized slides and a zero-depth wading pool.

Experience the brand new LEGO World of Chima presented by Cartoon Network at LEGOLAND Florida with the KIDS GO FREE offer, which includes a free child’s ticket AND a free SPEEDOR with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket! Get immersed in the Quest for CHI family water ride!

Fun Spot – Orlando

Whether you’re traveling with a family or just with your partner Welcome Homes USA recommends visiting Fun Spot because it’s the perfect place to have a fun adventure and create new memories.

 

Fun Spot in Kissimmee is just 1 out of the 2 Fun Spot parks in Florida. The other one is in Orlando. This one is right off of 192 and it’s filled with attractions and activities that please all age groups! From go-carts, to thrill rides, a kiddy park and much more!

Fun Spot Go Karts
Fun Spot – Go Karts

Keep in mind that the height requirements for the go-carts varies depending on the type of course it is. If it’s the regular ones, you must be 56’’, and the taller courses requires you to be 54’’. When you’re approaching the go-carts there’s multiple rows. The number of people a go-cart can hold is color coded. The blue ones are for single riders and the red ones are for those pairing up, or for parents who are riding with a child.

Although the go-carts is what attracts many visitors, Fun Spot has much more instore for you. They include an unforgettable ride called The Hot Seat. It stands about 100 feet tall, and you get lifted high up in the air making a 180 degree angle back and forth. This ride made me feel butterflies in my stomach as I felt like I was about to go upside down! The line and wait time was so short and I definitely had a blast. In addition to the Hot Seat, Fun Spot has another ride called the Screaming Eagles. It’s a ride that elevates you high up in the air while going in circles at a fast speed. This one was so much fun and I enjoyed the relaxing view.

This is just 2 of Fun Spot’s attractions but they also have the Rockstar Rollercoaster and I was so eager to ride it when I first got there. You first begin in a cart that you sit in with 3 other people and you start to move higher and higher until you can see the whole park. It had so many crazy turns and unexpected drops, I had to ride it twice. This is one you absolutely have to ride!

Fun Spot games area
Fun Spot Amusement park

For all you gamers out there Fun Spot includes a 2-story, air conditioned arcade where you can enjoy your favorite popular games known today. The arcade even includes thrilling simulators and classic games like Pacman. A whole day could be spent playing in there. I almost lost track of time and forgot we had rides to get on! There’s a variety of activities to choose from that’s suitable for everyone!

Fun SPot swings
Fun Spot swings

Families with young children would also enjoy Fun spot because they also include an entire kiddy-park completely dedicated to the younger crowd, typically for kids from 2-6 years old. With things like swings, a fun slide and a mini roller-coaster it brings joy even to those who aren’t tall enough to ride the bigger rides and this makes sure that no one misses out on the fun.

Fun Spot also includes little areas around the park where you can enjoy your fair favorites like funnel cake, cotton candy, popcorn, and more.

The Fun Spot website also makes it very easy for you to navigate through it and purchase your specific ticket there. There are booths available at the park as well, and they offer different combos depending on what you want to participate in at the park. Also, if you or your party would like to come back a couple more times, you can consider purchasing season passes, where you can have blast all year long!

The park hours are typically from 10am to midnight. So even if you started your day late you can always still come and enjoy Fun Spot’s attractions all night long!

Crayola Experience


At first glance from inside The Florida Mall you may think The Crayola Experience is just a store selling Crayola goods.  However, this would be a huge mistake if you have children under the age of 12!  They would be missing out on one of the most creative and fun days Florida has to offer!  I say that after my four, soon to be five year old daughter’s comments and constant requests to return and even have her birthday party there!
 Crayola 4
The fun begins while you queue to buy your ticket.  Three giant interactive Crayola crayons are projected onto the wall and copy the dances and jumps that your little one performs while standing on the foot markings in front of the screen. The whole family is issued with a plastic bag big enough to carry all your creations – so you can ‘make and take’!!  Each bag has two tokens for the only two exhibits that require an additional payment – this allows your little one to personalise their own crayon wrapper with their name and choice of picture, print it then wrap their own crayon.  They can use the other token in the Model Magic dispenser then sit and create their own model, with the help of tools and designs provided.  This means there is no additional cost once inside unless of course you get pestered to purchase additional tokens for crayons to wrap or extra model magic.  However, tokens are not expensive and if you chose not to there is so much more they will be distracted by!
 Crayola 2Crayola 1
In the next experience you can all star in your very own colouring page!  Pick a design on the computer, strike a pose then print out the black and white colouring sheet to either colour there, take home or even get printed onto a t-shirt in the shop downstairs! (Understandably there is a charge for the t-shirt!).  Even the grown ups were finding this fun! Pull as many faces and print as many pages as you like – although if a queue starts to develop it is good to consider the kiddies waiting behind!Crayola 3
They get to melt crayons in a special machine that then drips the wax onto a paper plate on a turntable which spins at the control your child, so that their creation is absolutely unique to them. In a similar station, they get to chose a shape to melt a crayon of their choice into – to create a seahorse, shark, ring or car crayon to take home with them.

