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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Green Springs Park #VisitWestVolusia #WestVolusiaFL #LoveFL #5daysoffun

Today I want to tell you about another gorgeous park we visited earlier this month, in West Volusia County, FL.  It's called Green Springs Park, and it is located in the city of Enterprise.   The drive to this park is lovely, with many Live Oak trees dripping in Spanish Moss along the roads.  I love this part of Florida - it is just so pretty!

When you arrive at in the parking area, you'll find a covered picnic area, a playground, and a building with restrooms. There are 36 acres in this park, and there are plenty of both paved and natural trails. Throughout the pathways, there are several informational panels/signs that share information about the springs and the history of this area.  Here are two of them:



Starting from the parking lot, follow the paved trail to visit the Springs.  It's not far at all, and you'll probably smell the sulfur before you actually see the incredible green water.  It is....stunning.  It looks like I photoshopped the color in the pictures - but I didn't!



There are several areas where you can enjoy looking out over the springs - you aren't allowed to swim or fish here anymore, though. We eventually walked around to another area to look at the water and enjoyed sitting there for a few minutes on a bench.  It's a very peaceful place, and absolutely gorgeous.  So many beautiful plants, trees, shrubs and more.  Birds singing, and you could even hear animals (or something!) quietly rustling in the brush near the paths.  I could have stayed there enjoying the peace and quiet for hours!

According to what I've read, this is one of only a few sulfur springs left in Florida.  The water in the springs was considered restorative and healing by Native Americans in the area.  In the 19th century, there was even a hotel built near the springs for "invalids" to come and soak in the springs for their health.



Take a picnic with you, then sit under the pavilion for lunch after you explore the park!  You and your family will really enjoy the peaceful beauty of this place. I honestly can't wait to go back to Green Springs Park next time we are in West Volusia county.


Green Springs Park is located at 994 Enterprise/Osteen Road, Enterprise, FL.  The park is open from sunrise to sunset and there is no fee for admission.

Up next: DeLeon Springs State Park and the awesome restaurant where you cook your own pancakes at the table!



Find out more about this and other parks and attractions in West Volusia county by visiting the West Volusia Tourism Bureau's website. 


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Florida's Blue Spring State Park #VisitWestVolusia #WestVolusiaFL #LoveFL



One of our favorite places we visited in Florida earlier this month is Blue Spring State Park.  It's only a few minutes from our hotel in DeBary, FL.  As a state park, you'll pay a fee to enter for the day.  We paid $6 for our car.

In the winter, more than 200 manatees come to stay.  The park has over 2400 acres, and includes a north-flowing river, a lagoon, a 1/3 mile boardwalk, and much more! Stop by the visitors center to watch a shore interpretive video about the manatees that come to Blue Spring each winter.

In the summertime, you can swim, tube, snorkel or dive in the 72 degree waters of the spring.  There is a lawn area for sunbathing, picnic and BBQ areas are close by too.   There are also 3 covered pavilions that you can rent for reunions or get-togethers.

There are also cabins and 51 campsites.  Want to really get away from it all?  There is even a 4.5 mile hiking trail that takes you to a primitive campsite near the St Johns River!

If swimming isn't your thing, you can rent a canoe or kayak, take a kayak tour or a 2 hour river cruise.  The water is clear and beautiful in the spring.

There is gift shop offering food and beverages near the Spring as well.   We saw some wild hog babies  (seen in bottom left pic in my collage above) near the restrooms the day we visited, and also had time to talk with one of the rangers about the park.  He told us that manatees had been spotted in the spring the day we visited!  David wanted to get in, but the water was still a little too cool for him! (It was a chilly day)  The park is absolutely beautiful and very well-maintained.  It would be a great place for a picnic on a hot summer day, followed by a dip in the spring!

A little more about Blue Spring ~ it's a first magnitude spring that sends 104 million gallons of water daily into the St Johns River.  In 1971, an episode of the Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau was filmed at Blue Spring, called "The Forgotten Mermaids" - the manatees of Blue Spring.   It is a habitat for at least 15 threatened or endangered plants and animals.  Among the creatures you may see at Blue Spring State Park are the Florida Scrub Jay, black bear, gopher tortoise, herons, gar, sunfish, swimming turtles, and alligators!   We saw lots of gar in the spring - I thought they were logs until they started moving! Those fish are BIG!  Click on my collage above and you can see them in the middle picture on the left side.

