A Magical Month: Orlando Area – February 2016

 

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Above is one of the more than 40 murals that adorn the buildings of Lake Placid, Florida

After leaving Naples, our “home base” for the entire month of February was Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground on the Disney property. The Orlando/ Lake Buena Vista is a well traveled area and we were thrilled when friends visited us at the campground. Fellow RVers John and Nancy were in the vicinity and came over to watch the Super Bowl with us. An especially fun night was when we hosted my friends Karen, Judy, and Audrey for dinner and fireworks viewing. I’ve never been a Disney fanatic, but I have to admit – staying there was magical. We succumbed to the lure of visiting the theme parks, but we also ventured out to the surrounding areas of Lake Placid, Orlando, and Winter Park.  Lake Plaid was about an hour and a half away and turned out to be a great trip on a rainy day. We met up with friends who were spending the winter in Okeechobee and it was the perfect halfway point. Orlando, the theme park capital of the world, is one of Florida’s largest cities. Winter Park could almost be considered a suburb to Orlando. We went there to celebrate Judy’s birthday and wished we would have allotted more time for exploration.  It has a great historic district with grand old houses and lots of shopping and restaurants.

Below are some photos that highlight our “enchanting” month.

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We absolutely loved our campsite at Fort Wilderness. It had a large concrete pad that was perfectly level, but was also very spacious and separated from our next door neighbors by trees and shrubs. It included a grill and every three or four sites shared nearby trash/recycling receptacles. Directly in back of our site was a pathway along side of a section of the canal that runs through the park. It even had a couple of bag dispensers/trash can stations for the less glamorous side of dog walking. The animals we saw were almost tame; squirrels talked to us, turkeys ran by, and once we were almost within petting distance from a deer. Fort Wilderness has more than 25 camping loops (circle of sites like a neighborhood) that range from primitive tent camping to bedding supplied cabins.

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There are plenty of things to do in Fort Wilderness with out even visiting the theme parks such as renting bikes, canoeing, hiking, swimming, and horseback riding. We had our own bikes with us and enjoyed riding from the campground over to the gorgeous Fort Wilderness Lodge Resort Hotel where we stopped for lunch. Of course, shopping opportunities abound for camping supplies as well as plenty of Disney memorabilia. Down by the lake, there are boat rentals and a couple of restaurants including a nightly musical dinner theater. Each evening, the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom can be viewed from the shore. A little bit later, several barges float past and treat everyone to a light show set to music.

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Notice anything funny in the tree?  It caught Roy’s eye while we were bike riding because the bark was a darker brown color than any of the other trees and the needles were a deeper green. I zoomed in with my camera lens and it looks like it’s perhaps a camouflaged electrical pole or something. The wonderful world of Disney.
FotorCreated (85) Disney has a fabulous transportation system of buses, boats, and monorails that run between the parks and the resort hotels. One really pretty afternoon we felt like a boat ride on the lake, but didn’t want to rent one. We hopped on the transportation boat that goes from Fort Wilderness Campground, over to the Contemporary Resort, then to the Fort Wilderness Lodge, and then returns to the campground. We got off the boat at each stop and admired the unique decor of each hotel. Another time we rode the boat over to the Contemporary, boarded the monorail there, and sped first to the Polynesian before arriving at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Visiting the different resorts is almost like going to the parks; each one is charming in its own way.

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The second week of February was too chilly to really enjoy the outside, so we bundled up and headed for the parks. First we went to the Magic Kingdom. Even on a Monday it was packed. This was due to scores of cheerleaders who were still around after a weekend national competition. For the rest of the week we took in Epcot (get the French “fast food” at Les Halles Boulangerie – tres yummy!), Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom like it was a job!

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They say Walt Disney wasn’t afraid to scare kids. On the left is an example of the “circle of life” viewed from the Jungle Cruise ride in the Magic Kingdom. Over on the right is the real deal in Animal Kingdom but the zebra is munching away without fear of himself being eaten. I asked a “cast member” why the different species of animals all seem to get along. The answer was that there are hidden wire fences that visitors can’t see. The animals can still see each other though, and this keeps them stimulated, awake, and active.

FotorCreated (87) Above is the Expedition Everest roller coaster and the Tree of Life which are both in Animal Kingdom. I was thinking, “Wow, they almost don’t look real.” Then I realized – that’s because they are NOT real, you idiot! Ha!

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The fountain in Lake Eola Park is an Orlando land mark. We discovered it nearby the downtown public library. It has a sidewalk that runs around a small lake that is perfect for a stroll or jogging. People can rent swan paddle boats and view real swans swimming around. The library was interesting because there were literally about 100 people waiting outside for it to open up when we arrived. Most of them looked like they might have been homeless and honestly, (please forgive me) there was definitely an odor of unwashed bodies in the air. When the doors opened, the crowd stampeded up to the second floor where a large bank of computers were. In about five minutes, 99% of all the computers were taken. We saw another huge line downtown, but this time it was for the local Wahlburgers. Apparently, it had a red carpet opening on February 18th and people have been lining up ever since!

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One of the best finds in Orlando was a section of East Colonial Drive which is chock full of Vietnamese markets and eateries. We found really good pho and summer rolls at Little Saigon.  Banh Mi Nha Trang Subs was just a hole-in-the-wall, but it had the best sandwiches ever!

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We had a great time touring the small but mighty Toby the Clown Foundation Clown Museum and School in Lake Placid. It had clown figurines from all over the world; the ones on the bottom left above are from Spain.

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Many of Lake Placid’s trash cans are decorated to look like something other than a garbage receptacles like this school bus.

What amazed us though, was the beautiful murals painted on buildings all over town. It was like a treasure hunt to find them as we drove around.

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Bye Mickey, see ya next year…maybe…

At the end of our stay we were sad to leave our enchanting campground, but excited to make our way back home via St. Augustine and the Carolinas…

Just for fun, here are some links to some other Yates social media sites:

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