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More Things to do in Sarasota, FL

More Things To Do in Sarasota

Post by Ashley

This is a follow-up to our Top 3 Must-Do’s in Sarasota post! There are so many great things to do in this small city on the Suncoast. After you’ve hit the main areas in Sarasota, you definitely have to check out these other great places in our beautiful city that we are lucky to now call home.

Ringling Ca'd'Zan: More Things to do in Sarasota, FL

Ringling Museum

The John & Mable Ringling Museum is one of our favorite places to go in Sarasota. The museum features two great sections, the circus museums and the art museum. We wrote a post about what to see and do at Ringling because it is so great!

Marie Selby Gardens

Marie Selby Gardens are located on the bay, right near downtown Sarasota which makes for gorgeous views while you are walking around the grounds. Some of the highlights are the Conservatory which features an array of tropical plants, Bamboo Garden, Banyan Grove, and the Children’s Gardens. Check out their website for more information.

Bridge Street - Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is actually about a 45 minute drive from Sarasota but is so worth it. This is a quant, charming area to walk around with excellent ocean views and no tall buildings or chain retailers allowed. You can even see the cruise ships departing from Tampa on certain evenings around sunset. Check out our post on how to make the most of your time in AMI!

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USA Travel

WEEKEND GETAWAY: Universal Studios Orlando

Weekend Getaway: Universal Studios Orlando [UPDATED FOR 2017!]

Of course we are unashamed big fans of Disney World. It is our favorite place to go, and we just love love love it. There is another theme park in Orlando that we also love, and that is Universal Studios. On some websites we have found that many Disney fans hate Universal and think Disney is far superior. While we think Disney exceeds Universal in certain aspects, we think it is a little ridiculous to say one is better than the other. They are different and we absolutely think you should spend a few days at Universal when you are in Orlando. Especially with all the exciting new things happening there!

Halloween Horror Nights 2016

First things first, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter absolutely exceeded any expectations we had. We thought Hogsmeade was amazing, and then were actually blown away by Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express. You feel like you have just walked into the movie. There are massive rumors swirling that Universal will be announcing a third Harry Potter section this summer. (Our vote is for The Ministry of Magic!) If you don’t really care about seeing Universal, we still think visiting the Harry Potter areas is worth it.

TIP: If you want to ride the Hogwarts Express, you have to buy a park-to-park pass.

Hogsmeade is obviously home to Hogwarts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This is one of the most unique rides we have ever been on. If you get even slightly motion sick though, you may want to skip this one. You should still go through the queue thought because you never know what magical surprises you might find.

Hogwarts Castle - Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

So you can either start at Islands of Adventures or Universal Studios. Islands of Adventure usually closes earlier, so we suggest starting there. First you will go through the Port of Entry. While most people run right by this, there are actually a lot of neat details in this area. IOA is basically a big circle, so you can choose to go either right or left. If you go to the right you will hit Suess Landing, The Lost Continent, Hogsmeade, Jurassic Park, Skull Island, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. Each of these “islands” are a lot of fun to walk around. If you are here around the holiday season, Suess Landing celebrates “Grinchmas” with great decorations and special events.

TIP: Mythos is consistently voted one of the best theme park restaurants in the world. Even if you don’t want to have a sit down meal, peek your head inside to see the impressive theming. If you are looking for healthier fare, this is the place to be.

Weekend Getaway: Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure

Our favorites: Spider Man, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey.

Things to Skip: Reign of Kong Skull Island was disappointing. The building and the queue were the best part of the ride. It was way too short and utilized the same screen and simulator technology as many of the other rides. If there’s no line, check it out but we wouldn’t wait in line for this one. Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls is fun, but you will literally be soaked head to toe no matter where you sit.

You can then either walk over to Universal Studios Florida or take the Hogwarts Express.

TIP: Take the Hogwarts Express in both directions. Just do it.

Weekend Getaway: Universal Studios Florida - Diagon Alley

Universal Studios Florida seeks to put you in the middle of all the moviemaking magic. While we think it misses the mark a little as far as theming goes, it still has lots of neat details to see and fun rides and shows. This is also where there are special events throughout the year, like Mardi Gras and Halloween Horror Nights.

Our favorites: Revenge of The Mummy, Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, Despicable Me, Transformers The Ride, Horror Make-Up Show.

Things to Skip: Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it was so shaky and choppy. It was the opposite of a smooth ride, and while it is fun to choose your own music, it was not worth the headache. Also, while Springfield is super cute and fun to walk around, The Simpson’s Ride is also very shaky and uncomfortable. It probably needs a technology update. We do suggest grabbing a drink at Moe’s!