We enjoyed visiting the Park and the spring, and next time we are there I hope to finally see a manatee!

Blue Spring State Park is located at:

2100 West French Ave
Orange City, FL 32763
(386) 775-3663

Hours are 8 am until sunset, 365 days a year!

You can read more online at www.FloridaStateParks.org and the West Volusia Tourism Bureau's website.


Next up: Green Springs Park  & DeLeon Springs Park - check back soon!




Saturday, April 23, 2016

Orkin Mosquito Summer Scientist Giveaway! #LearnwithOrkin





Summer is almost here! That means picnics, baseball games, barbecues and all the fun of enjoying the great outdoors with your family. There’s one thing no one likes about being outdoors, though: mosquitoes! They not only are a nuisance, but they also pose potentially serious health risks. Fortunately, the experts at Orkin study the science of mosquitoes and other pests closely in order to better tailor plans that help keep them out of your home this summer.

Ok, now it's time to test your knowledge using Orkin's Mosquito Buzzer Beater app!

Take the quiz to see if you’re ready to earn your badge in Mosquito Season Prep:




Are you prepared for mosquito season this year?   Orkin uses the latest technology and unparalleled training to develop an effective treatment that's right for your needs. To learn more about their pest control based in science or to schedule an inspection, visit orkin.com or call 1-800-800-ORKIN.

The Orkin Summer Scientist Bug Catching Kits are fun for the whole family! I have one prize pack to give away to one of you lucky readers!! The Prize Pack includes:

2 Bug Catcher Craft Kits: These awesome DIY bug catcher kits will let your family’s personality shine through while also learning about nature and the world around us. The kits include a variety of foam ladybugs, dragonflies and more!

2 Bug Nets: Explore the great outdoors with these fun mesh insect nets. They can be used to collect and study butterflies, ladybugs, caterpillars and many other backyard creatures.

2 See-Through Bug Jars: Reveal the wonders of your backyard with these clear bug jars. Each transparent plastic box has a magnifying lid for better insect viewing. Young explorers love discovering worms, butterflies, ants and insects. These containers allow them to make homes for their new discoveries.

2 Magic Color Scratch Little Garden Critters: Scratch faces, designs and more on these Magic Color Scratch Little Garden Critters! A perfect kids' activity for critter lovers, simply scratch away the black coating to reveal vibrant rainbow colors. Includes butterflies, frogs, turtles and more.

Enter via Rafflecopter widget below to be eligible to win!  Don't forget to complete the mandatory entry first, otherwise no other entries will count!! 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

St. Johns River Eco Tours ~ #DiscoverDeLand #WestVolusiaFLA #VisitWestVolusia



Today I can't wait to share the River Cruise we took with St. Johns River Eco Tours last week! It was so much more fun than I expected! Not to mention educational, too. A perfect family outing!

First, let me tell you about our accommodations for the trip.  We stayed in DeBary, FL, at the Hampton Inn - it was located right off of Interstate 4.  We had a great room with two queen size beds, a fridge, microwave and coffee maker.  David especially liked the cookies and milk offered each evening at 8 pm, and the huge breakfast (including make your own waffles) offered every morning. Everyone there was so kind and went above and beyond to make sure our stay was perfect.  The pool and hot tub were nice, and we spent a nice afternoon enjoying them.

I can't say enough good things about the Hampton Inn in DeBary.  Comfy beds, perfect pillows, cold air conditioning, too!  As a blogger, I was happy they offered complimentary wifi and lots of workspace for me to upload pics at the end of each day. There is also an IHOP located right in front of the hotel - perfect for a quick meal before our adventures!  So that was our home base while we were in West Volusia - it was in a great location and very convenient to everything we had on our itinerary.

Friday morning we were booked for a 10 am cruise at St Johns River Eco Tours.  We got there a couple of minutes early and checked in at the hut, then waited at a picnic table til it was time to board the boat.  There were two other groups on the cruise with us - everyone was friendly and excited.  We all took our seats and met Captain Jeanne Bell and Doug Little, who was our guide that day.  We knew immediately that this was going to be a great cruise with them!

The boat left the marina, and it wasn't long before we began seeing wildlife - lots of wildlife!  Doug was great at spotting birds, and telling us about them.  Within the first few minutes we also saw our first alligator!

We learned a lot about the history of the area from Doug and Captain Jeanne -  they are very knowledgeable about the river and the wildlife that live in and on it. They shared some great stories with us throughout the cruise.