 There is a lovely area where they can chalk on walls, play hop scotch and even colour a play house and car – I think the rebel in our daughter loved this area and our own car now has a ‘decorated’ seat belt so make sure you let them know this is allowed a Crayola Experience only!

 With 25 hands-on attractions in all you could easily spend a day here.  We packed it all into three hours but we did have to drag our little angle out of the ‘Toddler Town’ play area, and she would happily have returned to each area again and again! 

Welcome Homes USA thoroughly recommends adding this unique experience to your vacation as a welcome, air conditioned break from the heat or shelter from our infamous afternoon downpours here in Florida!  It is also an opportunity to take a seat, rest your feet after the miles they have trekked at the parks and let the creative side of your children run wild.  They can even take their creations into school when they are back home to show their teachers how educational their trip away has been!

Narcoossee’s – Grand Floridian

Narcoossee’s, Disney’s Grand Floridian’s signature restaurant, is a gem not to be missed.  Located on the waterfront, this restaurant provides panoramic views of The Seven Sea’s Lagoon, taking in the top of Cinderella’s Castle.  In the evening ,the verandah not only allows a close up viewing of the often missed Electrical Water Pageant, but also a unique, uncrowded observation point for spectacular views of Wishes Fireworks Display.  The synchronized display music is even fed to speakers on the verandah, making the stunning reflections across the water even more atmospheric.
narcoossee-varanda-view
As if the exceptional dining experience wasn’t enough, the food here can only be described as out of this world!  The menu includes dishes from Two-pound Maine Lobster, Key west Shrimp to Filet Mignon to cater for meat as well as sea food lovers.  As for the Rhode Island Calamari, what can I say, the best we have tasted!  Personally, I am usually able to stop eating when I am full, but the quality and taste of all the courses served up at Narcoossee’s rendered it impossible for me to leave anything on my plate, despite feeling gorged!  Even the photo’s I took of the food do not show the plate untouched as we were so keen to tuck in the photo taking took a back seat!
Narcoossee 1Narcoossee 2
Welcome Homes USA would not want you to be disappointed in any way, and so if you are expecting a sophisticated atmosphere found at other Disney high end restaurants such as The Contemporary’s California Grill, your expectations may not be met.  The wooden floor and lack of music makes it a little noisy in the restaurant. Non the less, we cannot recommend Narcoossee’s highly enough, it is truly a fantastic dining experience not to be missed.

It is worth letting the restaurant know if it is special occasion when you make your reservation.  They served up a beautiful desert with a “Happy Anniversary” chocolate message to my husband and I for our fifth wedding anniversary.  The almond cheesecake that came with this was again one of the tastiest puddings I have ever eaten

Texas de Brazil

Texas de Brazil describes itself as an authentic Brazilian-American “Churrascaria”, (steakhouse) that fuses traditional Brazilian food with the big hearted ethos of Texas.  And I must say they they live up to their description!  The food is incredibly tasty and they couldn’t be more generous with it! To start there is a lavish salad area which comprises between 50 and 60 dishes including appetizers, soups (the best lobster bisque I have ever tasted!), gourmet vegetables and of course, salads!  Now even if there are vegetarians amongst your party, they can fill on this area alone!  We found gourmet breads, cheeses, grilled portobello mushrooms, asparagus, and tons more!  They still cater for carnivores here and there are delicious shrimp salads, sushi and meats.

As you are seated you will notice servers (gauchos) visiting tables to offer a variety of grilled meats on skewers, and carving slices directly onto the diners plates.  You can have as much or little of any of the 16 cuts of meat as you like, from filet mignon to leg of lamb, pork ribs or Brazilian Picanha!  You are given a card when you arrive to let the gauchos know that you are ready to eat – turn it to the green side and they will attend your table to offer the cut they are carrying, turn it to the red side and they will give you a rest! Now I have to say that we visited at five o’clock in the afternoon and never had to wait long for a carver to bring a skewer over.  The service was fantastic and our waitress would ask regularly if there was a particular meat that we wanted to try.  I believe you may need to expect a longer wait at busier times due to the popularity of this restaurant, and a reservation may even be wise.

All in all Welcome Homes highly recommends  this restaurant for at least one visit during your stay at our villas in Orlando, when you are particularly hungry!  It is not the cheapest of restaurants but I would say well worth the money, as the food they serve is not typical of an all you can eat restaurant.  If you had a late night at the Disney parks and sleep in, you could even make it an early lunch/late breakfast, maybe then having room for one of their mouthwatering deserts – they looked amazing but sadly I really could fit no more in. Do check if dessert is included in the price as it is only included at particular sittings!  One more tip – bring a wrap or something to throw over your shoulders – they do keep it cool in there!