A few months ago Dena, the General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express in Orange City, Florida, contacted me to see if we'd be interested in visiting & reviewing the hotel in Orange City. I was thrilled & my kids were ecstatic ~ we love going to Florida! Dena mentioned that Orange City is located right between Orlando &several nearby beaches, including Daytona & New Smyrna. I picked last weekend for our visit because the kids had Monday off from school for Columbus Day.
The only thing I didn't plan for/predict was a tropical disturbance coming ashore last Friday, the day we arrived! But we weren't going to let that stop us from having a great time in Florida. My husband had to work, so the kids (plus Katie's BFF, Lexy) and I left our home north of Atlanta at 6 am. (It's about a 7 hour drive to Orange City from our home). We drove down to Macon, cut over on I-16 to Dublin, GA, and took the scenic route down to Jacksonville, FL. We stopped there for lunch, then headed over to A1A so we could make a stop at the beach. The nice thing about A1A is that you get to see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean alongside some gorgeous beach homes. It's a very scenic, very calming drive!
We went to Marineland, which is the spot my family spent several Spring Breaks visiting when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, the hotel we used to stay at back then (which was adjacent to Marineland) has been demolished and replaced by a boardwalk & park. We stopped there so the kids could walk on the beach for a bit despite the rain, wind & huge waves crashing on the shore.
|Ft Matanzas Park on A1A|
|photo from the HI Express blog|
The rain was picking up, and it was time for dinner so we logged onto my computer to find some options. There were plenty of places to choose from at our exit We found a Tijuana Flats restaurant just down the street. We all love their food, so that is where we went. If you haven't eaten there, you've got to give them a try! The food is delicious, and the hot sauce bar is awesome. Because the weather was getting worse by the minute, we took our dinner back to the room to eat & watched a little tv before bedtime. The beds were so comfy and everyone slept great!
David woke me up before 7 am on Saturday because he was ready to visit the breakfast buffet downstairs. It's complimentary with your room & I have to tell you that it was fantastic! There were the usual foods you find at buffets: cereal, muffins, biscuits, toast, bagels, oatmeal, scrambled eggs (served with sausage one day, Canadian bacon the next) They also had yogurt, several varieties of milk (including skim, which is what we drink), cream cheese, etc. They offered a variety of beverages: orange & apple juices, coffee, tea & hot cocoa. There is something for everyone, even your pickiest eater.
Did I say that it was raining all weekend? It was pouring, actually! We had planned to visit Blue Springs State Park, but that was out of the question. If you visit, please go to Blue Springs! It looked amazing online, I can only imagine how lovely it is in person. We'll go there on our next trip for sure. If you are there during the winter months, you'll be able to see the manatees who winter there. The park also offers River Cruises.
Linda told us about a flea market near Orlando, as well as some other nearby places of interest. (There's a Zoo with a zipline close by, plus bowling & plenty of shopping in Orange City)
We ended up visiting Flea World flea market near Orlando first. We didn't stay long because the rain was dripping through the ceiling in places & the parking lot was one big puddle. But while we were there, my son found a Star Wars booth that sold figurines for 50 cents each - he was one happy boy!
I also discovered a fantastic booth selling dried fruits so I got my husband some mango & both of us some pineapple. Now I wish I'd gotten more, it was so good! If it had not been raining, we would have stayed much longer. We saw a little bit of everything for sale - birds, clothes, luggage, handbags, toys, knives & swords, collectibles, vintage items, food & much more! (Update 2015 - it appears that Flea World has closed down)
David's favorite thing about the hotel: The pancake machine!
Katie's favorite thing about the hotel: The super-comfy beds and pillows!
Don't forget that you can also drive over to Orlando for the day if you want to hit the big theme parks. Billboards along the interstate proclaim Orange City to be the "quieter side of Orlando" and they aren't kidding. There is very little traffic, it is convenient to I-4, and it's much calmer than Orlando's sometimes frantic pace! The drive to Orlando is really easy!
We wanted a quick getaway that didn't break the budget this time so we decided to go low-key, no theme parks. I only wish we could have seen Blue Springs State Park & the Zoo, but you can't do a thing about Mother Nature!
Next time you plan to visit Orlando, I encourage you to check out Orange City, and the Holiday Inn Express there. It just might become your new home away from home when visiting Central Florida.
UPDATE: Congrats to Scottsgal ~ random.org picked your comment as the winner!
Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary stay at the hotel plus gift cards to use at Bob Evans. We also received passes to local attractions, but due to the weather, we weren't able to visit those. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions given in this review are my own honest opinions. Holiday Inn Express is providing the giveaway prize of a two night stay, as well.
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MommyGaga, SimplyStacie, TheThriftyMama, FunBeingFrugal, and many other wonderful blogs!!