Among the many birds we saw during our cruise were the Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Limpkin, Turkey Vulture, Osprey and more!  We learned that the loud cries of the Limpkin signals that it will rain soon!  And we got up close to a family of Barred Owls - that was amazing.


We saw a total of 23 gators on our cruise - 23!!  I thought maybe we would see one or two! (Click on any of the pictures to bring up a larger photo)




We also learned that the area is full of black bears and you can even see American Bald Eagles here. Sadly, we didn't see any bears, eagles or even manatees on our cruise.  Despite that, I still managed to walk away with over 200 pictures!!  One of the coolest parts of the cruise was when we got up close and personal with a mama gator - she wasn't too happy about that and hissed at us!  I stuck my phone down on the other side of the railing and got this picture:




The Barred Owls we visited were so cute - they were waiting when the boat pulled up to shore, and they quickly flew down for some tasty mice, then took them up in the trees to eat.  Really amazing moment!



While cruising down the river, Doug told us about the book Swamp Ghosts, written by local author Marcia Meara.  She interviewed Captain Jeanne and took several river cruises in order to gather information for this book - the first in a series.  Well, I just had to buy a copy at the hut after our tour (along with one of Doug's gorgeous wildlife calendars!) and it was even autographed by the author! My Aunt Anne read this book in less than two days, and I'm well into it now myself.  It's great - very suspenseful, and if you take the tour, you will recognize some people and places in this novel.

You can get a copy for yourself here ~ (affiliate link)



The cruise was two hours long and it's one of the best times I've EVER had in Florida.  I learned so much, and saw some really fantastic things.  David enjoyed helping Captain Jeanne out, and he really liked counting the alligators we saw!



The boat is covered, so you won't get direct sun - a good thing if it is hot!  The day we went it was fairly overcast and a little chilly, so jackets were a good thing to have with us.  Doug had blankets for those who needed them, too.   Make sure you have plenty of room on your camera card and be ready for an entertaining two hours!

I promise you that this cruise is at the top of our list for next time we visit this part of Florida. I think every cruise will be a little different, and I'd love to take this again and maybe see a manatee or bear next time!!  If you are in the area, this really is a must-try, unique attraction that the whole family will love.  I am so thrilled that we were able to have this experience on our visit to the West Volusia area.

To find out more about St Johns River Eco Tours, check them out on Facebook and on their website.

They are located at:
St. Johns River Eco Tours
488 W. Highbanks Road, DeBary, Florida, 32713 | (386) 626-9004

Stay tuned later this week to find out about the incredible Springs in the DeBary/DeLand area that we visited!


Disclaimer:  My family was hosted on a complimentary river cruise with St Johns River Eco Tours in order to share the experience with my readers. We were also hosted at the Hampton Inn during our stay in Florida, courtesy of the West Volusia Tourism Bureau. You can order a copy of their Visitors Guide too! All opinions shared here about our trip are 100% my own.  


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Love mermaids? You have to visit Weeki Wachee!

Last week my Aunt, my son and I went on a wonderful road trip to Florida to do a little exploring ~ it was so much fun.....




We started our adventure in Weeki Wachee, Florida - the city of live mermaids! It's about an hour north of Tampa.  I grew up in Jacksonville, so as a child I visited this magical place and it made quite an impression on me. No surprise then that I love to visit Weeki Wachee as an adult, even if it's 10 or more years between visits. It's still magical to me every single time!  David and I saw the Weeki Wachee mermaids perform at the Georgia Aquarium about a year and a half ago, and I've been wanting to take a trip back to Weeki Wachee ever since!

Aunt Anne had never been here, and David was a baby the last time we visited the park, so I couldn't wait to show them one of my favorite places.  There were three shows the day we visited, and we got there 20 minutes before the last show of the day started.  We stopped at the gift shop inside the park and picked out a few things, then it was time to go over to the Newton Perry Underwater Mermaid Theater.  We took our seats, and watched videos on the monitor of Weeki Wachee's history since it began in 1947. You can read about the history of Weeki Wachee here - what a great story it is!

The theater quickly filled up and soon it was time for the show to start! We watched the mermaids appear as the curtains rose to display the windows into the spring.  There were several fish and two big turtles swimming in the spring with the mermaids that day - it was so cute to watch them!