If you still have some energy left, City Walk is quite fun to walk around, shop, eat, and drink. Our favorite is the dueling pianos bar, Pat O’Brien’s!

Universal Orlando City Walk

There are five on-site hotels at a variety of price points. The hotels all offer either bus or water taxi service to the parks. When you stay on-site you get early access to the parks as well, which is a nice perk.

NEW: Volcano Bay, the “water theme park” opens May 25th. Race Through New York With Jimmy Fallon is now open. The Fast & The Furious Ride is set to open in 2018.

So now we want to hear what you think of Universal! What are your favorite things to do and things to skip? Have you eaten at any of the restaurants at Universal or stayed at any of the hotels? What did you think? Let us know here or on Facebook.

The Traveling Gals

 

 

 

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Weekend Getaway: Anna Maria Island
USA Travel

WEEKEND GETAWAY: Anna Maria Island, FL

Weekend Getaway: Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria is a barrier island about seven miles in length located south of Tampa Bay and in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida.  It is an absolute treasure that is geographically stunning with gorgeous blue waters and sandy beaches accessible only by fabulous bridge crossings. This “Island in the Sun” was originally used for hunting and fishing by various Indian tribes and was not inhabited by permanent residents until the 1890s. Anna Maria preserves the feel of old Florida while still feeling fresh with charming restaurants, shops and entertainment. The island is broken up into the three cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria City that each seamlessly blend together.

Pier at Bridge Street - Anna Maria Island

Pier at Bridge Street

Traveling Gals Tip:  Always check local events calendars to see what special events are going on in the area during your stay!

Anna Maria City is farthest north on the island.  The bay side has views of St. Petersburg and the striking Sunshine Skyway Bridge.   A highlight of Anna Maria City is Pine Avenue.  This street is lined with cute shops and restaurants and ends at the bay leading onto the City Pier.  This pier and the next pier over “The Rod and Reel” both have great restaurants.  These are also the piers where the locals fish.   It is great chatting with the amateur fisherman and grabbing a bite afterwards.   Plus you can’t beat the scenery!   The hidden gem of Anna Maria City is Bean Point.  Bean Point is the northernmost tip of the island where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay.  It is nestled past the City Pier in a residential neighborhood.   Its entrance is a tree lined path between two residences and you can only park on the street.  It is a serene oasis and the perfect place to watch the sunset as the cruise ships go by on their way out to the Gulf.  You may have to ask directions, but it is worth it when you find it!

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Canoe Florida Fall Foliage
USA Travel

Fall Foliage in…Florida?!

Fall Foliage in Florida?!

We are starting to feel cooler breezes reminiscent of fall. Of course, this is Florida so that means a drop in humidity…not temperature!  Obviously Florida is not the first place that comes to mind when you think Fall Foliage.  When living in Chicago, Fall Foliage meant a weekend trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to see the beautiful leaves turning colors and hiking around the lake for the final time before winter.  Living in Florida, the colors are subdued but there is foliage nonetheless changing into muted hues of yellow, orange and red.  Fall colors can be seen on such trees as Cypress, Red Maple and Sorrel trees among others.  Since the evenings do not cool off until well into October/November, the leaves tend to change colors here sporadically and not until long after northern leaf changes have peaked.

Torreya State Park Fall Foliage

Torreya State Park – from floridastateparks.org

The Traveling Gals Tip:  Try something new and view foliage while canoeing!                                    

The panhandle and northern Florida are the best for viewing in places like Torreya State Park. This is a wonderful place for hiking, fishing, etc. and you can even spend the night camping or rent a yurt!  The stretch along I-75 north of Tampa is surprising hilly and can display a multitude of color, at least by Florida’s measures.  The I-10 corridor through the panhandle can some deeper hued color changes especially in the most northernmost part of the state.  Although Florida is not a conventional choice for Fall Foliage, it is a wonderful time of year in the Sunshine State to get out and experience nature.  If that is not enough for you…you can always travel!!!

Canoe Florida Fall Foliage

photo via Flickr user LOLren

Where are your favorite places to see Fall Foliage? Let us know in the comments!

USA Travel

Top 3 Must-Do’s in Sarasota, FL

We moved from Chicago to Sarasota about 6 years ago. Although we love the big city, we hate cold weather and were looking for a change of scenery. While Sarasota may not be on your radar when you think of Florida, this small city has a lot to offer! If you are planning a trip to this coast of Florida, you definitely should make a stop here. Check out our top 3 things you should in Sarasota.

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