The mermaids perform Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid.  There are two parts of the show that will likely scare little ones, so be aware! They do announce this at the beginning of the show, as well. If your kids don't like really loud noises, or flashing lights, you may need to take them out before the little mermaid and her true love come out to dance on the stage, and then leave quickly at the end of the show before the mermaids take their bows.

The mermaids are graceful and lovely, and they breathe underwater from air hoses that are placed throughout the spring.  The training they must have to be able to perform like this - wow!   It's a really beautiful show and we saw all people of all ages enjoying it when we were there.  

After the show, you can do several other things while you are there.  We still had a two hour drive to our hotel, so we couldn't stay.  Try to give yourself enough time to enjoy the entire park when you go! Here is the park's map that shows everything.

There is a river cruise down the Weeki Wachee River, and an Animal Encounter Show that highlights Florida wildlife such as snakes and alligators.  They have several restaurants and gift shops, and a nice playground for your littles.  If you visit during the summertime, you can enjoy Buccaneer Bay - an awesome water park with slides, a kiddie pool and more.  The spring itself is open for swimming year round, but the water park is seasonal. 



Your ticket price includes everything - shows, river cruise, even Buccaneer Bay! And if a quick visit isn't enough, you can even register for mermaid camps! They have them for kids ages 7-14, and for adults 30 and over.  

You can learn more about Weeki Wachee at their website, on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and Youtube

If you have visited Weeki Wachee before, tell me what you love about it in the comments, please! And if you haven't been, I hope you'll consider it on your next trip to Florida.  It is definitely an attraction that everyone should visit at least once when you are down that way - so unique and lots of fun.

Stay tuned as I'll share our awesome trip to West Volusia county beginning later this week.  We saw amazing springs, some wildlife up close and personal, and much more  - it was fabulous and I can't wait to tell you about it! Oh, and a giveaway or two will be coming up soon, too! See ya soon....




Disclaimer: I received two passes to the park in order to facilitate this review.  All opinions given in this post are my own!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Have a Spring FUN Break at Stone Mountain Park!! #SpringFUNBreak



Hey parents - looking for something to keep the kids busy for Spring Break? I've got a great option for you!  Stone Mountain Park is one of Atlanta's best attractions, in my opinion.  There is something for everyone to do, all year round, and Spring Break is no exception!  Visit through April 10th to enjoy these Spring FUN Break activities!

We always like to start our visits at the Great Barn.  David could spend the whole day there! Four floors of cannons, ball drops, trampoline floors, interactive games, stairs and nets to climb - so much FUN!

The Scenic Railroad train ride is different every season.   I enjoyed hearing the history of the mountain during our ride around the base of the mountain on this visit.  David, his friend Seth & I took plenty of pictures of the beautiful views as we rode along.



Some new things to experience this Spring Break:  


The Great American Duck Race, where Mallard Ducks race to the finish line and you could win prizes!  You can visit with the ducks and even feed them before the races.  

Visit the Azalea Stage and see Magic Mark & Einstein the Rabbit!  Kids will really enjoy this magic show!

Check out the April Fool's Indoor Lasertag!   Make sure you wear closed toe shoes for this awesome five minute, 20 player lasertag experience.




There are so many other cool things to do at Stone Mountain Park, like:

The Great Locomotive Chase Adventure Golf,  or watch the Yogi Bear 4-D Adventure movie, or get splashed at Geyser Towers!  (you need closed toe shoes for Geyser Towers too!)  You can even trek through the treetops on SkyHike if you are brave enough!  You can take the Summit Skyride to the top of the mountain, or hike up if you feel like it.

If you get hungry, Stone Mountain Park has plenty of places to enjoy a snack or meal.  During this visit, David had pizza, Seth had a BBQ sandwich, and I tried the BBQ chicken nachos. YUMMY!

You can upgrade your daily ticket to include a meal, or to add a ticket to ride the Duck.

The Lasershow will be offered this Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, too.  This is one of our favorite things at Stone Mountain - the music, the fire, the lasers - WOW!

Be on the lookout for the grand opening of The Jump - a thrilling new experience coming to Stone Mountain Park this Spring!

So take a short drive to Stone Mountain Park and check out all of the fun things they have to offer for Spring FUN Break - the kids will have a ball, and you will too!

Check the calendar at Stone Mountain's website for all the details on dates/hours/prices.


Disclaimer: Stone Mountain Park hosted us for the day to experience the Spring FUN Break activities.  All opinions shared here are my own!